Friday, May 24, 2019

My never-ending quest to understand Tintin

I recently read the Unshaved Mouse’s review of The Adventures of Tintin and that made me decide to revisit Tintin. For at least the third time.

I know that Tintin is a revolutionary comic strip/book series that is beloved in almost every corner of the globe except for my own country. But I’ve never been able to get into Tintin.

I think part of my problem is that I found out about Tintin when I also discovering comic books like Sandman or The Books of Magic. Tintin wasn’t edgy or dramatic in the same way those books were. I also found the art ‘cartoony’ and the stories strangely dense. 

(I have since realized that the comics were originally serialized so each page had to stand on its own so the density makes a lot more sense)

However, I had this ridiculously belated realization about Tintin that  seriously changed my perspective on the comic: Tintin started in 1929 and had hit its stride by the early 1930s. In comparison, Superman first appeared in 1938 and Batman in 1939.

When I look at what Tintin’s contemporaries were, Tintin is amazing. Seriously, artistically and story-telling-wise, Tintin seems decades ahead of its time. Clean, well done art. Okay, beautiful art. Surprisingly intricate storylines.

Mind you, one of Tintin’s strong points is a stumbling block at least for me. Tintin is practically a tableau rosa, both visually and personality-wise. Seriously, the guy makes cottage cheese seem spicy in comparison. Tintin will always do the right thing. He will eventually solve every problem. He will put you in the hospital if you hurt his dog. And that’s pretty much Tintin.

On paper, Tintin is practically Batman between his ability to fight and solve mysteries but he’s just so bland. And that’s kind of the point. He is a blank slate that we can project ourselves on. But he’s just not engaging to me.

(Captain Haddock, on the other hand, is great. And, if I had to make the choice, I’d rather be locked in a death trap with Tintin than Batman. I’d get out either way but Tintin would be nicer about it)

This time around, I’m starting my latest exploration of Tintin with the Cigars of the Pharaoh. (Not going anywhere near Tintin in the Congo) And while I am still not yet a fan, I can see more and more why generations of readers are. 

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