Thursday, 22 June 2017

The Adventures of Jo, Zette and Jocko: Mr. Pump's Legacy, Destination New York and The Valley of the Cobras by Hergé

As previously noted, much of Hergé's non-Tintin work isn't well known in English because so little is still in print in translated form. However, there is one other series with three albums currently available in the UK, which can often be found alongside The Adventures of Tintin in bookshops.

The Adventures of Jo, Zette and Jocko are the tales of a brother and sister and their pet monkey. Hergé created them on request from one of his French publishers but ultimately only produced five complete albums. Two of the albums, The 'Manitoba' No Reply and The Eruption of Karamako, have only had a limited English-language circulation in a double-volume that used the overall story title The Secret Ray and is now out of print. Some of the depictions in them are controversial and were thus passed over by first Methuen and then by Egmont.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Explorers on the Moon - The Adventures of Tintin 17 by Hergé

"This is it! I've walked a few steps! For the first time in the history of mankind there is an EXPLORER ON THE MOON!"

When Neil Armstrong landed on the Moon he received many messages from all over the world. One that baffled him the most, so the story goes, was an illustration of him standing by the lunar module being greeted by three men and a dog in orange spacesuits, with a red and white rocket in the background. He soon learned that another had already visited the Moon in fiction.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Destination Moon - The Adventures of Tintin 16 by Hergé

This is the big one. Of all The Adventures of Tintin, by far the best known is the two-part story that begins with this album. Such is its prominence that a special display stand for the albums in book shops is even modelled on the rocket. It is arguably the second best known Moon landing of all time. However much of that is to come in the second part of the tale. For now we have the story of events at ground control.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Land of Black Gold - The Adventures of Tintin 15 by Hergé

It's surprising just how many of the Adventures were at one stage partially complete. Land of Black Gold began as the ninth and final Tintin story to be serialised in Le Petit Vingtième but the supplement and the parent paper, Le Vingtième Siècle, were shut down when the Germans invade Belgium in May 1940. Though the Adventures would soon resume, the content of Land of Black Gold made it impossible to carry on during the occupation. The tale might well have remained incomplete but then in the late 1940s it was revived as a filler, with the whole story restarted, redrawn and with some modifications to match developments in the series. It was changed again in 1971 for the English-language publication, changing the setting from the long out of date British Mandate of Palestine to the fictional Arab kingdom of Khemed.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Prisoners of the Sun - The Adventures of Tintin 14 by Hergé

Prisoners of the Sun concludes the story begun in The Seven Crystal Balls, with the scene shifting to Peru as Tintin, Snowy and Captain Haddock pursue Calculus's kidnappers, with the not quite help of Thompson and Thomson. There's no real recap at the start of the tale, just a quick scene in a police commissioner's office, reflecting the original back to back publication but it does stand out more when the two albums are published under separate names.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

The Seven Crystal Balls - The Adventures of Tintin 13 by Hergé

Had things turned out differently, The Seven Crystal Balls could have been the final, incomplete Adventure. Begun in the latter stages of the war, publication was abruptly halted when Brussels was liberated with Le Soir newspaper being temporarily suspended and then restarted with a completely new editorial staff whilst Hergé faced accusations of collaboration and was unable to work for the press for nearly two years. (During this time, he redrew many of the earlier Adventures for the clear line colour format, but although his book publishers were supportive, it's doubtful the economics of the album market could have sustained the series by themselves.) The story and the Adventures as a whole were only revived with the launch of Tintin magazine in the autumn of 1946, bringing colour to the original serialisation for the first time. It's interesting to wonder what might have happened had the Adventures never returned, not just on the cultural impact and legacy of Tintin but on the whole Franco-Belgian comics tradition. Although a number of the developments had begun before the war and many creators began during it when imported strips disappeared, The Adventures of Tintin were a key influence for years afterwards with imitators and rivals. If Tintin had never returned after the fiftieth page here, bandes dessinées could have turned out very differently.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Red Rackham's Treasure - The Adventures of Tintin 12 by Hergé

Red Rackham's Treasure is the most unusual of the Adventures so far. It's explicitly the second part of the story begun in The Secret of the Unicorn but it takes quite a different approach. Whereas that tale is set entirely in Tintin's home country, this one takes him all the way across an ocean and back again as he searches for the treasure captured by Captain Haddock's ancestor.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

The Secret of the Unicorn - The Adventures of Tintin 11 by Hergé

The Secret of the Unicorn is very different from what has come before, showing the series growing in self-confidence and showing a willingness to experiment. For the first time in the series we get an adventure told over two books (whereas Cigars of the Pharaohs is essentially self-contained, albeit with loose ends that The Blue Lotus picked up on). It's also a tale that confounds expectations. The cover suggests a grand adventure at sea with an early modern ship and pirates but in fact we get the first story set entirely in Tintin's home country.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

The Shooting Star - The Adventures of Tintin 10 by Hergé

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.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

The Crab with the Golden Claws - The Adventures of Tintin 9 by Hergé

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.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Quick & Flupke: Under Full Sail and Fasten Your Seat Belts by Hergé

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.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

King Ottokar's Sceptre - The Adventures of Tintin 8 by Hergé

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.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

The Black Island - The Adventures of Tintin 7 by Hergé

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.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

The Broken Ear - The Adventures of Tintin 6 by Hergé

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.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

The Blue Lotus - The Adventures of Tintin 5 by Hergé

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.

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Cigars of the Pharaoh - The Adventures of Tintin 4 by Hergé

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.

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Tintin in America - The Adventures of Tintin 3 by Hergé

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.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Tintin in the Congo - The Adventures of Tintin 2 by Hergé

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.

Thursday, 16 February 2017

The Adventures of Tintin in the Land of the Soviets - The Adventures of Tintin 1 by Hergé

I've only just begun these reviews and I'm immediately faced with the first question, namely what is the English language title of this book? This post's title follows the spine of the current (Egmont) paperback but both the cover and the inside front-page present it as the rather lengthy 'The Adventures of Tintin reporter for "Le Petit Vingtième" in the Land of the Soviets'. (That's not absolutely exact but it's extremely hard to reproduce the Belgian quote marks on my keyboard.) The official website gives this one as "Tintin in the Land of the Soviets", which is shorter. Whatever name gets used is a pain.

Sunday, 12 February 2017


Welcome to yet another review blog. Comics have a mixed reputation around the world but in some places they're considered the Ninth Art, hence the title of this blog.

I'll be reviewing various comics, strips, collected editions and graphic albums - basically whatever takes my fancy. To start with, I'll be looking at the full run of The Adventures of Tintin by Hergé, plus a few of his other works along the way. Look out for the first post on Thursday. Beyond that we'll see.