Frosty the Snowman is here to spiral you into a suicidal depression with the saddest Christmas story ever – Four Color #1153
Frosty the Snowman has one of the Uber-Triumvirate of Christmas specials, alongside Rudolph and the Charlie Brown posse, and thus has a venerated place in the holiday-industrial complex. The world’s most famous snow sculpture is at third place in that trio (it’s just too hard to compete with the Rankin-Bass stop-motion figures and the Peanuts gang), but his yearly special is still on the medal stand, Jimmy Durante’s scratchy “Fros. Ty. Da Snow Man…” warblings and all. It’s a good consolation prize. At least he hasn’t been relegated to the cable backwater like former stalwarts Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town and Twas the Night Before Christmas.
Half hour television specials have never been the full extent of Frosty’s yuletide merrymaking, though. Indeed, like pretty much every property that gains a foothold in the popular consciousness, he’s had his share of comic books.
The subject of today’s post, whose crisp, sharp cover can be seen above, is one of the last of almost a dozen Frosty comics that Dell put out under their Four Color banner (all predated the famous TV special), and it’s mostly composed of standard cookie-cutter Christmas plots. There’s Frosty getting a job with a local department store so he can deliver presents to a family of seals who desperately want to celebrate Christmas. There’s Frosty negotiating with the North Wind to tone down the holiday snowfall so as not to upset the holiday. There’s Frosty visiting Santa’s workshop and finding, much to his chagrin, that Santa and his elves have the place working like a well-oiled machine sans his help. It’s the expected family friendly fare, gentle and not all that challenging.
But along the way there’s a story that would bring a tear to the eye of even the stoniest Grinch. A harrowing tale of survival. One that will haunt you as you try to sleep, as its images play across the backs of your eyelids. A tale that makes Rudolph being barred from playing any reindeer games seem like the proverbial walk in the park.
Really. You have been warned.
Then let us begin. Brace yourselves for “The Lonely Donkey.”
The story is narrated by Frosty, as he relates events leading up to a past Christmas to a group of children gathered at his feet. Which makes the events all the more gut-wrenching, as you imagine the wide-eyed kids, their mouths agape with horror, wondering when this nightmare will stop. The story focuses on Chico, an infant donkey who’s living the fairly contented life that young donkeys do, right up until some thieving Gypsies steal him under the cover of darkness (this is the story talking, not me, so don’t report me to the Gypsy Anti-Defamation League):
Look at little Chico. The big eyes. The thatch of black mane between his two big floppy ears. Not since the about-to-be-molested young Peter Parker have we seen such endearing youth. And guess what — CHICO IS NEVER GOING TO SEE HIS HOME OR HIS FAMILY EVER AGAIN. MERRY F-ING CHRISTMAS.
It turns out being a part of a Gypsy caravan isn’t all fun and games, as poor Chico soon discovers:
Ostracism. Crippling loneliness. Tied to a stake with a short rope. Look at him. LOOK INTO THE SAD EYES OF CHICO AND SEE THE ABYSS STARING BACK AT YOU.
And it gets better (worse):
This is where the story starts to turn, right? When it starts to have mercy on the poor readers whose hearts are breaking. Right? The Gypsies are going to restore him to health in the spirit of season and we’re all going to sip our warm cocoa a bathe in rose petals and gumdrops. RIGHT?
Chico is left for dead. OH GOD PLEASE STOP. Seriously, the kids in Frosty’s captive audience have to be screaming for their parents at this point. And the best part is that THIS IS ALL ON THE FIRST PAGE. As a blind and pissed off Al Pacino once proclaimed, “Oh I’m just gettin’ warmed up!”
Like a prize fight where one boxer is bloodied and mangled as the first round’s bell sounds, there’s at least a break here in the relentless pummeling. Some kind deer arrive on the scene and nurse Chico back to health:
There’s a reprieve of modest contentment, with Chico getting back on his feet and bounding about with his new deer friends. The little guy almost looks happy for the first time. But it doesn’t last:
OH GOD HE’S DYING AGAIN. They give us hope, and then they snatch it away. To quote Pacino again: “Every time I think I’m out, they pull me back in…”
Chico’s illness this time is deeper and beyond the deer’s powers of healing. Paging Dr. Frosty, M.D.:
Great. So Frosty’s big cure involves yanking Chico away from the only friends that he has in the world. FROSTY, HAVE YOU NO MERCY, NO HEART? The way things are going, maybe he’ll drag him by the ears back to the damn Gypsies.
Well, I’m happy to say that the worst is over. Frosty brings Chico to a nearby homestead and stables Chico in the barn, where our beleaguered donkey immediately falls asleep on the clean straw. (Who can blame him after his endless gauntlet of misery? I mean, I’m going to need a nap after just reading this.) Meanwhile, Frosty has a fireside chat (isn’t this dangerous?) with the boy of the house:
I think you see where this is going:
Look at how happy Chico is. I share his joy at this point, and I’d be flopping my tail back and forth too. Deliverance. (Until the boy’s father comes home and… Okay, let’s not go there.)
I’m beginning to understand why Eeyore was always so down in the dumps. The donkey’s lot is not an easy one.
I wish I could offer up credit to whoever scripted and provided the art for this thing. Whoever they (one or more ) were, they weren’t afraid to kick you in the stomach before bringing you up to the inevitable happy conclusion, and a special gold star has to be awarded to Chico’s design. It seems that drawing a undeniably cute child donkey would be one of those deceptively difficult tasks, but Chico here is the paragon of what a heart-tuggingly adorable animal character should be. The elements — big eyes, big floppy ears — are simple, but the execution is superb. Everyone can assemble ingredients, but not everyone can make the stew, you know?
There you go. Try and fall asleep tonight without thinking of sad Chico dying on the side of a road. Just try. THANK YOU, FROSTY.