This Christmas is going to be an odd one, no doubt about that. The season will be filled with virtual visits with family, mailing gifts instead of hand delivering them, and no Christmas parties with deviled eggs and meatballs in a crock pot. Even with all the things that we’ll do without, there is still plenty to be thankful for. My wife and I have had fun keeping up with the traditions we can do like hanging Christmas lights, putting up the tree early (because it’s artificial), mailing Christmas cards, and seeing her family on Christmas eve. One more thing I can be thankful for is Christmas comics, they don’t risk spreading the plague.
One of things I enjoy most as Christmas is reflecting back on all the great holidays I had when I was a kid. I love to watch the old Christmas cartoons and movies, and remember how much of a treat they were for my brother and I when we were young. I think about how lucky we were when our Dad brought us into New York City to visit FAO Schwartz, Rockefeller center, walk down 5th Ave and look at all the great displays, and do something unique like go to the Empire State building or the Museum of Natural History. Reading old comics invokes those memories as well. I was recently organizing my collection and I came across Christmas Parade #1 from Gladstone, published in 1988.
I would have been fifteen when this came out, in high school, and still a few years away from when I would take a break from collecting. Gladstone had been publishing Disney comics for a couple years at this point and this was a comic that my brother, my Dad, and I would have all read. The issue is filled with Christmas stories and, of course, the highlights are the Duck ones. There is a lot of Disney goodness crammed into this comic so I wanted to take just a brief look at some of it here. Maybe they’ll remind you of a happy Christmas you had when you were a kid!
You Can’t Guess
Story and Art – Carls Barks
The first story in the issue is a Carl Barks story. He was the “good duck artist” and one of the main reasons that Disney comics continue to be reprinted. When I was going through my comics I actually thought this issue of Christmas Parade was going to feature “Christmas in ShackTown” but I’m glad it didn’t. This story is one I have not read dozens of times over the years so it was a bit fresher. It was nice to revisit something not quite so familiar.
The story begins with Huey, Dewey, and Louie walking through a toy store realizing that they have all the toys they could possibly want. They decide to write a letter to Santa asking him to give their presents to other kids who don’t have so many toys. They put their letter in the mail and while walking home they see a store display with a metal building set (think Erector building toys). Suddenly they realize they don’t have a toy like this and change their mind about their letter to Santa. So much for altruism. They rush off to the mailbox only to see the mailman driving away with their letter. On the way home they decide to ask Uncle Donald for the building sets. They do just that and he makes a deal with them, if they can guess what he wants for Christmas he’ll get them the building sets.
The boys try to figure out what Donald wants and are completely unsuccessful. They visit Daisy, Uncle Scrooge and even Grandma Duck looking for help to try and figure out what Donald wants. They try hypnosis, mind reading, and all sorts of things. Each time they meet up with a relative they cannot figure out what Donald wants. They end up driving home and Donald’s car breaks down each time and the boys have to push. After exhausting all possibilities the boys decide that what Donald really needs is a new car and they call Grandma to ask her for one because she had said if they figured it out she would buy the gift for them. What ends up happening is that each relative they visited also decides Donald needs a new car and they’ll also buy the kids the building sets because they figure Donald won’t. The story ends with the boys receiving multiple building toys and Donald several new cars.
The Li’l Bad Wolf – Turkey Trouble
Art – Jack Bradbury
One of my guilty pleasures when it comes to Walt Disney Comics and Stories is Li’l Bad Wolf. I don’t know what it is about these stories but I simply enjoy the hijinks that Li’L Wolf, Zeke, and Br’er Bear get up to. I get a kick out of Li’l Bad Wolf doing good things and his dad Zeke getting frustrated with him. This story features Li’l Bad Wolf and Br’er Bear giving out Christmas gifts at Li’l’s club. Zeke is annoyed that Li’l spent his money on gifts for other people instead of turkey dinner for themselves. Zeke heads off mad to Brer Bear’s place and see’s all the turkey’s he’s got. Br’er Bear has to go deliver the gifts, dressed up as Santa Claus, but is worried that Zeke is gonna steal a turkey. After he gives out all the gifts he rushes back and finds a turkey missing and storms off to pound Zeke. Zeke didn’t take the turkey though Br’er Fox did.
Meanwhile one of the three little pigs has pulled Zeke’s name from hat as the winner of the charity turkey from the club. Li’l bad Wolf and the three little pigs head over to Zeke’s house and put the turkey in the oven as a surprise. Of course Zeke comes home with Br’er Bear chasing him, trying to deny that he took the missing turkey, only to find one in his oven. Br’er Bear doesn’t believe Zeke’s story about Br’er Fox and starts pounding him. Li’l Bad and the three little pigs burst in to save Zeke and explain what happened. In the end Br’er Bear heads out to find his turkey while Zeke, the three little pigs and Li’l Bad Wolf enjoy their Christmas dinner.
Sure the stories are old, silly, and pretty trite, but they were also meant for little kids. They were meant to show that it is better to give than to receive. They were meant to be nice stories where good little kids who are kind and generous will be rewarded. They were meant to be, and still are, nice, simple Christmas stories. They remind me of the wonderful Christmases I had when I was younger and they make me appreciate what I have now, even in this most unusual of Christmas seasons. I’ll close with the image on the back cover and wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!