torsdag 11 oktober 2012

Johanna Kristiansson and Joakim Gunnarsson: Katten Nils & Morris – Den mystiska ön ("Nils the Cat & Morris – The mysterious island")

Yes, there hasn't been much happening on this blog for quite a while now. The main reason for that is that I moved and was rather worn out after moving about 140 shelf meters of comics, 60 shelf meters of books, and assorted other stuff that tends to accumulate as the years pass, and then trying to fit them into my new home in some sort of working order. (Haven't really succeeded with that part yet, I must confess.)

But having done at least the most necessary parts of getting the new house functional for my needs (se enclosed pictures at bottom of page), it is time to get some blogging going again. We'll start with an excellent children's comic by Joakim Gunnarsson and Johanna Kristiansson: Katten Nils & Morris – Den mystiska ön. If I understand things correctly, Gunnarsson is mostly responsible for the script and Kristiansson for the art.

Katten Nils – or, Nils the Cat – is a very popular comic strip in the Swedish children's magazine Kamratposten. Nils himself is not very intelligent, to say the least, but the strip's exploring of themes important to kids (mainly friendship and love, judging from the sample strips I've seen from it) has mightily endeared both him and the strip to Kamratposten's readers. Now, Gunnarsson and Kristiansson have staked out new ground with a book-length story about Nils and his best friend Morris joining cat-girl Semlan (who is in love with Morris and quite a bit bothersome, in Morris' opinion) on a ship to Semlan's aunt's coffe bean-producing island. The island is home to a volcano that threatens to erupt, so it's important to save as many coffee beans as possible. Semlan doesn't really want Nils coming along to disrupt her plans for some quality time with Morris, whereas Morris wants Nils coming along to disrupt any plans Semlan may have for quality time with him. And the adventure moves briskly along from there...

I was just a little bit wary of the depiction of Semlan at first, what with her being more interested in boys (well, Morris, at least – Nils seems a bit too loutish for her) and relationships rather than adventures. Now, I do think it's perfectly OK for both girls and boys to have different preferences, whether it's for adventure or for relationship stuff (and that it's more than a little bit stupid to try and force them to change their preferences based on what's the current fashion in society for what they "should" prefer), but I was a bit worried that Semlan come off as merely the classical girly stereotype – of which I've seen enough in many, many comics and movie stories already. Fortunately, I was proven wrong.

Not only are Semlan's feelings for Morris depicted with a lot of respect and compassion, both for the character and for those feelings, but she gets to show herself to be brave and knowledgeable in a manner that not only surprises Morris but also heightens his respect for her as a person. It works very well, and offers a nice model for the book's young readers how to treat others. (It's a nice model for grown-ups as well, but they're usually already too set in their ways to change, so if they're inclined to go with their prejudices rather than keeping an open mind towards others, reading a children's comic is hardly going to change that one iota.)

Now, I know Joakim Gunnarsson, so I know that he's an old comics fan-turned-pro and also quite the Bamse and Carl Barks aficionado – and it shows in the story. Not only is it a classical Bamse or Uncle Scrooge (albeit a little bit "childified" compared to the Barks variety) plot, but there are several Barksian references in the script as well. It works very well if you catch those references, and doesn't detract from the story if you don't.

I don't really know Johanna Kristiansson, I just met her briefly at this year's annual book fair in Gothenburg, so I can only say that she seems to be just about the nicest, most utterly charming person you could imagine, and that she does an excellent job with the art for this story. Kristiansson makes the characters move and emote with flair and gusto – vitally important for depicting both the adventure and emotions/relations aspects of the story.

This is a great children's book, and sufficiently well done that it isn't a waste of time for adult readers, either – even though they'll probably have to rely quite a bit on the child within to appreciate it, as it is pretty clearly a story aimed at kids.


And finally, as promised, a couple of examples of the interior decoration of my new home:

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