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Moomin offers Finnish quirkiness in a comic strip loved worldwide.

Comic Review: ‘Moomin Deluxe Anniversary Edition’ by Tove Jansson

The Moomin Deluxe Anniversary Edition from Drawn & Quarterly showcases the entire collection of the classic Moomin comic strip by Tove Jansson. Moomin is difficult to describe while doing it justice to its chaotic, yet oddly mundane, plots and whimsical, earthly characters, just as a Wes Anderson film is difficult to describe by pieces. As Oscar-winning Grand Budapest Hotel proved with its own comparable whimsy, quirky is cool.

TOVE100slipcase-1000There are few creators in history as prolific as Tove Jansson. She is among the several notable female cartoonists who made themselves into successes in a field mainly dominated by men, and there is certainly reason for it. She did political cartoons of Hitler as a whiny baby, painted murals in hospitals and churches, and illustrated J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, first in the Swedish edition and then popularized elsewhere. Jansson’s style of heavy ink with delicate, almost imperceptive details while remaining cartoon-friendly (and often outright bizarre) is practically a trademark. No work shows it better than in the Moomin comic strip.

Jansson began Moomin with children’s books, and it became a newspaper strip series for the London Evening News in 1952. Jansson carried on the work single-handedly until 1959, when she began sharing the load with her brother, Lars Jansson, who would continue the comic on until 1975. All of the tales center around the titular Moomin, a gentle, often-confused but always bold figure who is not a hippopotamus (despite what the zookeepers think when they lock him and his family up in a quirky misunderstanding). The entire Tove Jansson Moomin comic strip collection comes together in the Deluxe Anniversary Edition. Each strip is a work of art, often with figures or themes from the panels lining up to form the boxes themselves.

TOVE1009The Moomin-universe is rich with characters such as the rascally, get-rich-quick Sniff and deplorable Stinky, who literally eats Moomin out of house and home, down to the chimney (the bricks of which need salt). His father, Moominpapa, is a constant source of adventure as he seeks to gain inspiration for his novel, including bringing the family to live at a lighthouse or in a cave, while Moominmama patiently endures and keeps the family together. A personal favorite is Shadow, a dark mouse-like fellow who follows Moomin through the first couple of books before finally bursting out with energetic speech. As with the rest of the eccentric world, no one thinks much of it.

As a bonus in the Deluxe Anniversary Edition, Drawn & Quarterly includes twenty-five pages of original character sketches by Tove Jansson for the Moomin strip. These drawings, many crowded onto the same page, give a fascinating look into the creation of so many in-depth characters as well as Jansson’s style of art. Whether for love of the craft in drawing, enjoying the intricate writing in dialogue and emotional thrill as plots develop, or simply, in many ways most profoundly, finding delight in the whimsical adventures, Moomin is a must-read for fans of the funnies page.

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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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