The Explanation
(for those who require one)

And, of course, that is what all of this is -- all of this: the one song, ever changing, ever reincarnated, that speaks somehow from and to and for that which is ineffable within us and without us, that is both prayer and deliverance, folly and wisdom, that inspires us to dance or smile or simply to go on, senselessly, incomprehensibly, beatifically, in the face of mortality and the truth that our lives are more ill-writ, ill-rhymed and fleeting than any song, except perhaps those songs -- that song, endlesly reincarnated -- born of that truth, be it the moon and June of that truth, or the wordless blue moan, or the rotgut or the elegant poetry of it. That nameless black-hulled ship of Ulysses, that long black train, that Terraplane, that mystery train, that Rocket '88', that Buick 6 -- same journey, same miracle, same end and endlessness."
-- Nick Tosches, Where Dead Voices Gather

My Favourite Roving Reporter

Sadly, I missed out on the July 20 Tintin Festival in Brussels last month, but I would have loved to have been there to celebrate the history of one of the most wonderful creations in the history of graphic narrative.

If you've never read any of Georges "Herge" Remy's comic adventures, they're readily available in any major chain book store or comics shop worth its salt, chronicling the tales of boy reporter Tintin, his faithful hound Snowy and, after the early volumes, his profane alcoholic cohort Captain Haddock. I started reading these stories around age 7, and thankfully my parents weren't paying close enough attention to note the books' portrayals of drug smuggling, drunken binges and the occasional racial stereotype in the earlier books from the '30s and '40s.

Remy's attention to graphic detail, outlandish supporting characters and a wide swath of international intrigue made them fascinating reading at an early age, and they hold up pretty well decades later. Supposedly Spielberg has the film rights, and has made some noise about actually producing a Tintin feature, although there were French language live-action films produced in the '60s--and more obscurely, a stop motion animation version of The Crab With the Golden Claws in 1941--not to mention two separate animated TV series of varying degrees of faithfulness. There's also Philippe de Broca's That Man From Rio, an entertaining adventure starring Belmondo that just happens to be a direct swipe from the Tintin adventure The Broken Ear, and while not official Tintin, is pretty entertaining in its own right (and, bringing things full circle, a heavy influence on Indiana Jones).

Don't be a bashi-bazouk, get some Tintin in your library tout suite.


Bonny Stormer said...

Hear hear!

Rob said...

Oh yeah! Tintin, and Asterix, my two big faves from Europe. Tintin stories were crackerjack adventures, and the artwork was peerless. I, too, read them from an early age, and when I met my wife, who is French, we had wonderful connections in comics! I read about the Festival - it would've been fun! I actually saw some of the animated episodes, but I would love to see a live-action film. Altho Belmondo comes close!


Tom Sutpen said...

As I think I told Stephen, until he started mentioning it with some regularity, I was unfamiliar with Tintin as anything more than just a name sailing through the breezes of Pop culture, so this very nice write-up only causes me to ask: Is there a compenduious collection, a 'Complete Tintin' available . . . anywhere?

swac said...

A "Complete Tintin" would put a hole in your floor. But more recently they have been anthologizing some of the adventures in single volumes, especially two-parters like the Unicorn adventure (it's a ship, not an actual mythical beast) which is where I'd recommend novice Tintin readers start, or the Voyage to the Moon adventure. There are also single volumes that collect three complete stories in one book, but they're also smaller than the regular books, and the impact of Tintin's visual splendour is reduced. I often find these in used book stores, try looking for an adventure or two there.

Just keep in mind that the earlier adventures (sans Captain Haddock, who happens to be my MSN avatar) are a bit cruder, but still worth reading.

Bill Chinaski said...

i remember reading this comic in the dentist's office when i was a kid. really brilliant, imaginative stuff. seeing this makes me want to read it again. thanks!

Brooklyn Blowhard said...

They ran Tin Tin on NYC television in the 60's, and I was a big fan. I never realized how popular this series was until I heard a feature on NPR last week, where the fan club president was interviewed.

swac said...

There was a later Tintin series done by Toronto-based Nelvana that was closer to the books than the '60s cartoons, and was recently released to DVD in French-speaking Canada (available on Even though there's no mention of it on the packaging, the English-language soundtracks are included. Unfortunately, the live-action Asterix films--featuring Gerard Depardieu as Obelix--which were issued on DVD in Quebec do not include English soundtracks or subtitles. Go figure.