Duck Duck Book

52 – tintin
03.24.2008, 8:03 am
Filed under: art & entertainment, comix

Tintin : the complete companion / Michael Farr.
San Francisco : Last Gasp, c2002.
[MCL call number: 741.59493 H545f 2002; 6 copies, 2 holds]

When I was a kid, my older brothers set the standard for comics-reading. They were dedicated, they were opinionated, and of course they were older than me so I spent a good deal of time trying to be like them. One brother read mostly superheroes: Daredevil, the Fantastic Four, and the Batman; the other generally preferred war and horror comics: Sgt. Rock, House of Horror, and Tales from the Crypt. I diligently read their hand-me-downs, even though most of the time I couldn’t quite see what the thrill was, except that I really liked Daredevil and anything with a girl superhero. However, I was never fully satisfied with superheroes, G.I. Joe, and horror stories, so when I could get to the bookstore that sold used comics for 10 cents a piece I bought Archie, Betty & Veronica, Richie Rich, and 50s-vintage Katy Keene, brothers be damned.

But we all read Tintin. I read all the Tintins I could get my hands on, and I read them as many times as I could. I borrowed them, begged them for presents, and occasionally when I was unusually wealthy, I bought one for myself.

We knew that Tintin and his author/cartoonist Hergé were Belgian, although I always thought Tintin himself had a sort of English flavor. I don’t recall ever once thinking about how Tintin was created, or wondering whether there were any substantive differences between the French-language originals and the translations I read. Little did I know, not only have these and many other Tintin-related questions been seriously studied, but there are enough people firmly dedicated to this work that they have a special name: Tintinoligists.

In Tintin: The Complete Companion, Tintinoligist Michael Farr endeavors to tell the story behind the creation of each and every one of the Tintin books. Farr focuses partly on Hergé’s life; partly on analysis of the Tintin stories as literature and the story of Hergé’s source material for characters, plots, and images; and partly on the history of Tintin publishing. Although Farr’s prose is a little uneven, this combination of subjects makes very interesting reading, especially for anyone familiar with some of the Tintin books. In particular, the juxtaposition of finished Tintin panels and clippings from Hergé’s extensive source files sheds clear light on how the comics were made.

For example, page 32 is entirely taken up with a photograph of the Chanin Building in Chicago, reproduced, the caption says, in the periodical Le Crapouillot. Page 33 shows two versions of the scene Tintin in America when Tintin slips out the window and balances on the teensiest ledge on the outside of a building to escape detection, to listen in on the bad guys’ conversation — the black and white panel from 1932, and the color version from 1945. The book is filled with similar comparisons of source material to finished product: airplanes, automobiles, trains, ships, clothing and jewelry, religious artifacts, exotic fruit, whiskey bottles, city skylines, street scenes, houses, machinery, working harbors, and even people who were the physical models for characters in Tintin’s adventures. The story of how each book was created, the details of the transformation of early books from black and white to color and all the books from French to various translations, and the bits of Hergé’s biography are all interesting, but the evidence showing Hergé’s incredible commitment to accuracy in all the details of illustration is what I found most fascinating.

Each of Farr’s chapters discusses one or two books, and as you have by now gathered, each is liberally illustrated with panels from the early newspaper strip, the revised color edition that came out later, and source photographs and clippings from Hergé’s extensive picture files. Tintin: The Complete Companion has a modest index, but no other supplemental material. In fact, it suffers rather sharply from the lack of any bibliography of Tintinology or Tintin comic books. Despite this lack, I recommend it highly, especially for fond readers of Tintin.


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Love the new look! Enjoy yr blog….


Comment by JC

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