I'll add my thanks also. I forget how I came across this forum in the first place, but it was spotting this thread that got me to stay. I think it was the first one I posted in as well. I enjoyed reading the reviews and reliving the books very much.
I was going to ask about Asterix also. Bummer that you don't care for those, but oh well. Only caveat would be if you read one of the later books after Rene Goscinny passed away. Then I'd suggest giving one of the early ones a chance.
You must be the change you wish to see in the world. - Mahatma Gandhi
Would you be up for tackling Asterix by any chance? Another great blast of euro-comic nostalgia and I'd love to see your take on it!
Unfortunately, I've never liked Asterix, I'm afraid. I just don't get its appeal. I didn't like it as a youngster, and I tried to read one of the books (I forget which one) about 8 or 9 years back and it still did nothing for me.
Like Lake of Sharks was another book I never read, though in this case I think it as much to do with not wanting the Tintin saga to 'end'. I know it seems silly but on some level if there is a real Tintin book out there (even or maybe especially a half complete one) on an emotional level it feels like the adventure is continuing somewhere out there.
Yeah, I get that. That's why I don't mind the fact that Alph-Art ends on a cliff-hanger. In some ways, I think we're better off not knowing how this story was supposed to end. As I said in my review, it allows each of us to conjure any ending we want, or, as you say, to believe that he's still out there solving mysteries somewhere.
The romantic in me also finds the idea of Tintin with a girlfriend cool - Martine Vandezande for the win!
Yeah, it's hard to get your head around, isn't it? I mean, just the fact that a young, attractive woman was given a speaking part in a Tintin book is hard enough to believe. But that surprising fact alone makes me seriously consider the possibility that Martine may've been intended as a love interest for Tintin.
Well said about better off with the endings we can imagine and the noteworthiness of a young attractive woman having lines in a volume.
Since we've finished this is my personal ranking of the books from worst to best, excluding the non-canonical Lake of Sharks and Alph-Art. I've split it into multiple posts due to sheer length.
#23 - Tintin in the Congo: The worst book in the series by far (yes, worse than it's predecessor.) Congo is understandably seen as an uncomfortable book due to its outdated attitudes towards African people and wild animals but it also commits the sin of being sinfully boring, almost entirely plot free and lacking in Herge's biting satire. A few jokes are sort of funny and the art in the colourised version has its moments but overall it is bottom of the pile.
#22 - Tintin in the Land of the Soviets: The earliest Tintin book has many of the same flaws as Congo, and the primitive (if sometimes striking) art style makes it hard to compare to any of the other books. I'd still rate it higher than Congo because it genuinely feels more fun with an absurdist streak of satire and action.
#21 - Tintin in America: This feels like a major step up from the first two books and if it still has the 'random events' plotting of very early Tintin it is much funnier and full of pitch black satire with the likes of the Grind Co. and the missing pet posters festooning their walls. Bobby Smiles is not the most interesting or charismatic villain in the franchise but he serves his purpose. Some lovely art in this one too.
#20 - The Crab with the Golden Claws: Possibly the weakest volume of the classic years Crab would be quickly forgotten if not for the first appearance of Captain Haddock and to a much lesser extent Allan. Coming between the densely plotted satire and political commentary of the immediate pre-war period and the grand pulpy, exploration stories of the Forties Crab feels so lightweight and unmoored in time period. At least some of the art is quite beautiful, particularly the big splash panels and I can forgive a lot for introducing one of my favourite characters ever.
#19 - Cigars of the Pharaoh: Much like the later Crab, Cigars feels rather thin and without Captain Haddock it is also one of the least humorous volumes in the series, with even the freshly introduced Thompson and Thomson mysteriously serious and competent. Despite being a rather dry read and with a simple plot it feels rather more fun than Crab - this is proper pulpy globe trotting adventure with an exciting climactic chase of the bad guy, an eerie henchman with some weird powers, some weirder dream sequences and stunning and exotic locales. A perfect read for a rainy weekend when you are ten or twelve.
#18 - The Red Sea Sharks: I said in reply to Confessor'sgreat review that Sharks was essentially 'generic post-war Tintin' and it really is. Hergé had collected a series of shorter plotlines and character beats from almost every recurring character in the series and assembled them into a thin and patched together story. Yes the art is fantastic (Mosquito attack aeroplanes!) and there is some fun to be had in seeing familiar faces tied together but this is just a weaker book sadly. The portrayal of the African Muslim pilgrims doesn't help - I'd be a little more forgiving of a book from early in the run but Sharks is from the mid to late Fifties!
#17 - Tintin and the Picaros: Last is not quite least but Picaros does not feel like a fitting end to the series (and of course it wasn't meant to be.) This an absolutely ravishing book artistically, ably capturing the look of the Seventies and as a fan of the Milanese Nightingale it is always fun to see her, but with the reappearance of both Col. Sponz and San Theodoros this story inevitably feels like a bit of a retread. There is also a strange mean spiritedness and cynicism at play - as Confessor noted our hero feels very passive and rather unheroic here.
#16 - Land of Black Gold: Given the complicated series of delays and re-writes that Black Gold underwent it is remarkable how well stitched together the end result feels, with Hergé even poking fun at how implausible the re-appearance of Captain Haddock is. It will never be one of my favourites - a little too dry in both narrative and setting and the dark atmosphere of the start falls away anti-climactically, a victim no doubt of the real life issues behind the book but it is always good to see Doctor Müller (still Tintin's most dangerous enemy in my view) and I especially love Oliveira de Figueira's method of distraction via storytelling!
#15 - The Black Island: There is a lot to like about this book and I hesitated about putting this book so low in the rankings because objectively it is probably better to some stories I ranked higher. Still, subjectively I've never quite warmed to it as much as some people because of two related issues that I can't even really call flaws because they are intentional. Most of this book is set in England and Scotland and as I am Irish that immediately removes a certain... exoticism from the story that is present in most of the other stories, even in those set in Belgium. I am just too familiar with Britain to have that sense of escapism. The other, related issue, is that the art was updated in the 1960s and not only does that further erode the exotic flavour (to my eyes) but it sits jarringly with a story that has a very strong Thirties feel and sits between two very Thirties stories. As I said I recognise that my objections are more subjective with this one and it really is objectively a good and exciting yarn, well told.
#14 - Destination Moon: Even more than Black Island I get that my take is very subjective here and both books of the 'Lunar Duology' have much to recommend them. And yet... I suppose as I said in reply to Confessor's review these books just leave me cold. I'm just not interested in the space race or rocketry so all the meticulous research Hergé is showing off feels more exhausting than fascinating to me personally. There is a drab and sterile air to this book too with so much of the action taking place in grim and barren mountains or in the industrial bowels of concrete laboratories where everyone is wearing jumpsuits. Fr someone who loves Tintin in great part because of the wonderful background art of exotic locales this all feels claustrophobic, even depressing. I respect what this book does without really liking it.
#13 - Explorers on the Moon: My feelings on Explorers are almost identical to those on Destination but I rate Explorers higher because of its greater tension and excitement and the remarkable pathos of Wolff's sacrifice. Neither volume will ever be my 'go-to' Tintin but this one moves me far more.
#12 - The Shooting Star: The first quarter to a third of this book have an incredibly dark and oppressive atmosphere. As others like Harry Thompson have noted this feels like a book written in wartime where the occupiers are close at hand and there is a real sense of helplessness. After that we shift into more an adventure yarn, thrilling and well told (and featuring maybe my favourite Captain Haddock moment ever - 'Nice little breeze isn't it?') but not as groundbreaking as the opening act. Not that I would want the fear and despair to continue exactly just that the shift is tonally weird. Even so this is classic Tintin as explorer work with some unique and memorable art - giant spiders and exploding mushrooms and Tintin and Snowy trapped on a sinking island.
#11 - The Secret of the Unicorn: Even in 1943 I'm sure this felt like a throwback to the 'Tintin as detective' stories when he had already transitioned into more of an apolitical explorer figure. With the benefit of hindsight it gives the book a strangely nostalgic air - in some respects this is the last we see of the pre-war Tintin living alone as he will soon move away from Labrador Road to Marlinspike Hall. The highlight of the book is naturally the amazing flashback scenes to Sir Francis Haddock and his escapades. Exposition and build up for the next book but by God is it fun exposition!
#10 - The Broken Ear: This book weaves together so much of what made the early classic era memorable - a lot of humour (including the wonderfully dark joke where Tintin is rescued from a firing squad only to be immediately re-arrested because the revolution is in such flux), exotic locales and timely political satire. The Arumbaya fetish is arguably the first truly iconic object of the series and there is a strong pulp era vibe that gives the story a whiff of Indiana Jones. Where this falls down is in the art which varies widely from the excellent to the surprisingly slapdash - excluding the never colourised Soviets this is probably the most uneven looking book in the run.
#9 - Tintin in Tibet: A wonderful, frequently beautiful book that is also the most emotional of Tintin tales. The humour and action are, understandably, toned down here and to get the most 'oopmh' out the volume you really have to have read The Blue Lotus but this is still the most heartfelt Tintin book even if it is not the most exciting or funniest. Also, yeti!
#8 - Flight 714: I have very mixed feelings about this one. As I said before I loved it when I was young and there still is a great deal I love about it. The first half of the book is top tier classic Tintin adventure up there with the likes of the Calculus Affair and with even better art. It is clever, characterful and funny with maybe the best one page sight gag in the series Laszlo Carreidas making an immediately memorable not-quite an antagonist - you won't like him but you'll certainly remember him. Roberto Rastapopoulos and Allan both make their last appearance here (excepting the possible role in the unfinished Alph-Art) and they are very entertaining, if a little defanged. Where the book falls down to me is the sudden swerve into 'Chariots of the Gods' territory. I'm not entirely against aliens existing in the Tintin-verse and their role here feels very period appropriate for the sixties and seventies but they quickly puncture any tension in what until this point been a spirited adventure, rob Tintin and his friends of agency and come across as rather unsettling in a way that I don't think was entirely intentional. A book of high highs and low lows here.
#7 - The Seven Crystal Balls: An intriguing little mystery with some lovely character work and some surprisingly insightful commentary on the ethics of archaeology vs grave-robbing. It is overshadowed by the second book in the 'Inca Duology' but there really is a lot here to work with one of the most sustained comedic setpieces in Tintin where Captain Haddock all but demolishes a theatre and a great sense of eeriness throughout.
#6 - The Blue Lotus: Widely regarded as the moment the Tintin books 'grew their beard'The Blue Lotus is a dazzling triumph of artistry, research and searing political commentary about then then contemporary Japanese invasion of China. It is also the emotional peak of the series with the possible exception Tintin in Tibet (which requires reading this book first to really appreciate it.) Globetrotting, exotic locales, a genuinely memorable and dangerous villain, excitement, heart... really the only flaw in the book is that the humour is a little thinner on the ground here for the simple reason that it would clash with the tone. Still a definite masterpiece.
#5 - The Calculus Affair: Strangely enough I have very little memory of reading this as a child, though I must have done. I can't think why I have forgotten it since it is so very good, a classic Cold War era action adventure espionage with lots of comedy - this is Tintin does North by Northwest. In fact except for The Castafiore Emerald, which is a pure comedy, this might be the funniest book in the series. That Hergé could marry all this to a genuinely exciting plot about spies, counterspies and secret weapons is remarkable. Even with the condemnation of the arms race it is still a light read, which probably makes it feel less deep but it is all marked by a breezy pace from an artist and writer at the top of his powers.
#4 - Prisoners of the Sun: With one exception Prisoners is the epitome of the 'Tintin as explorer' subgenre. This is an unashamedly pulpy story of globetrotting and exotic locales, this time extending to outright hidden cities. The pulpy atmosphere is only increased by the first absolutely overt appearance of what had merely been hinted at in The Seven Crystal Balls - the paranormal. With stunning art and a lively pace this story is amazing, though as Confessor pointed out the treatment of the Peruvian people can now feel a little dated.
#3 - King Ottokar's Sceptre: The pinnacle of the 'solo Tintin' era, Hergé's tribute to The Prisoner of Zenda is as beautiful and intricate as the traditional uniforms of the Syldavian royal guards. For the first time Hergé let his imagination free in conjuring up a very real seeming Balkan kingdom that also served as a setting for high adventure and a neat stand in for the Austrian Anchluss. I've always loved the period feel so many Tintin stories give and this book, though inspired by a novel from the 1890s feels indelibly of it's time. It is impressive stuff and a real personal favourite for me.
#2 - The Castafiore Emerald: The most divisive of Tintin books and as much as I love it I can really see why so many people don't. For me is simply a marvellously funny and entertaining character study of our heroes at home and how they deal with a domestic crisis that they can't punch or outwit themselves out of. it is an entertaining comedy manners that suffers only so much in that you need to be innately familiar with the characters - I'd never recommend this to anyone as their first Tintin book!
#1 - Red Rackham's Treasure: Nostalgia is a strange and powerful beast. Objectively speaking I'd probably say that The Calculus Affair is a better book than Red Rackham's Treasure - funnier, with crisper art and more action. Yet I prefer Red Rackham's Treasure. Partly it is that amazing cover with Tintin and Snowy in their shark-shaped submersible beneath the waves in a richly textured green-blue world. Partly it is the introduction of Professor Calculus and the purchase of Marlinspike Hall which is the moment all of the elements of Tintin finally click into place. But I guess what appeals to me most is the sheer sense of romance of the story. This is our heroes going on an old fashioned treasure expedition to some undiscovered corner of the map. It is a wonderfully appealing, escapist notion and Hergé paints the picture very well with comedy and character beats. It helps enormously that this such a good looking book with its tropical islands, its multicoloured fish and jellyfish swimming through the brine and the great set piece of the sunken Unicorn herself. It just brings together everything I love about these books - adventure, friendship, comedy, wanderlust.
I think there are books in the series that are better than Red Rackham's Treasure at any one thing, but for me the heady mix of this book sums up everything when I think of the name Tintin.
Great mini-reviews there, rossn. I really enjoyed reading those. They're well written too.
You know, I was thinking, why don't you do a review thread yourself? You could do an Asterix one, like you mentioned? The series certainly has its fans in the forum. Or, if I'm remembering correctly, didn't you once suggest to me that a Further Adventures of Indiana Jones review thread would be good? I'd definitely be up for following a FAOIJ one, if you did one, but really, I'd follow any review thread you did. You're a good writer and have interesting opinions to share about what you read, so that makes you the perfect candidate for doing reviews.
Maybe it's because I've watched countless stories set in England, many in large country homes, but I enjoyed this one more than most.
I really started to feel sorry for Haddock. He finds out Castafiore is coming, and plans to evacuate, only to learn it's too late. Than he finds himself trapped due to an injury, and from there, his aches and pains just keep increasing exponentially. The one grand moment of relief (or payback?) was when he deliberately let that ANNOYING-AS-HELL parrot into the room where the TV crew was trying to do a broadcast... then, after, acting completely nonchalant. He was so calm and reserved in that scene, you just KNEW he was the guilty party, and no doubt straining to contain his glee at giving back some of what he'd been receiving.
I never quite noticed it before, but in this story, Bianca reminds me of a good friend of mine of the last 2 years, the daughter of a home care client I had who was in his 90s. As far as I was concerned, there was nothing romantic, but we hit it off as friends so fast, within days I came to think of her as an adopted aunt I never had (while I thought of her father as an adopted grandfather I never had). My friend, like Bianca, had a TEMPER, but she never directed it at me (and she was going through a very difficult time). On the other hand, one thing she wasn't was self-absorbed. Bianca often seems completely oblivious to the thoughts and feelings of others, always somehow assuming everything is wonderful. It's amusing that something that seems almost trivial-- a particular magazine publishing photos of her-- should SET HER OFF and keep her in a foul mood for DAYS!!
It was a novelty to have so many little mysteries going on at once, each being solved one by one, without any genuine criminality behind any of it. This was fun to see unfold. By comparison, last year I was re-watching "MISS MARPLE" with Joan Hickson, and after decades finally found that they were SO complex, SO impenetrable, SO impossible to make heads or tails of, that the only solution was to watch each story TWICE, back-to-back, before moving on to the next one. Otherwise, I found myself incapable of remembering all the EXCESSIVELY-SUBTLE details and clues. Watching each one twice, the 2nd time around, I was finally able to really enjoy the stories, simply because at least I had some idea of what the HELL was going on.
I've seen numerous examples of gypsies in films over the years. In the 1st CAMPION story with Peter Davison, "Look To The Lady", he's known and trusted by a group of them (under a false name), who wind up coming to his rescue to clobber a group of bad guys. Then there's the famous SHERLOCK HOLMES story, "The Speckled Band", where a nearby gypsy caravan, parked with permission on the estate of the story's villain, becomes a temporary red herring (as they did here!). In the 1965 Douglas Wilmer version, Holmes tells Watson, "I feel I owe them an apology." "You mean they're NOT involved?" "Not in the least." Meanwhile, in the 1983 Ian Richardson version of "The Hound of the Baskervilles", Holmes is seen disguised as one of the gypsies (a sequence NOT in the novel at all) and insists on telling Beryl Stapleton's fortune (as he either suspects or KNOWS she's not quite what she seems).
Another favorite moment in the story was when Bianca SLAMS the door in Wagg's face. ABOUT TIME somebody did!
I can relate to the troubles of getting a contractor over to your house to do some work. All the same, the repeated instances of one person after another all tripping and hurting themselves on that step got ridiculous, especially after it had been repaired. I'm reminded of the day my contractor had just laid a FRESH cement sidewalk. Despite our standing right there, and a rope in the way, we could not believe our eyes when a pair of COMPLETE IDIOTS walked right onto the cement. Fortunately it was already starting to dry, but he had to go back over and smoothe it out before it needed to be done all over again.
The parrot was another thing that was just inexcusable. You DO NOT give pets as gifts. EVER. If someone wants a pet, it has to be their idea, and they have to pick it out themselves. Haddock's just putting up with it, without objecting, and without going to the trouble of finding someone else to take it... or just SHOOTING the thing... beggars belief.
Last Edit: May 31, 2020 11:31:30 GMT -5 by profh0011