In the 1940s, Pippi was already a progressive creation, but seventy years later she’s still a joyous celebration of youthful irreverence. In Pippi Fixes Everything, author Astrid Lindgren speaks directly to children’s fantasies of living outside adult norms while brilliantly capturing the energy and logic of kids. Pippi has the complicated personality of a young girl whose impulse-control is nonexistent and whose vibrance is blinding. Adults chide her as she struggles to understand their rules; kids try to correct her when she sees possibilities: She is a bane on proper society and a magnet for adventure.
These are the first comics that my five-year-old daughter, along with me, has become immersed in. I’m grateful for a character that embodies such wild and brave impulses. Pippi is neither a Tomboy nor a girly-girl, she’s simply a girl. And she also happens to be “the strongest in the world.” That’s a repeating theme, that this young girl is the strongest, without qualification.
When her sea-faring father returns, she beats him at arm wrestling. When another child is being bullied, she roughs up the ruffians. When fire fighters can’t reach trapped waifs, she carries them down herself. Hers is a life without bounds but always Pippi is generous with her power and her limitless pirate treasure, but she doesn’t suffer fools.
Adults are frequently foiled in their disingenuousness or parodied in their propriety. Lindgren’s stripped down dialogue for these strips occasionally suffers being a bit too clipped for the sake of the comics panels but it never lacks for quality. The following sequence is a wonderful example of her humor and invented scenarios that kids relish:
These strips are essentially condensed versions of the longer chapter books, which could sideline their relevance if they weren’t so beautifully, dutifully illustrated by Ingrid Vang Nyman. Using (by my count) nine colors throughout the series, the purity and flatness is a perfect complement to the high-energy stories of Pippi’s footloose life. The environments are spare, creating a charming folk/pop aesthetic that gives just enough information for setting without complicating the visuals. These are beautifully considered pages and Drawn and Quarterly have once again (re)introduced North American audiences to a gem from the European past. Their first volume, Pippi Moves In, is equally fun. (Chronology is present but not critical.)