Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Book-A-Day 2018 #290: The Adventures of Tintin, Vol 2 by Herge

Return with us once again to the thrilling days of the interwar era! Thrill as a daring boy reporter foils villainous plots and confronts fiendish criminals! Experience the romance of rail and the heights of early commercial aviation! Muse at the drunkenness of children and animals repeatedly played for laughs! Note that natives and swarthy South Americans are actually less racist than you may have expected! See our hero work tirelessly to defeat rebels of all stripes and support military dictators and kings!

Yes, I read another omnibus of Tintin books. To repeat what I said about the first omnibus: I've never actually read Tintin before. (Americans mostly didn't grow up with him the way Europeans did.)

To repeat another thing I said: these omnibuses are substantially smaller than the original album size, which makes them nicely portable but not the best option for older, more tired eyes.

The Adventures of Tintin, Vol. 2 is "the green one," and collects books 6-8 of Herge's long-running and hugely successful series: The Broken Ear (serialized 1935-37, reprinted as a book 1937, colorized 1943), The Black Island (serialized '37-38, book '38, color '43 and revised '66), and King Ottakar's Sceptre (serialized '38-39, book '39, color '47).

Note that those dates are from the linked Wikipedia article and don't precisely match the copyright dates in the book itself -- the latter lists what may be further revised art in '84 for Ear and Island and '75 for Sceptre, plus what I think are the dates of the current English translations as '75, '66, and '58, respectively. So much of the racism (or other potentially-offensive material) whose absence I noted above might have been scrubbed quietly in the interim.

As before, Tintin is officially a reporter, but he doesn't do any reporting, or have any identifiable source of income. He seems to be an independently wealthy emancipated pre-teen, moderately famous -- so my half-serious guess is that he's a recently retired child star, whose parents are out of the picture after trying to steal his fortune.

All three of these stories send him globe-trotting -- first to a fictional South American country, then to England, and finally to a Ruritanian kingdom somewhere vaguely Eastern European. And our boy hero is in physical peril regularly from the various naughty sorts who are never strong, clever or quick enough to stop him. In the end, all of their schemes are foiled and they're captured by the legitimate authorities, often but not always incarnated as Tintin's most/least favorite detectives, Thomson and Thompson.

It's a sturdy formula, and Herge executed it well in these three books. (My guess is that he did it well consistently through his long career, but I don't want to speak for books I haven't read yet.) I still think this stuff is best if you encounter it when you're young and impressionable, but it's still rip-roaring fun for this man in his late forties.

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