Between 1954 and 1968, Tove and Lars Jansson created hundreds of Moomin comic strips for The Evening News. So what happened to all of these when the newspaper ceased to be? If you’re squeamish, look away now.

They were binned.

Aside from a few that found their way into collections or the hands of private collectors, all of the original hand-drawn Moomin strips were consigned to the skip. It’s very sad to think that those miniature works of art ended their days ingloriously in a bin in Fleet Street. Well, maybe not all of them…

A box in Canterbury came to light recently, and was found to contain a number of previously unpublished Moomin strips – the actual originals drawn by Tove Jansson. These were originally destined for the inaugural strip, Moomin and the Brigands, but the sequence – in which Moomin and Sniff are rescued from falling by a passing cloud – were evidentally dropped in favour of Moomin and Sniff selling their rejuvenating mixture.

What is interesting about these strips is seeing some of Tove Jansson’s creative processes at work. Jansson made extensive use of screentone in her strips, the pattern of black dots used to portray shading. In those pre-digital days, this was the only way to emulate a grey colour in newsprint. Many cartoonists actually laid the screentone directly onto their artworks, requiring extreme dexterity with a scalpel to cut adhesive sheets of Letratone or Zip-a-tone into place. Tove Jansson had the resources of The Evening News to rely on, however.

She would shade in blue the areas to be rendered in screentone, and the strip would be photographed twice. The first photo would be used to cut the dies for the black lines, and the second would capture the blue areas to be printed in screentone. The final strip was either laid down via a two-pass printing process, or an assembly of both dies.

The original Moomin strips are extremely scarce, and finding these unreleased strips is treat indeed. Some of these are on display at the Tove Jansson exhibition in Dulwich, so there’s yet another reason to make your way down there.