Adventures of Tintin: Cigars of the Pharaoh


By Hergé & various; translated by Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper & Michael Turner (Egmont)
ISBN: 978-1-40520-803-1 (HB)                    : 978-1-40520-615-0 (PB)

By the time Georges Remi began Tintin’s fourth serialised adventure – in weekly instalments in Le Petit Vingtiéme from December 1932 to February 1934 and gathered in a collected volume by Casterman in 1934 – he was well on the way to mastery of his art but was still growing as a writer.

Although the periodical format meant that a certain degree of slapstick and seemingly directionless action was necessary to keep the attention of the reader, Remi (known the world over as Hergé) was evolving by leaps and bounds, mastering the ability to integrate these set-piece elements into the building of a complete narrative.

Cigars of the Pharaoh is stylistically much more of a fully-realised and craftily-designed thriller, with a solid plot underpinning all the episodic hi-jinks.

Following directly on from Tintin in America, here the valiant boy reporter is returning from Chicago on an oceangoing liner headed to Egypt. Here he and Snowy meet Sophocles Sarcophagus – the first in a string of absent-minded professors which would ultimately culminate in the outlandishly irascible yet lovable Cuthbert Calculus.

Dithering archaeologist Sarcophagus has divined an ancient mystery that is somehow connected to a ring of ruthless drug smugglers. Tintin memorably encounters bumbling detectives Thompson and Thomson at this juncture, when narcotics are planted in his cabin, and a complex drama riotously unfolds as the lad and Sarcophagus discover a lost pyramid is not only the smuggler’s base but the foundation for a much darker game – the overthrow of nations!

Hergé introduced many other recurring and supporting characters in this tale. As well as the shambling policemen, there is the villainous seaman Captain Allan, globe-girdling small-trader Oliveira da Figueira and oily movie mogul Roberto Rastapopoulos, who would all figure strongly in later stories.

The author was gearing up for the long creative haul, and thus began inserting plot-seeds that would only flower in future projects…

When Tintin’s relentless investigations take him to India, where the villains are attempting to topple a Maharajah trying to destroy the Opium poppy industry, the plucky lad befriends the potentate and thwarts the plan of a crazed Fakir. This villain frequently employs a drug called Rajaijah, which permanently drives men mad, and is also somehow connected to the Egyptian gang.

The contemporary version of this tale was revised by Hergé in 1955, and sharp-eyed fans will spot a few apparent anachronisms, but the more open-minded will be able to unashamedly wallow in a timeless comedy-thriller of exotic intrigue and breakneck action.

Although the mystery of the Cigars of the Pharaoh ends satisfactorily with a climactic duel in the rugged and picturesque hill-country, the threat and relevance of Rajaijah would not be resolved until Hergé’s next tale, and his first masterpiece…

It’s hard to imagine that comics as marvellous as these still haven’t found their way onto everybody’s bookshelf, but if you are one of this underprivileged underclass, this lush series of hardback collections is a very satisfying way of rectifying that sorry situation. So why haven’t you..?
The Cigars of the Pharaoh: artwork © 1955, 1983 Editions Casterman, Paris & Tournai. Text © 1971 Egmont UK Limited. All Rights Reserved.

Tintin in America


By Hergé & various; translated by Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper & Michael Turner (Egmont)
ISBN: 978-1-40520-802-4 (HB)                    : 978-1-40520-614-3 (PB)

By the time Georges Remi, known the world over as Hergé, began the boy-hero’s third adventure Tintin in America (which ran from 1931-1932), he was well on the way to mastery of his art but was still growing as a writer. Although the periodical format meant that a certain degree of broad comedy and seemingly directionless, action was necessary to keep the attention of the reader, his ability to integrate these set-piece elements into the building of a complete narrative was still developing.

Georges Prosper Remi created a true masterpiece of graphic literature with his many tales of a plucky boy reporter and his entourage of iconic associates. Singly, and later with assistants including Edgar P. Jacobs, Bob de Moor and the Hergé Studio, Remi completed 23 splendid volumes (originally produced in brief instalments for a variety of periodicals) that have grown beyond their popular culture roots and attained the status of High Art.

Like Charles Dickens with The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Hergé died in the throes of creation, and final outing Tintin and Alph-Art remains a volume without a conclusion, but still a fascinating examination and a pictorial memorial of how the artist worked.

It’s only fair though, to ascribe a substantial proportion of credit to the many translators whose diligent contributions have enabled the series to be understood and beloved in 38 languages. The subtle, canny, witty and slyly funny English versions are the work of Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper & Michael Turner.

On leaving school in 1925, Remi worked for Catholic newspaper Le XXe Siécle where he fell under the influence of its Svengali-like editor Abbot Norbert Wallez. The following year, the young artist – a dedicated boy-scout – produced his first strip series: The Adventures of Totor for the Boy Scouts of Belgium monthly magazine.

By 1928 was in charge of producing the contents of Le XXe Siécles children’s weekly supplement Le Petit Vingtiéme.

He was unhappily illustrating The Adventures of Flup, Nénesse, Poussette and Cochonette when Abbot Wallez urged Remi to create a new adventure series. Perhaps a young reporter who would travel the world, doing good whilst displaying solid Catholic values and virtues?

And also, perhaps, highlight and expose some the Faith’s greatest enemies and threats…?

Having recently discovered the word balloon in imported newspaper strips, Remi decided to incorporate this simple yet effective innovation into his own work. He would produce a strip that was modern and action-packed. Beginning January 10th 1929, Tintin in the Land of the Soviets appeared in weekly instalments, running until May 8th 1930.

The boy-hero – a combination of Ideal Good Scout and Remi’s own brother Paul (a soldier in the Belgian Army) would be accompanied by his dog Milou (Snowy to us Brits) and report back all the inequities from the “Godless Russias”.

The strip’s prime conceit was that Tintin was an actual foreign correspondent for Le Petit Vingtiéme

The odyssey was a huge success, assuring further – albeit less politically charged and controversial – exploits to follow. At least that was the plan…

Following directly on from Tintin in the Congo the valiant juvenile journalist heads for Chicago to sort out the gangster Al Capone, whose diamond smuggling enterprise he had inadvertently scotched whilst in Africa. However, Capone and his hoods are ready and waiting…

Thwarting the plots and schemes of the legendary gangster make for thrilling, uproarious reading, full of chases, fights and hairsbreadth escapes, but events take a darker turn – and broad detour – once Capone’s biggest rival Bobby Smiles enters the picture.

Head of the Gangsters Syndicate of Chicago, Smiles first tries to buy Tintin off and, when he is furiously rebuffed, tries repeatedly to have the nosy, crime-busting reporter killed.

Setting a trap with the police, Tintin smashes the GSC and chases Smiles out west to Redskin City, only to fall foul of a tribe of Indians the mobster has hoodwinked into attacking the indomitable lad.

Hergé had a life-long fascination with the American West, and it featured in many of his works (such as Tim the Squirrel and Popol Out West). It’s also clear that he watched a lot of movies, as many signature Western set-pieces are adapted to strip format as Tintin and Snowy hunt Smiles – a thrilling pursuit involving railroad chases, dynamite sabotage, a prairie wildfire and even tying our heroes to the tracks before the boy and his dog finally capture the desperate thug.

Returning to Chicago, Tintin is once more the target of the remaining criminal gangs, but they prove no match for his resourceful ingenuity, and the brave Belgian leaves America a better, cleaner place…

With this somewhat long and rambling series of exploits – still not quite a cohesive narrative – Hergé begins to pepper the instalments with sly, dry social commentary, beginning the process of sophisticating the stories. He also adds satire to the breakneck slapstick – an acknowledgement that adults, too, were devout fans and followers of the strip.

The comedy of such moments as the rush of speculators when oil is found on the Indian Reservation, or the inept way in which cowboys try to lynch Tintin and Snowy (is that PC these days? – Can’t decide, but it is still awfully funny), is graphically interesting, but surely aimed at a more worldly and cynical consumer.

Like your kids, or you…

Tintin in America: artwork © 1945, 1973, 2016 Editions Casterman, Paris & Tournai.
Text © 1978, Egmont UK Limited. All Rights Reserved.

Tintin in the Congo


By Hergé & various; translated by Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper and Michael Turner (Egmont)
ISBN: 978-2-20309-650-9 (2016 HB)           :978-0-78595-830-7 (1987 HB)
:978-1-40526-651-2 (PB)

Georges Prosper Remi, known universally as Hergé, created a true masterpiece of graphic literature with his many tales of a plucky boy reporter and his entourage of iconic associates.

Singly, and later with assistants including Edgar P. Jacobs, Bob de Moor and the Hergé Studio, Remi completed 23 splendid volumes (originally produced in brief instalments for a variety of periodicals) that have grown beyond their popular culture roots and attained the status of High Art.

Like Charles Dickens with the Mystery of Edwin Drood, Hergé died in the throes of creation, and final outing Tintin and Alph-Art remains a volume without a conclusion, but still a fascinating examination – and a pictorial memorial of how the artist worked.

It’s only fair though, to ascribe a substantial proportion of credit to the many translators whose diligent contributions have enabled the series to be understood and beloved in 38 languages. The subtle, canny, witty and slyly funny English versions are the work of Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper & Michael Turner.

On leaving school in 1925, Remi worked for Catholic newspaper Le XXe Siécle where he seems to have fallen under the influence of its Svengali-like editor Abbot Norbert Wallez. The following year, the young artist – himself a dedicated boy-scout – produced his first strip series – The Adventures of Totor – for the monthly Boy Scouts of Belgium magazine and by 1928 was in charge of producing the contents of Le XXe Siécle’s children’s weekly supplement Le Petit Vingtiéme.

He was unhappily illustrating The Adventures of Flup, Nénesse, Poussette and Cochonette (written by the staff sports reporter) when Abbot Wallez urged Remi to create a new adventure series. Perhaps a young reporter who would travel the world, doing good whilst displaying solid Catholic values and virtues?

And also, perhaps, highlight and expose some the Faith’s greatest enemies and threats…?

Having recently discovered the word balloon in imported newspaper strips, Remi decided to incorporate this simple yet effective innovation into his own work. He would produce a strip that was modern and action-packed. Beginning on January 10th 1929, Tintin in the Land of the Soviets appeared in weekly instalments in Le Petit Vingtiéme, eventually running until May 8th 1930. The boy-hero – a combination of Ideal Good Scout and Remi’s own brother Paul (a soldier in the Belgian Army) would be accompanied by his dog Milou (Snowy to us Brits) and report back all the inequities from the “Godless Russias”.

The strip’s prime conceit was that Tintin was an actual foreign correspondent for Le Petit Vingtiéme

The odyssey was a huge success, assuring further – albeit less politically charged and controversial exploits – to follow. At least that was the plan…

Whereas the originally serialised tale was simply black and white and episodic, Tintin in the Congo as a book is much more stylistically familiar to modern readers. This saga, which originally ran in Le Petit Vingtiéme from June 1930 to June 1931, was radically restructured in 1946 for release as a collected album, and later, a rather shocking page featuring a rhinoceros, a hand-drill and a stick of dynamite was deftly replaced with a much funnier scene…

Moreover, this tale was unavailable to English-readers for years due to its depiction of ethic people and its white Eurocentric bias: a situation confronted and addressed head-on in the 2016 Collectors Edition in a forthright and contextualising Forward

So, making allowances for the time frame, what’s here?

Still hampered by his weekly, episodic format, Tintin and Snowy take ship for the Belgian Congo where they perforce have many little adventures, but also incredibly uncover a plot by US gangster Al Capone to take control of Africa’s diamond trade…

The book version features a Tintin retrofitted for both artistic and commercial reasons. By 1946 Hergé had completed thirteen full Tintin adventures and the characters were fully developed. It was both logical and preferable that new readers be presented with a consistent vision. Moreover, as Hergé had grown as both author and artist, the album editions gave him an opportunity to rectify some earlier decisions that he had long regretted.

When producing work for a perpetual deadline not only are you trapped by the urgent need to finish and move on, but you are imprisoned in the context of your own times. When ‘The Congo’ ran in 1930-1931, representations of ethnicities and more importantly the attitudes of a Belgium that was still a Colonial and Imperial Power informed the text and indubitably influenced the Catholic newspaper then paying for the strip.

In later years Hergé admitted to deeply regretting much of his early work and took every opportunity to repair it.

A scene in which natives are taught that they are happy Belgians was gladly replaced with a maths lesson and many images and scenes were subtly altered to enhance the standing and image of native Africans. The ongoing controversy regarding ethnic depictions in historical comics (and remember, this tale is almost ninety years old) seems doubly cynical and politically self-serving when one considers that Hergé was rectifying what he saw as racial slurs in the 1940s whilst modern society is still denying that there’s a problem. For every black African waving a spear and shield in this story there’s another in a suit, a uniform or tee shirt.

This yarn might be potentially controversial but it is also the transitional outing that confirmed the boy-hero’s drawing power: a highly readable, joyously thrilling, exuberant and deeply informative adventure romp for any fan of the comic strip medium.

And, although each exploit can be read singly, since Hergé was an early proponent of extended continuity, this early epic is actually necessary reading if you want a better understanding of the Tintin masterpieces to come.

Tintin in the Congo: artwork © 1946, 1974, 2016 Editions Casterman, Paris & Tournai.
Text © 2005 Egmont UK Limited. All Rights Reserved.

Tintin in the Land of the Soviets


By Hergé (Egmont)
ISBN: 978-1-40521-477-3 (HB)                    978-1-40526-651-2 (PB)

Georges Prosper Remi, known all over the world as Hergé, created a true masterpiece of graphic literature with his many tales of a plucky boy reporter and his entourage of iconic associates. Singly, and later with assistants including Edgar P. Jacobs, Bob de Moor and the Hergé Studio, Hergé completed 23 splendid volumes (originally produced in brief instalments for a variety of periodicals) that have grown beyond their popular culture roots and attained the status of High Art.

Like Charles Dickens with the Mystery of Edwin Drood, Hergé died while working, so final outing Tintin and Alph-Art remains a volume without a conclusion, but still a fascinating examination – and a pictorial memorial of how the artist worked.

It’s only fair though, to ascribe a substantial proportion of credit to the many translators whose diligent contributions have enabled the series to be understood and beloved in 38 languages. The subtle, canny, witty and slyly funny English versions are the work of Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper & Michael Turner.

On leaving school in 1925, Remi worked for Catholic newspaper Le XXe Siécle where he seems to have fallen under the influence of its Svengali-like editor Abbot Norbert Wallez. The following year, the young artist (himself a dedicated boy scout) produced his first strip series – The Adventures of Totor – for the monthly Boy Scouts of Belgium magazine and by 1928 was in charge of producing the contents of Le XXe Siécle’s children’s weekly supplement Le Petit Vingtiéme.

He was unhappily illustrating The Adventures of Flup, Nénesse, Poussette and Cochonette (written by the staff sports reporter) when Abbot Wallez urged Remi to create a new adventure series. Perhaps a young reporter who would travel the world, doing good whilst displaying solid Catholic values and virtues? And also, perhaps highlight and expose some the Faith’s greatest enemies and threats…?

Having recently discovered the word balloon in imported newspaper strips, Remi decided to incorporate this simple yet effective innovation into his own work. He would produce a strip that was modern and action-packed. Beginning on January 10th 1929, Tintin in the Land of the Soviets appeared in weekly instalments in Le Petit Vingtiéme, eventually running until May 8th 1930.

The boy-hero – a combination of Ideal Good Scout and Remi’s own brother Paul (a soldier in the Belgian Army) – would be accompanied by his dog Milou (Snowy to us Brits) and report back all the inequities from the “Godless Russias”.

The strip’s prime conceit was that Tintin was an actual foreign correspondent for Le Petit Vingtiéme

Arriving in Russia, the dog and his boy are constantly subjected to a series of attacks and tricks in a vain scheme by the Soviets to prevent the truth of their failed economic progress, specious popular feeling and wicked global aspirations being revealed to the Free World.

In a manic, breathless progression of fights, chases, slapstick accidents and futile attempts to bribe and corrupt him – or worse –  a hint of Tintin as a capable, decent and resourceful hero can be seen to gel on every progressive page as he thwarts the plots of the Bolsheviks and Moscow’s ubiquitous Secret Police…

Week by week, page by page, Tintin “gets away clean” in all manner of fast and flashy machines – all lovingly rendered in a stylised, meta-realistic manner not yet used for the human characters. This is a clear forerunner of Hergé’s Ligne Claire drawing style which develops rapidly as the plucky lad makes his way back across Europe to a rapturous welcome in Belgium, and with every kilometre covered, the personalities of the characters move beyond action-ciphers towards the more fully realised universal boy-hero we all know today.

The strip itself is very much a work-in-progress, primitive both in narrative and artistic execution. But amidst the simplified line, hairsbreadth chases and grossly simplistic anti-communistic polemic there is something… an intriguing hint of things to come.

Rendered in sleek monochrome, Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, was one of the last adventures to be published in English and is still available in both hardback and paperback editions.

Although possibly still a little controversial (and not ideal for the stated target market of eight years old and up), this is a highly readable, joyously thrilling, exuberant and deeply informative romp for any fan of the comic strip medium.

Tintin in the Land of the Soviets: artwork © 1999 Editions Casterman, Paris& Tournai.
Text ©1999, 2007Casterman/Moulinsart. All Rights Reserved.

Tintin and the Lake of Sharks

Tintin and the Lake of Sharks

A TINTIN FILM BOOK
By Greg, translated by Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper & Michael Turner (Egmont)
ISBN13: 978-1-4052-0634-1

Although this tale is not strictly canonical, fans of Hergé’s intrepid boy reporter and his picturesque associates can always console themselves with this high-quality graphic adaptation of the animated feature-film Tintin et la Lac aux Requins which was originally released in 1972. Although not directly created by Hergé – who did have a supervisory role – the film was a classy piece of adventure fiction directed by publisher Raymond LeBlanc and written by Michel Regnier, who as ‘Greg’ is probably best known for his comedic anti-hero Achille Talon (translated into English both in animated cartoons and comic albums as Walter Melon).

Although lacking the satirical edge of Hergé’s comedy, action and slapstick are still well represented in this tale which turns animation stills into sequential narrative, with admittedly mixed results. Purists who love the artist’s landmark and legendary Ligne Claire style will be deterred that is laid over and across fully-rendered, moulded and painted backgrounds, but although it is initially jarring, the story does swiftly carry the reader beyond such quibbles.

Ligne Claire or the Democracy of Lines as it is sometimes called (in case you were wondering), is the term given to the dramatically simplified drawing style developed by Hergé which has influenced so very many creators. With it clear, clean lines of equal strength, thickness and importance are use to impart an almost diagrammatic value to subjects. This is in contrast to styles which might emphasise foreground or background with varying line-weights. Line-shading, hatching, feathering and the use of shadows are also ignored or down-played. It is the perfect base for bold simple colour and imparts an impressive solidity and immediacy to pictures. When combined with a stripped-down but accurate character or object design, the effect of hyper or even meta-reality is astoundingly convincing. The term was first used by creator, fan and devotee Joost Swarte in the late 1970s.

In The Lake of Sharks a series of art and gem robberies coincide with a trip by Tintin, Captain Haddock and the detectives Thompson and Thomson to visit Professor Calculus. He is sequestered at a villa on the shores of Lake Pollishoff, a huge body of water in the mountains of Syldavia, artificially created by building a dam and flooding a village. The locals believe the area is haunted. And no sooner do they arrive than attempts to kill them begin!

Calculus is in seclusion to perfect his latest invention – a 3-D duplicating machine – but a series of strange events leads Tintin to believe that sinister forces have targeted the eccentric genius once again. Spies, intruders and weird occurrences seem to be a daily threat at the Villa Sprog! Our heroes are not easily cowed, however, and with the help of two peasant children, Niko and Nushka (and their dog Gustav) a dastardly plot by their greatest enemy is revealed. This mastermind now calls himself King Shark…

This magical, fast-paced romp does the canonical adventures proud and can hold its head high even amidst the incredible legacy of one of the true Masters of the Comic Strip. And besides, your collection is incomplete without it…

Artwork © 1955 Editions Casterman, Paris& Tournai. © renewed 1983 Egmont UK Limited. Text © 1971 Egmont UK Limited. All Rights Reserved.

The Adventures of Tintin, Volume 8

The Adventures of Tintin, Volume 8

By Hergé, translated by Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper & Michael Turner (Egmont UK)
ISBN 13: 978-1-4052-2901-2

I’m going to break with format and discuss the last chapter first in this final collected volume of Hergé’s immortal classic. Tintin and Alph-Art was the story that the artist was working on at the time of his death, and reproduced at the end of this book are the sketches, layouts and translated scripts for the first two-thirds of the tale. In this fascinating raw form are incredible insights into the thoughts and working process of the creator as he crafted a mystery tale which gently lampooned modern art and its aficionados, and the growing trend of cults and new age mysticism. Even in this unshaped form it looks to be a wonderful yarn packed with social commentary, comedy and action, but will sadly remain tantalisingly incomplete.

Acting on his wishes his second wife (Fanny Vlaminck, whom he wed in 1977) closed Studio Hergé after he died on March 3rd 1983. He had been suffering from bone cancer for many years and finally passed due to complications arising from the anaemia it had caused. Since he had never wanted any other artist to draw the character, the 24th story simply ceased production. In 1986 the notes and sketches were published as they are seen here and the studio became the Hergé Foundation. In 1988 the periodical Tintin magazine ceased publication.

So the three epics here are the last full adventures from the master, although there was a book culled from the animated feature Tintin and the Lake of Sharks (directed by publisher Raymond Leblanc; the album is not strictly canonical and was produced by Greg a.k.a Michel Regnier, a friend of Hergé’s).

The Castafiore Emerald was quite a departure from the eerie and bleak thriller that preceded it (Tintin in Tibet: See Adventures of Tintin volume 7 – ISBN 13: 978-1-4052-2900-5). The resolution of that tale had seemed to purge much of the turmoil and trauma from the artist’s psyche. His production rate – but not quality – slowed to a leisurely crawl as he became a world traveller, visiting America, Taiwan and many other places he had featured in the globe-trotting exploits of his immortal boy reporter. Fans would wait fifteen years for these last three tales.

When the blithely unstoppable Bianca Castafiore imposes herself on Captain Haddock at Marlinspike Hall, complete with Operatic entourage and with reporters in hot pursuit she turns the place upside down, destroying the irascible mariner’s peace-of-mind. But when her fabulous jewels are stolen events take a surreal and particularly embarrassing turn before Tintin solves the case.

This tale is very like an Alfred Hitchcock sparkling thriller from the 1950s. Light, airy, even frothy, there are no real villains but plenty of action and comedy, and Hergé had plenty of opportunity to take pot-shots at the media, Society – High and low – and even the growing phenomenon of Television itself. The tale was published in 1961. It would be five years until the next one.

Flight 714 To Sydney (1966) is a return to classic adventure. Whilst en route to Australia on the eponymous journey, Tintin, Captain Haddock and Professor Calculus are inveigled into joining the unconventional and somewhat unpleasant aviation tycoon Laszlo Carreidas on his personal supersonic prototype. But due to the type of coincidence that plagues heroes that plane has been targeted by the villainous Rastapopoulos whose gang hijack the aircraft and land it on a desolate island. After many dangers the prisoners escape and discover that the Island holds a fantastic ancient secret that dwarfs the threat of the villains and leads to a spectacular climax that no reader will ever forget.

Although full of Hergé’s trademark humour, this is primarily a suspenseful action thriller with science fiction roots as the author plays with the research that led to Erich von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods. Once more the supernormal plays a large part but not as a malign force and this time science and rationality, not the supernatural, are the basis of the wonderment.

Tintin and the Picaros (1975) is in all ways the concluding adventure as many old characters and places from previous tales make one final appearance. A sequel to The Broken Ear (Adventures of Tintin volume 3 – ISBN13: 978-1-4052-2897-8) it finds Bianca Castafiore arrested for spying in San Theodoros with Tintin, Haddock and Calculus lured to her rescue.

Colonel Sponsz, last seen in The Calculus Affair (Adventures of Tintin volume 7 – ISBN13: 978-1-4052-2900-5) is the Bordurian Military Advisor to the Government of General Tapioca, and has used his position to exact revenge on the intrepid band who humiliated him. When the Tintin and company escape into the jungles during a murder attempt they reunite with their old comrade Alcazar, who leads a band of Picaro guerrillas dedicated to restoring him to power.

South American revolutions were all the rage in the 1970s – even Woody Allen made one the subject of a movie – and Hergé’s cast had been involved with this one on and off since 1935. With the welcome return of Doctor Ridgewell and the hysterical Arumbayas, and even the obnoxious insurance salesman Jolyon Wagg, they bring about the final downfall of Tapioca in a thrilling and bloodless coup during Carnival time, thanks to a comedy maguffin that turns out to be a brilliant piece of narrative misdirection by the author.

Sly, subtle, thrilling and warmly comforting this tale is the most fitting place to end the Adventures of Tintin, but only until you pick up another volume and read them again – as you indubitably will.

The Castafiore Emerald: artwork © 1963 by Editions Casterman, Paris & Tournai. Text © 1963 Egmont UK Limited. All Rights Reserved.
Flight 714 To Sydney: artwork © 1968 by Editions Casterman, Paris & Tournai.
Text © 1968 Egmont UK Limited. All Rights Reserved.
Tintin and the Picaros: artwork © 1976 by Editions Casterman, Paris & Tournai.
Text © 1976 Egmont UK Limited. All Rights Reserved.
Tintin and Alph-Art: artwork © 2004 by Editions Casterman, Paris & Tournai.
Text © 2004 Egmont UK Limited. All Rights Reserved.

The Adventures of Tintin, Volume 7

The Adventures of Tintin, Volume 7

By Hergé, translated by Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper & Michael Turner (Egmont UK)
ISBN 13: 978-1-4052-2900-5

Hergé’s later life was troubled but his personal problems only seemed to enhance his storytelling abilities. The three tales collected in this volume of The Adventures of Tintin are sleek, polished comedy thrillers, rife with intrigue and camaraderie, and even after decades of working, continue fresh and challenging, as the author always sought new arenas of drama to explore.

The Calculus Affair once again sees the zany Professor abducted from the palatial home of Captain Haddock, resulting in a dire and desperate chase through Cold War Europe. Our heroes are hampered in their efforts to save their friend by the introduction of the infinitely annoying Insurance salesman Jolyon Wagg and more seriously, by two rival bands of spies.

As they pursue Calculus to Geneva, Tintin and Haddock encounter not only the insidious agents of Borduria but find that their erstwhile allies of Syldavia are also trying to make the Professor “disappear”. After frantic chases, pitched battles and assassination attempts diplomatic duplicity defeats them, and Calculus becomes an unwilling guest of the totalitarian Bordurians, who are pleased to accept as a “gift” his new invention, which they intend to use as a weapon of mass destruction.

Temporarily stymied, Tintin and Haddock finagle their way into the country, and with the aid of Opera Diva Bianca Castafiore, bamboozle the secret police to rescue the Professor and save the day.

Although all the elements in play are tried and trusted ingredients of the Tintin formula, the level of artistic achievement here is superb and the interplay of tense drama, slapstick comedy and breakneck action make this brooding thriller the most accomplished of Hergé’s tales. The simple fact that the contemporary Cold War fever is absent for modern readers makes no difference at all to the enjoyment of this magnificent graphic masterpiece.

The Red Sea Sharks has also lost some of its original contemporary urgency, but again that has had no diminishing effect. Produced during the turbulent times that led to the Middle-East Suez Crisis, it reintroduces Emir Ben Kalish Ezab from Land of Black Gold (see Adventures of Tintin volume 6 ISBN 13: 978-1-4052-2899-2) whose oil-rich country is in the throes of a civil war. Fearful of the consequences, he sends his son Abdullah to stay with Captain Haddock, unaware that the old dipsomaniac and Tintin are embroiled in another mystery involving General Alcazar (The Broken Ear: Adventures of Tintin volume 3, ISBN 13: 978-1-4052-2896-1), war surplus aircraft and a mysterious criminal mastermind.

As eager to escape the infernal practical jokes of the incorrigible Prince as to solve the case, the heroic pair follow the trail of the arms dealers and find themselves back in the Desert Kingdom of Khemed, albeit as unwelcome intruders as the rebels have defeated the Emir and driven him into hiding thanks to their illicitly gained fighter planes. When a bomb-plot leaves their plane crashed in the wastelands the indomitable pair trek overland into enemy territory before finally finding the Emir-in-hiding.

They discover that the coup has been instigated by the airline owned by the Marquis di Gorgonzola, a mysterious millionaire whose vast commercial interests are supplemented by selling Pilgrims en route to Mecca into slavery! Hot on the trail, the pair take ship for that holy city but are strafed by warplanes. Shooting one down they rescue the pilot, but when the trio are rescued by Gorgonzola’s yacht, Tintin discovers that one of his oldest foes is behind it all!

This spectacular high-adventure, despite its political and moral underpinnings, is primarily an action yarn with plenty of twists and turns and a terrific feel-good climax. This romp as well as standing proudly on its own lights serves as a subtle counterpoint for the last, and controversially different final tale of this volume…

Tintin in Tibet is not like any other story of the plucky, valiant boy reporter. At this time Hergé was ending a twenty-five year marriage, recovering from a series of nervous breakdowns and plagued by dreams of unending white. Rather than take a break or even retire he began the most eerie, mystical and personal story of his long career.

Tintin is holidaying in the mountains when he reads of a plane crash in Nepal. Inexplicably he screams the name of his old friend Chang, left behind in China at the end of The Blue Lotus (Adventures of Tintin volume 2 ISBN 13: 978-1-4052-2895-4). Now preoccupied with his old friend he discovers that Chang was on the crashed airliner and is believed dead. Despite all rational argument Tintin knows he has survived and immediately sets out to rescue him, with a protesting Captain Haddock in tow.

Against all odds the duo travels through India to the mountainous borderlands and into the Himalayas. Nothing can shake the boy’s obsessive belief that Chang is alive and urgently needs his help.

How the physical and mental hardships are overcome make for an uncharacteristically bleak tale, and the mysticism, paranoia and overt supernatural content is hard to fit comfortably into the fantastic but rational universe that Tintin inhabits. Yet it does work, and no other story so well depicts the heroic qualities of the lad and the deep emotional bond between him and his true friends, Chang and Haddock. Of course, Hergé’s utter professionalism would not allow him to produce anything that was not eminently readable, captivatingly funny and stirringly thrilling. Although perhaps the oddest tale this might just be the author’s most revealing.

The Calculus Affair: artwork © 1956, 1984 Editions Casterman, Paris & Tournai.
Text © 1960 Egmont UK Limited. All Rights Reserved.
The Red Sea Sharks: artwork © 1958, 1986 Editions Casterman, Paris & Tournai.
Text © 1960 Egmont UK Limited. All Rights Reserved.
Tintin in Tibet: artwork © 1960, 1984 Editions Casterman, Paris & Tournai.
Text © 1962 Egmont UK Limited. All Rights Reserved.

The Adventures of Tintin, Volume 6

The Adventures of Tintin, Volume 6

By Hergé, translated by Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper & Michael Turner (Egmont UK)
ISBN 13: 978-1-4052-2899-2

With World War II over and his reputation restored, Hergé entered the most successful period of his artistic career. He had mastered his storytelling craft, possessed a dedicated audience eager for his every effort and was finally able to say exactly what he wanted in his work, free from fear or censure. But although these freedoms seemed to guarantee a new beginning the life of the creator was far from trouble-free.

In 1949 he returned to Land of Black Gold which had been abandoned when the Nazis invaded Belgium. He then suffered a nervous breakdown and could not work for four months. It is a tribute to his skills that the finished tale reveals none of his personal problems, but is an almost seamless and riveting yarn of political and criminal gangsterism, exotic, hilarious and breathtakingly exciting.

The story concerns a plot to destabilise the World by sabotaging oil. All fuel is somehow made more flammable, causing engines to explode when refuelled. Tintin traces the sabotage to the freighter ‘Speedol Star’, which he joins as Radio Officer. The Detectives Thomson and Thompson are also aboard, but are much less discreet, and soon all three are the targets of a numbers of attacks and assaults. When the ship reaches the Arabian port of Khemikhal they are all framed as drug smugglers and arrested.

But Tintin is abducted by rebel tribesmen who believe he is a gunrunner and the now vindicated Detectives go in search of their friend in the desert. After many hardships the intrepid boy and Snowy discover the villainous spy Doctor Müller (last seen in The Black Island: Adventures of Tintin Volume 3 – ISBN 13: 978-1-4052-2897-8) is trying to ingratiate himself with the Oil-rich Emir. Mohammed Ben Kalish Ezab is wise and tolerant but cursed with a wilful and spoiled son, Abdullah, who is kidnapped when he rejects the doctor’s offers. Tintin befriends the Ruler and goes undercover to find the Prince.

Tracking down Müller Tintin attempts to rescue the boy (whose practical jokes have made him a most unpopular captive) only to be trapped in a brutal fire-fight in the catacombs beneath the spy’s villa. From nowhere Captain Haddock effects a rescue and the plot is revealed and thwarted.

Action-packed and visually delightful, this breezy mystery-thriller is full of humour and chases, with only the last-minute arrival of the dipsomaniac sea captain to slightly jar the proceedings. Presumably the original pages were recycled as much as possible with the popular Haddock inserted at a new breakpoint. He first appeared after the original Land of Black Gold was abandoned, in The Crab with the Golden Claws (see Adventures of Tintin Volume 4 ISBN 13: 978-1-4052-2897-8) and would increasingly steal the spotlight from his juvenile partner — never more so than in the next two adventures, also included in this collected edition.

On a personal note: I first read Destination Moon in 1964, in a huge hardcover album edition (as they all were in the 1960s) and was blown completely away. I’m happy to say that except for the smaller pages – and there’s never a substitute for “Big-ness” – this taut thriller and its magnificent, mind-boggling sequel are still in a class of their own in the annals of science fiction comic strips.

This tale begins with the boy reporter and Captain Haddock returning to Marlinspike Hall only to discover that Professor Calculus has disappeared. When an enigmatic telegram arrives the pair are off again to Syldavia (see King Ottokar’s Sceptre also in Adventures of Tintin Volume 3) and a rendezvous with the missing scientist.

Although suspicious, Tintin soon finds that the secrecy is for sound reasons. In Syldavia Calculus and an international team of boffins are completing a grand project to put a man on the Moon! In a turbulent race against time and amidst huge security the scheme nears completion, but Tintin and Haddock’s arrival coincides with a desperate increase in espionage activity. An enemy nation is determined to steal the secrets of Calculus’s atomic motor at all costs, and it takes all Tintin’s ingenuity to keep ahead of the villains.

As the incidents increase in intensity and frequency if becomes clear that their may be a traitor in the project itself, but at last the moment arrives and Tintin, Haddock, Calculus, Dr. Wolf – and Snowy – blast off for the Moon!

Cold, clinical and superbly underplayed, Destination Moon is completely unlike the flash-and-dazzle razzamatazz of British and American tales from that period – or since. It is as if the burgeoning Cold War mentality (this tale was first serialised in 1950) has infected even Tintin’s bright clean world. Once again the pressure of work and Hergé’s troubled private life resulted in a breakdown and a hiatus in the strip – but this time some of that darkness transferred to the material – although it only seems to have added to the overall effect of claustrophobia and paranoia. Even the comedy set-pieces are more manic and explosive: This is possibly the most mature of all Tintin’s exploits.

If Destination Moon was an exercise in tension and suspense, Explorers on the Moon is sheer bravura spectacle. En route to Luna the explorers discover that Thomson and Thompson have accidentally stowed away, and along with Captain Haddock’s illicit whisky and the effects of freefall, provide brilliant comedy routines to balance the eerie isolation and dramatic dangers of the journey. And lurking in the shadows there is still the very real threat of a murderous traitor to be dealt with…

Studio Hergé was formed in 1950 to produce the adventures of Tintin as well other features and Bob De Moor became an invaluable and permanent addition to the production team, filling in backgrounds and most notably rendering the unforgettable Lunar landscapes that once seen can never be forgotten. This so-modern yarn is a high point in the series, blending heroism and drama with genuine moments of irresistible emotion and side-splitting comedy. The absolute best of the bunch in my humble opinion, and still one of the most realistic space comics ever produced. If you only ever read one Hergé book it simply must be this volume of the Adventures of Tintin.

Land of Black Gold: artwork © 1950, 1977 Editions Casterman, Paris & Tournai.
Text © 1972 Egmont UK Limited. All Rights Reserved.
Destination Moon: artwork © 1959, 1981 Editions Casterman, Paris & Tournai.
Text © 1959 Egmont UK Limited. All Rights Reserved.
Explorers on the Moon: artwork © 1954, 1982 Editions Casterman, Paris & Tournai. Text © 1959 Egmont UK Limited. All Rights Reserved.

The Adventures of Tintin, Volume 5

The Adventures of Tintin Volume 5

By Hergé, translated by Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper & Michael Turner (Egmont UK)
ISBN 13: 978-1-4052-2898-5

Produced in the conquered nation of Belgium and running in daily instalments in Le Soir, Brussels’ most prominent newspaper, appropriated and controlled by the Nazis, Red Rackham’s Treasure (which ran from 1943-1944) follows directly on from The Secret of the Unicorn (see The Adventures of Tintin Volume 4, ISBN13: 978-1-4052-2897-8) and topped that thrilling chase to secure three parts of a pirate map with a glorious all-out romp in search of the loot itself.

When a loose-lipped sailor is overheard by an enterprising reporter, the treasure hunt becomes a cause celebré and a horde of opportunists claiming descent from Red Rackham, as well as a deaf and daffy Professor named Cuthbert Calculus who wants to use the expedition to test his new invention, accost Tintin and Haddock. Although his offer is rejected the Professor is not a man to be easily dissuaded. With the detectives Thompson and Thomson aboard (in case of criminal activity) the small team sets sail on their grand adventure…

This is a rich and absorbing yarn in the classic manner, full of exotic islands, nautical drama, mystery and travail, brilliantly timed comedy pieces and even a surprise ending. The restrictions of Belgium’s occupation necessitated Hergé’s curtailment of political commentary and satire in his work, but it apparently freed his Sense of Wonder to explore classic adventure themes with spectacular and memorable results. Although not the greatest of stand-alone Tintin tales, in conjunction with The Secret of the Unicorn this story becomes one of the best action sagas in the entire Hergé canon.

In 1943 the artist met Edgar P. Jacobs, who became his assistant on the daily strip. They began with another extended adventure-tale which is now divided into the eerie thriller The Seven Crystal Balls (which ran from 1944-1948) and the grandiose epic Prisoners of the Sun (1946-1949). These dates might seem odd but once again the Nazi conquest holds the answers.

For Belgium Liberation day was September 3rd 1944. When the occupiers fled, workers on Le Soir were arrested as potential collaborators or Nazi sympathizers and the newspaper was closed down. For two years Hergé, Jacobs and Alice Devos were under suspicion, and spent the time adapting old Tintin adventures for release as colour albums. The Seven Crystal Balls remained unfinished and unpublished until Belgian war-hero Raymond Leblanc personally vouched for the artists. Leblanc even set up a new anthology comic called Tintin in which the tale was continued before going on to finish the epic with Prisoners of the Sun. During this period Jacobs left Hergé when the artist refused him a byline for his work. Jacobs then produced his own science-adventure strip Blake and Mortimer which also featured in the weekly Tintin.

The Seven Crystal Balls sees Captain Haddock returned to Marlinspike Hall where he is adjusting poorly to his new-found wealth, with the exasperating Professor Calculus as his house-guest. When Tintin and Snowy visit, a trip to the theatre embroils them all in a baffling enigma wherein the survivors of the South American Sanders-Hardiman expedition all fall into comas due to an Incan curse. Tintin soon determines someone more solid than ethereal is causing the tragedies but even he can’t stop the attacks, and soon he and his friends are also on the mysterious malefactors “to-do” list!

When Calculus is abducted from under their very noses, Haddock gives up his life of luxury and takes up adventuring once more, determined to help Tintin rescue their friend and solve the mystery. Giving chase they narrowly miss the villains at a seaport but they still have a chance to beat the ship carrying Calculus. They board a sea plane for Peru…

This is classic hairsbreadth storytelling. The pace is spellbinding and the ever-present slapstick actually serves to heighten the tension of the chase. The tale ends on a cliff-hanger, which is still painful even in this glorious collected edition when the action continues on the very next page. Imagine how you’d have felt all those decades ago when the conclusion was months away in the next album…

In the Port of Callao Tintin and Captain Haddock anxiously await the arrival of the freighter ‘Pachacamac’ but when it arrives, suspected of carrying their kidnapped friend Cuthbert Calculus, it flies a plague-pennant. There is Yellow Fever aboard and nobody can approach her! Thus begins Prisoners of the Sun, the epic conclusion of the maddening mystery of Inca curses and the doomed Sanders-Hardiman Expedition to South America.

Suspecting a trick Tintin sneaks aboard and finds the Professor, only to be driven away by gunfire. Telephoning Haddock he chases the abductors, leaving the Captain and the detectives Thompson and Thomson to catch up if they can. The journey takes them deep into the beautiful, rugged country where they reunite only to become the target of many murder attempts, and other methods of dissuasion.

Undaunted, Tintin and Haddock continue towards the mountains, and are befriended by Zorrino, a young boy who risks his own life to help them cross valleys, mountains and jungles, dodging death from both beasts and men, until they are all finally captured by the last remnants of a lost and wondrous civilisation…

This is an epic staggering in scope and breathtaking in execution. Whether drawing a battle, choreographing a pratfall or delineating a golden temple the clean precise line of the art and the simplified colour palette makes every panel “realer-than real” whilst the captivating imagination of the storytelling makes this a truly graphic narrative. These are among the best comic adventures of all time and they demand a place on every fan’s bookshelves.

Red Rackham’s Treasure: artwork © 1945, 1973 Editions Casterman, Paris & Tournai.
Text © 1975 Egmont UK Limited. All Rights Reserved.

The Adventures of Tintin, Volume 4

The Adventures of Tintin, Volume 4

By Hergé (Egmont UK)
ISBN 13: 978-1-4052-2897-8

With this edition of the collected Tintin albums we enter the “Golden Age” of a magnificent creator’s work. Despite being produced whilst Belgium was under the control of Nazi Occupation Forces during World War II, the qualitative leap in all aspects of Hergé’s creativity is tangible.

His homeland fell to the invaders in 1940, and Georges Remi’s brief military career was over. He was a reserve Lieutenant, working on The Land of Black Gold when he was called up, but the swift defeat of Belgium meant that he was back at his drawing board before the year’s end, albeit working for a new paper (since Le Petit Vingtième was closed down) and on a brand new adventure. He would not return to the unfinished ‘Black Gold’ with its highly anti-fascistic subtext, until 1949.

Instead, now established in Le Soir (Belgium’s premiere daily newspaper and a most valuable tool for the occupiers to control) Hergé began the first of six extraordinary tales of light-hearted, escapist thrills, with strong plots and deep characterisation that created a haven of delight from the daily horrors of everyday life then and remain a legacy of joyous adventure to this day.

The Crab with the Golden Claws ran from 1940 to 1941 (the edition collected in this fabulous little hardback was first re-mastered in 1953 by Studio Hergé) and opens with Snowy getting his head caught in an empty crab-meat can whilst scavenging in a trash bin. When Tintin meets the detectives Thompson and Thomson they discuss their latest case and he sees that a vital piece of evidence is a torn label from a crab-meat tin – and it matches the torn label on the can that he so recently extricated his bad dog from!

And so begins a superb mystery adventure as Tintin follows his lead to the sinister freighter “Karaboudjan” where he is nearly murdered before the diabolical Mate “Allan” (last seen in Cigars of the PharaohAdventures of Tintin: Volume 2, ISBN 13: 978-1-4052-2895-4) shanghais him. It is whilst a prisoner that the boy reporter meets a drunken reprobate who would become his greatest companion: The ship’s inebriated Master, Captain Haddock.

Escaping together, they eventually reach the African Coast, with Haddock’s dipsomaniac antics as much a threat to the pair as the gangsters, ocean storms, and deprivation. These trials are masterpieces of comedy cartooning that have never been surpassed. Despite all odds the heroes survive sea, sands and scoundrels to link up with the military authorities. Making their way to Morocco they track down the criminals to reveal a huge opium smuggling operation. A fast-paced tour-de-force of art and action, liberally laced with primal comedy and captivating exotic locales, this is quite simply mesmerising fare.

The Shooting Star was one of the first tales to be re-issued after World War II, due no doubt to its relatively escapist plot. Originally running from 1941-1942 it is practically an old-fashioned pulp thriller. The world is gripped in terror as a fiery meteor is detected hurtling towards Earth. The apocalypse is averted only by the sheerest chance, as the heavenly body narrowly misses Earth, although when a relatively small chunk breaks off, scientists find that it contains an unknown metal of immense potential value. And so begins a fantastic race to find and claim the fallen meteorite.

A party of European scientists charters the survey ship “Aurora”, with Captain Haddock commanding and Tintin aboard as official Press representative. Frantically sailing north to the Pole, they discover that they are in competition with the unscrupulous forces of the evil capitalists of the Bohlwinkel Bank, whose rival expedition uses every dirty trick to sabotage or delay the scientists.

After a truly Herculean effort and by sheer dint of willpower – not to say spectacular bravery – Tintin is the first to claim their floating prize and successfully defend it from the villainous Bohlwinkel crew, but the star itself is a menace as its mysterious composition induces monstrous gigantism. Tintin and Snowy must survive assaults by mutated insects and plants before the breathtaking conclusion of this splendid tale.

After the dramatic if far-fetched exploits of The Shooting Star, Hergé returned to less fantastical fare with The Secret of the Unicorn (re-mastered in 1946, this originally ran from 1942-1943). Tintin buys an antique model galleon at a street market, intending to give it to Captain Haddock, but even before he can pay for it an increasingly desperate number of people try to buy, and even steal it from him. Resisting all efforts he presents it to his friend ‘though not before a minor accident breaks one of the masts. The Captain is flabbergasted! He has a portrait of his ancestor Sir Francis Haddock, painted in the reign of King Charles II, in which the exact same ship features!

When he returns home Tintin finds the model has been stolen but on visiting the first and most strident of the collectors who tried to buy it from him he discovers that the man already has an exact duplicate of the missing model. After much hurly-burly Tintin and Haddock find that Sir Francis was once a prisoner of the pirate Red Rackham, but escaped with the location of the villain’s treasure horde. Subsequently making three models of his vessel “The Unicorn”, he placed part of a map in each and gave them to his three sons…

Someone else obviously knows the secret of the model ships and that mysterious mastermind becomes ever more devious and ruthless in his attempts to obtain the complete map. Events come to a head when Tintin is kidnapped, which is a big mistake, as the intrepid lad brilliantly turns the tables on his abductors and solves the mystery. With the adventure suitably concluded, the volume ends with our heroes ready to embark on the no-doubt perilous voyage to recover ‘Red Rackam’s Treasure’…

For which we must turn to the next volume in this glorious repackaging of one of the World’s greatest comic strip treasures… Hergé’s Adventures of Tintin!

The Crab with the Golden Claws: artwork © 1953, 1981 Editions Casterman, Paris & Tournai. Text © 1958 Egmont UK Limited. All Rights Reserved.
The Shooting Star: artwork © 1946, 1974 Editions Casterman, Paris & Tournai.
Text © 1961 Egmont UK Limited. All Rights Reserved.
The Secret of the Unicorn: artwork © 1946, 1974 Editions Casterman, Paris & Tournai.
Text © 1959 Egmont UK Limited. All Rights Reserved.