Rating the Tintin Comics

Rating the Tintin Stories

Not all things are created equal, and the same is true for Tintin comics. Overall, our favorite albums ran through the mid-1940’s to the late 1950’s. The art, characters, and stories were more sophisticated and full of action. During this period, Hergé hit his stride with Tintin as an investigative reporter and several complex story elements. The introduction of villains like Colonel Sponz (a sinister Nazi-looking baddie), Doctor Müller, and Colonel Jorgen made the stories richer and therefore lent the comics opportunities for bigger thrills. During this period, we also see more of Skut, the enemy pilot turned repentant friend. We also see more of Bianca Castafiore and get to meet Joylon Wagg, both for comic relief. We especially like Joylen Wagg.

Here are the comics listed from our most favorite to the least.

  1. Explorers on the Moon (it blows us away that Hergé researched this story so intensely and that he got so much right even though it was 15 years before the first moon landing).
  2. Destination Moon (a thrilling story leading up to the moon landing).
  3. Red Rackham’s Treasure (the hunt is on and a surprising and rewarding conclusion awaits! The first appearance of Calculus!)
  4. The Secret of the Unicorn (like Destination Moon; a fantastic set-up for the story)
  5. The Calculus Affair (mature story-telling in the vein of 1950’s espionage films)
  6. The Crab with the Golden Claws (our first Tintin! The first appearance of Captain Haddock!)
  7. Land of the Black Gold (even in the 1950’s, oil in the Middle East was causing trouble; the Thompsons are big players in this story and are hilarious)
  8. The Red Sea Sharks (return of Rastapopulous and Allan; intro of Abdullah (how badly we want to beat that boy!), an improvement on Tintin in the Congo in subject matter – still, though)
  9. Cigars of the Pharoah (secret societies are fun! The Thompsons first appearance!)
  10. The Seven Crystal Balls (we really like Calculus; again another set-up story for a two-parter, but this one’s better than the second for a change)
  11. Prisoners of the Sun (not really much into Inca culture, so we’re biased on this one but The Seven Crystal Balls is better anyway)
  12. King Ottakar’s Scepter (travelling to Eastern Europe? Love the scenary! Bianca’s first appearance)
  13. Tintin and the Picaros (complex story – sort of a political statement on corruption in South American politics)
  14. The Shooting Star (a sea adventure, has its good moments)
  15. The Black Island (starts of well, but the ending is a let down)
  16. Flight 714 (secret tunnels, remote island, the return of Rastapopulous! The ending is as out-of-place as Asterix and the Falling Sky)
  17. Tintin in Tibet (again, like The Black Island; starts off well, but ends up poorly for the same reasons as Black Island)
  18. The Castafiore Diamond (a classic who-done-it? good: takes place in Marlinspike Hall (which we really like), Bianca and Haddock get lots of time together, so there’s plenty of humor; bad: dull at times and the ending is a let-down)
  19. The Blue Lotus (imperialism and racism affect the ability to enjoy the story)
  20. The Broken Ear (boring)
  21. Tintin in American (it makes sense that the story feels like mini-vignettes since the book was originally published in strips; still, probably wouldn’t have helped; boring too)
  22. Tintin in the Congo (terrible all around; Si quieres ver que tan horíble es, lea Tintin En El Congo en español)

We haven’t read Tintin in the Land of the Soviets or Tintin and Alph-Art, so we can’t rank them. Tintin and the Lake of Sharks isn’t part of the mainstream canon, but we would put it somewhere into the middle of the pack. If it hadn’t been a cartoon first, it probably would have been better.

Take a look at the Tintin Cover Gallery!

Tintin Movie vs. Tintin Comic

The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn hasn’t hit American shores yet, so we don’t know how true the movie is to the books. The movie is actually a combination of three of the comic books: The Crab with the Golden Claws (1941), The Secret of the Unicorn (1943), and Red Rackham’s Treasure (1944). There is already talk of a sequel and perhaps more. We hope that Destination Moon (1953) and Explorers on the Moon (1954) are made into films. They are two of our favorites. The Land of the Black Gold (1950) would also be on our list, as well as The Calculus Affair (1956) and The Red Sea Sharks (1958).

Our next post will be a list of Tintin books in order of most favorite to least favorite. For the remainder of this post, we thought you might enjoy a comparison of some stills from the movie and their corresponding shots from the comics. They’re not perfect matches since the stories do diverge but close enough we say!

Thomson & Thompson

Tintin’s cast of characters includes a couple of buffoons in the tradition of Chief Inspector Jacques Clouseau of Pink Panther fame (although Thomson & Thompson came well before). Thomson & Thompson are two Scotland Yard detectives whose presence in stories adds wonderful comic relief. They are both a bit dim, very clumsy, and generally clueless. While they look very similar and they dress the same, they are actually not related. Since they look almost identical and interchangeably play the role of straight man and cut-up, it’s difficult to tell which is which, but the mustaches give them away. Thomson has a bit of a flare while Thompson is more or less straight. See here.

Tintin, Thomson and Thompson

Incidentally, although their names are spelled differently, collectively they are referred to as the Thompsons. We shall forthwith do the same.

The first appearance of Thomson & Thompson was in Cigars of the Pharoah where they are under orders to arrest Tintin. This won’t be the last time. Although they later become fast friends, in the early albums, the Thompsons are a suspicious duo and with just the slightest questionable piece of evidence, they are ready to prematurely solve the case and if necessary take Tintin into custody. This sort of poor policemanship drives frustrates everyone, particularly Captain Haddock, and several times throughout the series the Captain, as he wont to do with anyone he considers a “nitwit,”  hurls volcanic verbal abuse at the Yard’s “Siamese Twins.”

The Scotland Yard Detectives

The first appearance of Thomson & Thompson in The Adventures of Tintin: Cigars of the Pharoah.

The Thompsons figure in at least minor roles throughout the series and appear in every book after Cigars except Tintin in Tibet and Flight 714.  Some of their appearances are quite brief, the shortest of which is a cameo in The Shooting Star where they appear briefly in a crowd seeing Tintin and Captain Haddock off as they prepare to investigate a mysterious meteorite. In some stories like the two-part moon exploration stories (Destination Moon and Explorers on the Moon), they play heavily integral roles.

Hergé chose to redraw his early black and white adventures including Cigars. By then, the Thompsons were well known so it was a bit confusing to figure out when they were actually familiar and when they were just suspicious detectives who knew Tintin only by name and reputation. Since we read the adventures in English (which were published out of order), it was frustrating because without knowing that the stories had been redrawn we couldn’t figure out why the apparently newer stories (meaning the ones with the cleaner line style Hergé  used as his artistry developed) showed this lack of familiarity after they had shared many adventures together. While we are grateful for the improved drawings, we would appreciated it if Mr. Hergé and the English publishers would have informed us of the actual chronology of the stories.

Just to add to the confusion, Hergé also presented the boys on the first page of Tintin in the Congo (which is chronologically older than Cigars) during his ill-conceived re-draw of that abomination. Poor Thompsons. You too are now part of the tragedy.

Thomson and Thompson

Besides being bumbling and inept, their speech mannerisms (called spoonerisms) are often just as funny as Captain Haddock’s profanity-laced biological and archaeological insults. When one of the detectives utters a statement, the other rejoins with the intent of validating the statement but ends up muddling the intended point. These chime-ins often expresses exactly what others most likely think of them but demonstrate their obliviousness to the mistake. Some examples:

Thomson: Good morning… Er… Here we are at last…
Thompson: To be precise: good morning. Here we are, last as usual..

Thomson: “We’ve searched South America from top to bottom, sir, without result. We lost all trace of Tintin, the Captain, and the Professor.”  Thompson: “To be precise: we got lost.”

Thomson: “What news! Plenty! Something very odd has just happened!”
Thompson: “To be precise…we just happen to be very odd!”

Sometimes both get muddled. For example, when meeting King Muskar XII:
Thompson: “Majesty, you sire is very good…Good Majesty…no, I mean…”
Thomson: “To be precise…it’s a majesty, Your Pleasure…”

When Tintin asks them how they are, they reply:
Thomson: “Hmm… All right… We can’t deny that we’re right as ever.”
Thompson: “Quite right… quite right… To be precise: we can deny that we’re ever right.”

We’ve compiled a gallery of some of the more preposterous incidents with the Thompsons. Take a look…
Thomson and Thompson from Tintin

Tintin in the Congo – Racism and Animal Cruelty

Tintin AdventuresWe might as well get this one out of the way. With the upcoming movie, it is likely that new fans will want to learn more about Hergé’s world famous creation, Tintin. If they dig deep enough, the curious will discover some not so pleasant things. In the early stages of his career Hergé hadn’t really fleshed out the Tintin character and his adventures were fairly infantile. The audience was mostly young kids so the stories didn’t need to be anything profound or intricate. During Hergé’s first forays into the Tintin storyline, the world was in the midst of profound change. Europe was between two world wars, Bolshevism was rising, and colonialism was dying. Hergé’s first story (published in a Belgian children’s newspaper supplement in 1929), Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, was essentially a right-wing, anti-Communist propaganda piece directed at children. We’re not reviewing it here, but essentially the boy reporter, Tintin, travels to the USSR (the “Union of Soviet Socialist Republics” for you kids that don’t bother with geography or history — and if that doesn’t ring any bells either, go back to school and pay attention) to discover what the comradenicks up to are [can’t end a sentence in a preposition, right?]. Apparently, nothing good – the Bolsheviks are stealing food and killing the opposition. The book was probably successful in its time and locality but apparently in the subsequent Tintin canon, it didn’t really fit so it hasn’t been published regularly or in color. Besides Tintin and Alph-Art, this is the only other Tintin book we haven’t read (and we’ve read the others plenty, so our reviews will be thorough and well-researched … maybe).

Anyway, the next year, Hergé was commissioned to write/draw another piece. Tintin in the Congo was published in book form in 1931. It is the most controversial and most certainly the worst Tintin adventure (unless Soviets is the bottom of the barrel — we wouldn’t know since we haven’t bothered to read it). Congo is ill-researched, racist, horribly irresponsible, outrageously stupid, and … believe it or not, boring. Hergé’s publisher, a right-wing imperialist dog named Norbert Wallez, wanted to paint a glamorous picture of Belgian colonial success and benevolence in the Congo. It’s important to note that the 23-year-young Hergé was probably very heavily influenced by the philosophies of Wallez and therefore wasn’t really fully aware of how awful and dangerous his commissioned work was. Hergé actually apologized for it later in life. Wallez, by the way, no surprise, was an Anti-Semite and fascist.

Tintin in the CongoHergé isn’t completely off the hook for this atrocity, though. Most of his books have some level of racism, even in the form of a patronizing “Big White Brother” kind of thing.  Hergé actually had the audacity to redraw and color Congo in 1946. Redoing his early books was something he did often but clearly he hadn’t yet divorced himself from the misguided travesty by the end of WWII.

OK, having said all of this, you can obviously tell by other posts and resources on this blog that we are actually huge fans of Tintin’s  adventures – especially the middle ones.  They are brilliantly ingenious (Hergé takes them to the moon a decade before Armstrong touches down — and he’s pretty accurate on a lot of stuff), and can be enjoyed by all ages. Hergé’s “clear line” artwork is incredibly inventive and has heavily influenced comic book artists over the years.

Tintin in the CongoWe are, however, currently talking about Tintin in the Congo so we will complete this post with more details. As we noted, Hergé knew very little about the Congo and according to Wikipedia he did no significant research (and the research he did do was heavily biased towards the opinions of Catholic missionaries that had served in the Congo … see? … Big Brother …). And it isn’t just colonial jingoism. Animal rights groups probably have field days when they come across this book. It’s one thing to portray a safari as a grand adventure for adults (although, really? … give the “adventurers” pool sticks and push them out into the savanna, then we’ll be impressed), but to write and illustrate a children’s book with the indiscriminate and passionless killing of living creatures is just mind-boggling. But sport hunters have no souls, so there you are.Tintin in the Congo

And, yes. We’re ready for this: “But Comics A-Go-Go!, those were different times. Putting your 21st century sensibilities into a historical context that is very different than your world means you’re judging someone unfairly, and [blah, blah, blah.]” So, the excuse therefore is ignorance? And, perhaps, should we say, a lack of education? Maybe some social immaturity? Huh. So … the early 20th century European was really a savage too. Just a well-dressed one (except man-culottes really aren’t “the bomb”).

So, if you’re feeling like you want to be outraged, give Tintin in the Congo, a whirl. Sorry, we don’t have the English-language version and we’re not about to buy it, bless our souls. Hopefully the captions on the following page will help you out. If you read Spanish, we’ve also posted the entire comic for your pleasure or disgust.

Onward to the ridiculousness!

TIntin in the Congo comic

UPDATE: We just found out that the pickle dicks over at Chimpmania linked to the image above. Their shit is exactly the opposite of what we’re writing about in our posts. We love Tintin and we’re sad that Hergé wrote and drew some racist garbage. So, Chimpania, you can take your white (or whatever anti-black color) power stink pile and shove it back up from whence it came.

Racism and Animal Cruelty in Tintin



Tintin, the Boy Reporter

Adventures of Tintin comic books

While living in Chaing Mai, Thailand in our youth, we became acquainted with several kids  in the international community. What a milieu of adventurous  fun it was to experience so many different types of cultures and interests. Since there were more of everybody else than of us Americans, we had some adapting to do. It became second nature to combine play elements from various locations and cultures … like undertaking action-packed Dutch-speaking G.I. Joe missions, making rules up as we went along for Takraw Football (the American-ish version), telling Thai Pi (ghost) stories and running towards the spirit houses in our back yards to get away from imaginary monsters, and arranging Hello Kitty stickers (which was well before Hello Kitty invaded North America) on our Krazy Kar.  One kid from New Zealand, kind of a geeky, doughy boy, became our best chum in for a few weeks in 4th grade. Don’t rightly remember his name. For some reason “Monty” sticks in our craw, so Monty he will be. Monty was a big aficionado of comic books and in particular, he had these two amazing series we just fell in love with — Asterix and Tintin. Monty would lend them to us during the week and we would devour them over the weekend. The very first Tintin comic book we read was Tintin and the Crab with the Golden Claws. What ho! How could a couple of lads not like us not love the adventures of Tintin, the boy reporter, out and about spoiling the unpleasant doings of nefarious nasties? And with a cast of loonies to provide comic-relief, the books were both exciting AND funny.

Golly, what a time. So, given the impending U.S. release (December 21, 2011) of The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, it seemed right for the folks at Comics A-Go-Go! to begin a series of posts on our favorite Belgian (uh… well, our favorite Belgian excluding the Belgian turned Frenchwoman, Cécile De France).

So, let’s start. We’ll give you the cover gallery from the comic book series and over the course of several posts move on to reviews of the comics, character spotlights, and news about the movie: The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn.


Tintin Comics

Onward to the Gallery!