The Shooting Star shows a decisive change of approach from previous Adventures. There's no great exploration of a country and no grand crime to investigate. Instead this is a story made up of incidents and action. As a result, the plot is somewhat slight. It's also the first tale to really venture into the realm of science fiction, though that's a genre that can often be misunderstood.
The Crab with the Golden Claws is one of the best known of all The Adventures of Tintin and the one that's been adapted more times than any other. It introduces Tintin's best known and most popular supporting cast member, Captain Haddock. More fundamentally it represents a shift in direction for the series, stepping away from political commentary into the realm of escapist action and comedy. It's easy to see why this album has made the mark that it did.
Hergé produced far more than just The Adventures of Tintin. During the 1920s and 1930s he either created many different strips and also worked with other writers. But much of this output is little known in English, not least because of the limited translation and even many of those are now out of print or only available in certain countries. Today it seems there are only three non-Tintin albums available in the UK, which I'll be looking at later. Two others were published by Egmont in the last decade but it would seem weak sales have killed off the chance of the rest of the series being released, although a full set of eleven translated albums have been printed in other countries. So for now we have just two volumes of Quick & Flupke to look at.
King Ottokar's Sceptre is a curious entry in the Adventures. It features both a highly modern (for the time) scenario of a country facing an internal coup & potential annexation by its neighbours, yet also contains an extremely odd structure by presenting a situation where control of a country rests upon possession of a single object. This fusion of late 1930s concern about German expansion and the potential weakness of small neighbouring states with almost fairy tale notions of monarchy and power feels odd. And yet the story is set in what is by far the most thought through and developed fictional country yet seen in the Adventures.
The first thing that stands out about this album is the cover format. The use of a band at the top for the series title with Tintin and Snowy's heads in the top left-hand corner is a style not otherwise seen until quite late in the run, reflecting the complicated publication history of this adventure. Like most of the early Adventures it was originally published in black and white and then redrawn in colour during the 1940s. But the version now generally available, and reviewed here, is a further alteration from the 1960s, made at the behest of the-then British publishers, Methuen, but which appears to have displaced the earlier version in all languages.
This one's a slight curiosity as there are some cover galleries around which show this with the title "Tintin and the Broken Ear", including the one on the sleeves of the DVD releases of the 1990s cartoon (though the episodes themselves use the simpler title). The current Egmont editions, however, use the shorter title. I'm not too sure what's going on here but I'll stick with the shorter title used on current editions of the album available here.
It's a sign of the skill of the Adventures that some of the albums are direct follow-ons from preceding adventures yet the earlier tale feels a complete whole. This is especially helpful if the latter story is unavailable in any way - and The Blue Lotus didn't get an English translation until a dozen years after Cigars of the Pharaoh. Conversely in the original French the colour edition preceded the earlier tale's redrawing by nine years.
Cigars of the Pharaoh is the first of the Adventures to not have "Tintin" in the title, presumably due to the appearance of the series title "The Adventures of Tintin" on the cover making it redundant to repeat the star's name, though as we'll see later, this reasoning was not always adhered to. This is also the first album to feature the characters Thompson and Thomson and also Rastapopoulos, though each had had a cameo added to the redrawings of earlier adventures.
Tintin in America may be the third story in the Adventures, but thanks to the various issues that have affected the availability and readability both earlier adventures it has often wound up as being the first adventure in the series for many. Combined with its post war redrawing and subsequent revisions the result is an introduction for many that has had a lot of the earliest problems ironed out to make it consistent with what is to come. But it's not completely there yet and there are still some aspects that feel odd in hindsight.
In one regard Tintin in the Congo is clearly a vast improvement on its predecessor, having been redrawn in the post-war years to match the settled format and style of the Adventures as a whole. Otherwise this is the deeply controversial book with a long history of restrictions, particularly in the English language. For most of the series's history this book has been unavailable in the regular English-language collection. In the early 1990s the original black and white version was released in a special collectors' edition along with other early versions. But the colour version didn't appear until the mid-2000s and even then it was only available in hardback and meant to be shelved alongside graphic novels and not children's books, though some stores ignored this despite the wrapper warning. The publication reawakened the controversy over the book and this may be the reason why in recent years Egmont have ceased publishing it and removed it from the gallery of titles on the back of every Tintin book. The most recent edition is published by Casterman, thus detaching it from the rest of the Adventures and as a result the book is now accumulating a new rareness and the inevitable aura of mystique that comes with that.