Saturday, December 03, 2011

Books: The Adventures of Tintin

A long road trip is a great time to bust out a comic book. For Thanksgiving 2011, I picked "The Adventures of Tintin"...

Tintin is the star of a series of comics created by Belgian artist Hergé. He's a young journalist who often gets into impressively perilous situations, whether it's escaping from an opium cartel, being held captive by Incas, or running from the OGPU.

In the U.S., Tintin never caught fire like it did around the world, so my first encounter with Hergé's classic comic hero was actually the television adaptation of "The Adventures of Tintin" that aired on Nickelodeon back in the '90s:

The very first Tintin story, "Tintin in the Land of the Soviets," is suprisingly violent and political. It was intended as an anti-Marxist and anti-Socialist propaganda piece for children by Hergé's editor; Hergé was later embarrassed by it, due to its crude and inaccurate portrayal of Bolshevik Russia.

Like several Tintin stories, "Tintin in the Land of the Soviets" is oddly prophetic - the exaggerated and inaccurate Bolshevist practices portrayed in the strip (secret detentions, Potemkin Villages, etc.) would become staples of Soviet Russia.

I also read "Tintin and the Seven Crystals," a classic Tintin story that's more of a straight-up mystery than the globetrotting adventure Tintin is known for. Despite the departure, this book is representative of the golden era of Tintin: crisp art, tight plotting, and just the right amount of comic relief in-between chases, escapes, and fights.

I'm not sure where I read it, but I once heard that Belgium has three exports - beer, chocolate, and Tintin. The series is deservedly famous, and I hope the upcoming Steven Spielberg Tintin adaptation does it justice.


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