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Les Aventures de Tintin (The Adventures of Tintin) by Hergé

In excited anticipation of the Spielberg movie (which will be coming out tomorrow), I have decided to review the entire Tintin collection.

In retrospect, I find it amazing how I stumbled upon Tintin, given the fact that Tintin is not that popular in America, and thus not that popular here. I consider myself lucky to have read the Tintin adventures, and I thank Roy (the brother of my mom’s friend Rita) for introducing me to Tintin, handing me a tattered copy of The Crab with the Golden Claws, with the promise that I would enjoy it. And I did.

If you were to ask me who my favorite character is, I’d have to say it’s definitely not Tintin. Tintin by himself is actually boring; it’s the other characters surrounding him that make his adventures worth reading. Personally, I’d say it’s a tie between Captain Haddock and the Thom(p)son twins. But I suggest you read the adventures yourself, and decide who your favorite character is. Because there are actually a lot of them. It’s not called a Tintin universe for nothing.

This review only tackles the modern colored versions. The first ever Tintin story, Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, was originally in black and white, and was never redrawn in color, and I could not find a copy of it. The second book, Tintin in the Congo, up to The Crab with the Golden Claws were also originally in black and white, but were redrawn by Hergé in color. Unfortunately, I could not find a copy of Tintin in the Congo, which is why this review starts with...

Tintin in America

Tintin barely manages to survive here, and every single time he has Lady Luck on his side. There have been several attempts on his life, yet every single time he manages to get lucky and survive. Tintin surviving on pure luck alone does not really sit well with me. He's known for his resourcefulness, after all. But we have none of that here.

Not Boardwalk Empire.

Cigars of the Pharoah

You see the word "pharoah", you'd immediately think "Egypt", right? But I sort of didn't feel any of ancient Egypt here. Or maybe I was just distracted by the Thompson twins, who make their first appearance here.

Right: Not an Arabic Captain Haddock.

The Blue Lotus

Story starts off in India, but of course the title will tell you that this should be set in the Orient. And it is. This one's set in Shanghai, China. And what did they have in China at this period in time? Opium. Also, Mr. Rastapopolous makes his second appearance here, the first being in Cigars of the Pharaoh. Who else makes a second appearance here? The Thompson twins.

I do understand that this is the first of the Tintin books to have any semblance of structure, and that's all fine, really. I also understand that Hergé was consciously trying to break Eastern stereotypes here. If that's the case, though, why draw all Japanese as buck-toothed?

One of those rare instances where
we see Tintin with drug paraphernalia.

The Broken Ear

First mention of the fictional republic San Theodoros. And the fictional tribe of the Arumbaya Indians. Also Rumbaba Indians. Gotta give Hergé some credit for creating fictional names. Tintin seems to be the precursor of Mission: Impossible's Ethan Hunt, being a master of disguise and all that. Wait, scratch that─Sherlock Holmes was first. I think.

Here too is General Alcazar's first appearance, and surprisingly, Tintin's colonel's commission hasn't been revoked.

General Alcazar's first appearance.

The Black Island

Tintin travels to the British isles (which proves that Tintin is not English, but continental European). And he goes after the villain Dr. Müller. He has the capacity to be an archenemy type, like Moriarty to Sherlock Holmes. Speaking of Sherlock, the Thompsons are here, being the world-class detectives that they are.

Loch Lomond whisky. Remember the name.

King Ottokar's Sceptre

Here we see Hergé as the master of fictional places. First it was San Theodoros, now it's Syldavia. Complete with its own history and back story. Brilliant. Also, I think this is the first time they introduced Bianca Castafiore, but her name wasn't mentioned.

Bianca Castafiore's first appearance.

The Crab with the Golden Claws

What is most memorable with this episode (if you could call the whole series episodic) is that it marks the first appearance of one of the most beloved characters in the Tintin universe, none other than my favorite character himself: Captain Archibald Haddock. The fact that Tintin, Haddock, and of course the Thompsons were able to beat a drug smuggling syndicate in the Middle East is only secondary.

Captain Haddock's first appearance,
where he looks like Bluto from Popeye.

The Shooting Star

The first and only Tintin book I have ever owned (up until college, when I was able to get some French versions). All the rest were just borrowed. I forgot how I got this actually, whether I bought it or got it from a friend. Anyway, knowing that this was the only Tintin book I owned, it follows that this was the only book in the series which I have read the most.

The Thompson twins have no role in this story whatsoever, but not wanting to totally omit them, Hergé gave them a single frame-cameo.

One of the rare pictures of Captain Haddock in full uniform.

The Secret of the Unicorn

If this were a TV series, this one would be the first of a double episode. Not much action actually happening, and they don't even leave for adventure. What they do, though, is set us up for the next one. Also, how in the world did Nestor end up with Captain Haddock? We'll find out soon enough.

As you can see, Nestor used to be evil.

Red Rackham's Treasure

The sequel to The Secret of the Unicorn, this one takes us to the ocean. There's no action here though, unless you count close encounters with sharks as action. This also marks the first-ever appearance of Professor Cuthbert Calculus, whose terrible hearing makes him as funny as the Thompson twins.

Cuthbert Calculus's first-ever appearance.

The Seven Crystal Balls

As far as the Tintin books go, this one proves to be the most supernatural indeed. Hergé seems to have gotten the hang of double episodes, because you'll have to wait for the next book for the resolution to this strange mystery. Anyway, we have some recurring characters here: Ramon Zarate a.k.a. General Alcazar, the Milanese Nightingale Bianca Castafiore, and Professor Paul Cantonneau from The Shooting Star.

Crystal balls, or crystal meth?

Prisoners of the Sun

I own two Tintin books in French: Les 7 Boules de Cristal, and its sequel, which is this one. In my opinion, this is one of the best of the Tintin adventures. Europeans and South Americans have had a relationship as rocky as the Andes since the time of Hernán Cortés. Yet despite the conflict, both peoples share a bond not easily broken. They’re not called Latin Americans for nothing, you know. What I would’ve wanted to see, though, is Captain Haddock chewing a coca leaf. That would’ve been a riot.

Haddock v. Llama

Land of Black Gold

This is another Arabic adventure, but unlike The Crab with the Golden Claws, this one does indeed focus on Arabia─Khemed, to be precise. By the way, this is another fictional country. The great thing with Hergé is that he recycles characters, which in a way makes it more realistic, and makes the Tintin universe more endearing, since it gives the readers familiarity with the characters. The character I am talking about here is Dr. Müller from The Black Island, who reappears here as Professor Smith. Another character comeback appears in the form of Senhor Oliveira da Figueira from Cigars of the Pharoah. And we are introduced to the brat boy Abdullah, son of emir Mohammed Ben Kalish Ezab, who will make another appearance later on.

The Thompson twins never fail to do
something stupid in every book they're in.

Destination Moon

The first of another double episode, the plot of this one is pretty self-explanatory from the title alone. Tintin goes back to Syldavia, that fictional European country in the Eastern bloc. What is remarkable here is Hergé’s attention to detail, and the probableness of the entire plot. This was of course decades before the actual moon landing, and some people consider Hergé a prophet for predicting this with the accuracy available during that time.

According to the map, Syldavia is certainly in Central Europe.

Explorers On the Moon

The sequel to Destination Moon. For someone who has no idea what the moon looks like, Hergé seems to have nailed the lunar landscape. Except maybe that bit about ice on the moon. Another villain makes a comeback here, in the form of Colonel Boris from King Ottokar's Sceptre. Also, when I read this as a child, I cried at Wolff's letter.

The "idiot" referred to by Calculus is, of course, one of the Thompsons.

The Calculus Affair

This is one of the most espionage-y (is that even a word?) of all the books, and the action doesn't even leave Europe. It involves a weapon of mass destruction (another prophecy of Hergé?), by none other than Professor Calculus. Syldavians and Bordurians in their civil strife aren't enough to stop Tintin, though. Not even Colonel Sponsz, who makes his first appearance here, nor the brief appearance of the Milanese Nightingale Bianca Castafiore. Also, this book introduced me to a new British slang word: "brolly", which is slang for umbrella; and also showed me how the word "chinwag" is used (I learned of the word "chinwag" through Hugh Laurie, when he used it in The Ellen DeGeneres Show). And finally, I despise that character Jolyon Wagg. And this won't be the last we'll see of him. Oh, and one last thing: it is in this book where the "Mr. Cutts the Butcher" telephone gag started. I can totally relate to that because our home phone is always mistaken for ICCT.

You've got to marvel at Hergé's attention to detail.

The Red Sea Sharks

Five recurring characters here: Alcazar once again, the young rapscallion Abdullah (told you he'd be back), his father Emir Ben Kalish Ezab, Dawson from The Blue Lotus, and the Marquis di Gorgonzola, a.k.a. Rastapopolous. Bianca Castafiore I don't consider a recurring character anymore, as I believe from the previous book onwards, she has become a regular cast member. Wait, make that six recurring characters: Allan's here, too, Haddock's former first mate in Crab with the Golden Claws.

Proof that claire ligne looks beautiful as a painting.

Tintin in Tibet

In my opinion, the best story in the Tintin saga. We may not have Calculus and the Thompson twins in the adventure, but it still is one well-written story. Chang Chong-Chen makes his first reappearance since The Blue Lotus, and frankly, I would like to see more of him than the nasty villains. I believe this book won praise and recognition from the Tibetan government, for its accurate and beautiful portrayal of everything Tibetan.

Looks like a scene from Baraka.

The Castafiore Emerald

Gypsies, jewels, Bianca Castafiore, and paparazzi. Since the story takes place entirely in Marlinspike, the gags here are limited to, what else, the Marlinspike gags, such as the broken step, the "Mr. Cutts the Butcher" gag, and a new one, the Mr. Bolt gag, who I've come to hate as much as Jolyon Wagg, who incidentally is also in this story.

Yes, those are proper gypsies.
Or pikeys.

Flight 714

The action here takes place dangerously close to the Philippines, as it starts off in Indonesia and climaxes somewhere in the Celebes Sea. It also involves some Sondonesians in their revolution, who I believe is another fictional nationality created by Hergé. This is undoubtedly the most supernatural of the Tintin stories, and if the stories are known for their realism, this one would be the most unrealistic. Skut from The Red Sea Sharks is back, as well as the villain Rastapopolous, and that evil henchman Allan (who loses his teeth this time, good for him). Jolyon Wagg makes a cameo, and the Thompson twins are surprisingly absent. We do have a new character though by the name of Laszlo Carreidas, who in my opinion shows much potential to become a recurring character.

I love Tintin's pose here.

Tintin and the Picaros

Finally... Tintin starts wearing jeans, breaking away from years of wearing plus-four trousers, as they are called. The action takes place once more in San Theodoros, which looks suspiciously like Brazil, what with the carnival and the schism between the rich and the poor. And this is a fitting ending to the Tintin saga, as General Alcazar and his Picaros take power by ousting Tapioca in a bloodless coup d’etat. We meet Mrs. Alcazar for the first time, and also get to see once again the annoying Jolyon Wagg, Doctor Ridgewell and the Arumbayas from The Broken Ear, the Paris-Flash reporters from The Castafiore Emerald, and Colonel Sponsz from The Calculus Affair.

Where's Mickey Mouse and Asterix?

Sadly, Hergé died before completing Tintin and Alph-Art. There is actually a completed version in circulation, but the artwork is so terrible (meaning so unlike Hergé’s hand) that it would be best to not even consider reading it. Anyway, there have been several adaptations of the series, the most recent being the half-hour animated show on Cartoon Network in the 1990s. Tomorrow, we shall behold Steven Spielberg’s version (with a script written by the great Steven Moffat), and I do hope I get the same feeling upon leaving the theater as I did when I put down The Crab with the Golden Claws more than twenty years ago.

Les Aventures de Tintin (The Adventures of Tintin). Belgium. 1929-1976

Rating: Nine out of ten.

*some info from Wikipedia
pics from Wikipedia herehere, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and hereThe Grey Traveler's Inn, Hukum, Ask, Wikia, Dooyoo, and Wundertime


Anonymous said...

Nicely written, but what about "Tim in Kongo"?

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