I have never read Moomin even though it has been recommended to me at least 50 times, and that’s a conservative guestimate. I have seen Moomin in shops in several countries over a period of years. I have even seen fluffy toys of Moomin for sale. Come to think of it, I have seen a Moomin dress on social media, even. Well, now I have no excuse whatsoever because I have this:
Drawn and Quarterly released Tove Jansson’s Moomin: The Deluxe Anniversary Edition in November, a massive boxed book in glorious colors. Picking it up is like encountering the gates to some strange, idyllic garden–inhabited by white hippo creatures wreathed in flowers. And come to think of it, that is what most people seem to be invoking when they talk about Moomin. It’s just the kind of look they have on their faces at the mere mention. Moominites are rapacious and devoted to their adored subject matter, and now I can see why.
The Deluxe Anniversary Edition has been released to celebrate the 100th birthday of Finnish creator Tove Jansson, who worked in children’s and adult prose, picture books, and a vast body of Moomin comics, which hail from the 1950’s onward. And this book collects all of the comics. The book also contains an editor’s introduction, full-page and rather glorious character designs, and various tribute pieces from other cartoonists working today to total at 448 pages.
When I haul the orangey red bound volume from its slipcase, I find an outline of a Moomin impressed upon the canvas, and a giant Moomin poster of the slipcase image tucked inside, not to mention full-color illustrated endpapers, and introductory image, and a double title-page. There are also full-color illustrations throughout the introduction and tribute passages that precede the comics. The numbered pages of the comics are also divided into storylines and the large format of the book allows you to see the delicate linework of the original comics very precisely, which quickly begins to feel like the only way to appreciate them properly.
Prefacing the character designs at the end of the book is a sobering tale of how comics of the past were not appreciated for their artwork and consequently, very little of Jansson’s original Moomin art survives, originally syndicated as it was in a newspaper. These images, however, were found in Jansson’s studio, her own possessions, kindly supplied by the rights holders to Moomin.
Pirates, sea-voyages, wry, contradictory commentary, odd practical contrasts about money, violence, and familial troubles, all set in a seemingly endless expanse of possibility. Moomin was clearly a forerunner in elastic world-building in comics that gave Jansson greater and greater space in which to explore her creative impulses, all set within the movements of a dizzying array of characters and personalities. Yep, I have some reading to do, so I’ll leave you with this, your 51st recommendation, no doubt, to go ahead and read Moomin if you haven’t yet. And if you want a whole lot of Moomin, this Deluxe Edition is the place to start.
Moomin: The Deluxe Anniversary Edition is published by Drawn & Quarterly, available now, and runs to 448 pages at 8.5 x 12.2 inches in size and $69.95 at full price. Though you might find it for a little less if you search around.