Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Tintin (comic strip & movie)

23 Titles: Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, Tintin in the Congo, Tintin in America, Cigars of the Pharoah, Blue Lotus, Broken Ear, Black Island, King Ottokar's Sceptre, Crab with the Golden Claw, Shooting Star, Secret of the Unicorn, Red Rackham's Treasure, Seven Crystal Balls, Prisoners of the Sun, Land of Black Gold, Destination Moon, Explorers on the Moon, Calculus Affair, Red Sea Sharks, Tintin in Tibet, Castafiore Emerald, Flight 714 to Sydney, Tintin and the Picaros.

Author: Herge (pen name for Georges Remi)

Rating: ** (2 stars out of 3 possible, "B")

Audience: Ages 9 and up

We interrupt our regularly scheduled reviews for a more timely weigh-in on Steven Spielberg's Tintin movie!

My daughter began reading the Tintin comic books (now promoted to "graphic novels") when she was probably 8. (Perhaps a little young.) I found Tintin in Cricket magazines when I was in 6th & 7th grades. I never really knew exactly what Tintin was because I was unable to complete the series sequentially; I never seemed to know how the mystery adventure began, nor how it concluded. But I was hooked by the art and the action.

Twenty-one of these serial adventures are currently available beginning with Tintin in America and published in collections of 3 episodes each. Herge was a prolific Belgian artist working in the middle 20th century. The Tintin episodes were written between 1929 and 1975 and sometimes reflect historical and political events of the day. Do not expect overt references to WWII or the Cold War, however, as Herge's political sympathies were changeable and suspect to both Allied and Axis powers. He frequently set his adventures in out-of-the-way places to avoid controversy.

All this to say, enjoy the art, story and character of Tintin without looking too deeply for conspiracy theories! The only reason this series does not quite receive "highly recommended" remarks from me is the level of cartoon violence and lack of any exterior moral influence (aka GOD) on Tintin.

Tintin is some sort of teen reporter who travels the world solving mysteries and apprehending bad guys. This he accomplishes through physical and mental skills, as well as the support of his trusty fox terrier, Snowy and adult friends like Captain Haddock and Professor Calculus. Some of the writing is repetitive, comic book style ("Great Snakes!" "Crumbs!" "Blistering Barnacles!") and the strip relies heavily on physical humor and prat falls, but in my opinion, it is some of the best recreational reading graphic novels have to offer.

Steven Spielberg's current movie combines parts of three adventures (The Crab with the Golden Claw, The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham's Treasure) and is a satisfying depiction of both the visual effect of Herge, and the fast-paced plot lines.

While some Tintin purists (those impossible-to-please, stick-in-the-mud types) lament that Spielberg and 3-D have denigrated an institution, this amateur felt the movie held quite true to the spirit of the series. The complaints that a chase scene was too long, or the movie too busy seem to be weak, sour grapes when compared with the comic book itself. (For instance, I felt the noses were drawn too large; then I revisited the books and found them accurate!) Furthermore, the resident expert (my 10-year old daughter) was satisfied that the art remained intact and all necessary inside jokes, hints and references were present. Let's hope the planned sequels maintain the quality.

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