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He loves you truly. – The Littlest Snowman

December 9, 2013

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We’re now smack in the midst of the Christmas glurge season, when Santa-themed ads are choking the ariwaves and holiday specials dot primetime network blocks. And, yes, there are even ads for said Christmas specials. Christmas-palooza! No matter how much we might like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, no matter touching we might find Charlie Brown’s tree-buying misadventures, we all get to a point where it’s just all too much. We’ve seen this before, and though it’s great, you can only down so many sugar cookies before you barf and go into a diabetic coma.

What the hell, though, here’s another Christmas special — one more yule log on the bonfire won’t matter, right? And guess what — this old 1960s comic is actually refreshing in its unabashed earnest goodness. Ladies and gentlemen: may we present The Littlest Snowman. Littlest in stature, largest in our hearts.  

The Littlest Snowman originated in an eponymous children’s book by Charles Tazewell, and was subsequently adapted in different media, including animated shorts and a segment on the old Captain Kangaroo program. And, yes, comics. The comic version follows the general architecture of the book, with a young boy taking advantage of falling snow to engage in an age-old tradition — with all the standard accoutrements:

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He’s frosty, but more diminutive, and instead of a top hat he wears a wrinkled chapeau that appears to come from the Buddy Ebsen Hat Distressing Corporation. And a candy heart. And he has a more Casper-ish physique than your usual segmented snowman. And Frosty was nice, but the Littlest Snowman is nice to the Nth degree:

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You can easily accuse the source story and the adaptation of being the usual saccharine overkill that’s usually found in associated fare, but the one thing that elevates it above the rest is the pure, unalloyed cheerfulness/goodwill of the LS. He loves everyone and everything, and is filled with joy and being alive, never sparing an opportunity to do a good deed for man or beast — even though he knows it won’t last forever:

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He even doffs his beat-up hat when in the presence of American icons:

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The big dramatic crux of the tale is a house-fire that threatens to kill Tommy(!), the boy who made him. All the other snowmen (who, Rudolph-like, scoffed at the tiny LS playing games with them) flee like the wretched cowards they are, but LS does everything he can to try to warn the sleeping town. He tries to activate a fire alarm or ring a church bell to wake the population, though his stature and soft limbs prevent both. But that doesn’t mean he can’t do a Paul Revere with snowballs, as he does on this whimsical page:

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Lives are saved, but the LS looks to be a goner after he charges into a burning building — SNOWMAN DOWN! SNOWMAN DOWN!:

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Thank heavens for ice cube triage (special Al Jolson cameo on the left? Mammy?):

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He’s even happy when he’s down for the count. Hard not to like the guy, you know?

LS makes a full recovery, but sadly the end is near — though it mercifully occurs off-panel. At the end, the Littlest Snowman finds himself enshrined with the other legends he earlier had so graciously admired:

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Two things: No one is alarmed that the George Washington statue has come alive and is waving? And statue LS is suddenly bashful about his starkers groin.

The Littlest Snowman is one of the lesser known of the Christmas pantheon, but he has his place — and a statue, for that matter. His unreserved kindness is so out there, you can’t not like him. And there he stands, a relic of the pre-post-modern Christmas comic, the gun-wielding Santas and Santas wanted dead or alive.

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