Thursday, November 19, 2015

Adventures of Tintin Volume 1

I picked this up at Million Year Picnic in Cambridge MA, on my visit back to the US during the Summer. Vietnam seems to really love Tintin merchandise, which is sold extensively at souvenir shops in most major tourist areas.

Title: Adventures of Tintin
Issue: Volume 1
Publisher:  Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Date: 1994
Writer: Herge
Artist: Herge

Vietnam, at least the touristy areas, has an odd fixation with Tintin merchandise, and I couldn't resist picking up a "Tintin in Vietnam" t-shirt on one of my first tourist ventures after relocating to Ho Chi Minh City for a job. I'm a lifelong comic reader, and knew of Herge's Tintin series, but had never actually read any of them. After a bit more research I found that there is not an actual Tintin in Vietnam story by Herge, so I decided to start reading with this volume, which is the first in the hardcover English-language reprint series.

It actually reprints the third, fourth, and fifth of the original Tintin stories. The original first two stories are controversial due to racist content and were not reprinted in this edition.

The physical quality of the book is great, and the color artwork is gorgeous, especially on Herge's depiction of locations, costume, and architecture. The small print size does make for a tradeoff with the convenient size of the hardcover edition.

The three stories in this volume are Tintin in America, Cigars of the Pharaoh, and The Blue Lotus. The first of these stands alone, and the others comprise a two-part story.

Tintin has been widely critiqued for it's racial stereotypes, and there is definitely validity to those critiques. The depiction of the Blackfoot tribe in Tintin in America managed to cram nearly every imaginable Native American stereotype into the space of a few pages. It was cringe-inducing. Depictions of Chinese, Indian, and Japanese characters, among others, also ply too stereotypes. Herge does include a pretty biting bit of satire about the US government's treatment of Native Americans, and he includes some clearly anti-racist ideas around a racist villain in The Blue Lotus, but even these moments still have a colonialist vibe about them.

The rest of Tintin in America basically involved Tintin, a "reporter" (he seldom seems to get around to actually writing any news stories) arriving in Chicago and being immediately targeted by Al Capone's mob, apparently because of his role in disrupting their overseas operations.

Herge's pacing is frenetic. Some writers would go for a life-or-death cliffhanger at the end of a page or a chapter. With Tintin, there is often a new cliffhanger every couple of panels. A lot of the action is played for laughs, with Tintin often escaping through strokes of ridiculous good luck. There is some funny humor along with some awkward slapstick. The adventures and settings have an undeniably fun flavor that fits in nicely with today's dieselpunk while keeping the innocent feel of Golden-Age commics.

Tintin himself is likable, though lacking in depth or background. His most prominent personality trait is his loyalty to his dog, Snowy. Snowy, meanwhile, breaks the fourth wall with his somewhat snarky commentary directed at the reader.

The supporting cast are mostly either bumbling comic relief or sinister villains. I did really like Chang, a Chinese boy whose friendship with Tintin was one of the best aspects of The Blue Lotus.

Rating: 6/10