A Note on the Order of the Books:

tintin-back-4The Tintin books are listed here in the order in which they were originally written and published in French.  That is very different from the order in which they became available in America and the order in which I first read them.  Because my family collected Tintin books as Atlantic-Little, Brown originally published them in the States, I can give an idea of when they were published in America, although there is at least a little confusion with that.  My (now falling apart) original copy of The Crab with the Golden Claws lists four titles on the back.  tintin-back-8Yet, one of those titles is King Ottokar’s Sceptre.  My (now falling apart) copy of King Ottokar’s Sceptre is a “First American Edition” and lists eight titles, the same eight titles listed on the back of my (now falling apart) original copy of Cigars of the Pharoah, which is a “First American Edition” and is from 1975.  In Tintin in America (“Third American Edition”) it lists 20 books on the back – all except Soviets, Congo, Blue Lotus and Alph-Art.  Tintin in America was in fact, the twentieth published in the United States (it says so on the back of the book).
tintin-back-16One of the oddities is that two of the books that were among the original four, The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham’s Treasure, were published during the decade as serials in Children’s Digest.  I still have the cover for the January 1977 issue of Children’s Digest with The Secret of the Unicorn on the cover.  Odd, that they would only at that point be publishing a story that was already available in book form.

A Note on the Illustrations I Make Use Of:

Aside from the fact that I don’t own the copyright for any of them (I either grabbed scans from online or took pictures of my own copies), I want to point out that all of these are compressed to fit into the width that WordPress provides (not a lot, but hey, it’s also free); in some cases, I shrank them considerably to make the piece look better.  If you click on almost all of the illustrations, you will find larger versions that will allow you to look at them in more detail.

A Note on the Editions:

Because this is one of my For Love of Books posts, it focuses on the copies I own.  I have included ISBNs (when possible) of the editions I own.  Links on the ISBNs are links to buying the book.  If there is no link, that ISBN is no longer in print, but you can still often find them here.

The Adventures:

The Adventures of Tintin Reporter for “Le Petit Vingtième” in the Land of the Soviets
(Tintin au pays des Soviets)

Tintin_in_the_Land_of_the_Soviets_Egmont_hardcoverSerialized:  1929-30
Album:  1930
Color Album:  N/A
EL Edition:  1989
Editions I Own:

The Adventure:  If I had come to Tintin chronologically, it’s entirely possible I never would have gotten very far.  Of course, when I was a kid and first enjoying Tintin, you couldn’t come to it chronologically.  The first two adventures weren’t available in English at that point and even the third, Tintin in America, wasn’t available in America (I remember buying it new when it was first released).

Unlike the later editions, this adventure was never re-done in the more comic book format that would later be adapted.  So, what we have is the early art of a man who would become much more stylized (and much more interesting) over time.  We also have his early story-telling.  Hergé originally wanted to send his young reporter to America, but the editors of the children’s newspaper (an off-shoot of one of Belgium’s daily newspapers) wanted to show the mistakes of the Soviet Union, so Tintin headed east instead, off into propaganda land in an adventure this is utterly ridiculous, where he displays acts that are so silly that you wonder why anyone would have enjoyed it.  If you want to enjoy Tintin, and I sincerely hope that you do, skip this one at first and come back to it after you have a feel for the character.

Tintin is off to the USSR as a reporter, though he never seems to actually report anything (in the next album, he is offered a lot of money for his anticipated reports from the Congo and Snowy mentions that his reports from the Soviet Union must have made him famous, yet he never seems to have any time to file any reports).  In the first 14 pages alone, his train is blown up (which he survives), he is arrested, escapes by beating up a guard, steals a motorcycle, crashes into a tree, steals a car, is bombed by a plane and has his car hit by a train (which he survives).  Tintin is always solving problems instantly (he would put MacGyver to shame), beats the crap out of anyone in his way (even though he is quite small and is supposed to be a boy reporter).  I think my favorite absurd moment is when the propeller of his plane is broken (of course he can fly a plane) and he uses a pocket knife to carve himself a new propeller (but he carved the pitch the wrong way round which makes his plane fly backwards so he has to carve a new one).

This is a ridiculous book, with a silly propaganda story and simplistic art (not the “clean lines” that Hergé would late use, but actually simplistic art).  I can only recommend it to Tintin completists.  But it is where the adventures begin.

The Adventures of Tintin Reporter for “Le Petit Vingtième” in the Congo
(Tintin au Congo)

The_Adventures_of_Tintin_-_02_-_Tintin_in_the_CongoSerialized:  1930-31
Album:  1931
Color Album:  1946
EL Edition:  1991
Editions I Own:

  • Casterman Hardcover  (0867199024)
  • Juventud Spanish language softcover  (082885095x)
  • Casterman French Hardcover  (2203001011)

The Adventure:  Hergé would realize that his first Tintin adventure wasn’t worth preserving.  So, in 1946, when the Tintin magazine was founded and he started to redraw the original 10 adventures, he skipped it.  But, he did redraw Tintin in the Congo, one which had some issues that were much more problematic than the first adventure.  Yes, the first one was full of propaganda, but I suspect it was the roughness of the adventure that actually made Hergé decide not to have another go at it.  Tintin in the Congo had two severe issues (racism, hunting) that were differently viewed in 1946 than they were in 1930.  In fact, the issues were such that an English language edition of the book wasn’t produced until far, far later.  I first read this as an interlibrary loan of a Spanish language edition back when I was in high school and my mother was an interlibrary loan librarian.  I wouldn’t own a copy until much later.  I would first buy a French hardcover so that I had an edition of it.  Later, I would buy a Spanish softcover because while I can’t read any French, I can at least read a little bit of Spanish.  Eventually, the facsimile version of the original adventure, as it appeared in newspapers and was collected in 1931, was released in English and I was able to get that.  So, right now, my choice is to read the more racist, more offensive original version with cruder art or to attempt to read the later, slightly less racist and less offensive version (with better art).

The original black and white version of the waterfall scene.

The original black and white version of the waterfall scene.

The later, re-drawn, in color version of the same scene.

The later, re-drawn, in color version of the same scene.  You can also get a sense of how things are compressed to fit into fewer pages.

One of the interesting things about this is, in spite of all the problematic aspects, this one is a big step up over the first adventure.  That’s because this one is really more of an adventure.  Yes, Tintin goes off to the Congo once again as a newspaper reporter, but we never really see him sending any dispatches.  Instead, after refusing to take boatloads of money offered him by other newspapers and sticking with his Belgian paper, he heads off into the jungles of Africa where he immediately, well, starts killing animals by the barrel.  He doesn’t kill a croc (just jams a rifle in his mouth), but he accidentally slaughters a herd of antelope trying to just kill one (the blood is excluded in the later version), kills a monkey to skin it so he can pretend he’s a monkey to rescue Snowy, manages to scare off a lion (Snowy bites off his tail), takes the ivory from a dead elephant (he doesn’t kill the elephant – a monkey manages to do that with Tintin’s gun) and later will blow up a rhino that has chased him up a tree (this would later be changed to the rhino scaring himself off by bumping the gun in the Scandinavian version who refused to publish the original).  In all of this, Tintin is chased, bedeviled and even shot at by a man who first appears as a stowaway on the ship that brought Tintin to the Congo in the first place.  But it turns out that man has been sent by Al Capone to get rid of Tintin; after Tintin’s “reporting” from the USSR, Capone doesn’t want Tintin reporting on Capone taking over the Congolese diamond mines (this is clearly something that Hergé decided part-way through the adventure).  All of that is just set-up for the adventure that Hergé wanted to write in the first place, and soon Tintin would find himself off to America.

This adventure is significant in a couple of different ways.  It’s significant in the development of the Tintin books.  As is detailed in Tintin: The Complete Companion, Hergé really upped his level of research for this book.  That book shows comparisons between his panels and the photographs and articles that he was working from.  While Hergé didn’t travel much, Tintin did, and he wanted the places he appeared to look real.  To that end, research was a massive part of these books and it really shows.  But, the downside with this particular book, of course, is that the research takes place under the shadow of European colonialism.  What that does is make this book a document of its time.  If you want a good understanding of what the general European view of Africa was at the time (and especially, the Belgian view of “their” Congo), this book provides it.  Times have changed and there are things about this book which are absolutely repulsive today.  But, just like Mark Twain’s language and Charles Dickens’ anti-Semitism, they are not things that should just be locked away for no one to look at, but rather studied and remembered for a time that is (thankfully) now past.

Tintin in America
(Tintin en Amérique)

The_Adventures_of_Tintin_-_03_-_Tintin_in_AmericaSerialized:  1931-32
Album:  1932
Color Album:  1945
EL Edition:  1978
American Edition:  1979
Editions I Own:


the color plate that accompanies the original black-and-white version of the book

The Adventure:  In this book, Hergé took a big step up, both in the art and in the story.  In the Congo, aside from the racism and the hunting, there wasn’t much of an actual story – it wasn’t until late in the game that we learned that the stowaway was after Tintin.  Before that, Tintin was just going through the Congo at his own pace.  But, he comes to America determined to face down Capone after being hunted in the Congo (there is reference made to it in the second panel).  The action is going right from the start – in the first six pages he is kidnapped twice and manages to capture Capone (who gets away because the cops refuse to believe Tintin).  But when he gets away from an assassin, he runs up against Bobby Smiles, the rival to Capone that Tintin will spend most of the rest of the book facing off against (Smiles, when nervous has two exclamations, which makes you wonder if he’s been there or fears them: Alcatraz! and Sing Sing!).  Tintin chases Smiles to Redskin City and here we have an interesting contrast against what we saw in the Congo.  Hergé seems to understand how badly mistreated natives have been in our country (a pretty rare view back in the 1930’s).  Yes, there are some stereotypical aspects to them, but he brings them vividly to life (the color looks great in the later version, especially on the cover).  When Tintin accidentally strikes oil, we get some of Hergé’s best satire, with people showing up within minutes wanting to give Tintin thousands for his oil.  But when they find out it belongs to the Blackfeet (the Big-Toes tribe in the original version), they give them $25 and throw them off the land.  Three hours later, a bank has been put up and the wells are pumping out oil.  In the west, we also get some of the Tintin ridiculousness, like Tintin stealing a train and then not dying in the explosion when it hits a trolley full of dynamite.

The original black-and-white version of the oil scene.

The original black-and-white version of the oil scene.

The color, re-drawn version of the well scene.

The color, re-drawn version of the well scene.

That’s not the whole story.  There is a subplot when Snowy is kidnapped and later Tintin is nabbed again, but he manages to survive being tossed in the drink thanks to a wooden barbell (it’s part of a carnival scheme and the “weightlifter” looks like a fool when he can’t lift the real barbell even an inch).  All in all, it looks great and it’s a good fun adventure.  It was much more of what we would see in the future.

This is also one of the stories that’s available in a facsimile version of the original edition.  Hergé’s art is getting better and he’s closer to the Tintin we know and love but still not quite there, though he does develop over the adventure.  Seeing those original pages also gives you an idea of how compressed things were in the color versions – two full pages in the original becomes one page in the later version, though it’s not always that compressed.  This book also has three really nice full pages in color (which I assume were in the original – they have the old style of art), although the cover of the book is clearly later art.  On the back of the book, Casterman advertises all the original adventures that appeared in black & white, but English language editions only seem to have been done for the first five.

Tintin in America also holds a special place in my heart because it was one of the five books that was always mine (see above).

Cigars of  the Pharaoh
(Les Cigares du Pharaon)

Tintin-cigars-coverSerialized:  1932-34
Album:  1934
Color Album:  1955
EL Edition:  1971
American Edition:  1975
Editions I Own:

  • Casterman hardcover  (2203797037)
  • Atlantic-Little, Brown softcover  (LCC 74-21620)
  • Little, Brown softcover  (9780316358361)

The Adventure:  This was one of the first adventures to finally make their way over to America and with good reason.  This is where Tintin really moves out of political adventures and starts really becoming an adventurer.  He’s actually on holiday and plans to travel along the Mediterranean, pass through the Suez Canal and then go down through the Indian Ocean and eventually end up in Shanghai.  Ironically, by the time this adventure is completely over, he will have eventually made his way to Shanghai.  But, in the meantime he’s off for an adventure in Egypt.  He runs into an Egyptologist and, since he’s a reporter, the international drug cartel that is working on the ship decides to frame him for drug possession so that he doesn’t get wise to them (a bad move – he might never have gotten involved if they hadn’t done that).  But that not only sets the plot in motion, it also brings in Thompson and Thomson, the two detectives that will become the backbone for humor in the adventures.  In the original, they are kind of bumblers, but there isn’t the wordplay humor, but that is brought in during the redrawn version (“Bother!  We were mistaken!”  “To be precise: we’re a mistake.”).

Like many of the black-and-white versions, Cigars had some color plates.

Like many of the black-and-white versions, Cigars had some color plates.

A quick note here about the differences in this adventure between the original black-and-white and the redrawn color version (one of the last to be redrawn, oddly enough).  In the original, Tintin is arrested at the bottom of page 13.  The next panel shows deckhands discussing the arrest.  It’s a clear sign of where the story broke off for the serialization.  In the new, color version, there are a couple of extra panels where we see the drugs shown to Tintin.  Also, in the original version, when Tintin wakes up in the Red Sea, he doesn’t see the professor and drift away from him – it’s always just him and Snowy.

The original black-and-white hallucination scene.

The original black-and-white hallucination scene.

The color version of the scene.

The color version of the scene.

After Tintin makes it to shore, he and the Egyptologist make it to the tomb of Kih-Oskh.  The professor disappears and Tintin goes into the tomb to look for him and that’s where things really start to take off, with him getting much more heavily involved with the drug cartel.  By the end of the adventure he will have been kidnapped (multiple times), drugged, met gun-runners, interfered with a movie being shot, be condemned to death (and saved by the detectives who are determined to arrest him even if it means saving him from a firing squad), escaped by plane to India, narrowly avoided being eaten by a tiger and brought down the cartel.  Along the way he will meet the movie producer Rastapopoulos, who will return in a lot of later Tintin adventures and, thanks to the redrawn color version, we will also meet Allan, the smuggler who will be a key supporting villain in numerous other adventures.

When this adventure began, Egypt was still very much alive in popular culture, as was the idea of a curse being put upon any who would enter a tomb.  It allows for a great, fun adventure, as well as allowing Hergé to really indulge in some fun illustrations.  The tomb of Kih-Oskh really comes vividly to life as Tintin explores further and further in.  This was one of the first Tintin adventures I ever read (our original copy, the First American Edition, has now come completely apart, thus my second, later softcover copy) and it is still one of my favorites.

Tintin-cigars-bw2Tintin-cigars-color-cropThe illustrations I include for this one have some interesting aspects to them.  First of all, compare the mummified Egyptologists in the original black-and-white album as compared to the redrawn color version.  In the original, there are dates (which marks the date of Tintin’s visit to Egypt).  In the color version, the dates have been removed, perhaps to make it a bit more timeless.  Yet, if you look above on the cover, the dates are on that illustration.  Interesting that such a change would be made inside the book but not on the cover.

Two little notes about this book: the first is that when this adventure was re-drawn, some things were changed to fit it in with later adventures – Allan, a later recurring villain appears in the new version though he didn’t originally (he wouldn’t actually be introduced until Crab with the Golden Claws) and one man recognizes Tintin from Destination Moon, which hadn’t been written yet (I was very confused about that as a kid, as clearly that adventure happens later).  The second note is though it was not one of the ones that we had from Children’s Digest growing up (we had it in book form, so there was no need to have it), it was one of at least three Tintin adventures that had the title changed for Children’s Digest.  It was called “The Pharoah’s Revenge” (perhaps because Children’s Digest didn’t want a story with “cigar” in the title?).

The Blue Lotus
(Le Lotus bleu)

Tintin-bluelotus-coverSerialized:  1934-35
Album:  1935
Color Album:  1946
EL Edition:  1983
American Edition:  1984
Editions I Own:

The Adventure:  Though this was one of the earliest Tintin stories, it was one of the last to finally appear in America.  In fact, in those pre-Internet days, we thought we had all the Tintin adventures until this one went on sale in 1984 – until that point, which was the first book we saw with all the covers pictured on the back of the book, we never knew it existed, as it had never been listed in the lists previously on the back of the books.  It even came complete with a historical note explaining the belligerence between Japan and China at the time and the presence of the international settlement in Shanghai (the same settlement that J. G. Ballard was born in and whose experiences in its dissolution would be reflected in Empire of the Sun).  We never knew that this early adventure existed and that it was one of the direct sequels (in fact, it’s really the only direct sequel, as Red Rackham’ s Treaure, Prisoners of the Sun and Explorers on the Moon were really the second halves of their respective stories as opposed to sequels).  Not only is this the conclusion of the story of the drug cartel we met in Cigars, but it also introduces us to a prominent character who will return much later and a minor villain who will also appear later, and more importantly, changes the very nature of a character that we thought we knew, explaining why he leaves Tintin as a friend in Cigars but the next time he returns it’s as an enemy.

An example of the vibrant art and color in The Blue Lotus.

An example of the vibrant art and color in The Blue Lotus.

Because this is a sequel, it presents a bit of a different Tintin than in previous adventures.  He begins the adventure still in India, where we left him at the end of Cigars, and he’s still trying to fight the war against opium.  But, within the first few pages he’s off to Shanghai in response to a garbled message.  The rest of the adventure will take place there, and it was the opportunity for Hergé to do a lot of things.  The first was a chance to really expand his art (and, in the color version, to really bring in some bright and vibrant colors once Tintin arrives in Shanghai).  The second was a chance to really tell more of a political story.  In the second adventure, Hergé had been completely taken in by the Belgian views on the Congo and it had been obvious in the views of natives and on hunting.  Here, he wanted to tell a more pointed political story, one that attacked the way Japan was acting with belligerence towards China.  It depicts (a somewhat fictionalized version of) the Mukden Incident, the bombing of a railroad in China that would lead to the Japanese invasion of Manchuria and the eventual withdrawal of Japan from the League of Nations (which helps show how powerless the League was).  These were historic events that I had never heard of before I read the book for the first time (I was only 10).  It was also the first place I ever saw the word “Hara Kiri” and I had to try and find out what it meant.  The third thing is that Hergé was contacted by a Catholic chaplain who convinced him to put in more research and be careful about how he depicted the Chinese people and culture.  He put Hergé in touch with a young Chinese by the name of Zhang Chongren.  Zhang would become a lifelong friend of the illustrator, would help him with research for the book and would be immortalized in it as the character Chang (who would return, many years later, in Tintin in Tibet).

Given all of this, it’s interesting that it took so long to make it to the States.  There are a lot of great moments in it – from Tintin rescuing Chang from a flooded river, to him battling the opium cartel to the political machinations.  There are also plenty of the more silly moments, like when Tintin disguises himself as a Japanese general or when Tintin’s friend rents a house next to the prison where Tintin has been sentenced to death and then digs him an escape tunnel.  In fact, that was a common thing with Tintin at this time.  This was the second of three books in a row in which Tintin is sentenced to death by local authorities and all three times he escapes in different ways (in Cigars, he is shot with blanks as a planned escape, here he is tunneled out and in The Broken Ear, first he is pardoned, then the guns don’t work, then he is too drunk to care and is standing around when the revolution sweeps in and saves him).

Tintin-bluelotus1This adventure also has the first appearance of something that will become a welcome, amusing common occurrence in the Tintin books: when Thomson and Thompson decide they will disguise themselves in order to fit in with the local culture.  They had disguised themselves in Cigars, but quite well (and it wasn’t meant to be humorous).  Here, their attempt to fit in fails so badly that they are followed by everyone in town and that’s how Tintin ends up running into them (even though they became friends by the end of Cigars, they are here to arrest him on trumped up charges – it won’t be the last time either, as they will arrest him again in The Black Island with some very amusing results).

The Broken Ear
(L’Oreille cassée)

The_Adventures_of_Tintin_-_06_-_The_Broken_EarSerialized:  1935-37
Album:  1937
Color Album:  1943
EL Edition:  1975
American Edition:  1978
Editions I Own:

  • Atlantic-Little, Brown softcover  (LCC 77-90970)

The Adventure:  This is one of the books that I always owned (as opposed to having been my brothers’ first), and so, has always had a special place in my heart.  It also causes a not-so-special pressure in my chest.  One summer, when my mother decided that I hadn’t worked hard enough in Spanish class the year before, she checked the Spanish language edition out of the Chapman Library where she worked.  She then made me translate the entire book over the course of the summer, about a page a day.  It did provide full proof that I will never be able to draw (yes, I actually drew panels, but mostly traced them).  But she kept my copy all summer and would check my translation each day.

A good example of Herge's humor - we think they're puzzling over military strategy but then it turns out they're only playing chess.

A good example of Herge’s humor – we think they’re puzzling over military strategy but then it turns out they’re only playing chess.

This was another adventure that, not having it with our original batch of Tintin books, left a hole.  That’s because it introduces the character of General Alcazar, a vital supporting character who will be a key character in the final completed Tintin adventure, Tintin and the Picaros.  Before that, though, he would also show up in small supporting roles in two other books (The Seven Crystal Balls and The Red Sea Sharks).  But we’ll meet him, and his violent temper for the first time here.  Before we get him, though, let’s figure out how we get to South America, which is where Alcazar comes into it.

This is one of the few adventures that actually shows Tintin acting as a reporter.  Though he is usually described as such, all the way until the end, we rarely ever see him pursuing any stories (he does pursue criminals, but that’s a different matter).  He goes to a museum to look into the tale of a theft, then returns again when the Arumbaya fetish that was stolen is supposedly returned.  Tintin, however, notices that the ear of the fetish, broken in drawings of it (Tintin has a good reference library which will come up again) is whole when it was returned.  So he sets off in pursuit of the thieves, and then murderers, as bodies start piling up having to do with the theft.  This leads him to a South America in the midst of revolution.

Tintin-brokenear-shotsIn South America, we get a look at native culture that is much less condescending than we saw in the Congo.  We also get a great deal of political satire.  There are the numerous South American revolutions going on, with people bouncing back and forth (very well done during the “execution” scene).  There are two countries that are going to war over the potential of finding oil (based on a real situation between Bolivia and Paraguay) and a man who sells arms to both countries (based, even down to his hat, coat and beard, on a real German arms dealer who did exactly these kind of despicable things).  But that’s just the backdrop for an adventure that involves crooks, a valuable diamond, native tribes with blowpipes, piranhas (my first experience with the dangerous fish) and numerous doublecrosses.  At one point, two different people try to kill Tintin at the same time and the results are on the right, a great little slapstick moment from the artist.

One interesting thing about this book is that it is essentially the last completely solo Tintin book.  There would be two more books before Captain Haddock shows up, as well as a third in which he barely features (because it was started before he existed and then finished later), but those books much more heavily involve Thomson and Thompson.  In this book, the two detectives only show up in the first three pages investigating the original robbery (“It was removed by a collector.”  “To be precise: it was collected by  a remover.”).  But, for the rest of the adventure it’s just Tintin and Snowy.

The Black Island
(L’Île noire)

The_Adventures_of_Tintin_-_07_-_The_Black_IslandSerialized:  1937-38
Album:  1938
Color Album:  1943
EL Edition:  1966
American Edition:  1975
Editions I Own:

  • Atlantic-Little, Brown softcover  (LCC 74-21624)

The Adventure:  This is one of the Tintin titles that my family originally had read in Children’s Digest and had pulled the pages out of the magazines and taped them together.  Until the mid-80’s, when we started trying to get the books to replace those, that was the only copy we had of this book.  But this was also one of the (at least) three adventures where Children’s Digest changed the name.  It was printed in Children’s Digest as “The Castle of Doom”.  I was almost certain of that, but the Internet didn’t help me with that at all (surprisingly, almost no website about Tintin lists those title changes) until I found this page.  So, thanks to the MSU Library Special Collections, first for having this in their collection, and second, for actually having done a bibliography for their collection.

The original color version of the book.

The original color version of the book.

The 1966 version.

The 1966 version.

It seems appropriate as this adventure has one of the most complicated printing histories.  It was serialized originally from 15 April 1937 to 16 June 1938.  It was then published in album form later that year.  In 1943, it became one of the first Tintin books to be released in color, but there were almost no changes.  In 1966, however, the British publishers of the series felt that it needed to be modernized before being published in English (they included a list of 131 errors of detail they wanted corrected).  So, when it was finally released in English, it was the only book that had a new version specifically for that release (many of the changes are detailed in pages 73 to 78 of Tintin: The Complete Companion).  Then, of course, came the CD serialization before the American version of the adventure was released in album form.

This is also the first Tintin adventure that my oldest brother John ever remembers reading.  It began serialization in January of 1973 in Children’s Digest.  The family moved to New York in the summer of 1973 (I wasn’t born until the next year) and my brother doesn’t remember Tintin before New York, but those memories might all mix together.

The castle Craig Dhui may be my favorite setting in a Tintin book. I love the way it is drawn.

The castle Craig Dhui may be my favorite setting in a Tintin book. I love the way it is drawn.

This is a great adventure, one which Tintin stumbles upon at random (like most of his adventures, really).  While out for a walk, he sees an airplane in trouble.  While going to see if they need help, he is shot (almost certainly where the first installment of the original serial would have left off).  In going back to look into things, he is framed for attacking a man who is one of the villains, and that sets Thomson and Thompson after him, in spite of their friendship.  He manages to give them the slip, although there are a couple of great gags thanks to them being handcuffed together (we also get one of their great subtle lines: “Yes sir, Thompson, with a p, as in psychology.”).

In the end, Tintin runs into a counterfeiting ring lead by Dr. Müller, a villain who he will encounter again years later (though looking somewhat different).  In the end, Tintin will find himself in Scotland, dressed in a kilt (his regular blue sweater and plus-fours being cut up when the plane he is in crashes and Tintin lands in the brambles).  He takes a boat out to Craig Dhui, a castle (the “castle of doom” of the CD title), on the Black Island that is rumored to be haunted.  It turns out to be the headquarters of the ring, with the noises coming from a large ape that is kept there by the gang to scare off visitors (and is an homage to King Kong, which had been released not that long before the adventure was begun).

Herge does love to let the smaller animal win the battle.

Herge does love to let the smaller animal win the battle.

This adventure brings out some interesting uses of animals in the Tintin oeuvre.  In Congo, Tintin hunted for sport.  Here, the ape is seen at first as a villain, and Tintin spends several pages either fighting it or fleeing it.  In a nice turnabout, the ape is afraid of Snowy (similar scenes will happen with larger animals being afraid of Snowy in multiple later adventures – though there will also be irony here as Snowy himself is afraid of a spider).  In the end, Tintin realizes the ape is simply being used and is able to becomes friends with it.  This adventure is also notable in that it develops Snowy’s passion for whiskey, which also brings about one of the few times Tintin gets genuinely mad at Snowy, actually spanking him the third time he catches him drinking whiskey.

Overall, this is a great adventure.  It’s got a good group of criminals, an interesting plot, some great humor (the detectives end up trapped in an airplane), a great locale and an interesting twist with the use of the ape.  It’s always been one of my favorites and still is.

King Ottokar’s Sceptre
(Le Sceptre d’Ottokar)

The_Adventures_of_Tintin_-_08_-_King_Ottokar's_SceptreSerialized:  1938-39
Album:  1939
Color Album:  1947
EL Edition:  1958
American Edition:  1974
Editions I Own:

  • Atlantic-Little, Brown softcover  (LCC 73-21251)
  • Little, Brown softcover  (9780316358316)

The Adventure:  I think that from the first time I read this, it has been my favorite of the Tintin adventures.  That’s odd because it doesn’t yet have Captain Haddock, who brings so much life to the stories.  Yet, nonetheless, it is still my favorite.  I love the adventure, I love the politics, I love the art.  I always thought it would make a perfect first film, and then, if that worked, you made Crab with the Golden Claws and introduced the captain.  I even wrote a script for the film, following the book almost exactly.  This is also my brother Kelly’s favorite of the Tintin books.  He’s never much liked Thomson and Thompson and he thinks Haddock can be a bit much, so he thinks he likes this one the best because it’s mostly just Tintin and Snowy.

It starts like so many of the Tintin adventures begin, with a random coincidence in which Tintin manages to stumble upon a criminal enterprise.  In this case, he finds the briefcase of Professor Alembeck, a professor of sigillography (the study of seals – and it’s so little known that WordPress thinks I’ve made the word up).  Alembeck is heading to the fictional country of Syldavia and Tintin, after stumbling upon a conspiracy around the professor, decides to travel with him as his secretary.  Then the real danger sprouts up, with numerous attempts to kill Tintin before he can make it to Syldavia and then conspiracies to keep him quiet once he does finally make it.

TinTin - King Ottokars Sceptre_20.jpg_1400

The wonderful artwork within the story depicting the battle that established the royal line of Syldavia.

I think Syldavia itself is a major reason why I love this book so much.  While Hergé had created fictional South American countries for The Broken Ear, he was still mostly making use of real places in the adventures.  But here he not only creates two new European countries (Syldavia has an enemy in neighboring Borduria, which is involved in the conspiracy), he gives Syldavia a rich and interesting history.  On the plane, Tintin looks at a brochure about the country and we get three pages of its history, complete with an illustration stylized after a 15th century painting.  It is one of the most interesting things that Hergé does with the adventures and Tintin will return to Syldavia again before his adventures are over.  This is also one in which the changes that Hergé made to the color album were significant.  The original Syldavian honor guards were dressed very much like British Beefeaters.  But, in the revised album, they are made to look much more like Central European outfits would look.  It is again a detail that provides a richness to the book.  The brochure itself is even important to the plot, as it details the circumstances surrounding the all important sceptre and what the implications of its disappearance are.

One of the interesting things about this story is that it clearly represents the events of the world crowding in around Tintin.  The plot for the forceful annexation of Syldavia mirrors what was happening with Nazi Germany.  Hergé continued along those lines with the next adventure, The Land of Black Gold.  Tintin was in the middle of that adventure when the Nazis conquered Belgium and shut down the newspaper that Tintin appeared in.  With a German villain and international sabotage, that story would never be allowed.  So, instead Hergé would go a different direction and drop the politics and go back to drugs, the same problem that had been so effective in Cigars.

The Crab with the Golden Claws
(Le Crabe aux pinces d’or)

The_Adventures_of_Tintin_-_09_-_The_Crab_with_the_Golden_ClawsSerialized:  1940-41
Album:  1941
Color Album:  1943
EL Edition:  1958
American Edition:  1974
Editions I Own:

  • Atlantic-Little, Brown softcover  (LCC 73-21249)
  • Little, Brown softcover  (0316358339)

The Adventure:  The Tintin adventures had been going strong, with Snowy always along for the ride and usually Thompson and Thomson showing up at some point along the way, primarily providing comic relief.  But Tintin was usually on his own.  Well, that wasn’t going to be the case anymore and the world’s vocabulary of insults would never be the same.

Tintin stumbles into his adventure, of course.  He runs into Thompson and Thomson who drag him into a counterfeiting case.  Through a coincidence (Hergé loved them as much as Dickens) he has just seen a can in a rubbish bin that is connected to the case.  That leads him onto a boat and into danger.  In attempting to escape after being locked in the hold, he mets the captain of the ship, a drunken self-pitying sod that helps him escape.  The villain is the captain’s mate Allan, who we met in Cigars of the Pharoah, him having been added in the color version after he had actually been introduced in this story.

tintin-crab-fullpageOne of the interesting things in this story is that it actually turned out to be too short.  To meet the 62 page requirement when it was adapted into color, Hergé needed to include four full color plates to expand it to the necessary length.  So, we get four wonderful full page plates.  The first is the attack of a seaplane on Tintin and Haddock, the second an exhausted, thirsty Haddock and Tintin crossing the Sahara, the third the two of them running through a market and the final one, the mysterious villain riding through town on a donkey.

tintin-crab-insultsThe adventure goes along nicely – after escaping from the sea, Tintin, Snowy and Haddock end up stranded in the Sahara.  In the days after Lawrence became famous but before the brilliant film, it was still a very mysterious place (and a different desert than Lawrence’s, but no matter).  Their danger and adventure is in stark contrast to the sheer endless expanses of sand (it won’t be the last time Tintin is stranded in the desert).  When, on page 27 Haddock fortifies his courage during a firefight with bandits with a drink, the bottle is shot and four panels of him shouting “REVENGE!” then turns into the first of many, many, many creative and persistent stream of insults.  This first one (which, for a moment makes you actually think it scares off the bandits): “Swine!  Jellyfish!  Tramps!  Troglodytes!  Toffee-noses!  Savages!  Aztecs!  Toads!  Carpet-sellers!  Iconoclasts!  Rats!  Ectoplasms!  Freshwater swabs!  Bashi-bazouks!  Cannibals!  Caterpillars!  Cowards!  Baboons!  Parasites!  Pockmarks!”  On page 42, we get the first instance of the Captain screaming “Blistering barnacles!”  (they aren’t yet blue and they aren’t yet billions of them).  Later, when one of the criminals tries to take his bottle of wine, his insults last for three pages and range from “Politician!” to “Hydrocarbon!” to “Liquorice!”  You can find a whole list of all the ones Haddock uses over the years here.  A full section is devoted here to the history and use of the insults.  This is the most creative use, actually creating a generator that will have Haddock insult you.  At the end of the book, having firmly established his drunkenness and his insults, Hergé then adds in one little extra bit about the captain, when he is taken ill on the final page after drinking a glass of water.

As a kid, when reading the books, because Ottokar was my favorite, I wanted to make it as a film.  But in many ways, this is the place to start, as it introduces Haddock.  Indeed, it is the place where many people start.  It was the first Tintin book published in the U.S., it was the first made into a film (see below), it was made into a television episode in 1957, was the first book adapted for the 1991 animated series and aspects of the plot were used in the Spielberg film (again, see below).

The Shooting Star
(L’Étoile mystérieuse)

The_Adventures_of_Tintin_-_10_-_The_Shooting_StarSerialized:  1941-42
Album:  1947
EL Edition:  1961
American Edition:  1978
Editions I Own:

  • Atlantic-Little, Brown softcover  (LCC 77-90969)

The Adventure:  With politics still off the board, this adventure would become a bit of a foray into Science Fiction.  Unfortunately, it kind of gets away from what makes the Tintin books so good.  It is definitely one of the weakest of the adventures.

It begins with a meteorite passing close to the planet, with a big chunk crashing in the ocean (which should have caused a tsunami, but never mind).  An expedition sets out to find the meteorite and claim what is supposedly a new element on it.  Tintin is teamed once again with Haddock, who has found sobriety since the end of the last adventure and actually does a fairly good job manning the helm of the ship.  In fact, Haddock doesn’t even show up until page 14 and it almost seems as if he wouldn’t be there if Tintin didn’t need a ship for the adventure.  Joining him as well is the latest in a line of eccentric professors, this one the director of the observatory that first noticed the meteorite.  He will be just about the last of this trend, as soon there will be a permanent eccentric scientist to bring along on the adventures.

Tintin-shootingstar-voyageMost of the adventure is taken up with the sea voyage (over half the 62 pages) and there is some nice humor involved in it, especially in the scene where Hergé shows the various academics along on the voyage having trouble adjusting to eating while onboard.

tintin-shootingstar-spiderBut once Tintin lands on the meteorite, things get pretty strange over the course of the last dozen pages.  A strange mushroom (see the cover) starts growing up and then explodes.  Then the apple core that Tintin throws away from his supper turns into a tree.  That’s followed by the spider that was in his supper box also getting large and a suspenseful sequence follows.  All of this is a bit surreal, which worked fine with drug hallucinations in Cigars, but seems just weird in this adventure.

This book has, I believe, the first use of Haddock’s oft-used phrase “Thundering typhoons!” when he finds out a rival ship has launched ahead of them.  We also get the first “Billions of blue blistering barnacles!” when he slips on spaghetti left behind after Snowy has devoured the lunch for the crew.  When Snowy eats the sausages for the crew earlier in the book we get a cultural difference – in the original, the sausages are to go with sauerkraut while in the U.S. version it’s the much more palatable mashed potatoes.

This has always seemed to me one of the weakest of the adventures, but that’s okay, because we’re just about to go straight into one of the best.

The Secret of the Unicorn
(Le Secret de la Licorne)

the_adventures_of_tintin_-_11_-_the_secret_of_the_unicorn-1Serialized:  1942-43
Album:  1943
EL Edition:  1959
American Edition:  1974
Editions I Own:

  • Children’s Digest, January 1977
  • Atlantic-Little, Brown softcover  (LCC 73-21250)

The Adventure:  This book (along with the next) is one of my brother John’s favorites and it’s easy to see why.  It was reportedly also one of Hergé’s favorites and its sequel is still the best-selling Tintin book of all-time.  There’s a reason that it would be the basis for the Spielberg film.

First of all, it is simply a fun adventure.  It is a mystery (actually a double mystery – there is first the mystery of who has been stealing the wallets of everyone in town, and then the bigger mystery of who ransacks Tintin’s flat to try and steal a model ship that he was planning to give to Captain Haddock).  But it is also a more old-fashioned adventure.  The ship that Tintin finds at the street market is the Unicorn.  It turns out the Unicorn is also the ship captained by an ancestor of Haddock’s, Sir Francis Haddock.  To help set the stage for the direct sequel (while The Blue Lotus had continued the story of Cigars, they were both also self-contained stories – these two stories and the two other two-parters that follow really require you read them together), Haddock gives us the story of the battle between his ancestor and the pirate Red Rackham that ends with the destruction of the Unicorn and the sinking of the treasure.


You gotta love the expression of the pirate who’s just been shot.

The 12 pages that cover Sir Francis’ adventures are some of the more beautiful work that Hergé has done.  We get the glorious colors and sights of a 17th century ship out on the ocean.  When the pirates arrive, we get a thrilling battle, made more interesting by Haddock’s energetic re-telling of the adventure, complete with bringing his ship-wheel chandelier down upon his head.  I especially love the main panel of Sir Francis fighting single-handedly against the pirates and the hilarious look on the pirate who’s just been shot by Sir Francis.

But just discovering that there is a treasure only makes for part of this tale.  To find the treasure, first Tintin and Haddock must put together the three clues that will tell them where to find it.  To do that, they have to solve the mystery of who has been trying to kill people involved in the hunt and who has been stealing the wallets of just about everyone in town.  Eventually, this will lead to Tintin being kidnapped and that kidnapping brings on one of the most important developments in the Tintin adventures.

tintin-unicornmarlinspikeTintin has been kidnapped by the Bird brothers, two antique dealers who have learned about the treasure and want to find the other clues.  When they kidnap Tintin, he is brought to their palatial estate out in the country, filled with antiques (another glorious illustration, on the right, is so nice that it has been made into a 1000 piece puzzle and if you don’t think I’m getting that, then you don’t know me very well).  Though it will take until the end of the next book, this is Marlinspike Hall, and will be the jumping off point for the future Tintin adventures.  It even comes supplied with Nestor, a faithful butler (not knowing at this point that he is a faithful butler for crooks) who will become a major supporting character in the later Tintin adventures.

tintin-cdThe Secret of the Unicorn works so well because while it hearkens back to the earlier Tintin books with the mystery, it is also a good old-fashioned adventure, one that will continue in the sequel.  From that viewpoint, it’s easy to see why the second half of the story is the #1 selling Tintin book of all-time.

Red Rackham’s Treasure
(Le Trésor de Rackham le Rouge)

the_adventures_of_tintin_-_12_-_red_rackhams_treasureSerialized:  1943
Album:  1944
EL Edition:  1959
American Edition:  1974
Editions I Own:

  • Joy Street-Little, Brown softcover  (0316358347)

The Adventure:  As I said above, this adventure really is an adventure.  There’s no villain in this story – unless you want to count nosy newsmen, drunken sharks or belligerent birds.  You just get a fun hunt for the treasure.  And, of course, it probably has the best-looking cover of all the Tintin books.  You get the glorious sea life, with the jellyfish and the fish, the seaweed all around the shark shaped submarine.  It’s a glorious visual image and sets the stage for the book.  Ironically, this was the last of the originally available Tintin books that I bought.  I only bought it after I had pulled all the Tintin books from my family’s house and remembered that, because we had the old Children’s Digest version of this one, it had never been purchased in book form.  I finally bought it at Tower Books in East Portland in 1995 (yes, my memory really does work like that).


What could be a better welcome than insulting parrots?

This book picks up exactly where the last one left off.  In fact, in the final panel of Secret of the Unicorn, Tintin breaks through the fourth wall, telling the readers they’ll finish the adventure in Red Rackham’s Treasure.  So, they’re off to the Caribbean to find a small little uninhabited island (well, it is inhabited by birds, and they managed to pick up some of the more colorful Haddock language over time thanks to Sir Francis having been stranded there for a while).  They’ll find a statue on the island and evidence of Sir Francis, but no treasure.  Instead, it’s under the sea for that, and into the fascinating one-man submarine.  A quick note about that – Snowy gets pulled along in the submarine but this is kind of the start of the silliness of having Snowy along.  He’s a great dog and he’s loyal but there will be so many places that it’s just ridiculous to have him and he becomes a hinderance.  I don’t mind it personally but I know some readers do.

tintin-rackhamcalculusNow, on to the submarine.  It’s vitally important for two reasons.  First, it’s a great visual and it also provides them with the means to explore the sea (with Snowy – he can’t go down when Tintin is in the diving suit).  But second, it arrives because of the new character who wants to help.  That’s Professor Cuthbert Calculus, the important third cog of the wheel, whose inventiveness and cluelessness will be played off against Tintin’s calm rational demeanor and the Captain’s excitability.  It does mean that Thompson and Thomson are now generally reduced to just the site gags (including their attempts to blend in with clothing).  In this one, it includes them getting their hats stuck on their heads (for the second book in a row).  But that makes for a good gag, because it’s when the hats are being removed that Calculus (Tournesal in the original French) arrives.  Calculus, as he will point out, is a little hard of hearing (he’s basically stone deaf).  Haddock screams so loud when wanting to know his name that the hat comes right off Thompson’s head, a great little sight gag in the background.  Calculus’s lack of hearing will continue to make for great fun in future installments (especially the moments when he actually does hear things), but it is his intelligence that will make him such a vital part of the adventures.  Calculus is the summation of what Hergé has been working on for several years: the epitome of the absent-minded professor that had seen earlier versions in Cigars of the Pharoah, King Ottokar’s Sceptre and The Shooting Star.

tintin-rackhamshipBut the most important moments come under the sea.  Some of them are dramatic (when Tintin is threatened by a shark and he manages to get him to swallow a bottle of 17th Century rum and the shark gets drunk and then falls asleep).  Some of them are amusing (Haddock finds the first bottle of rum, then drinks it and dives back in without putting the helmet back on).  But the best of them are just amazing.  Many of the most amazing visual moments in the whole of the adventures take place under the ocean in this book, whether it’s when Tintin is in the submarine, or whether it’s when he goes back under in the diving suit.  The images and the colors really come to life.

Marlinspike Hall or Moulinsart , home of Captain Haddock from the cartoon adventure books Tintin by Herge inspired by the Chateau de Cheverny picture supplied NZH 9apr08 - TOURIST ATTRACTION: Thousands every year visit Chateau de Cheverny, which inspired Herge's Marlinspike Hall - in French, Moulinsart - home of Tintin favourite Captain Haddock.

The end of the book is another turning point in the series, playing off the end of the previous adventure.  Marlinspike Hall, the stomping grounds of the villainous Bird brothers has gone up for sale.  But, thanks to documents found in the ship, they now know that it’s Haddock’s family estate.  The hall is purchased (thanks to Calculus, helping to explain why he will live there after this adventure) and the later adventures will generally begin from there.  It’s a wonderful hall and we finally get the great establishing shot that shows us what it really looks like (it’s based on a real chateau and in Michael Farr’s book there’s an image of a brochure of the real chateau with Hergé’s pencil drawing of Haddock and Tintin at the bottom of the picture, clearly the plan for the illustration on the right).

The Seven Crystal Balls
(Les Sept Boules de Cristal)

the_adventures_of_tintin_-_13_-_the_seven_crystal_ballsSerialized:  1943-44, 46-48
Album:  1948
EL Edition:  1962
American Edition:  1975
Editions I Own:

The Adventure:  My brother John clearly likes the double-long stories, as this and the next book are listed among his three favorites.

As Michael Farr would point out in his Companion, The Secret of the Unicorn had been the start of a new life for Tintin.  While there were villains, the adventure was more the primary thing than solving a crime.  Snowy had become more of an add-on than the sidekick with Haddock filling that role.  Thompson and Thomson were reduced to walk-ons for humorous effect while Calculus would take on the third role.  The adventures were moving from Labrador Road to Marlinspike Hall.  All of that sets the stage for The Seven Crystal Balls, and this is an adventure unlike any that had been done before.  Cigars of the Pharoah had been a complete story with a sequel that followed the next adventure but was also self-contained.  The Secret of the Unicorn had a kind of conclusion but also directly lead into Red Rackham’s Treasure.  But The Seven Crystal Balls really doesn’t so much conclude as simply stop.  Because the adventure wasn’t written towards a conclusion at the end of the adventure, the pace is much different.  How surprising it must have been for the original readers to get to the end and realize that there was really no climax, but just a pause as we change locations from Marlinspike (whether it be in Belgium or in England) and Peru.

tintin-crystalThis adventure returns to the ideas first presented in Cigars, the violated tomb that brings a curse upon the explorers.  Except, while in the first case, it was really a front for drug-running, here there are much more supernatural powers at work.  The various people involved in the expedition that discovered an Incan tomb in Peru are all falling into comas.  Nearby is always found the remains of crystal, as if a ball had been smashed near them, causing them to fall into the comas.  Last up is Professor Taragon, a friend of Calculus who is a fun one-time character.  He’s jovial and enormous (with either the name or nickname Hercules) and his house is magnificently illustrated.  While visiting him, a burst of ball-lightning comes down the chimney, causing great disorder (it’s on the cover) and exploding the remains of a mummy that Taragon has been holding onto.  It is one of the more memorable scenes in all of Tintin history.

tintin-sevencrystalballs2At the same time, Tintin and Haddock run into General Alcazar, the former leader of a South American country who has once again been deposed by General Tapioca.  This, aside from providing a fun aside (especially when Haddock gets a bull’s head stuck on him backstage) links to the story through Alcazar’s assistant, a full-blooded Inca by the name of Chiquito.  He is wary of Tintin and near the end, when Tintin meets Alcazar again, he discovers that Chiquito has disappeared.  In between, Calculus has discovered the jewels of the Incan mummy and put on a bracelet, has disappeared, a man with a gun has shot at Tintin and Haddock and Calculus has, apparently, been spirited out of the country.  It makes for a fascinating mystery, not the least because Hergé doesn’t necessarily bother to provide scientific explanations for some of the events that are going on, including the fact that all the expedition members who are in comas wake up and have massive seizures at the same time everyday.

This adventure was during a rough period in the author’s life.  He was almost in trouble with the Nazis for making drawings of the house that he used as the model for Taragon’s.  When Belgium was liberated, he was arrested as a collaborator and forbidden to publish.  The adventure thus had a two year gap in its serialization (coming just after Tintin sees the expedition members having their seizures) before it was restarted in the brand-new Tintin magazine after Hergé was finally cleared to publish again.  The entire adventure, complete with the next, was published as one under the title of The Temple of the Sun, but was split into two different adventures for the albums.  It was a strange bit when we first read it, because we had the serialization of this adventure in Children’s Digest, but we didn’t get Prisoners of the Sun until I got it for either my birthday or Christmas, sometime after we moved to California in 1981.  So we waited a long time for the conclusion, but as the conclusion was the first Tintin book I ever owned, these two have always had a special place for me.

Prisoners of the Sun
(Le Temple du Soleil)

the_adventures_of_tintin_-_14_-_prisoners_of_the_sunSerialized:  1946-48
Album:  1949
EL Edition:  1962
American Edition:  1975
Editions I Own:

  • Atlantic-Little, Brown softcover  (LCC 75-7897)
  • Little, Brown softcover  (9780316358439)

The Adventure:  There are lots of places that people want to visit that I have no interest in.  I have no interest in Jerusalem or China and minimal interest in Japan or India (except the Taj Mahal).  But I have long had an interest in going to Peru and this book is a primary reason why (later increased by the opening shots of Machu Picchu in Aguirre).

tintin-sun15Why wouldn’t I want to visit?  Look at what Tintin and the Captain see over the course of this adventure.  On page 11 they are still on the beach.  By page 13, they are on a train up in the mountains (their train is sabotaged, leading to a hair-raising escape).  On page 21, they are adventuring higher up in the mountains (they are still looking for Professor Calculus, who is drugged and has been sentenced to death).  They have their second encounter with a llama, who spits in Haddock’s face (in Aladdin, I always forget it’s the camel that spits because this book imprinted on me at a young age that llamas will spit).  By page 30, we’re high up in the mountains and we have snow and even an avalanche (after a particularly powerful sneeze from Haddock).  By page 35, they’ve descended into the jungle.  This jungle involves mosquitos, snakes, a tapir, anteaters and a river full of alligators.  tintin-prisonersThen they’re back into the mountains, complete with crossing a waterfall on a rope on page 41.  Behind that waterfall is a long ascent up through caves that eventually lead to the Temple of the Sun.

tintin_prisoners_of_the_sun_p47_wall_1024x768I’ll stop here and mention art direction.  In a film, art direction is the look of the film – the sets and designs.  There really isn’t such a thing as art direction in a book, but this feels like it.  There are glorious sets and colors in this adventure, from what they find in the tomb (see the cover) to the the interiors of the temple itself.  There is also a number of vivid dreams that Tintin has that are beautifully illustrated.  The whole adventure springs to life with amazing life and color.  Hergé did his research and it really shows.

tintin-prisoners-frameThis adventure brings back a lot of childhood memories.  I remember playing the computer game Aztec, where you went into a tomb and faced snakes and alligators.  It was inspired, of course, by Raiders of the Lost Ark, but what it always made me think of was this book.  There is also the llama, of course.  I mention that again because, after Haddock has been spit on twice and had his beard bitten, he finally gets revenge at the end of the book, providing a nice humorous ending.

Land of Black Gold
(Tintin au pays de l’or noir)

the_adventures_of_tintin_-_15_-_land_of_black_goldSerialized:  1939-40, 1948-50
Album:  1950
EL Edition:  1972
American Edition:  1975
Editions I Own:

  • Little Brown, 3 Adventures in 1 Volume  (0316358169)
  • Atlantic-Little, Brown softcover  (0316358444)

The Adventure:  This adventure deals with socio-political events and, as a result, was the interrupted adventure, even more so than The Seven Crystal Balls.  After fighting the proto-fascists in King Ottokar’s Sceptre, Tintin was back off to the desert, this time to solve the mystery of cars that kept exploding.  In the desert he once again found Dr. Müller, the German who had been responsible for the forgery scheme in The Black Island.  This adventure was also dealing with the concept of oil, specifically European oil companies and their place in the Middle East.  Hergé was almost half-way through the adventure when the Germans invaded Belgium and the newspaper that the Tintin adventures were published in was shut down.

After the war was over and Tintin had gone through several more adventures, Hergé was thinking of sending Tintin to space.  He was undergoing a great deal of stress in his personal life and his wife suggested, to lighten the stress, that he instead return to an adventure that was already half-completed.  Hergé did just that, but returned all the way to the beginning and started the adventure again, this time in color.  But he had to make a few changes.  I am reminded of the Dr Who serial Kinda, when the Doctor’s companion Nyssa was not envisioned as still being on the TARDIS, so she makes a brief appearance in the first episode and then is back for the fourth, with her passed out on the TARDIS in between – brief appearances to remind us that she’s there, but otherwise out of the action so they wouldn’t have to revise and write her in.  This adventure has begun before the character of Captain Haddock had been introduced.  Yet, Haddock was now the main companion of Tintin.  What to do?  Well, on the top of page three, Haddock is mobilized in response to the situation and is essentially removed from the story for almost its entire length, popping back in at the end to help rescue Tintin (he keeps trying to explain to Tintin how he has shown up in the nick of time but his explanation keeps getting interrupted and, amusingly, we never find out).  We also get a brief mention of Calculus at the end when he helps solve the problem.  But, this is essentially an old Tintin adventure with a slight revision to make it fit into the changes that Hergé had built in during the years between.

tintin-land-abdullahAs mentioned, Tintin heads off to the Middle East to investigate why cars have been blowing up.  He finds himself in a scheme to push one oil company out of the (fictional) Middle Eastern country of Khemed.  In the course of the adventure he will meet the Emir of Khemed.  The Emir will become yet another friend of Tintin, but the much more important character is his son Abdullah.  He is the perfect picture of a rich, spoiled child.  The only thing he cares about are having fun and his actions cause problems for both Tintin, and once he shows up, even more so for Haddock.  But it is also Abdullah’s ink gun that provides a humorous ending to what looks, for a second, like a tragic conclusion.  The scenes where Tintin first meets Abdullah are ones I vividly remember from the original Children’s Digest version (the reason I have an ISBN edition of this book is because it was another we put off buying because we had the Children’s Digest version) is Tintin running into a room after him on page 50 was the end of one of the CD installments.  Abdullah (and his father) will return in a later adventure and cause even more problems for Tintin and Haddock.

tintin-land-thomsonsWith yet another adventure in the desert we get more of Hergé’s wonderful desert illustrations.  In this one, mirages play a major part of the story (this adventure is specifically where I first learned about what a mirage is).  The Thomsons, driving endlessly around the desert, keep coming upon mirages, except for two major exceptions that provide a great deal of comic relief, including when they manage to drive into what appears to be the only date tree in the entire desert.  At the end of the adventure, the Thomsons will also swallow some pills that will cause some very humorous effects (see the cover above) that will also return after they get to the moon.

It is perhaps appropriate that Tintin returns to the desert in this adventure since it is a return to the old school adventures.  It is the last adventure that really doesn’t make use of Haddock (it’s the last in which Haddock doesn’t appear on the cover) and it returns him to a locale where he had previously adventured.  It’s that final farewell to the original Tintin before he really settles into his life with Haddock and Calculus.

Destination Moon
(Objectif Lune)

the_adventures_of_tintin_-_16_-_destination_moonSerialized:  1950-52
Album:  1953
EL Edition:  1959
American Edition:  1976
Editions I Own:

  • Atlantic-Little, Brown softcover  (LCC 76-13279)
  • Little Brown, 3 Adventures in 1 Volume  (0316358169)

The Adventure:  This book (combined with the next) is one of my brother John’s favorites.  I have the old family copy with my brother Kelly’s name written in it.  The strange thing is that the lists on the back of the books would seem to imply that we got the second part of this adventure before we got the first, but who knows, although we have the First American Edition of this book (see the Introduction about the Order).

Destination Moon starts in an interesting way – Tintin and Haddock are just returning from somewhere only to find that Calculus left several weeks before and has now telegraphed them to come join him in the fictional country of Syldavia that we first visited in King Ottokar’s Sceptre.  The first several pages are taken up with the mystery of what is going on (Calculus promised to write but didn’t, Tintin and Haddock are escorted once they land in Syldavia, dealing with numerous checkpoints) and when we finally see Calculus, he’s about to be bludgeoned with a hammer.  But it turns out Calculus is wearing a “multiplex” helmet for use on the moon.  Because, almost two decades before Apollo 11, Calculus is headed to the moon.  But so are Tintin, Haddock and Snowy.

A fascinating upside down map of Europe in the background gives us a rough idea of Syldavia's location in Central Europe.

A fascinating upside down map of Europe in the background gives us a rough idea of Syldavia’s location in Central Europe.

Of all the adventures, this might be the one with the most impressive research by Hergé.  No one had yet gone to the moon; indeed, the Apollo missions didn’t even exist as a concept yet.  And this rocket was being powered by atomic energy just a few years after Hiroshima made the atomic energy a new and terrifying concept for the world.  But the detail that Hergé goes into in this story is amazing.  There is a small scale model of the rocket that is sent up as a test (and destroyed when they realize it has been taken over by a foreign power).  We get detailed blueprints of the interior of the rocket (Hergé actually built a small model version to use while working on the story).  The spacesuits look similar to what the Apollo suits would eventually look like.  The end of the story even has the crushing power that pushes down upon astronauts when sent into space.

Whatever you do, don't tell Calculus he's acting the goat.

Whatever you do, don’t tell Calculus he’s acting the goat.

In spite of the grand science-fiction aspect of the story, there are still the hallmarks of a traditional Tintin adventure.  Thompson and Thomson show up (referred to by Snowy as “the Thomson twins”) dressed in Greek costumes that they think are Syldavian.  Tintin, suspecting attempted sabotage, hikes into the mountains, has a narrow escape from some bears and is shot (this was particularly suspenseful, as after he was shot, Hergé went on an extended leave and left the story there with his readers anxiously awaiting the conclusion).  We also get a great bit of humor that leads up the first image of the actual rocket (and the cover) when Haddock, upset with Calculus, accuses him of “acting the goat”.  This sets Calculus off, as he scares off the security guards and drags Haddock and Tintin out to see the actual rocket and it’s fun to see this tiny little man scaring the crap out of everyone.  This ends with Calculus getting a bout of amnesia and some more humor as Haddock tries to frighten him back to his senses.

The story ends with two bits of real suspense.  The first is that we now know who the villain is (it’s Colonel Jorgen, the traitor from King Ottokar’s Sceptre) but we don’t know who the traitor is inside the project that is helping him.  The second is that we end with the actual lift-off.  The lift-off is pretty realistic, especially since no human had yet travelled in space and all of this was just theoretical.  But the crushing force knocks all of the astronauts unconscious and that is where we leave off, with the rocket hurtling towards the moon (no decade of exploration between the first time in space and walking on the moon for our adventurers) and no response from anyone inside.

Explorers on the Moon
(On a marché sur la Lune)

the_adventures_of_tintin_-_17_-_explorers_on_the_moon-1Serialized:  1952-53
Album:  1954
EL Edition:  1959
American Edition:  1976
Editions I Own:

  • Atlantic-Little, Brown softcover  (LCC 76-13297)
  • Little Brown, 3 Adventures in 1 Volume  (0316358169)

The Adventure:  The Secret of the Unicorn had a conclusion, but to find out about the treasure you needed to read the next adventure.  The Seven Crystal Balls had a bit of a cliff-hanger with Calculus kidnapped, but Tintin and Haddock were fine and in pursuit and the next adventure began rather casually with them having arrived in Peru.  But Destination Moon had ended with the major characters all unconscious, hurtling towards the moon with ground control sending them signals and getting no response.  Even the first page of Explorers on the Moon doesn’t give us even a sign of the characters.  It’s the next page where Snowy wakes first and then wakes Tintin up.  They have made it into space.

tintin-explorers-whiskyBut the unexpected comes right away, with the hatch opening and Thompson and Thomson climbing up, having mistaken the early morning launch of the rocket with an afternoon launch.  This immediately brings into question whether there is enough oxygen to last the trip given the extra passengers.  But then we get into the adventure of being in space, including Thomson accidentally turning off the artificial gravity, leading to one of the most memorable scenes in all of Tintin’s adventures, where Haddock and his whisky start floating.  Before they even get to the moon, Tintin also has to rescue a floating Haddock from becoming a satellite of an asteroid.  Then, just to keep things light again, the detectives have a relapse of their hair condition from the end of Land of Black Gold with their hair growing faster than Haddock can cut it.

tintin-explorers-caveThe tension mounts again as they land on the moon, with the crushing power of the rocket pushing them all back into unconsciousness and the haunting image of Snowy, the only one awake and “howling for the dead”.  But the landing is successful and, over a decade before Neil Armstrong, Tintin makes his own fateful steps: “This is it!  I’ve walked a few stops!  For the first time in the history of mankind there is an EXPLORER ON THE MOON!”  While the idea of going to the moon had been explored before, it was now up to Hergé to create the landscape itself.  The desolate landscape isn’t so different from the desert that he had done so well before, but he also gives us new vistas, including a sheet of ice and a glorious cave.

But we can’t forget that there is a villainous plot and accidents soon start happening and eventually, Colonel Jorgen is revealed and starts to take command of the situation.  Tintin and his friends will come out of that okay, but it is a close thing and it means there is even less oxygen to go around for the return trip (they already cut the trip short and abandon certain things on the moon to save time).  The tension is heightened all the way until the last page, when the rocket has safely returned and Haddock is lying on a cot with an oxygen tank hooked up.  But this is Captain Haddock and all it takes is a mention of the word whisky and he rips off his mask and is ready and raring to go for the next adventure.

This actually won’t be the last excursion into science-fiction for Tintin, though this one sticks closer to the science than the fiction and it does a first-rate job of it.  This adventure really does give me the longing to be an explorer, to set off for places that no one has ever set foot upon.  It manages to perfectly balance some of the most tense moments in all of the adventures with some great moments of humor and my brother is right, it really is one of the best adventures.

Note:  This book was originally given as a Christmas gift to my brother John in 1977.

The Calculus Affair
(L’Affaire Tournesol)

Serialized:  1954-56
Album:  1956
EL Edition:  1960
American Edition:  1976
Editions I Own:

The Adventure:  From science fiction we head into a Cold War suspense-thriller.  Without actually making use of America or the Soviets, we still get an idea of two foreign powers fighting over a potential weapon.  The countries in this case are the fictional ones previously visited in King Ottokar’s Sceptre: Syldavia and Borduria.  But, in an even-handed way, both sides are presented rather shadily here.

Things start out with a bit of humor (a soon to be recurring gag of the phone number for Marlinspike being confused with the number for Cutts the Butcher) and then a bit of mystery as glass starts shattering all over the place.  We get a little hint of what is going on when, twice, before the glass shatters, Snowy starts howling.  But by then things are getting more mysterious, with someone shooting at Calculus (he’s, as usual, oblivious, even though there is a hole in his hat) and someone lying shot on the grounds.  Calculus departs for a conference in Geneva and when Tintin and Haddock inspect his laboratory they are attacked by a man hiding there.  That leads to them following Calculus to Geneva, and then across quite a bit of Europe.

tintin-calculus-drinkingHergé is equal in the way he approaches the suspense here.  Though Syldavia has been an ally (Tintin saved the king, after all, and they sponsored the space program in the previous adventures), they are trying to get hold of Calculus and his invention as much as the (more villainous) Bordurians.  Everyone wants to make certain they get this weapon (Calculus has invented a machine that uses sound-waves and could actually destroy buildings).  The suspense doesn’t mean we are without humor.  There’s an amusing scene where Tintin and Haddock have rescued a colleague of Calculus and while Tintin is getting information, Haddock just keeps prodding him about his wine, until the house explodes (don’t worry – Haddock drinks the wine after they are rescued before he passes out).  The Thompsons also show up, to see Haddock and Tintin in the hospital, but then fall on the newly waxed floors and end up in beds themselves.

In the end, we get a daring chase to rescue Calculus and get him out of Borduria.  That involves a car with a detached top, a crash, stealing a tank and getting across the border.  It’s exciting from start to finish, one of the most suspenseful of all the adventures.  It hearkens back to King Ottokar’s Sceptre, except updating the suspense for the Cold War.

Note:  This is another adventure my family originally had in Children’s Digest and another that was originally printed under another title (“The Calculus Invention”), perhaps because a children’s magazine decided that “affair” wasn’t a good word to have in a title.

The Red Sea Sharks
(Coke en stock)

the_adventures_of_tintin_-_19_-_the_red_sea_sharksSerialized:  1956-58
Album:  1958
EL Edition:  1960
American Edition:  1976
Editions I Own:

  • Atlantic-Little, Brown softcover  (LCC 76-13278)
  • Little, Brown softcover  (9780316358484)

The Adventure:  This adventure is the favorite of my nephew Luke.  I have also long been a big fan, partially because it’s one of the books that always belonged to me, but also because it has a nice balance between humor and the adventure and because the adventure has continued to stay relevant through the years.  From the Cold War, we move back to the Middle East in a story that deals with illegal arms shipments, the battle over oil and modern slavery.

This is a story that presages Flight 714 in its return of a number of characters from previous adventures.  Hergé had been reading Balzac’s The Human Comedy and liked the way that characters returned into it from the earlier parts of it.  First, there is General Alcazar, who shows up in a Dickensian-like coincidence just after Tintin and Haddock discuss him.  After meeting Alcazar, the two return to Marlinspike to discover Abdullah, the bratty child of the Emir is now there, complete with a retinue.  He has been sent to Tintin and Haddock for safekeeping because a revolution has displaced his father from the rule of his country.  After Thompson and Thomson show up (being effective at their jobs for once), Tintin looks into Alcazar’s actions, which include buying aircraft from Dawson, the man who ran in the International Settlement in The Blue Lotus.  With Abdullah driving them nuts, Tintin and Haddock head off to Khemed to help the Emir.

tintin-redseasharks2That gets the main plot going.  Delayed by a timebomb on their plane, Tintin and Haddock arrive and seek help from Senhor Oliveira.  Meanwhile they are hunted by patrols (with some humor thrown in about Haddock’s snoring).  Muller is back as a villain, in a small cameo.  Then Tintin and Haddock finally reach the Emir in a scene that has always fascinated me.  tintin-redsea-petraThe Emir is hiding in what, essentially, is the Treasury in Petra.  When I first read the book, I was just fascinated by the idea of buildings carved out of the rock.  I had no idea that it was based on a real place.  It would be several years later, when Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was released, that I realized that this was a real place, a magnificent work of architecture carved from nature.  Though I am hesitant to travel to the Middle East, there are few places in the world that I would want to see more than the Treasury at Petra.  It has a majestic beauty that was clear to me from this first encounter and is more clear anytime I look at a photograph.

But it’s after seeing the Emir and escaping to the Red Sea that the main part of the plot really comes into focus.  After narrowly missing meeting Rastapopoulos, they end up on a boat captained by Allan, Haddock’s old first mate.  It turns out (after Allan and his men flee the boat during a fire) that the boat is full of Africans who have been kidnapped to be sold as slaves.  Coming a long way from his early colonial outlook on Africa, here Hergé is trying to make a statement about the ongoing slave trade in the world.  Also involved in this is the one new character, Skut, a pilot who they befriend after he tries to kill them and who will be one of the numerous characters returning in Flight 714.

tintin-redseaThe tension is heightened on the boat, with a storm, with the fire, with a broken radio, with a u-boat trying to sink them, with a frogman trying to blow them up.  But in the end, of course, things work out and they return for one final returning character, the obnoxious Jolyon Wagg (who had been introduced in the previous adventure) making life a pain for them.

Tintin in Tibet
(Tintin au Tibet)

the_adventures_of_tintin_-_20_-_tintin_in_tibetSerialized:  1958-59
Album:  1960
EL Edition:  1962
American Edition:  1975
Editions I Own:

  • Atlantic-Little, Brown softcover  (LCC 74-21621)
  • Little, Brown softcover  (9780316358392)

The Adventure:  This book has always fascinated me, perhaps because it is so different from all the other adventures.  Look at what Hergé does, in relation to the last adventure.  Here there are no Thompson and Thomson for the first time since they were introduced.  Calculus is on holiday with Tintin and Haddock at the start of the adventure but they leave him behind and unlike the previous adventure, Hergé never checks in on him.  The Red Sea Sharks had been full of villains, but the nearest this adventure comes to one is the Yeti, and it turns out Hergé is a lot more sympathetic towards him than you might have expected (although, looking back at The Black Island, you should have expected it).  Instead of water and sand, this time we’re up in the endless white of the Himalayas and for the reason behind that, and indeed, this entire adventure, we have to look a bit more at Hergé’s life at this time.

tintin-tibetI haven’t written much about Hergé himself because you can find a lot of that information from the various reference books (one of the most fascinating being The Adventures of Hergé, a graphic novel biography by Jean-Luc Fromental and José-Louis Bocquet with art that is very much in the style of the Tintin books).  But what was going on in his life really informed this book.  He was going through the separation from his wife that would eventually lead to divorce.  He was having nightmares that were stark white.  He went into this adventure writing about pure friendship (he had lost track of his friend Zhang, the model for Chang and they would eventually be reunited years later) and trying to work through all of his issues.

The adventure would give Hergé a chance to draw some different things.  Instead of the sea and the sand, which he had done numerous times before, he really got into the stark snowy landscape of Tibet.  It would also allow him to think about some more mystical ideas.  There had been hints of things beyond the regular human experience in Prisoners of the Sun, but here he definitely embraces it.  We meet the Yeti, that legendary creature that only exists in legend.  There is a Buddhist monk who sees vision and actually levitates during the visions (it’s even used for a bit of humor when he lands on another monk’s foot).  Things in this adventure are very different than the other adventures, pointing out some of the strange things we might find in later adventures.

tintin-tibet-changThings start out nicely – Tintin, Haddock and Calculus are on holiday in the French Alps.  Tintin then has a disturbing dream about his friend Chang that turns out to be a premonition (and a chance for Hergé to do an amusing crowd scene – note Calculus’ lack of reaction).  Chang was on a plane that crashed in the Himalayas and Tintin heads off to Nepal to try and find his friend, believing him to be alive.  He convinces a sherpa named Tharkey to lead them to the ruins of the plane and discover evidence of the mythical Yeti.  But, in spite of the snow, the cold, the Yeti, the lack of anything with which to survive, Tintin continues to believe in his young friend’s survival, leading him to the mountains, to being strangled by a yak, to finding himself at a monastery and even facing off against the Yeti himself.

tintin-tibet-yetiThe Yeti, of course, isn’t really the antagonist.  What Hergé does is create a sympathetic character who just wants to be left alone but will rescue the young Chang in a bid for friendship.  The lead-up to the appearance of the Yeti is well-handled.  At first we hear the Yeti’s howls on page 22, followed by a description on page 23.  Then come the footprints (from the cover) that we see on page 25, frightening off the other sherpas (he has drunk all of the Captain’s whisky).  There is a shadow that must be the Yeti on page 31.  tintin-tibet-haddock-yetiHaddock sees the Yeti on page 37, though we don’t.  Then we finally see the Yeti on page 42, but he’s covered with a tent, so we only see his face.  On page 55, we finally see a small image of him.  On the bottom of page 56 (what was probably the final panel of that week’s installment) we see the Yeti’s hand and foot.  It’s finally on page 57, when we see the entire Yeti, who goes to attack Tintin, but is frightened by the flash of the camera and then runs over Haddock on his way out.  Then, over the final few pages, we hear Chang’s story and understand the great care and love that the Yeti treated Chang to and we understand that this wild creature is simply lonely and we understand when Chang says he hopes the Yeti is never caught and that he can continue to live on in the wild.

The Castafiore Emerald
(Les Bijoux de la Castafiore)

the_adventures_of_tintin_-_21_-_the_castafiore_emeraldSerialized:  1961-62
Album:  1963
EL Edition:  1963
American Edition:  1975
Editions I Own:

  • Atlantic-Little, Brown softcover (0316358428)
  • Little, Brown softcover  (9780316358422)

The Adventure:  I have not really mentioned Bianca Castafiore yet, but she had been, by this time, continually running through the Tintin adventures as a minor recurring supporting character since before Captain Haddock even met Tintin.  She first appeared in King Ottokar’s Sceptre, unleashing the “Jewel Song” from Faust and making Tintin glad the windows were shatter-proof.  She would return in The Seven Crystal Balls, when Haddock first sees her, with her performance there shattering glass, blowing back curtains and making Snowy howl.  In The Calculus Affair she would help hide Tintin and Haddock from Colonel Sponz.  In The Red Sea Sharks she would meet them in the water and reveal the identity of the primary villain by accident.  Even in Tintin in Tibet, the sherpas’ radio would play her singing the “Jewel Song” prompting Haddock to mutter “Bianca Castafiore!  She’s HERE, by thunder!  That woman follows us to the ends of the earth!”  This time she follows them to Marlinspike itself, settling in an adventure, that is like Tintin in Tibet only in the way that both of them are unlike almost any other Tintin adventures.

This one is another favorite of mine because again, it is one which was always mine, the last of the five adventures that I bought with my own money and that had never belonged to my brothers.  I also love it because it is so unlike the other adventures.  In recent adventures Tintin had been to the desert, to the mountains, even to the moon itself.  But in this adventure he doesn’t go anywhere.  We get a fascinating mystery and we get some wonderful character moments but the adventure itself doesn’t go anywhere.

tintin-castafiore-tvThe story begins with three different things that will become the various parts of the story.  The first is the arrival of a caravan of gypsies near a local dump.  They have been forbidden from camping elsewhere but Haddock, disgusted at the local treatment of the gypsies, offers his own meadow for them to camp.  It is a good reminder that, for all his gruffness, Haddock is a kind hearted man.  The second part is the ongoing comic bit – that there is a broken step in Marlinspike and the builder keeps coming up with excuses for why he hasn’t shown up yet to fix it (it will run all the way to the end).  The third is the main part of the story – the impending arrival of Bianca Castafiore at the Hall.  Getting ready to flee the house, Haddock slips on the step and sprains his ankle, forcing him into a wheelchair just as the Milanese Nightingale descends upon him.

The gypsies are an interesting part of the story.  They are the obvious false lead in the case once Castafiore’s emerald ends up missing, especially since one of the gypsy children has already been shown by that point with a pair of gold scissors that had gone missing (leading to the conclusion that she stole them, but that will turn out not to be the case).  But on a personal level, growing up, I had always assumed that adventures began in England, not really thinking about the fact that Hergé was Belgian.  The gypsies were the first real clue to me that they weren’t in England, as a gypsy caravan is much more a sign of continental Europe.

tintin-castafiore-endThere will be a lot of false clues in the book.  There are men who run away in the dark.  There is a photographer who doesn’t belong.  There are jewels that go missing but turn out to be under a cushion.  There is the accompanist who disappears into the village for mysterious phone calls.  There is the noise in the attack.  And in the end, it’s none of those who are the actual thief.

There is also some good comic relief.  The Thomsons show up, crashing their car.  When Haddock gets out of his wheelchair, he accidentally leans on it, with disastrous consequences.  There is the recurring problem with the step, and the recurring accidental phone calls to Cutts the Butcher.  The last one has a personal connection because when we first moved to Oregon, the local phonebook misprinted the phone number of H & K Electric as our number and for a couple of years we got calls for them.  It also meant that I could call my parents and pretend I was calling for H & K Electric and drive them nuts, something I would keep up even after they moved again and got a new phone number, which probably says a lot about me.

All in all, this is the last of the really good adventures.  I have never ranked the Tintin adventures (which is odd, since it seems like I have ranked everything else in my life), but this one would be towards the middle or even higher, while the last two complete adventures would rank much lower down.

Note:  This must have been the last of the original 20 adventures available in the U.S. that was purchased by my family because it has the pictures of the 21 adventures on the book, which means it was purchased after The Blue Lotus became available (and possibly was how we found out about it).

Flight 714 to Sydney
(Vol 714 Pour Sydney)

the_adventures_of_tintin_-_22_-_flight_714Serialized:  1966-68
Album:  1968
EL Edition:  1968
American Edition:
Editions I Own:

  • Atlantic-Little, Brown softcover (LCC 74-21623)
  • Little, Brown softcover  (0316358371)

The Adventure:  As late as the mid-90’s (when I bought my copy of Red Rackham’s Treasure) this book was still called Flight 714 in the American edition.  By 2007, when I bought my next Tintin book (with the U.S. release of Alph-Art), they had started calling it Flight 714 to Sydney, which is the translation of the original title.  The title is a little strange since the whole point is that Tintin and Haddock don’t even end up on the flight, instead ending up meeting people in Djakarta (one of the first international cities that I was ever aware of as a child was Djakarta and that it was in Java because there’s a big to-do about it on the first page of the book) and ending up on a private plane that ends up hijacked and lands on a South Asian island.

This happens because in Djakarta they run into Skut, the Estonian pilot they met in The Red Sea Sharks.  He is now the pilot for Careidas, one of the world’s richest men and also a particularly mean one (he is uninterested in buying some paintings until he finds out Aristotle Onassis wants them at which point he buys them instantly).  Since he is going to the same conference in Sydney that Tintin, Haddock and Calculus are headed towards, he presses them into flying on his plane, not knowing that the co-pilot, radio operator and his private secretary are about to kidnap him for a huge ransom.  After a dramatic hijacking and landing, they find out that Rastapopolous and Allan are behind this scheme.  Thus we have the stage set for clearing out two of the oldest Tintin villains in a story that gets really weird.

tintin-714-alienWhen they land on the island, they eventually manage to escape their captors and end up hiding inside a volcano.  However, they get in there because of telepathic messages that are being sent to Tintin.  They pass through a statue that looks like a bizarre astronaut and they end up inside a passageway and meet a strange man named Kanrokitoff, who is, and I’m not making this up, a man using a telepathic transmitter provided to him by an alien race that will eventually come down and save the day and take the villains away with them.  In the end, the aliens would erase the memory of them from our heroes so the planet will still be unaware of the existence of the aliens.  Yes, it really gets that strange.

tintin-714-lavaIn the middle, there are some nice effective scenes.  The island itself has some fascinating aspects (including a monitor lizard) and when the volcano erupts, the escape from the lava is both terrifying and exciting.

But all of that can’t really overcome the utter bizarre direction that this adventure takes and in the end, it’s really one of the weakest adventures.

Note:  This book was originally given as a Christmas gift to my brother Kelly in 1977 (and, in fact, my old softcover copy has his name written in it).

Tintin and the Picaros
(Tintin et les Picaros)

the_adventures_of_tintin_-_23_-_tintin_and_the_picarosSerialized:  1975-76
Album:  1976
EL Edition:  1976
American Edition:  1978
Editions I Own:

  • Atlantic-Little, Brown softcover  (LCC 77-90973)

The Adventure:  This would be the final completed adventure.  It’s not one of the best adventures, but in some ways it brings a satisfying conclusion to the adventures.  We start off with some changes.  Tintin begins on a motorbike, arriving at Marlinspike and now wearing slacks more befitting the current decade rather than the plus-fours he had been wearing for almost 50 years.  Haddock has a fancy new color television and Tintin is practicing yoga in the morning.  It was clear that the adventures were definitely becoming more modern.  But at the same time, we look back to the past for one final adventure to tie up all the loose ends from Tintin’s South America adventures.

tintin-picaros-newwaveThe adventure begins with two different things on the first page that will eventually come together to help resolve the narrative.  The first is that Bianca Castiafore is traveling in South America and has arrived in San Theodoros, the fictional country that Tintin first visited back in The Broken Ear.  It is ruled by General Tapioca, the arch-rival of Tintin’s friend Alcazar.  The other is that Haddock can’t seem to stomach whisky anymore, spitting it out the second he puts it in his mouth.

It turns out that both of these are plots.  The first is a plot by Tapioca and Colonel Sponz (the villain from The Calculus Affair) to lure Tintin and Haddock to San Theodoros and into their trap.  To that end, Castiafore is accused of plotting against Tapioca and Thompson and Thomson are sentenced to death.  Finally, unable to bear the accusations, Haddock and Calculus travel to South America.  Tintin at first refuses, but later comes to join them and the trap that is supposed to kill them ends up re-uniting them with Alcazar and setting in motion the events that will provide a happy ending.

picaros001But before we can get to that, Alcazar needs to get his men to sober up because Tapioca keeps making drops of whisky into his camp.  That brings us back to the second aspect of the story.  It turns out that Haddock can’t stand whisky anymore because Calculus has developed a pill that will make anyone unable to bear the taste of alcohol.  That, combined with Carnival will enable Tintin and his friends to overthrow Tapioca and put Alcazar back in charge.

It’s a solid adventure and has some nice moments of humor (especially the way everyone objects when Bianca Castiafore wants to sing to celebrate her release).  But one nice development is how Tintin goes about bringing on Alcazar’s revolution.  In Flight 714, Tintin and Haddock spend most of the time armed and are forced to shoot to defend themselves.  But Tintin here is determined that this revolution will be bloodless and makes Alcazar swear to it (Tintin has offered to make his men sober).  The reaction from Tapioca is priceless (he and Alcazar complain about the loss of tradition).  It’s nice, that as we fade out, we get a more peaceful Tintin, one willing to change the world without firing a shot.

Tintin and Alph-Art
(Tintin et l’alph-art)

the_adventures_of_tintin_-_24_-_tintin_and_alph-artAlbum:  1986
EL Edition:  1990
American Edition:  2007
Editions I Own:

The Adventure:  Well, this isn’t really an adventure because Hergé went off to what Peter Pan always called “an awfully big adventure”.  He had worked on this for a few years prior to his death but never gotten beyond notes and simple pencil sketches.  It’s not even quite comparable to The Mystery of Edwin Drood, because Dickens was moving forward while Hergé was kind of stuck on this one.  The published book contains the pencil drawings for the book, which are mostly very rough.  The first few pages are more fully sketched out, but nothing beyond that.  The plot involves the return of a number of earlier characters.  But the mystery, as read, doesn’t work very well and I wonder what Hergé might have ended up doing with it.  I own it more because I have OCD than for any artistic reason.  It is of worth to Tintin enthusiasts, but is definitely rather pointless for a casual fan.

Reference Books:

note:  There are a lot of reference books about Hergé and even a graphic novel that was published about his life very much in the style of a Tintin adventure.  The two books listed below are books that I own, but there are a great many others out there and if you have a real interest in Hergé or Tintin, there is a treasure trove waiting to be discovered.

tintinandtheworldofhergeTintin and the World of Hergé: An Illustrated History (Tintin et Le Monde d’Hergé) by Benoît Peeters

  • published:  1988
  • EL published:  1992  (tr. Michael Farr)
  • hardcover  (0316697524)

The Book:  This book was published in 1988 in French by a writer and critic (who has written his own graphic novels) and who happens to have been the last person to interview Hergé before his death.  Because this book expands beyond Tintin, we get some of Hergé’s life, we get a nice ending bit of Tintin esoterica and a section on the other series of graphic novels that Hergé worked on over the years (they include some of the characters on the original back of the American edition of Tintin books that may not seem familiar).  It was translated by Michael Farr, the same man who wrote the next book listed below.

tintinthecompletecompanionTintin: The Complete Companion by Michael Farr

The Book:  Michael Farr is the leading British expert on Tintin and actually met Hergé while he was still alive.  This book has been an invaluable resource as I have composed these posts, giving me background information on every one of the adventures.  It has been sitting on my desk since I started writing this post in, I kid you not, July of 2016.  It is not only filled with illustrations (invaluable ones for some of the older editions as it gives you comparisons of the first versions of the adventures compared to the later ones, which is especially helpful for the redrawn The Black Island and the started and then stopped and restarted Land of Black Gold) but all the various things that Hergé collected over the years that helped him with his illustrations.  Hergé was big on research and the Tintin Archive has kept all of those things and Farr was given complete access for the writing of this book.  It’s the single most valuable reference work on Tintin.  One interesting bit about this book is that there is very little mention of the Tintin films listed below, which is why I knew so little about them until the last decade or so.

The Films:

The Crab with the Golden Claws
(Le crabe aux pinces d’or)
(1947, dir. Claude Missone)

This film is a bit of an oddity.  It was shown in theaters exactly twice, both in 1947, the first time in January, and then again in December right at the time that the company that made it went bankrupt and the distributor fled to Argentina.  Then it basically disappeared for years.  It would eventually resurface and it can be seen in Belgium by any Tintin Club members and has been released on DVD in France (it used to be available on YouTube but it has been taken down, though you can still find it online).  I gave it my Best Animated Film award in 1947 and nominated it for Best Foreign Film at my Nighthawk Awards even though it never played in the States (and isn’t readily available here).

Technically, in spite of an opening that shows a quick drawing of Tintin and Snowy (looking so much like Hergé drew them that I wonder if they did get him to draw it), this isn’t really animated – it’s stop motion.  But it’s a very faithful adaptation of the story (and, as a result, quite short).  It’s got some good music, a good voice for Haddock and it moves forward at a very nice pace.  It’s been 70 years since this was made and there still hasn’t been an adaptation as faithful as this.

goldenfleeceTintin and the Mystery of the Golden Fleece
(Tintin et le mystère de la Toison d’or)
(1961, dir. Jean-Jacques Vierne)

I didn’t learn about this film (and its sequel) until just a few years ago.  At the time it was hard to find, but now it’s easy to find on YouTube.  At the time, what I could see (some clips) made it clear that no matter what the story would be like (and it’s an original story that has nothing to do with any of the books), the filmmakers deserve a hell of a lot of credit for the look of the film.

In the first scene, Tintin is running across a field towards Marlinspike, with Snowy in tow, and he looks like he just leaped off the page, complete with blue sweater, brown knickerbockers and cowlick straight in the air.  Haddock looks exactly right (and his first line is “Billions of blistering barnacles.”), although the beard does look about as real as Groucho’s moustache.  But most impressive might be that they found a house (or built the front of one) that looks exactly like Marlinspike.

The film is never able to quite live up to its opening scenes (Calculus appears, blowing something up, but then is left behind).  It’s a decent little mystery / adventure, taking Tintin and Haddock first to Istanbul, then to a Greek island.  Haddock has been left a boat by a friend who has died and some (obvious) villains want to buy it for a lot of money.  It leads to a typical Tintin adventure, though, since it’s an original one, it’s harder to feel warm about it.

What the film really has going for it is the performance by Jean-Pierre Talbot (who wasn’t an actor but was brought in because of his resemblance to Tintin and does a solid job), the look of the characters and the playful score that works well for the level of adventure.  Other characters do show up (Thomson and Thompson, Calculus again, with his green outfit, Nestor), it is enjoyable and it’s definitely something any Tintin fan should try to see at least once.

tintinblueoranges_posterTintin and the Blue Oranges
(Tintin et les oranges bleues)
(1964, dir. Philippe Condroyer)

The second (and last – there was supposed to be a third but it was never made) Tintin film made by Pathé, this has the same lead actor as the first, as well as the same writers of the original story (again, it’s not based on the one of the actual adventures).  Only six of the people involved in the two films overlap (there is one other actor – the one who plays Nestor).  It’s strange to see what is ostensibly a sequel that has almost no overlap in cast and crew.

Given the lack of overlap, it’s impressive that everything still looks so true to the books.  This time, Tintin is wearing his yellow shirt that he wore in many of the early books.  But, other than that, there really isn’t much to say for it.  It’s got another silly plot that feels like it may have been Tintin inspired, but also feels a little too silly for all of that.  It’s not as well-made.  Again, it is something for the Tintin fan, but outside of that, it can easily be skipped.

tintin_and_the_temple_of_the_sunTintin and the Temple of the Sun
(1969, dir. Eddie Lateste)

The first fully animated Tintin feature.  You would have thought this might have happened earlier, given the books are graphic novels, but no, it took until 1969.  The Tintin books are not overly long – each one was made into a single half hour episode when the early 90’s show came around.  Yet, this film takes one of the two-part books (Seven Crystal Balls, Prisoners of the Sun) and combines them, but condenses all the action from the first book into about 15 minutes and sticks mostly to the second book.  That seems odd since the film is only about 75 minutes long.  But maybe they just didn’t have the budget for anything more.

That would certainly explain the feel of the film.  On the surface of it, it looks like the Tintin books – it clearly is an attempt to make an animated film with the exact look of the original Tintin illustrations.  The problem is that there’s no life to it.  Granted, the kind of computer animation that was around 40 years later had moved forward by leaps and bounds, but just look at the difference between this film and the opening credits of the 2011 film – they both are harkening to the same illustrations but one feels vibrant and alive and one just feels flat.  Even when compared to animation of the same time period this film feels curiously flat.

But part of the reason that this film feels flat is that the performances are just that – completely flat.  Yes, they use the actual lines from the books but they never really feel like the characters.  Watching it, it all feels rather pointless.

Aside from condensing the first book, there are a few changes made in the second book (the Thompsons are much more involved with the plot rather than just meandering behind and there is a plot with the Inca king’s daughter that wasn’t in the original), but for the most part it’s rather faithful and many of the scenes look like they come right off the page, provided Hergé’s illustrations had felt uninspired on the page (which they never do).

tintin_and_the_lake_of_sharks_egmontTintin and the Lake of the Sharks
(1972, dir. Raymond Leblanc)

This film is a bit of a mystery.  Well, the plot is a mystery, but the reason for its existence is also a mystery.  It, obviously, wasn’t based on any of the existing Tintin adventures.  And Hergé was still working on new Tintin books at this time.  So why create a new animated adventure that doesn’t involve the original adventures and isn’t written by Hergé?

Perhaps that’s why it’s really not all that good.  The plot is rather forgettable and silly – Calculus has invented a duplication machine that someone (it turns out it’s Rastapopolous) wants to steal so he can duplicate priceless works of art and become rich.  That involves a theft from an aquarium, a couple of really annoying children and throwing in most of the major characters for at least a few minutes.  But it lacks the real Hergé humor and fun, the animation is mostly decent, but sometimes just seems off (the children in particular don’t look good, perhaps because the animators couldn’t just copy the original Hergé drawings as they could with the main characters) and the music is simply terrible.  I feel the need to point that out because the score in the live action Tintin films was fun and the John Williams score for the 2011 film is simply magnificent, so the terrible music here really does bring things down.

I first found out about this film in a roundabout way.  There is an album (book, not music) version of the film, released in English by Methuen, the British publishers of the Tintin adventures, though not apparently ever published in the US.  I found the book in a used bookstore at some point and bought it even though it’s not Hergé and it’s not really all the good because, you know, OCD.  So, for a long time, that book was what I knew about this film and I usually just let it sit at the end of the Tintin shelf and ignore it, but I felt I needed to at least include a mention of it here.  You can really just skip it.

adventures_of_tintin_the_secret_of_the_unicorn_xlgThe Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
(2011, dir. Steven Spielberg)

That this film was able to be released in the United States simply under the title The Adventures of Tintin says a lot of the popularity of Tintin in the United States.  Or you could look at the box office.  It made $77 million in the States, good enough for #44 that year.  But, internationally it earned almost $300 million, more than each of the three Marvel films that year and good enough for #15 and they included the subtitle because they needed to make it clear to the legions of worldwide Tintin fans which adventure this was.  It is also, to my mind, the best animated film of the year.  It wasn’t just my mind either, as it won the PGA and the Globe, while also earning Annie, BAFTA and BFCA noms (its Consensus points record for a film that failed to earn an Oscar nomination would later be passed by The LEGO Movie, showing that the Academy really has a problem with films that don’t cohere to their idea of “animated”).  In some ways, it is a visionary animated film that really shows both how fun the original Tintin books are, but also how much technology has grown in leaps and bounds (the work was done by WETA, the company founded by Peter Jackson and that did the Lord of the Rings films and is the New Zealand equivalent of ILM) and the directorial vision of Steven Spielberg, who finds ways to work with the actors and create real performances, not just voiceovers.

Ostensibly, this film is an adaptation of The Secret of the Unicorn, especially as it takes the title from the adventure.  But that adventure just provides the basics for the plot (that someone is trying to find three model ships that contain clues to a treasure and that the treasure happens to involve an ancestor of Captain Haddock).  But this film, of course, also brings in parts of Red Rackham’s Treasure (most notably the conclusion, as most of the rest of the adventure is cast aside and the resolution and even the villain are both very different).  More importantly, the film brings in a considerable portion of The Crab with the Golden Claws, so that not only the viewers can be introduced to Captain Haddock and his colorful world of insults (several of which are on display in the film) but Tintin can as well.  I long wanted to make King Ottokar’s Sceptre because it was my favorite and an early pre-Haddock adventure, then, if that worked, make Crab with the Golden Claws, but this is a fantastic way to bring in both characters.  They also, by dropping most of Red Rackham’s Treasure, put off the introduction of the third main character, Calculus, although he hopefully will show up if they ever get around to the sequel that they keep promising.

It isn’t even just those three adventures that are part of the film either.  The hints of the other adventures begin as early as the opening credits.  That font comes on, the same font we expect to see with a Tintin adventure, and we get that classical Hergé animation as well as the fantastic John Williams score.  It brings up visions of earlier adventures.  When we come into the story proper, Tintin is getting his face drawn and if that illustration looks just like the classical Hergé image of our hero, well maybe that’s because it is Hergé himself being depicted.  We can also see other characters from other stories in the background (including the Bird brothers, who were the actual villains of this adventure in album form but are dropped from the film), and when he returns to his apartment, we see newspaper clippings that reference several other adventures (I went through it slowly on our Blu-Ray, testing Veronica, who had never read the books before I started writing this post, but has now read them all) and when the Interpol agent is shot dead on Tintin’s doorstep and he informs his landlady that someone has been shot in their doorway, she replies “Again?”  After that, we are off onto our adventure and Spielberg is definitely the right person for this job.  He had wanted to make a Tintin film for years and it fits perfectly in with the director of the Indiana Jones films (and he even gives it that classic Tintin time era feel).  But, it was the right move to make this film as an animated one because they could still get those wonderful performances from Andy Serkis, Jamie Bell and Daniel Craig (not to mention the perfect comic relief from Nick Frost and Simon Pegg) and have that perfect classical look to the film.

This perhaps is that last thing I need to say about this film.  When it was released, in December of 2011, we had just moved and our rent had taken a huge leap.  I was working six days a week and it was hard to find the time or the financial means for us to go the movies.  But we saw this on opening day because there was no way I was missing the chance to see a film that I had basically been waiting for my entire life.  And it was well worth it.