Moomintroll and his family intercept a transmission on the radio: “Attention! Attention! Something tremendous has happened! A martian is approaching the earth in a flying saucer. Exact present position unknown.” Moominmamma finds out just where this extraterrestrial vehicle is when she wakes up to find the flying saucer has crash-landed in her cabbage patch. There’s a strange machine dangling out of it that seems like it could be used to fix their broken radio, but when Moominpappa starts fiddling with it, he turns himself and Moomin invisible and hijinks soon follow. “I hear you’ve been up to lots of childish pranks since you became invisible,” Moominmamma observes. When she tries tinkering with the machine to fix that problem she just creates different ones. “This could be turned to profit. But HOW?” wonders Sniff.

Moomin and the Martians is the eleventh of Tove Jansson’s 21 stories originally created in daily, black and white comic strips for the London Evening News between 1954 and 1959. The complete run is 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 strips and repackages them in individual volumes with each story newly coloured by the editorial team at D&Q to give each small book extra kid-friendly appeal. Unfortunately the colouring is frequently at odds with Jansson’s art, introducing graphic shapes and background additions which disrupt her original layouts, and using eccentric colour palettes that don’t complement the art too well.

It is also worth noting that these small flexicover books appear under D&Q’s children’s imprint Enfant, but Tove Jansson created these strips to entertain newspaper-reading adults. While these stories appear visually to be a perfect fit for children, the ideas, dialogue and situations are sophisticated, subtly existential, philosophical and often quite abstract. Jansson is an expert with layered narratives and her stories work on multiple levels so the slapstick premise of this tale is easily understood, but the ironic commentary will fly over children’s heads entirely and need explaining. Next in the series is Moomin and the Sea.