Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Blistering Barnacles!

Tintin and I is on tonight on PBS. I can't wait.

My brother and I grew up on Tintin books- we both liked them, but he was the real fan: every time he got any money he'd race down to the bookstore to buy another one. They didn't get them in all at once, so we'd search through the piles to see if there was one we hadn't seen. I didn't know about publishing and ordering, of course so I thought Herge was drawing them for us, which explained why a couple months would pass before we'd find a new one. We studied each of the covers of the Tintin books carefully- each one was a cause for celebration.

We were really excited to see the Castafiore Emerald because we liked the irritating opera singer Madame Castafiore. She was loud.

Explorers on the Moon sent us around the bend- our dad was studying astrophysics, which we knew had something to do with space.

I had to be reassured at great length that we should NOT go around avoiding windows when it rained because of the ball lightning that featured prominently in The Seven Crystal Balls.

We read them over and over, and we could have been, back then, Tintinologists, had we known they existed.

Tintin books are like James Bond for kids. Once you grow up, though, you can't enjoy them unless you put a whole lot of your psyche on hold. Tintin doesn't use sexy women as human shields, but these books are offensive to just about everyone except blonde guys with Pee Wee hair. I wish they weren't, because they're great stories and they're so much fun to read.

I'm interested to see the special because I think Herge is a genius artist, but I'm not sure I want adult examination: I want to foil the Thompson Twins and imagine that I am Snowy and memorize Capn' Haddock's swears, which are surely some of the greatest literature ever written. People who are lucky enough to know my Thom well know that he follows the great literary tradition of Captain Haddock, particularly in moments of anger.

There's a great Tintin Flash site here. You can make Cap'n Haddock itch if you click "characters". Snowy was my favorite, though. He always came along for the ride.

Tintin was too smart and weirdly hairdoed for a kid to identify with him. It was easier to put myself into the place of Snowy, who was often confused about the plot and liable to wander off and get lost, but who was loyal and good in a tight spot.

( Translation: "Hi, hi, hi! I will never return! Hi, hi, hi! There's nothing left for me to do but die on his tomb!)

Herge was such a great artist that he's a legend. Especially to cartoonists. He made a huge number of books and every frame he drew was great. His work is deceptively simple and humblingly complicated at the same time. The compositions, the flatness, and the color are incredible. There are tons of beautiful, casual moments of greatness.

(Click the image for a larger picture.)

His influence can't be calculated.

Even by professor Calculus.

A Tintin design was almost on the Euro:

PBS has put together a really great site in connection with the Herge special- I'm stunned by how great this site is: it's been put together by someone who really knows alternative comics. There are extensive interviews with comic book artists talking about Herge: they've got Phoebe Gloekner, Seth, Daniel Clowes, Chris Ware and more. There are even links to their own art online. It's amazing. Seth and Chris Ware, especially, owe a huge debt to Herge...

And hey Ben! There's one we haven't read!

Coming up next time: more personified animals.


Arrive Magnificent said...

I never thought of myself as a comics kid, but of course I ate them up like all good kiddos do: and that meant hundreds of ARCHIE comics! I love how their lazy style drifts so often into nonsense, like no one who made them cared about anything other than deadlines and more crazy issues.

Sam Simpson said...

You know, I read those archie comics too, but I don't remember them not making sense...Now I want to go find some!

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