cave canem

Cave Canem- Beware the Dog

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Adaptation...Success? The Adventures of Tintin Part 1

So, I've done a lot of complaining about bad movie adaptations in the past, and I decided that I should take a bit of time to talk about what constitutes a good adaptation. I've decided to break this into two parts because it started getting kind of long. So, in this part I'll talk about the comics.

 Our hero, out for a stroll.

I've been a fan of The Adventures of Tintin comics since I was a child. I owned, and still own, every comic released in the US. I was a bit wary when I heard that they were making a movie of it, but I watched it anyway, and, well, you already know that I liked it.

The comics were created by a Belgian man by the name of Herge, and were originally printed in French. They were later translated into other languages and sold internationally. As I said earlier, I've read every one, save the infamous Tintin in the Congo, which was so racist that the creator was embarrassed to have made it. I'd feel like a bad person for wanting to read it, but since I already want to read Mein Kampf for laughs, it seems a bit silly to feel guilty over the comic.

Anyway, the main character is a reporter by the name of Tintin. Whether that's his first or last name, the world will never know. He has a dog named Snowy, who may or may not be able to talk, I've never been sure, and together the two of them go around investigating international crimes, fighting tasteless ethnic steryotypes, and overall doing everything but reporting. I'd think that the writer forgot what Tintin's job is supposed to be, except that he introduces himself to people as "Tintin, reporter." Whatever, I guess it's a good cover for him.

There are also many recurring characters in the comics. First there are the bumbling detectives Thompson and Thomson, who are apparently supposed to be twins even though their last names are spelled differently. They spend almost as much time trying to arrest Tintin as they do being friends with him, and they occasionally do both at the same time. Then there's the foulmouthed, alcoholic ex-sailor Captain Haddock, Tintin's best friend throughout most of the series. There are a slew of others, such as the quirky, hard-of-hearing scientist Professor Calculus, the famous opera singer Bianca Castafiore who is the butt of many a running joke, and the irritating Prince Abdullah, son of the Emir of a fictional Middle Eastern country, who is a spoiled brat and constantly plays hilariously cruel and dangerous practical jokes on people, especially on Captain Haddock.

Tintin and friends have a long series of crazy adventures. Most of them involve traveling to foreign countries, finding international crime syndicates, and beating the crap out of them using the power of Tintin's awesome. However, some of the later comics have Tintin and his friends going to the moon and, in a surprisingly unrelated storyline, getting kidnapped by aliens. Oddly, the characters never seem to age. I choose to believe that there was an unreleased story in which they stumbled across the fountain of youth.

 The comics do have some unfortunate racism, a holdover from the colonialist beliefs of 1930's Europe, but it's not usually quite so bad as to spoil the comic, and while Tintin does play the mighty whitey a lot, there are a good amount of non-white characters who are given surprisingly balanced treatment, and many of them become recurring characters. Given the time in which they were made, they're actually surprisingly fair, not that that's saying a whole lot. In fact, going back, I've often been surprised at little things like the blink-and-you-miss-it but extremely scathing look at the mistreatment of Native Americans in Tintin in America. ('Course, they're still called Injins and they still go around saying things like 'How' and threatening to scalp people, but baby steps, Tintin comics.)

Despite the series' flaws, I absolutely love the comics. I would definitely recommend them to anyone. They're a wonderful example of campy but exciting early 20th century adventure stories. They're fun and silly but still gripping, and the crazy adventures and loveable characters make the series well worth a read.

Come back next time when I explain how the movie was... *shudder* ...a good representation of the comics. (Sorry, it feels strange to not be complaining about a movie.)


Click to read part II.

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