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Comic Strip / Northern Overexposure

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"We live somewhere in between youth and adulthood, but my back can't take any more of this limboing. Something has to change."

Northern Overexposure (original title Villimpi Pohjola, Finnish for "Wilder North") is a Finnish Slice of Life Sunday Strip comic written and drawn by JP Ahonen, started in 2005. The comic follows the lives of a group of University students somewhere in Nothern Finland. The cast tries its best to balance between their carefree youth and the responsibilities of adulthood,each in their own way.

  • Ukko would rather just play his childhood Nintendo games instead of actually studying.
  • His girlfriend Muusa is nervous about the future, and at the same time she both despises and envies her cohabitant's carefree attitude.
  • Rontti is the Campus Casanova who deals with women like with Pokemon.
  • Anna is a female counterpart of Rontti when it comes to aggressively hitting on people. Her results, however, are less than satisfactory.
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  • Verneri is Ukko's best friend since their childhood days. Secretly jealous of Rontti's way with the ladies.
  • Otto is the resident bohemian and Jesus lookalike of the group. Constantly balancing on the line between getting kicked out of school and working towards his studies.
  • Minna is best described as a 16-year old nerd boy trapped in a body of a twentysomething woman.
  • Juhani feels like he's getting too old for College life and is ready to move away to his long distance sweetheart Kata. Others doubt such character even exists.
  • Topi is Juhani's best friend. Eager to share his wisdom, whether you wanted it or not.
  • Jaana seems to be the only one around the campus who actually contributes towards her studies.
  • Jouni joins the cast late as Minna's boyfriend. Tends to a bar named Pub-Niggurath.
  • Another late addition is Anni, Anna and Rontti's daughter. She's a headstrong little girl who seems to have inherited the best and worst traits of both of her parents.

The comic is notable not only for its clever and creative writing, but also for its well-developed cast and the heavy doses of Postmodernism.

The albums released so far:

  • "Villimpi Pohjola" (Self-published, 2007)
  • "Villimpi Pohjola 2" (Self-published, 2009)
  • "Kypsyyskoe" ("Exam of Maturity", Arktinen Banaani, 2011)
  • "Pelinavaus" ("Opening Move", Arktinen Banaani, 2013) (An Updated Re-release consisting of material featured in the two originally self-published albums.)
  • "Lapsus" ("Little Mistake", Arktinen Banaani, 2014) (See Double-Meaning Title below.)
  • "Valomerkki" ("Last Call", WSOY, 2015)
  • "Irtiotto" ("Breakaway", WSOY, 2018)

This comic strip provides examples of:

  • The Ace: Jouni coasted through school with apparently very little effort before opening a successful bar with his friends, all of this while still younger than the rest of the cast - something the other men are silently envious of upon hearing of it. He's cheerful and kind, has a sense of humor, no character flaws to speak of, and compared to the constant ordeals and hurdles the other couples in the strip have to go through, his own relationship with Minna has so far had no cracks whatsoever. Even the narration describes him as "perfect in every way".
  • All Just a Dream: One strip does this thrice with Rontti. The last one is a subversion.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: Interesting variation: When the summer vacation starts, the actual cast is replaced by "summer stand-ins". Rontti is played by Mrs. Virtanen, Ukko by Phantom Blot, Otto by Jesus Christ and Muusa by a pigeon.
  • Babies Make Everything Better: When Rontti learns that he's the father of Anna's child, he slowly grows out of his casanova tendencies and eventually they become a couple.
  • Bedroom Adultery Scene: These become something of a running joke with Rontti; many of his liaisons end with him being forced to flee from an angry husband or boyfriend. Their frequency decreases greatly after he and Anna become a couple, but they still show up in an occasional flashback.
  • Bite of Affection: One of Anna's go-to moves is sinking her teeth on the flanks of her bedmates, leaving a semi-permanent bite mark. (Although, she sometimes also employs this on people who simply irritate her.) One strip cleverly uses this to hint at the identity of the father of her child.
  • Brick Joke: Halfway the second self-published album there's a moment when Minna confuses WWE with WWF. The final page of the album depicts the host and a panda beating each other Professional Wrestling style in a broadcast by WWF.
  • Casanova Wannabe: Verneri tries to learn from Rontti.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Topi disappeared mysteriously in the original storyline between Villimpi Pohjola 2 and Kypsyyskoe. The new strips in Pelinavaus Retcon his fate and show how he eventually gets fed up with the cold North and leaves to study in Santiago de Compostela.
  • Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere: Rontti takes up on celibacy to try and set his mind straight about soon becoming a father. This only leads to women everywhere wanting him all the more, even besieging his apartment.
  • Comic-Book Time: Largely averted. While the in-universe time doesn't run on a perfect synergy with the real world, what began as a slice-of-life comic strip about twentysomething university students has evolved into a story about a group of thirtysomethings who have graduated (or dropped out) and are trying to find jobs and starting families.
  • Comic Sutra: As Rontti tries to rehabilitate himself of his Casanova tendencies, a woman hits on him by drawing a sex position into frosted glass. His friends can't recognize it but he does: Polynesian 57.
  • Creator Provincialism: The author JP Ahonen studied in the University of Lapland himself, which shows.
  • Deathbringer the Adorable: Kuolema (Finnish for "Death"), Minna's kitten.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Jouni's regular tattooist throws a highly suspect tantrum upon finding an unfamiliar tattoo taken on vacation.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Otto towards Minna.
  • Double-Meaning Title: "Lapsus" is a play on both the word's actual meaning, "mistake" or "lapse", as well as the word's similarity to Finnish word for a child ("lapsi"). Most of the book deals with Anna's unplanned baby.
  • Dumb Blonde: Rontti. Apparently he got in the University by sleeping with someone on the staff.
  • Experimented in College: Verneri's father and godfather, as admitted by the former.
  • Handsome Lech: Rontti takes this to its logical extreme.
  • Homage: Several strips.
    • Ukko's childhood escapades are drawn in the style of Peanuts.
    • A short story of Otto looking for his student card is drawn in the style of Finnish comic Rieku Ja Raiku, complete with rhymes.
    • Rontti is takes the role of Goldilocks in an interesting retelling of the fairy tale.
  • House Amnesia: Rontti once got so worried over his infidelity, and over the notion that his current partner's boyfriend or husband is about to come home, he ejects himself out of the house... which, as she then mentions, is his own.
  • Insecure Love Interest: Curiously, this goes both ways with Ukko and Muusa. She is constantly afraid that he will eventually find someone taller and prettier, while he's actually planning on proposing, but can't bring himself to pop the question for months out of morbid fear of being rejected.
  • Interrupted Intimacy: Happens a lot, especially to Rontti (who else), but other characters get their share as well. Whenever the first panel shows two characters in an intimate position, you just know somebody, be it a relative, roomie or bedmate's SO, is going to walk in on them, so it's in fact far easier to point out the subversions and aversions. In one strip, Rontti hears something, thinks someone's going to walk in on them and hides in a closet — before he realizes he's in his own apartment. In another one, it finally doesn't happen despite the setup, causing him to admit that there are advantages to having a spouse to do it with.
  • Jaw Drop: Ukko and Verneri do a double one in one strip. First Otto declines a drink, announcing he's gone sober, and then Rontti turns down a pretty girl trying to hit on him.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Minna is usually the Snark Knight, but she decides to take Otto to live with her when he loses his apartment.
  • Keeping Secrets Sucks: When Ukko tells Verneri about his plans to propose to Muusa, he goes nearly insane from trying not to spill the beans.
  • Ladykiller in Love: Rontti, eventually, with Anna, after he accidentally knocks her up.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Ukko and Muusa have many failed attempts at having a child, while Anna ends up with one entirely by accident. When it looks like Minna might be pregnant as well, Muusa's sanity begins to erode.
  • MacGyvering: Ukko uses his pocket knife to carve a corkscrew out of a chair leg.
  • Manchild: Both Ukko and Minna are described as these.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: How the comic seems to approach its more surreal elements. (See Postmodernism below.) Whenever something truly outlandish happens, one can't quite tell if it's the result of a character's Imagine Spot, an exaggerated representation of what really went down, or a completely accurate portrayal of events.
  • Mood Whiplash: One particularly dark strip goes from a laugh out hilarious anecdote about a drunken Santa who made his face explode with vomit to Anna's troubled childhood with a drunk dad between panels.
  • Mr. Exposition: Certain strips have Topi to explain certain plot points and oddities to the audience, usually complete with white lab coat and flowcharts.
  • Mrs. Robinson: Rontti's mother has a 22-year-old lover, and she's not hiding it either, liberally willing to discuss the topic even in front of her own grandchild. When Rontti chews her out for this, she starts wondering when was the last time he got laid.
  • My Biological Clock Is Ticking: Muusa literally hears hers start ringing shortly after Rontti and Anna have their own child.
  • My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels: Rontti is a repeat offender.
    • In one strip, he tries to hit on a Swedish girl in her native language, and the result is a mixture of this and Poirot Speak. Needless to say, she's not impressed.
    • In another occasion, he starts speaking English to Anna because he doesn't want a third person who only understands Finnish to listen in, and the attempt turns out the same. To add insult to injury, Anna, between fits of giggles, keeps correcting him in Finnish.
  • Not Allowed to Grow Up: Anni is a curious case.
    • The strip's original newspaper run downplays this. She does age, but very slowly. Each of the strips is set to take place on or close to the date of its original publication. (See Comic-Book Time above.) She was conceived in the autumn of 2009, and she was finally born in the spring of 2011, after having spent nearly two years in her mother's womb. She was still a one-year-old baby in strips originally published in 2014, and in the most recent ones she's now roughly a preschooler.
    • The album collections, however, seek to completely avert this. It is done by gathering together strips from multiple years and rearranging them so that they give the impression of much more natural, linear progression of time. For example, strips from the winters of 2011, 2012 and 2013 are gathered into one book and arranged so that they form a coherent storyline that appears to take place over a single winter, and Anni ages accordingly. It mostly works, but sometimes panels that show mismatching dates in the forms of calendars, cell phone screens and such give it away, as does the zigzagging Art Evolution.
  • Official Couple: Ukko and Muusa at the beginning, then later Minna and Jouni, as well as Rontti and Anna.
  • One Degree of Separation: Becomes a problem for Rontti when he starts to look for work. More than once he meets someone that he used to be involved with, one way or the other. Needless to say, he does not have easy time finding a job.
  • One-Night-Stand Pregnancy: How Anni came to be. Luckily, both her parents love her and even agree to take care of her together.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Rontti. (It means "Rascal" in Finnish.) His real name is Markku. Early in the comic's run, even his friends didn't know it and were genuinely confused when somebody referred to him using his given name.
  • Only Six Faces: Played with. There's a subplot where Verneri uses this to disguise as Rontti. What he does is simply pierce his eyebrow and bleach his hair, and the result is two identical people, whom even Rontti's own sister can't tell apart.
  • Postmodernism: A lot. There's often some sort of nonsensical element or Framing Device that doesn't really make sense within the universe of comic. For example, there's a strip where Muusa and Otto host a cooking show, where they cook their Master's Thesis using other books as ingredients. Many of these comics actually are part of the canonical storyline despite the weirdness. See Homage above and Shout-Out below.
  • Put on a Bus: Jaana actually finishes her studies at the University and moves away, while Topi leaves to study abroad.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The cover art of each album is a direct Shout-Out towards a certain piece of art. For example, the first album cover is a reference to Edwards Hopper's "Nighthawks"
    • The name itself is a reference to Northern Exposure
    • One strip puts the characters competing in The Apprentice. The show stops once Donald Trump fires the cartoonist.
    • One of Ukko's Imagine Spots has him depicted as He-Man.
    • Because of an accident on the way to a costume party Verneri turns into Ghost Rider.
    • Rontti literally teleports into Verneri's house party, losing his clothes in the process.
    • In one strip, Muusa crawls through a TV screen showing noise.
    • When thinking a name for her cat, Minna raises the kitten with his straight arms declaring: "SIMBAAA!"
    • Ukko comes across The One Ring while looking for a fitting engagement ring.
    • There's a rather Calvinesque running gag where a character - Otto is the most common offender, but far from the only one - literally lets his mind wander off during a lecture, or while trying to work with his or her studies. It once caused a "Freaky Friday" Flip.
    • JP Ahonen is evidently very fond of Super Mario Bros., as the shout-outs to the franchise could fill its own page. In one strip, Ukko starts jumping up and down in the middle of the bar — because he's looking for a hidden coin block so he can pay his tab. In another, Rontti uses the star power-up to cleave through a throng of overenthusiastic women. In yet another, Muusa and Verneri end up inside the game itself — and Mario then tries to hit on Muusa. And these are really just some of the examples.
  • Slice of Life: With heavy doses of Coming of Age Story.
  • Status Quo Is God: Averted, despite what the initial impression might be.
  • The Straight Man: Jaana. After she completed her studies her place has somewhat been taken over by Juhani.
  • Surreal Humour
  • Updated Re-release: Pelinavaus combines the strips from the two self-published albums together, adding also some new material. The old strips have been rearranged from order by release date to the in-universe chronological order, and the new strips provide more depth to certain storylines such as Topi's disappearance and Foreshadowing for the eventual relationship of Anna and Rontti.
  • Who's Your Daddy?: When Anna finds out that she is pregnant, she has no idea who the father is. It's Rontti, as if there ever was any other option.
  • You Remind Me Of Myself: In one arc, Rontti ends up in hospital and is put in a room with a middle-aged, overweight Dirty Old Man who aggressively hits on and gropes young nurses and who's never bothered to settle down, thinking steady relationships are for suckers. He's also got terminal cancer, meaning he will die soon with no one there to mourn him. He then suggests that Rontti is his Junior Counterpart, citing the trope. Rontti is not exactly pleased, as he thinks the old guy is a total embarrassment. But then it dawns on him that he really could be looking at himself a few decades down the road. Cue him deciding that he wants to take part in raising the child he's accidentally fathered.