Move over, “Hägar the Horrible.” Starting Monday, you no longer will be the only comic strip with Scandinavian roots in Minnesota.
“WuMo,” a Danish strip that appears in some of Europe’s biggest newspapers, is making its debut in the print edition of the Star Tribune, where it will appear Monday through Saturday. Readers don’t have to be Scandinavian to get the humor, the strip’s creators insist.
“My guess is that ‘WuMo’ will be a natural fit” for Minnesota, illustrator Anders Morgenthaler said via e-mail from Denmark. But “ ‘WuMo’ was, from the beginning, created for the whole world. When we started making the strips in a cold attic on the outskirts of Copenhagen, we wrote it in English with a general audience in mind. We hope that everyone will be able to connect with it on some level.”
Writer Mikael Wulff added: “The strip is our comedic way of filtering how we experience being alive and taking in what goes on in the world.”
They launched “WuMo” — the title consists of the first two letters of their last names — in 2001 as a Web comic. The next year, the Danish daily newspaper Politiken started posting the comic on its website, and in 2003 “WuMo” made the jump to the printed paper.
Now it’s making the jump to the United States, and in a big way. It debuted Nov. 4 in 212 newspapers, including the Washington Post, New York Daily News and Chicago Tribune. It will be in 225 papers as of next week.
“This comic is something special, the biggest launch in our history,” said John Vivona, vice president of sales for Universal Uclick, the syndicate that distributes the strip in the United States. For comparison, in 1985 “Calvin & Hobbes” debuted in 125 papers, which was considered a huge response.
“It is a unique comic,” Vivona said of “WuMo.” “The humor is different, as is the artwork. It made editors across the country laugh out loud.”
In a photo among the promotional materials for the newly launched strip, Wulff and Morgenthaler stare stoically into the camera in a way that is likely to remind Minnesotans of similar expressions seen on promo pictures of native-son filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen.
“This may be the single most-flattering compliment we have ever received,” Morgenthaler said. “We love the Coen brothers and the masterpieces they keep churning out.”
The similarities run deeper than just an affinity for deadpan humor, he said.
“I think we share the Coen brothers’ alternative look on the world, and we are always thinking of the hidden secrets within families, companies, the work space. Like the Coens, we also are drawn to the weird and try to communicate this to a broader audience.”
Away from their strip, Morgenthaler is a movie director and Wulff is a stand-up comedian. They were teamed up by a television producer who hired them to create an animated segment for a show, with Wulff writing the segment and Morgenthaler illustrating it. The working relationship clicked immediately.
“We found that we were kindred spirits and like working together,” Morgenthaler said.
Originally Wulff’s humor tended to be more intellectual while Morgenthaler’s ran toward the juvenile, but that has evolved.
“We have rubbed off on each other, so sometimes it’s almost the opposite,” Morgenthaler said. “That combination makes ‘WuMo’ both super stupid and incredibly smart.”
That dichotomy is reflected in the strip’s mascot, a beaver.
“It looks like a hillbilly but can construct things that are so brilliant that one suspects that the beaver is really a subspecies of mankind,” Morgenthaler said. “So the Weirdo Beaver became a natural choice for representing ‘WuMo.’ ”
Plus, he added, it’s easy to draw.
Both Wulff and Morgenthaler continue to pursue the other aspects of their careers.
“The ‘WuMo’ strip has given us an audience that has helped open doors for our other endeavors,” he said. “I’ve completed four feature films, the most recent of which stars Kim Basinger. Wulff has completed several comedy tours. Together we run the biggest comedy website in Denmark, with a reach into Scandinavia and Germany.”
As of Monday, they can add Minnesota to the list.