The Seven Crystal Balls by Hergé (Casterman, 1948); trans. Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper & Michael Turner (Methuen, 1962) Working during the German occupation of Belgium, Hergé steered clear of political commentary and showcased instead his developing mastery of action adventure, leavened here with an abundance of slapstick (and not a little Fortean mysticism). Part one of a classic two-story arc.
Tintin in Tibet by Hergé; trans. Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper & Michael Turner (Methuen, 1962) A straightforward travel adventure with a touch of mysticism and, unusually for Tintin, no antagonist (and no guns!). Although Hergé plays with reader expectations and includes plenty of slapstick, this volume carries a bleakness that appears reflective of his own inner turmoil.
Tintin and the Picaros by Hergé (Methuen, 1976) The most mature of Hergé’s Tintin adventures, Picaros is a neatly plotted political commentary on South American despotism, serious in tone and light on improbable escapades. Hergé remains committed to background detail but cuts back (perhaps too far) on the physical comedy.
The Adventures of Tintin dir. Steven Spielberg (2011) Hergé’s comic strips bubble with background detail and distilled moments of pure comedy and adventure. Of necessity, Spielberg’s film adaptation mixes and dilutes Hergé’s work. Though doing limited justice to the source material, it does capture much of the spirit of Tintin.
Tintin: Red Rackham’s Treasure by Hergé (Le Soir, 1943); trans. Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper & Michael Turner (Methuen, 1959) A Tintin adventure with no villain! Hergé plays on readers’ expectations of peril but casts aside the usual death-defying storylines, netting instead a string of uncommonly dégagé Caribbean escapades. Red Rackham’s Treasure, though undemanding, gleams yet with well-plotted, vivaciously rendered humour. Exemplary. …
Tintin: The Calculus Affair by Hergé (Methuen, 1960) The first quarter is mystery but the remainder of The Calculus Affair sees a return to the improbable, death-defying adventuring of the earlier Tintin serials, thankfully with an intensity and mastery of physical humour sufficient to make this album an easy page-turner.
Tintin: Explorers on the Moon by Hergé (Methuen, 1959) An extraordinary achievement, constituting both a prescient (ie. well-researched and well-reasoned) foretelling of a genuine moon landing, and a tour de force of Tintin staples: Boy’s Own action and comic misadventure. Unlike other volumes, this one is genuinely tense. Nail-biting yet funny!
Tintin: Destination Moon by Hergé (Casterman, 1959) Hergé’s phenomenal commitment to accuracy is nowhere greater attested than in ‘Destination Moon’ and its sequel. Thankfully, the laborious detail is offset by liberal doses of physical comedy courtesy of Captain Haddock, the Thom(p)sons, and—most gloriously—Professor Calculus acting the goat!
X’ed Out by Charles Burns (Pantheon, 2010) In this confronting homage, Burns shows us what Tintin’s adventures might be like if they took place in a grim alternative reality (think the Upside Down of ‘Stranger Things’). Burns lacks Hergé’s sense of movement and pacing but this remains darkly memorable.
The Comics of Hergé: When the Lines Are Not So Clear ed. Joe Sutliff Sanders (University Press of Mississippi, 2016) This collection of determinedly academic articles will be heavy-going even for scholars and Hergé fanatics, let alone the casual Tintin fan. Although some (obscurely) interesting points are raised, the book is severely diminished—as Sanders acknowledges—by a lack of supporting artwork.…