Comics in Moominland
We'll be publishing a Moomin comic strip-centric Tove Jansson biography next Spring, a translation of the estimable Juhani Tolvanen's Vid min svans! (or, By my tail! in English). Ours will be called Comics in Moominland. I'm currently doing some editing on the text and there's this nugget from a letter from Tove to her syndicate dated February 1959 (her contract was slated to run out in December.):
"During this time my life with Moomin has gone on like a well worn marriage. You must have realized long ago that I want to divorce him. You surely saw years ago that I was tired of him. Well, now I'm even more tired of him. A long time ago I was talking with the composer Dean Dixon and he told me, nicely but with scary directness, ‘Be careful, Tove. Soon people will see you as one more comic strip artist who wants to be an artist.’
At that time I was an artist. Even though I was playing around with the Moomins, every Sunday I tried to paint still lifes. Now I draw Moomins with a feeling that is starting to resemble anger, and sometimes Sundays I stand before my own work as if facing a closed door. If I keep drawing comic strips there won't be any artist left in me. Even a longer break in the work (would something like that even be theoretically possible?) would not help. I do not want to draw comic strips ever again. I'm sorry. This is my personal termination decision for the unsigned contract. I have written this termination decision in my thoughts thousands of times these past years and I have composed it differently each time. Never once did I forget that it must be sent to you no later than six months before the termination of the contract, i.e. the magic date of December 31, 1959.
I don't regret anything and I am grateful for the two-edged-sword-like experience which the comic strips have given me. But I have to stop drawing them, for I no longer take any pleasure in the work."
Yikes! Of course, Tove then handed the strip over to her brother Lars who had surreptitiously been teaching himself to draw in order to take over the strip that he had already been writing. He had previously never drawn in his life!
Now, you may be wondering why I bring this up--Well, Moomin: the Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip: Volume 5 ships next week. It's the final Tove volume before we begin the all Lars strips starting next year. Lars actually ended up drawing the strip for 14 years after taking it over (twice the time that Tove worked on it.) I've just read the first Lars volume in preparation for next year's publication and I think people will find that while Lars has a different voice, the stories maintain the same delightful whimsy and laugh-out-loud humor as before.