Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Reader's Diary #540- Hergé: Tintin (3 Complete Adventures in One Volume)


As I explored the world of graphic novels this year, I was quite interested in the blurbs about the cartoonists-- how they got started, their early influences, and so on. Among the alternative comics crowd, Hergé's Tintin comics seemed to pop up more than any other.

So, when I went to a used book sale recently and came across a three story volume of Tintin comics, I had to see what all the fuss was about. I could easily see why his ligne claire style, as it is called, is appreciated. His writing on the other hand...

I'm not sure if you've read a Tintin comic, but they're quite frenetic, almost ludicrously so. In a span of five pages Tintin can go from facing a firing squad, being rescued by the Thompson twins (yes, that's where the band got its name), stealing an airplane, being shot out of the sky, crashing into a jungle and befriending an elephant.

I have to admit that while I spent the first little while laughing at all the trap doors, narrow escapes and unbelievable plots, it grew on me. I read recently that Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are to be in a new Tintin movie, possibly next year. I'm not surpised. Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead fans would likely enjoy Tintin as well. (But while Pegg does resemble Tintin somewhat, he's too old to play that part. Instead, he and Frost are to play the aforementioned Thompson twins.)

What didn't grow on me was the way Tintin narrated all the action: "I fell into space, like you. It was fantastic: there was this bush and I fell right into it. It bent and dropped me on this ledge. So here I am, safe and sound, instead of smashed to bits in the canyon."

The comics are also very dated, most notably with their depiction of other races. Some might argue that like the action, it's supposed to be over the top, but others would no doubt find it offensive (every Japanese character, for instance, is shown with horribly bucked teeth). Not that it forgives it much, but I think a lot of that stemmed from a naivete on Hergé's part. In one scene, Tintin ironically explains to his new Chinese friend, Chang Chong-chen, about the misconceptions Europeans have about Chinese people: "The same stupid Europeans are quite convinced that all Chinese have tiny feet, and even now little Chinese girls suffer agonies with bandages designed to prevent their feet developing normally." If only Hergé was as enlightened about other peoples.

But taken with a grain of salt, I still enjoyed the Tintin comics.

1 comment:

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I wasn't aware of the Pegg/Frost recruitment, nor of the plans to make a Tintin movie, to tell you the truth. But I did hear that someone translated these books into Quebequois french, to a mixed reception.