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Moomin: book 9 - the complete lars jansson comic strip.

by Lars Jansson

  Print book

2 of 2 people found this review helpful.
For better or worse, a significant change in the series   (2018-07-11)

Good

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by dee96

This is the 9th volume of Drawn and Quarterly's publications of the Moomin comic strip. Created by renown Finnish artist Tove Jansson, the Moomin universe is beloved by many for its cast of abstract, almost Seussian characters, an honest balance between sweetness and scariness in the stories, and covering a wide range of tones from classic fantasy to allegorical drama.

When Tove and her brother Lars were hired by the London Evening News in 1953 to produce a daily comic strip series based on the characters, a somewhat more satirical approach was taken. The Moomins, a family of trolls who resemble hippos, and their friends and foes, greedy Sniff, wise Snufkin, neighbor Mrs. Fillyjonk et al, were originally created as simple fairytale characters for Tove's original stories, but here in the comic strip, they explore concepts much more modern beyond their simple and serene plains inspired by the flora and fauna of Finland. This especially became prevalent after Tove Jansson's contract expired in 1960 (she was quite thankful to rid herself of the creative fatigue that grew on her from doing comic strips every day) and brother Lars taught himself to draw like his sister to keep the strip running.

Much like The Simpsons, when Moomin changed hands (and what distinct and difficult hands to replace!) it lost a bit of the heart and the fresh, adventurous spirit that was given to the series by its original writer, and from that point on relied a bit more on belly busters and references to previous stories. Here in volume 9, the changes in the series as a whole become much more noticable. Apart from the gradually modern and satirical nature of the stories, it is at this point that Lars has really grown into cartooning and has made the Moomin world all his own. The art style becomes fairly more abstract, as does his lettering. At best, Lars Jansson's Moomin strips are very clever and manage to get some good laughs. At worst, they are predictable fluff. Still, if you're a diehard Moomin fan like me, you're bound to find some merit in these stories. If you're new to the Moomin world, I recommend you start from either the first few chapter books, the 1990 TV series, or the first 5 volumes of the comic strip, available in individual hardback books or in the giant commemorative Deluxe Anniversary Edition, which comes with some neat bonus features.

Moomin is an episodic comic strip, wherein each strip tells part of an ongoing story. Presented in this volume are the 4 stories Lars wrote for the strip in 1963:

  • 34. DAMSEL IN DISTRESS: Moomintroll discovers in the woods what he describes as "a band with holes . . . like a bed sheet frill, but stiff" with the words 'Damsel in Distress' repeated "at least fifty times!" He and his pappa talk it over and decide that it must be a cry for help from a beautiful young girl (good on you for cheating on your wife!) so naturally they go out on a search for the distressed damsel. Turns out a movie is being shot in Moominvalley, but the Moomins themselves know nothing of cinematic arts, and steal away the film actors. "We've made another one of our stupid mistakes again!" exclaims Moominpappa, upon the startling realization that it was all a play, but they can't return the actors at this point. They'd rather live their new lives outside of stardom for once, just to be themselves. The events that ensue soon after are really fun and clever, and make this Lars story one his sister would be proud of.
  • 35. FUDDLER AND MARRIED LIFE: Fuddler and Jumble, an overly polite and timid couple who first met up in Fuddler's Courtship, the last story penned by series creator Tove, return to Moominvalley from a long honeymoon. Once they return to Fuddler's tin can home, which has rusted and withered away since last time, they then realize that life is much more than collecting buttons. Jumble realizes this, and turns into the stereotypical nagging housewife to push the underachieving doormat Fuddler out into the world to sustain a proper living. From building a house to having a baby, Fuddler and Jumble live through it all in this Moomin flavored view on married life, which although has its moments, is fairly bland.
  • 36. SNIFF'S SPORTS SHOP: Sniff's great grand aunt has finally croaked, and left to Sniff in her will her sports equipment store. Unfortunately, it's located deep in the middle of the forest and is nearly abandoned. Nobody in their right mind in Moominvalley would want to go to a sports shop in the middle of nowhere, let alone know what sports are, but Sniff's going to try his darnedest to try to get them there. He tries everything, guerrilla marketing, subliminal advertising, at one point even bringing the store to the customers when the customers won't come to the store. When he doesn't see the money he dreams of come rolling in, Sniff decides to teach himself how to play sports, but he's not quite the type to play them, as it is shown in a series of strips where he plays sports games with Moomintroll. Eventually, he does get a customer, a familiar face who has a very unconventional use for sports equipment. This leads to a flurry of events that ends with Sniff being scammed out of a proper sale. This too is a very decent story, with lots of charming visual gags, a step up from Sniff's usual get-rich-quick schemes.
  • 37. MYMBLE'S DIAMOND: A rather poor comeback appearance from one of my favorite characters in the series, Mymble's been graced with what appears to be a diamond ring ("appears" being the key word for everything that you can predict will happen!) from her football player boyfriend Rinaldo. Mrs. Fillyjonk becomes especially jealous, but her maid Mabel and friend Snorkmaiden help her become the type of person worthy of a 50 karat diamond ring. This requires a new wardrobe, a new home, and a new attitude, and it's all too much trouble for poor Mymble to bear. When nobody's looking, she hides the ring in a discreet location, but the moment she needs it to go to a party, it's lost! Well, turns out it wasn't really a diamond and therefore worth nothing at all. What a waste of time! But it isn't a total loss, I suppose, for she's found yet another hunk to swoon over in the mysterious stranger who finds Mymble's ring. Could it have been Rinaldo all dolled up for the party? It isn't clearly explained who he is, but I sure hope it's him.



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