The Gift of the Magi (HarperCollins/It Books)
By O. Henry & Joel Priddy
The O. Henry classic is adapted into a graphic novel by Joel Priddy. The story, which has been adapted or lampooned more than any Christmas tale outside of A Christmas Carol itself, features a young woman with long, luxurious hair, who decides to sell it to buy a Christmas gift for her husband. Pretty much everyone knows the twist at the end of this story (it’s been done in every TV show this side of Sesame Street), but this is a wonderfully faithful retelling. Priddy uses the text of the short story almost verbatim, basically just illustrating O. Henry‘s words. His artwork, while slightly cartoonish, is a perfect fit for the story. The only possible knock against this book is that so much of it is made up of full-page panels (any of them with very few or no words at all) that it’s a very fast read. It’s a short story, after all, and there isn’t much he could have done that wouldn’t have amounted to needless padding. If you’ve got a yen for some really original Christmas graphic novels this year, this is a good one.
The Fir Tree (HarperCollins/It Books)
By Hans Christian Anderson & Lilli Carré
It Books is celebrating the season with graphic novel adaptations of three classic Christmas short stories. Of the three, Hans Christian Anderson‘s The Fir Tree is the only one I’m not really familiar with. The story follows an evergreen as it grows in the forest, dreaming of life outside of the woods. Of course, it winds up as a Christmas tree, but it’s the fate of the tree afterwards that makes this a rather unique Christmas story. And by “unique,” I actually mean “depressing.” When you’re reading a Yuletide tale, there’s something of an expectation of an uplifting ending, or at the very least, that you won’t end up depressed. This story, though, is one of the biggest downers I’ve ever read in a Christmas tale. For some people, I suppose that may be a selling point, but for me, it just sort of makes me glad I never read the story as a child. Carré‘s adaptation of the story, at least, is very good. The light lines and colors have a quality like a child’s picturebook, which suits the classic nature of the story. If anything, this book makes me a fan of Carré more than the story.
A Kidnapped Santa Claus (HarperCollins/It Books)
By L. Frank Baum & Alex Robinson
Who would have thought that 90 years after his death, L. Frank Baum would be on his way to becoming a comic book superstar? First we’ve got Marvel‘s fantastic adaptations of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Marvelous Land of Oz, and now Box Office Poison creator Alex Robinson is giving us his own version of a lesser-known Baum tale. A Kidnapped Santa Claus (which is actually a semi-sequel to the more well-known Baum novel The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus) features old Santa being tormented by a group of Daemons upset that he makes children so happy. Happy children, you see, are less likely to stumble into their caves of selfishness, hatred, and envy. So the Daemons begin plotting to take Santa away and end the childrens’ Christmas joy. People unfamiliar with Baum‘s version of Santa will be surprised to see him aided not by elves, but by Knooks, Ryls, Fairies and Pixies, all equally dedicated to Santa’s cause. Although Robinson doesn’t really change the original story, he adds to it considerably, fleshing out minor characters, adding a few, and even developing subplots that didn’t exist in the original short story. His art style is perfect for this tale as well, giving us a wonderfully-illustrated and wonderfully-told story that will be perfect to share with kids this year.