For those of you who have seen the recent Tintin film, you may recognise some of the plot points from that film in this story. The story was melded with two later ones, though not all successfully in my opinion.
Another story written during the war years, this one suffered more than most. Firstly, it wasn’t intended to be written at the time but Herge pushed back the idea for Land of Black Gold due to its German villan, an idea which wouldn’t be an advisable idea during the occupation.
The strip moved to Le Soir due to Le Petit Vingtieme being shut down. Le Soir was the most read French daily paper in Belgium but the higher circulation also meant being featured in the German mouthpiece for Belgium – the paper had been taken over by the Germans. A supplement called Le Soir Jeunesse was created especially to house Tintin, but due to paper shortages had to be removed from the paper and Tintin found himself on the same pages as the “heroic” Wehrmacht.
There were lots of political reasons why Herge would choose to tell The Crab with the Golden Claws over Land of Black Gold – occupied Belgium was not the place to have Tintin fighting Germans. Nazi censors had banned The Black Island because of its British setting and later Tintin in America because of the title but the most anti-fascist work, last weeks book – King Ottokar’s Sceptre was untouched.
Herge steers clear of politics and goes back to an old favourite – drug trafficking. We also have our first appearance of Captain Haddock, which is a very significant moment in the series. He takes the place of Snowy as being Tintin’s foil and is also his polar opposite, the drunk to Tintin’s sober, the rude to his polite. With Haddock, Herge brings more continuity to the series and no more is Tintin just muttering to himself or Snowy, he now has a sounding board for his crazy theories.
The Crab with the Golden Claws was the last book to come out in black and white. From The Shooting Star onwards every book was in the new 62 page format which is standard today. This change was a reduction from the 100 – 130 page format of the black and white edition and has four strips per page instead of three. The Crab with the Golden Claws needed 10 extra colour pages to meet the 62 pages and Herge did this by using full colour plates throughout the story.
The story opens with Snowy finding an empty can of crab meat. Later on Tintin sees part of the paper from the can at the Thomson’s house and rushes off to try and find it. The papers were items taken from the body of a drowned sailor and at home, Tintin deciphers the word on the paper to be “Karaboujan”. Tintin then finds out that the drowned sailor was a crew member on the Karaboujan, who we later discover met his sticky end when mistakenly trying to do a drug deal and his crew mates found out. Of course, once Tintin hears this, he must investigate. He gets onto the ship by following the Thomson’s but is soon seen by Allan (the evil ships captain from Cigars of the Pharoah) and is soon locked up in the hold as the boat moves off.
He soon escapes from the hold and discovers a stash of crab tins and as he opens it discovers that they are filled with opium. We see Captain Haddock for the first time on page 14 where Allan is plying him with whisky so he will agree to anything Allan says. Tintin breaks into Haddock’s room and tells him about the opium which Haddock is not aware of. They soon escape the ship in a rowing boat, heading for the coast of Spain. After a few twists and turns, one involving a seaplane it becomes apparent that they are not in the Spanish coast but in the Sahara desert. The next few pages are dedicated to their trek across the desert and eventual rescue. They soon find themselves in Bagghar where Tintin in pursuit of Allan, disappears. Meanwhile the Captain sees the Karaboujan, reported to have sunk in the harbour under a different name. Eventually Tintin comes across the gang behind the Karaboujan and ends up running into Omar Ben Salaad, the man behind the entire operation, who the Thomson’s have been questioning. After a speedboat chase, Tintin successfully catches Allan and hands the entire gang and their head over to the police.
That’s all for now,
Next week: The Shooting Star