May 22, 2007

Tintin is the new Huckapoo

In the wake of all my Tintin blogging Jim asks, "if I buy one Tintin book, which should it be?"

After some thought I'm going to go with the obvious answer: Tintin in Tibet. Tintin in Tibet is Hergé's masterpiece (that's for you, J). I don't think his artwork was ever better, and certainly his writing wasn't. But I did hesitate just a bit, since it's not exactly typical of the series (slightly more somber and wordy) and it also benefits from some familiarity with the characters. (Also, the Thompson twins aren't in it.)

But then what else could I have chosen? The best of the pure adventure books — Prisoners of the Sun, Red Rackham's Treasure — are continuations of stories that begin in books that, while excellent, are also not the best introductions to the series, being pretty much confined to one location. Red Sea Sharks is great, but a little baroque for a new reader, and Tintin and the Picaros is definitely better once you get to know who everyone is. Flight 714 and was also possibility, but the bottom line is, if you're going to give Tintin one shot it might as well be his best one.

The question is, if you buy two Tintin books, what should the second one be? Probably Seven Crystal Balls, which leads into Prisoners of the Sun. Whatever you do, though, don't buy the 3-in-1 editions. They shrink the pictures too much.

Anyone want to disagree?

If you're a casual Tintin fan, or haven't read the books since you were a kid, I strongly recommend Tintin: The Complete Companion. Drawing on Hergé's personal archives, it reveals his visual source material for every book. You'll gain a whole new appreciation for the work.

Related: Six contemporary cartoonists discuss Hergé's influence.

Posted by Daniel Radosh


Thanks! I ordered "Tibet" and "Crystal Balls."


no "tintin on the moon" or whatever it was called? or "the shooting star," which freaked me out as a kid? big scary mushrooms from a meteorite.

i am pedestrian.

don't buy the 3-in-1 editions. They shrink the pictures too much.

I guess I consider myself fortunate to have encountered Tintin and his adventures in serial form, during my several-years subscription to Children's Digest. Don't know if those panels were shrunk - it didn't seem so, noticeably, but I had nothing to compare it to. I do know that I thought of Tintin's world as inherently, completely and relentlessly black and white, and seeing any Tintin in color even now seems excessive and bizarre, like a 3-D Mickey Mouse. So I guess Tintin in Tibet would be the best candidate for me as well!

In this week's New Yorker, Anthony Lane makes a good case for King Ottokar's Sceptre (great parody of Balkan politics) and Tintin in Tibet (splendid artistically and architecturally).

I really to get all my Tintin books back from my parents' house.

"Really need", obvs.

How important is it to read the books chronologically? I have a pretty good memory of who everyone is from when I checked them out of my elementary school library, but I'm a little compulsive like that, and would like to start at the beginning. Is it feasible to buy the whole collection from somewhere without breaking the bank? The official Tintin website has the gall to be designed by people who are not native English speakers, and is confusing for a dullard like myself.

Ben - it's not very important. If you're absolutely committed to reading them all, you might get a bit more out of it by reading them in order. But each stands pretty well on its own. (You can even read the second parts of the two-parters without reading the first parts, although that's definitely not ideal.)

Also, the early books aren't as good as the later ones, so it might make more sense to get hooked on the good ones and then go back. I'd start with, say, The Crab with the Golden Claws. Don't know about a complete set, but if you only buy one a month, it's cheaper than feeding a starving child - and a lot more fun.

The Wikipedia entry is pretty useful.

No, wait. Start with King Ottokar's Sceptre.

Advice noted...thanks, Daniel.

Also, the last time I fed a starving child, it was a real hoot...they're so thin!

tibet is great. also, the picaros is very very cool

tibet is great. also, the picaros is very very cool

Huh? Why has no-one suggested The Calculus Affair? Tintin in Tibet is certainly very deep, and was Herge's favourite I believe, but not typical of the series, I think.

Another fantastic construction is The Castafiore Emerald, but the delight in that is reading it once you've got to know Tintin as a globe-trotting adventurer.

They're only 64 pages, so its well worth reading a few.

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