Sunday , July 14 2024

Comic Review: ‘Moomin Adventures’ by Tove and Lars Jansson from Drawn+Quarterly

Moomin Adventures: Book One by Tove Jansson and Lars Jansson, published by Drawn and Quarterly, is the first in a new softcover series that brings together many of Moomin’s hilarious exploits. The delightful hippo-shaped Moomin first appeared in English in The Evening News of London in 1954, but his original strip came six years earlier in the Finnish leftist newspaper Ny Tid as part of the children’s section. Moomin’s antifascist sensibilities have continued for decades, finding wonder and acceptance despite the snooty rigors of others’ opinions.

The first Moomin Adventures collection begins in medias res with one of the most famous storylines, “Moomin on the Riviera.” The series of comic strips was even made into a film showing Moomin, Moominmamma, Moominpapa, and Moomin’s love interest Snork-Maiden packing up from their humble valley home to experience the glitz and glamor of the south.

Moomin and Moominmamma are not so sure that they want to leave behind their comfortable home, but Moominpapa and Snork-Maiden are enraptured by the razzle-dazzle. Unfortunately for the Moomins, what they misunderstood as polite hospitality in being welcomed to an enormous suite and receiving banquets for breakfast was actually business for the capitalistic hotel, and the bill is astonishing.

The Moomins resign to live under their boat, where they are praised as bohemians by an aristocrat weary of his wealth, though certainly not one to give it up. Throughout the satire, the fickleness of riches is obvious, displaying that it is far more a matter of others’ opinions than true joy in a lifestyle.

Moomin Adventures: Book One continues with six further chapters both by original creator Tove Jansson and by her brother, Lars, who trained himself to draw to help with the rigors of daily comic strips. There is some crossover with the Moomin Deluxe Anniversary Edition, but the new Moomin Adventures collection brings together the newspaper strips that offer the most fearless spirit in Moomin’s escapades.

The story-world is packed with characters like self-reliant Snufkin and the crafty Too-Ticki. One standout is the sassy creature known as The Mymble, who responds to the representative from the League of Conscience and Duty’s question as to whether any great men had been born in Moomin Valley, “No. Only very small children.”

Moonmin Adventures: Book One creates a world of the cozy surreal. Each panel makes fun use of the space, often including small critters as fillers for extra jokes. The cartoony characters stand out with eccentric charm, even in small details like Moominpapa’s hat or Snork-Maiden’s bangs.

Their lessons are quaint in finding peace at home rather than exhausting themselves with unproductive work or social demands. Instead, family and friendship are the true rewards, such as when gold fever comes to Moomin Valley. Their minuscule first “nugget” is little more than a dust speck, but it is suitable to hang on the mantle as a commemoration of the fun. The rest of their gold, such as it is, goes as a free round of drinks for everyone else. Even striking a gushing oil well is seen as an unfortunate thing since it is not drinkable. Instead, Moominmamma suggests, “Seashells are so much prettier.”

About Jeff Provine

Jeff Provine is a Composition professor, novelist, cartoonist, and traveler of three continents. His latest book is a collection of local ghost legends, Campus Ghosts of Norman, Oklahoma.

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