Scandinavian book and com ic characters the Moomins have only recently crossed over to North America in a series of lovingly-published collections out of Canada which point to their decades-long devoted following — their first appearance was in 1945 — and successful expansion into film and television. It’s a long legacy for all of us to catch-up with.
Canadian publishers Drawn And Quarterly are doing their part first with the successful black and white collections, but now with these new editions, which add color to the strips, contain individual stories in separate volumes and format them in a child-friendly package. It’s certainly a gamble — the purists could easily turn their nose at such a venture, while something that old could prove too outdated for kids these days.
Both camps will find something to love here, though, and this effort should make the Moomins more of a household name in the U.S. and Canada, as they deserve to be.
The coloring is understated, which helps the books retain the feeling of the originals, while still adding an otherworldly quality to the Moomins’ landscape. It’s a warm realization that results in something both cozy and surprising, and it helps make the temperament of the strips seem modern without transforming them into something they are not.
In “Moomin Valley Turns Jungle,” the Moomin’s home is overtaken by crazy tropical plants when a heat wave coincides with exotic seeds being uncovered at sea. “Moomin’s Winter Follies” goes the opposite direction and has the family dealing with not only their first winter, but the most terrifying aspect of that season, winter sports and their enthusiasts.
Jansson was a playful humorist, and never talked down to her audience. Her jokes and situations often border on the absurd, but also double as social parody in a way that should please adults and kids. All too often lost gems are proclaimed, but Jansson’s work on the Moomins really deserves that exclamation, and this new series presenting them in a wonderful new light is must-reading, regardless of your age.