For the Love of Tintin
One of my fondest memories of our grade school library is the hunt for Tintin comics. When I was in grade school, our library had the whole set, but everyone wanted to read them, so while they were marked “for room use only,” (maybe because copies kept disappearing) they were still not very easy to find, as most girls (well, including me and my friends when we found them) stashed them in secret hiding places around the library, often behind what we supposed were the books nobody ever read.
In case you’re not familiar with the series, The Adventures of Tintin is a comic strip series created by the Belgian artist Hergé, a.k.a. Georges Remi (G.R. backwards is R.G., which sounds like Hergé), dating back as early as 1929, originally in French. It is one of the most popular European comics of the 20th century, translated in over 50 languages, with 200 million books sold worldwide. It features the reporter Tintin, who has a knack for stumbling upon mystery — and more trouble than his white fox terrier, Snowy, would care to get entangled in.
I loved the series when I was younger, and I still love it today, and so when I started earning my own money to build my book collection, Tintin comics were high on the priority list. I’ve been acquiring pieces slowly, because they’re not exactly cheap. Today they’re around P400 ($8) at Fully Booked and National Book Store, and P450 ($9) at Powerbooks so as much as I’d love the complete set, I’m just happy I’m past the halfway point. Tintin comics were never cheap, but at the rate they were selling a decade ago, I want to kick myself for starting this late.
I’ve still been lucky, though, because I’ve never bought any of the books at the cover price. Five (Cigars of the Pharaoh, The Blue Lotus, The Calculus Affair, The Black Island, and Prisoners of the Sun) I acquired at 40% off at Powerbooks using my Powercard Plus when they still had the birthday blowout (which they don’t have anymore, pffft, defeating the purpose of my Powercard Plus and making me very hesitant to renew it). Haha, I shared the discount with Dianne, of course, and she got 5 of them too, different titles than mine so at least we could borrow from each other.
Then I was able to mooch a couple — The Red Sea Sharks from Sam Wasson in the US, and Flight 714 still on its way as of now. Through BookMooch, I was also gifted with Destination Moon, a gift from BookMooch friend Vee in California, and then in a local contest over at BookMoochers Pilipinas, I won The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham’s Treasure from BookMooch friend Patti.
And then, one very memorable (and very lucky!) weekend, I struck gold at two Book Sale branches — Cash and Carry and Makati Cinema Square (on a Friday and then again on Sunday), I found two 3-in-1 hardcover volumes (#1 and #2) for P70 (around $1.32, slightly worn library discard) and P160 (around $3, pristine)!!! They’re great because you have three adventures in one go, but I still prefer the big comics, because in the hardcover compilations the comics are smaller and it gets harder to read the text.
Also in the photo is one of my favorite presents — a Tintin in Vietnam (note: there is no actual Tintin in Vietnam bookin existence, at least not one by Hergé) wall hanging that my best friend Myx brought back from her Vietnam trip.
My latest acquisition is The Castafiore Emerald, which I stumbled upon (!) in a roving Books & Mags sale, for P80 (around $1.50). I reread it after I covered it in plastic (book #96 for 2009), and it’s still one of my favorite Tintin comics to this day.
In The Castafiore Emerald, Tintin and Snowy track down a missing emerald brooch belonging to the famous opera singer Bianca Castafiore (one of the most memorable Tintin characters), taking place mainly in Marlinspike Hall, home to Captain Haddock (my favorite Tintin character), the butler Nestor, and perpetual guest Professor Cuthbert Calculus. The bumbling twins Thomson and Thompson also join the fracas in this book.
I love Tintin comics because:
1) I love mysteries, and Tintin is a fabulous jet-setting journalist (money doesn’t seem to be an issue) who always manages to escape an untimely demise — name it and he’s escaped it: runaway vehicles, exploding bombs, flying axes, sharks, poisoned darts, and many more.
2) The colorful supporting cast is loads of fun: the baddies are shady and the goodies are crazy! I love Captain Haddock because he says the funniest things (“blistering barnacles!” and “bashi-bazouk!”), and characters like Jollyon Wagg, Professor Calculus, Thomson and Thompson never fail to crack me up. Even Snowy is funny — he doesn’t talk to Tintin but he addresses the reader, and he can be quite sarcastic too!
3) Excellent, excellent composition. I like how Hergé can show so much detail in a tiny frame, and how he shifts perspective so that each frame is interesting to look at. I also like the visual gags he so thoughtfully incorporates in the frames.
My favorite gag is in The Calculus Affair — there’s a sequence that takes place on a bus and it’s one of the funniest things ever — a piece of sticky tape makes its way to Captain Haddock’s nose and he shakes it off. Satisfied, Haddock leans back and reads his paper while the tape it makes its way round the bus. Several frames later, aboard a plane, Captain Haddock discovers the tape is stuck to his cap! The captain gets into a fit and shakes it off again, and off it goes to make the rounds again. And then (and I am still laughing as I type this), when they land in Geneva, the plaster is shown on the tail of Captain Haddock’s coat, and Tintin plucks it off, but then he shakes his hand with a dignitary and then it gets stuck on the guy’s hand!
The gag runs for three pages and the story goes on around it, but I love it because it’s so smart and it really is funny! It’s too cumbersome to take photos of, and I don’t want to break the spine by scanning it, so haha, get a copy of The Calculus Affair and I’m sure you’ll get what I mean.
Over the last few years, I’ve reacquired a lot of books from my childhood, and some of them turned out to be not as appealing as they were when I was younger, but these Tintin comics just get better with age!
I also remember watching Tintin cartoons when I was in third grade (the groggy Tintin scene in The Blue Lotus stands out distinctly in my memory), and recently I found a DVD collection of the cartoon series. As I was watching them I realized they were abridged (mostly they cut back on the jokes, boo) and that Tintin sounds a bit like Winnie the Pooh. Hehe.
I can’t find any English versions, but here’s the opening billboard:
And I’m also excited that Spielberg is in post-production with the motion capture 3D movie – Tintin and the Secret of the Unicorn (with its sequel Red Rackham’s Treasure planned for a second film too! ) starring Jamie Bell as Tintin, Andy Serkis as Captain Haddock, and Daniel Craig as Red Rackham (well, their voices anyway)! The two films will include The Crab with the Golden Claws too. No trailer yet, but I’m sure I’ll watch this movie… But it’s scheduled in late 2011 — maaan, what a long wait, but that’ll be a great Christmas!
Meanwhile, I also read that there are some vintage 60′s and 70′s live action adaptations, those should be interesting too… Must unearth them on the net to tide me over ’til the Spielberg trilogy hits the silver screen! Hopefully I’d have completed my Tintin collection by then!
My copy: The Castafiore Emerald – paperback, Little Brown edition
My rating: 5/5 stars