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Moominsummer Madness

I’m already starting my countdown to Drawn & Quarterly’s September release of Tove Jansson’s Moomin comics with the free strip every weekday that they offer. The story starts here if you’d like to read from the beginning. Or there’s a PDF preview if you’d rather not wait on the daily postings.

Can you tell I’m pushing Moomins? Of course, who wouldn’t love a family of gentle hippo-ish creatures and their many and varied friends? I was such a fan of the books when I was young (or became a fan then, since clearly they still get me excited) and I’m really looking forward to reading the comics. Jansson wrote stories that are sort of ridiculous but also kind and honest in a way that I find appealing. They’re books for children, certainly, but I think adults can appreciate their goofy depths too. As I recall, my littlest brother got his start in comparative literature at 8 or so by comparing how the adventures in Exploits of Moominpappa shape up against the reminiscences of Moominpappa’s Memoirs, although the Wikipedia entry thinks that these are different titles for the same book.

As far as the books go, my favorite is the one whose title I stole for this post. In Moominsummer Madness, a volcanic eruption starts a flood that sweeps through Moominvalley, forcing the inhabitants to evacuate. They find refuge in a floating theater and decide to write and perform a play. Or there’s Finn Family Moomintroll, a good introduction to most of the major characters, in which Moomintroll’s friends find a hat lost by the Hobgoblin who lives on the moon. It turns out that anything put into this hat transforms, which is part of the reason the sinister Hobgoblin is tracking it down and thus stalking the Moomins and their friends.

I write these plot summaries as if plot is really what drives these stories, but it definitely isn’t. From the lonely Groke whose alienation is so extreme that she leaves a trail of dead grass behind her with each step to Moomintroll’s friend Snufkin, a thoughtful wanderer who plays the harmonica and despises the park-keepers who want to keep him from enjoying the greenery, the characters are both outrageous and recognizably human underneath their fantastical forms. It’s especially the details that make the books such fun for me, which seems to be true of the strips as well. The background business is a delightful complement to the main characters’ conversations. in both cases, it’s the vividness of the world that makes everything more interesting.

I hate writing reviews, as I’ve said before, and so everything I’ve written here seems fake and cliched to me, but I’m sounding like a fangirl because I am a fangirl. Other bloggers can write about their childhood superhero crushes or how they thought they were Ninja Turtles, but instead of anything like that I taught myself to draw Moominmamma and Little My. I even made a little shoebox Moomin house for all my homemade Moomin paper dolls to live in so that I could let them walk across my bed and have conversations but also have a nice place to stay at night. Maybe once I read the strip collection I’ll have more sensible and insightful things to say, but for now I’ll just look forward to it and know that to me it feels like home.