Tintin

The Adventures of Tintin is a well-known comic strip written and drawn by the Belgian writer-artist Hergé. Over 200 million issues of comic books featuring Tintin have been published and translated in 40 languages. The hero of the series is a young reporter named Tintin, who travels around the world landing himself in a variety of adventures. The character of Tintin was created on January 10, 1929.

The narratives are diverse: some stories are swashbuckling adventures with elements of fantasy, some are mysteries or science fiction, others have political or cultural commentary. The most notable stories take place in well-researched early-20th-century historical settings. All include plenty of slapstick humor.

The comic has been admired for its stylish drawings, its exceptional direction and, in later stories, the painstaking research that went into the background story. It fits in with other comics in the great 20th century tradition of the European humouristic adventure strip (such as Spirou under Franquin and Goscinny's Asterix). The series was an inspiration to famous movie directors such as Steven Spielberg and to painters such as Andy Warhol.

Table of contents
1 Characters
2 Race and Colonialism
3 List of books
4 Fictional Countries
5 External link

Characters

Tintin

The hero of the series is a colorless, drab figure, who never does anything wrong. As such, he is a real
hero. Tintin is a youngish reporter, who most of the time dresses in brown plus-fours and a white shirt and blue pullover. Only in the last published album, The Picaros, he changes his daily garment, wearing brown jeans. He lives in a boarding house in 'the city', but often stays over at the castle of his friend, Captain Haddock. Before 'Picaros', we learn very little about Tintin, and any characteristics he has in those stories are squarely in service of the story. In 'Picaros', however, we learn that he drives a moped and practices yoga in his spare time. Some fans consider this album therefore a betrayal of the image they had of Tintin, which could be built easily on the neutral view Hergé originally provided.

Captain Haddock

The seafaring captain was introduced in The Crab with the Golden Claws.

The surname was derived from a conversation that Hergé had with his wife, in which she mentioned that the haddock was a 'sad English fish'. Hergé chose this name accordingly. Haddock remained without a Christian name until the last completed story, "Tintin and the Picaros" (1974), when the name "Archibald" was suggested.

Often badmouthed, Haddock is usually the target of the slapstick-like scenes of the comic. However, Haddock is also good-hearted, loyal and brave. For instance, he acts unswervingly to rescue Cuthbert Calculus from the Incas.

Haddock was a hard drinker, especially of whisky, and his bouts of alcoholism were often used for comic effect, for they usually resulted in some minor unpleasantness for him; occasionally, they could have ended with more tragic consequence. In the "Picaros" story, however, Haddock became unable to drink any more alcohol. However, the implications of this never got to be explored.

Haddock uses all sorts of words as insults and curses to express his feelings, such as "blistering barnacles," "bashi-bazouk", "kleptomaniac", "pockmark" and "anacoluthon," but no words that are actually considered swearwords in the real world, thus making him perfectly appropriate for any audience. There is a book by Albert Algoud, Le Haddock Illustré which gives all of Haddock's expletives, ISBN 2-203-01710-4.

The Captain's coarse humanity acts as a counterpoint to Tintin's often implausible heroism; he is always quick with a wry comment whenever the boy reporter gets too idealistic. Physically, he is probably based on Bob de Moor, a longtime collaborator of Hergé's. After Le Tresor de Rackham Le Rouge, Haddock lives in the Chateau de Moulinsart (Marlinspike in the English translations), which is modeled on the real Chateau Cheverny.

In later stories, Hergé increasingly identified with Haddock rather than Tintin.

Professor Cuthbert Calculus (Professeur Tryphon Tournesol)

(aka, Professor Tryphonius Sunflower) The hard-of-hearing professor invented of many objects used in the series, such as the Moon rocket, a one-person submarine and an ultrasound weapon. He is an idealist and seeks to benefit mankind by inventions such as a pill that cures alcoholism by making alcohol taste horrible to the patient. His inventions, such as this pill, are usually disliked by Haddock, although Calculus usually interprets this the other way round.

His deafness is a frequent source of humour, as he repeats back what he thinks he has heard: "attachez votre ceinture" "une tache de peinture?". He does not want to admit being near-deaf and insists on having just bad hearing. This contrasts with Dupond's spoonerisms. On only one occasion did his hearing improve, and that was in the "Moon" books. Here, he has a hearing aid inserted, and this made him a more serious character (that is, as long as the word "goat" is not uttered in his presence). At the conclusion of that adventure, however, he lost his hearing aid and went back to his old deaf self.

It's widely admitted that the Calculus character was inspired by Auguste Piccard. Calculus first appeared in Red Rackham's Treasure, and was the end result of Hergé's long quest to find the archetypal mad professor (For instance, Dr. Sarcophogus in Cigars of the Pharoah, Prof. Alembick in King Ottokar's Sceptre).

Snowy (Milou)

Snowy is Tintin's faithful fox terrier. Very early in the series he talks to Tintin. Later, he occasionally makes a haughty comment, but none of the human characters can understand him. Like Captain Haddock, he has a prediliction for whiskey.

Thomson and Thompson (Dupont et Dupond)

Two clumsy detectives who look like twins, providing many of the comic reliefs throughout the series. They are afflicted with spoonerism. They usually wear bowler hats and carry walking sticks. They are thoroughly incompetent and always bent on arresting the wrong character. In spite of this, they somehow get entrusted with delicate missions - for instance the Syldvanian space project.

When sent on missions abroad, they insist on wearing the local "costume" of the country they are visiting so as to blend into the local population, but in general only manage to find some ridiculous attire that actually makes them stand apart.

They also provided the name for 1980s synthesizer band The Thompson Twins - who had three members.

Minor characters

A great number of other characters also occur in more than one of the books:

  • Roberto Rastapopoulos - A Greek-American tycoon, involved in criminal activities. Also known as Marquis di Gorgonzola.
  • Allan - originally a first mate under an alcoholic Haddock, Allan is often involved in smuggling and other criminal activities as one of Rastapopoulos' henchmen.
  • Chong-chen Chang - A Chinese orphan, who is rescued by Tintin and becomes his friend. The character is based upon a real friend of Hergé.
  • General Alcazar - General of the army of San Theodoros, Alcazar switches with comedic frequency between being president of the country and leading a rebellion to battle the government.
  • Dr. J.W. Müller - Archeologist and villain.
  • Bianca Castafiore - A satirical diva, best-known for the 'Jewel Song' from Faust.
  • Ben Kalish Ezab and his son Abdallah - Emir of Khemed, and his very spoilt son.
  • Colonel Sponz Bordurian officer.
  • Piotr Skut (originally Szut) - Estonian pilot.
  • Oliveira da Figueira - Portuguese travelling salesman, who settled in Khemed.
  • Lazlo Carreidas A airplane manufacturer, probably inspired by Marcel Dassault
  • Nestor, the butler at Marlinspike
  • Jollyon Wagg (Séraphin Lampion)- An incredibly boorish insurance salesman whose sole purpose in life seems to be to frustrate Tintin and Haddock's missions. His name in the original French is Séraphin Lampion.

Race and Colonialism

The earliest stories in The Adventures of Tintin have been criticized for racist and colonialist leanings, including caricatured portrayals of non-Europeans. However, Hergé changed his views sometime between these early works and The Blue Lotus. This story, set in China during the then-current Sino-Japanese War, was the first for which he did extensive background research. It criticized Japanese and Western colonial meddlings in China and helped to dispel popular myths about the Chinese people. From then on, meticulous research would be one of Hergé's trademarks.

Some of the early albums were altered by Hergé in subsequent edition, usually at the demand of publishers. For example, at the instigation of his American publishers, many of the black characters in Tintin in America were re-colored to make their race white or ambiguous. The Shooting Star originally had an American villain with a Jewish name, who was changed to a South American with a less ethnically-specific name in later editions.

For a further discussion, see The ideology of Tintin.

List of books

(Also see the legend below)

Legend
BWBlack and white, only published much later in book form.
+unfinished work
Ffilm adaptation
nwhere n is a number. Several stories are spread over two books, the numbers indicate which books go together

The books are listed in the order in which the stories first appeared in newspapers or magazines. Land of Black Gold was started in 1939, but was put on hold when World War II broke out. (Sceptre and Gold actually deal with the rising threat of a second big war.) Gold was not finished before 1971.

These fall in to three rough groups (rough outline follows. There are books on this...):

  1. Tintin as a reporter / detective, exploring real countries (Soviets - Crab)
  2. fantasy adventures: treasure hunts (Unicorn), ghost stories (Crystal Balls), Science Fiction (Moon). Tintin is joined by a crew of secondary characters: Haddock and Tournesol. These were written during the buildup to World War II and the occupation, when Herge had to steer clear of anything that could be construed as political
  3. Coming of age: Herge returns to political intrigue seen in Ottokar, the odysseys seen in Ear, but with a much broader stroke. Most are set in, or involve, fictional countries. Characters from old adventures make reappearances, e.g. Dawson from Lotus.

In 1993, after the death of Hergé, his friend Frederic Tuten published Tintin in the New World: A Romance (ISBN 0-7493-9610-5). In this story Tintin loses his boyish innocence and lives fully, even to excess.

Fictional Countries

Hergé devised several fictional countries later in the series. Syldavia in particular is described in considerable detail (history, customs, language etc).

  • Syldavia in the Balkans, and neighbouring Borduria, which is set to invade the country in King Ottokar's Sceptre -- this situation parallels respectively Czechoslovakia or Austria and expansionist Nazi Germany prior to World War II. In The Calculus Affair, Borduria is used as a metaphor of a communist country.
  • Khemed, in Arabia
  • San Theodoros in South America.
  • Nuevo Rico, bordering San Theodoros. The two countries go to war over oil in The Broken Ear. Nuevo Rico was also added as a reference in a later versions of The Shooting Star. The original version had the bad guy masterminds as stereotypical Jewish puppet-masters -- the later version darkens their skin tone and inserts Nuevo Rico as a hasty reference.'').

See also:
Franco-Belgian comics
Ligne claire

Trivia: There is a female character in the puppet series Thunderbirds named Tintin Kyrano, but the similarity of names appears to be coincidental.

Belgium is to mint a silver 10-euro coin to celebrate the 75th birthday of Tintin in January.

External link


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