While the weather at the moment would lend itself more to writing about Tintin’s adventures in Egypt, today we find ourselves in America.
Tintin finally made it to America in 1932, but the book as it is today, like Congo before it has been altered and edited several times over the years. The first significant change was in 1946, when much like Congo it was redrawn and reformatted in the style that most readers had become used to over the years. It was edited again in 1975 to make the text more tight and several cuts were made to the American edition, again relating to race. The US publishers didn’t like the idea of blacks and whites mixing in a story that was supposed to be for young readers, so those sections were edited.
The Capone connection from Congo is referenced on the first page (still not sure how I missed it for all those years) and Tintin only takes a page to get kidnapped for the first time. While still relying on gags, for example at some point someone gets knocked out by a villain using a boomerang, the storytelling is a lot tighter. This may have been to do with the edits of 1975 and the fact that by this point Herge would have honed his storytelling skills as most of the Tintin books had been written, if not released by then.
Tintin is already in mortal peril by the time we reach page four and again still only has Snowy to help him out of a tight spot. The first six or so books find Tintin rather introspective, either having to exclaim things aloud to himself or to remark to Snowy so that the reader knows what’s going through his head. Later, there is also a classic “tie the victim to the trainline” scene, which he is only saved from by an interfering lady pulling the alarm for something completely different.
This is also the first time we see the first classic Tintin costume. There’s really only two ‘costumes’ throughout the series and here we have the yellow shirt, black socks and brown plus fours. By the end of the book, Tintin has done away with the woollen vest he wears at the beginning of this adventure and we never see it again.
Tintin’s age comes into question here too. He tells the police that he’s captured some of Capone’s gang and they refuse to believe him. Does he look too young or do they think it’s just not possible? Later on in the series when Tintin is more well-known, he doesn’t find it so hard to be believed. On the other side of this, Tintin shows himself as far too trustworthy – he knows Chicago is full of gangsters, yet goes willingly with the ‘Police’ without any questions.
Considering Tintin is supposed to be from Belgium (though he is made more generally European in later books to widen his appeal) there is only one instance I have noticed him with a true language barrier. Bear in mind, he travels all over the world, to Egypt, China, England, Tibet, Morocco and Peru to name a few when he is captured by the native Indians he cannot either make himself understood or understand the Indians.
When he accidentally uncovers oil in the ground, people try to buy him off, echoing the scene in Congo mentioned last week. He wouldn’t claim in because it was on the Indians land, even though they had captured and just tried to kill him! By the next day, the Americans have paid off the Indians and a city had been built. Farr says: “Herge makes it clear he considers such capitalist expansion madness. It is a powerful comment and did not later please some of Herge’s foreign publishers. But despite their demands he resolutely refused to drop the scene.” (page 29)
In 1971 Herge actually visited America, and with a letter of introduction got to visit some native Indians in their camps. He intended to send Tintin back to America in the 1950s, but changed his mind and instead sent him to Tibet. This turned out to be a good change of heart as the Tibet adventure is one of the most popular and acclaimed books in the series, as we will find out in several weeks.
That’s all for now,
Next week: Cigars of the Pharoah.