Review by Woodrow Phoenix
Tove Jansson’s contract to create daily Moomin comics for the London Evening News was initially for seven years, starting in 1954. By 1960 she’d had quite enough of being shackled to unyielding daily deadlines and despite the strip’s popularity in papers worldwide, she would have happily ended the series then. Her younger brother, Lars Jansson suggested he take over instead. Unlike the rest of his family Lars Jansson had no artistic training, but he studied Tove’s drawing techniques and taught himself in secret to draw the Moomins (a page at the end of this volume goes into detail about this amazing feat). After he presented her with the results, Tove agreed to hand the strip over to him and he went on to write and draw the strip for the rest of its run, entirely by himself.
Book Six of what is now renamed The Complete Lars Jansson Comic Strip features four stories. The first is Moomin’s Lamp (1960) in which Moomin and Snorkmaiden discover a lamp on the beach that turns out to be inhabited by a genie. In Moomin and the Railway (1960) Moomin attempts to stop a railway being built through Moomin Valley, not helped by Sniff who’s only thinking about the potential money he could make from this new and lucrative enterprise.
Moomin and the Spies (1960) features Moominpappa and his childhood friend Wimsy, who go out to have a high old time reliving some of their youth and wind up in the midst of a mysterious spy ring. The final story Moomin and the Circus (1960) has Moominpappa accidentally being voted the head of the Society to Prevent Cruelty to Animals, which is bad news because he enjoys eating meat far too much to become a vegetarian. In his efforts to escape his new responsibilities he winds up managing a circus.
The first solo Lars Jansson Moomin comic strip volume successfully continues the tone of the previous books. He is of course far from the brilliant writer and formidable artist that Tove Jansson was. The decorative aspect of the strip’s ornate backgrounds disappeared (although Tove had stopped doing elaborate graphics by her last year anyway) and his drawing never rises above serviceable, but he had a good model to base himself on and the transition worked. Most people didn’t notice the difference, and he continued the Moomin strip for twice as long as his sister, from 1960 to 1974. Fillyjonks never take well to changes of any sort, but fans of the comics will enjoy this volume just as much as the earlier books, and the series continues in volume seven.