Moomin and the Brigands

Writer / Artist
Moomin and the Brigands
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Drawn and Quarterly – 978-1-77046-285-4
  • Volume No.: 1
  • Release date: 2012
  • UPC: 9781770462854
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no

Tove Jansson’s beloved creations, the Moomins, have legions of fans mostly unaware the family and their friends once featured in a newspaper strip, published six days a week from 1954 to 1975. Jansson wrote and drew 21 Moomin stories for the London Evening News before her brother Lars took over the daily production in 1959. Her strips are all collected in five large hardcover volumes of Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip and Moomin: The Deluxe Anniversary Edition, a single, slipcased compendium volume.

This newer series of small, landscape format, flexicover books takes the Moomin stories and repackages them individually. Because each story is self-contained but not too long–from fifty to eighty strips–they lend themselves very well to being collected as little books. Jansson drew all of her newspaper work in black ink only, adding grey halftones for beautifully modulated shading, but to make these volumes more marketable, colour has been added to her strips. The omission of any credits may lead one to believe Jansson did this herself, but the colouring is all by the editorial team at Drawn & Quarterly. The covers work well with assembled and coloured elements taken from each strip, but the interiors are a lot less successful, with the eccentric colour palettes and unnecessary background styling often at odds with Jansson’s graphic compositions. This series appears under D&Q’s children’s imprint Enfant. While these strips are perfectly readable by children, parents should note the language and the ideas are much more complex than any children’s book because Jansson wrote her newspaper series to amuse adults first. The beguiling images will pull younger readers in easily, but the action and much of the dialogue will need explaining.

Jansson’s newspaper strips begin with Moomin and the Brigands in 1954, which introduces Moomintroll to his new audience as a dreamy, good-natured and tentative person pushed out of his house by overbearing guests. In the course of his trying to make some money through various unlikely schemes we meet his  friend Sniff and his lovely girlfriend Snorkmaiden too. Readers who are already familiar with these characters from Jansson’s novels may find it hard to accept them reconfigured for this wackier new context. However, Tove Jansson’s beautiful drawings and witty dialogue win you over as they drive this story along with such skill it’s astonishing to consider she had made very few comics before this. Next in the series is Moomin and Family Life.