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The World Of Tintin

World traveler; boy wonder; Tintin hits theaters next week in Steven Spielberg’s big production. We’ll crack open the classic Adventures of Tintin.

(c) Hergé/Moulinsart 2011

(c) Hergé/Moulinsart 2011

If you wanted quick adventure in 1930s Belgium or France – and soon, around the world – there was nothing better than boy hero, boy reporter, world traveler, mystery solver Tintin.  His thick comic book adventures – with his funny tuft of hair, his little dog Snowy, Captain Haddock and “blue, blistering barnacles” – took a wide-eyed generation under the sea, to the moon, to Tibet.

Steven Spielberg bought the film rights way back in Indiana Jones days.  Next week, the film arrives.

This hour  On Point:  the story behind the story of the amazing, intrepid Tintin.

-Tom Ashbrook


Michael Farr,  Tintinologist and author of Tintin: The Complete Companion.

Robert Guichard, Franco-American childhood fan of Tintin.


Tintin Trailer

From Tom’s Reading List

L.A. Times “”The Adventures of Tintin,” which Spielberg directed and Jackson produced, is stretching the very definition of animation. The story of a boy adventurer created by the Belgian artist Hergé, “Tintin” makes the leap to the big screen via motion capture, with Jamie Bell as Tintin and Andy Serkis as his sidekick Capt. Haddock. Snowy, Tintin’s canine companion, is a wholly animated character.”

Smithsonian “For many Americans—young and old—the appearance of the Belgian comic book hero on the silver screen will be a first encounter because Tintin never caught fire in the U.S. the way he did everywhere else. Since his adventures first appeared in a Belgian newspaper in 1929, books based on the strip have sold 250 million copies, translated into 100 languages (most recently, Yiddish). But America had its own indigenous cartoon tradition, featuring heroes like Superman and Catwoman, so when Tintin‘s creator Hergé approached Disney in 1948, he was turned down flat.”

HuffingtonPost “Tintin has hobnobbed with Emirs, cruised the Caribbean seafloor in a shark-shaped submersible and been waylaid by Tibetan snows. An inveterate wanderer, Herge’s creation narrowly edges out Waldo and Mr. Peabody for the title of world’s most traveled drawing. As comfortable among Arabian dunes as in Shanghai’s back alleys, Tintin is the explorer of a world that is exotic yet neat, rendered in sharp colors lassoed by ligne claire strokes — a geography equal parts childish fantasy and imperial vision.”


“The Adventure Continues” from The Adventures Of Tintin (2011, John Williams and London Music Works)

Theme from The Adventures of Tintin (TV) (1991, Ray Parker Jr, Jim Morgan and Tom Szczesniak)

“Aboriginal Sacrificial Dance” from King Kong (1933, William T. Stromberg and the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, Composed by Max Steiner)

“The Pagoda of Pillagi” from Around the World in 80 Days (1956, Victor Young and his Orchestra)

Prologue from Casablanca (1942, Composed by Max Steiner)

“Finale” from The Adventures Of Tintin (2011, John Williams and London Music Works)

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  • Rusalka

    Why is it that the Francophone world has such a rich culture of graphic novel (bande dessinee) which is generally ignored when discussing the “new” genre of American graphic novels, and rarely referenced when discussing comic books. Tintin is the only successful introduction…I wonder why.

    • Ernest to a Fault

      Don’t ask Ashbrooke, he has no idea. One can see that from his intro. 

      • PJ

        Ernest – it’s Ashbrook without the “e” and perhaps you heard something in his intro, but you didn’t see it!

  • Anonymous

    I saw the movie last weekend and enjoyed it.

  • Terry Tree Tree

    Enjoyed the TinTin series as a child.  I hope my grandchildren can enjoy it now!

  • Chris

    Please address the “imperial vision” aspects of the series, especially as it emerged from the ruins of WWII Europe and the beginning of the end of European colonialism – may this rather be “imperial nostalgia.” Also, does the current film have an “imperial vision” and/or an “imperial nostalgia”?

    Chris – Redding, CA

    • chris

      Of course i meant WWI – -Chris

  • Sara

    I grew up in Sweden, and my brother and I would use our allowance to buy a new Tintin comic book every time we visited a bookstore near our grandmother’s house in the northern part of Sweden. In addition to the excitement of the plot of each book, we also learned so much about the rest of the world, whether about carnivals in South America or of the monks of Tibet.
    Sara in Columbia, South Carolina

  • Tbensaid

    I must have seen Tintin somewhere as a child- I liked him very very much, and perhaps especially because he was a foreigner and therefore exotic to me (as a kid in the USA). We didn’t have the books, but when my own kids were little we found them, and there was a TV show which had video versions of the book. I’m not one to go beyond books for kids, because I think they pretty much cannot be improved upon, but the Tintin videos were absolutely faithful to the books. Furthermore my son learned to read watching the Tintin videos and following along with the cartoons and captions of the books- fascinating to watch (he was 5).

    I have no doubt the film will be excellent and quite popular, but not as true to the books as I would like. I can see that the boy is a bit old for Tintin and the dog a bit muscular for Snowy, and the dialogue not true to Herge.

  • Naghmeh Sohrabi

    My memories of Tintin is from my childhood in Iran in the 1980s.  All his books were available in Persian and we and my friends would circulate it among ourselves and devour them.  He never felt culturally different or alienating even though we were a bunch of Iranian teenage girls.  He just made the idea of seeing the world a real possibility to us. 

  • Sarita

    Great show! This is making me realize what an international audience TinTin (along with Asterix) has had!!
    I have lived in Boston for 20 years, but I grew up in India and grew up with, and LOVED Tintin. In fact, due to a childhood illness, I was required to take some painful injections on a weekly basis when I was 12, and my dad offered a treat – I could walk to the bookstore next to the Doctor’s and buy myself a TinTin each week! I built an entire collection in 6 months!

    My collection traveled back to India when I moved there with my family for two years, and travelled back here to Boston with us last year! I am delighted to see that my teenager boys now love it as much as I do and we are waiting in great anticipation for the movie to come out!!

  • Laura

    I cannot wait to watch the movie! I first met Tintin as a small kid in Colombia, so I first read it in Spanish then (in the 80s); actually, I have yet to read it in any other language! My cousin went to a Belgian school and he had all the books. I must have read them more than 50 times each.

    My favorite part is one in which the Thompson twins end up in an acrobatic plane show, and it is simply a series of pictures of them in the air. I remember reading this book (I believe it is the Black Island) late at night in my bed, and being unable to stop laughing. I must have been 8 then…

  • J-M

    I grew up reading Tintin at the Providence Athenaeum in Providence, R.I.  I can’t tell you how many times I read and reread each book.  On one level they were funny, but mostly they helped me to dream – that the world could be exciting, full of adventure, and that you could get somewhere by being honest.  I have never forgotten that scene in Tintin in America where he finds oil by chance in the desert and by the next morning we wakes up in an intersection with a traffic cop directing traffic.  There is this wonderful blend of adventure, humor, satire and life that does not quite exist in anything else but Mark Twain.
    J-M / Buffalo, NY

  • Moses Karugu

    I grew up in Kenya and “Tintin” was so much sought after that both kids and adults used them to barter for all kinds of things. I still buy these comic books here in Boston and what a joy to relieve my youth through Tintin. My only disappointment is that American kids seem to have missed out on this great treat!

  • Lisa S.

    Please whisper in Tom’s ear that it’s not Ton Ton – it’s more like Tan Tan.

  • Dminard

    A very fond memory from my childhood was the introduction of Tin-Tin to me and my siblings. These books created an instant and amazing bonding experience between us. All four children–ages 4 through 11–reading and loving the books together and hardly being able to wait for the next one to be purchased.

  • Niazy

    we should not forget that Tintin was also a weekly magazine.

  • Ann Schaffner

    We found TinTin by chance in the 1980′s . Now we are all fans.  A question for the experts–why do you think there are so few women in TinTin–I can only think of Bianca Castefiore..and she’s not very sympathetic, among many others…

  • Carlo Simonini

    I used to be disturbed by hearing of Hergé’s involvement with an anti-Semitic Catholic newspaper during the Occupation, but recently I’ve read Eco’s “The Prague Cemetery”, and it’s brought home to me just how intimately pre-Vatican_II Catholicism was bound up with anti-Semitic and anti-Enlightenment values, so I realise how much trouble it would have been to avoid such an association.

    Of course, most of the time Jews and radicals weren’t actively murdered, and under such circumstances a better man might have been more careful in his friends and employers…but I would not necessarily be such a man myself.

  • Debbi in Saxtons River Vermont

    Brings back so many memories…these were the first books I remember taking out of the Jefferson Ave library in Buffalo , NY as a child in 1957 . And then on a visit to Paris , was excited to see the Tin Tin series for sale in book stalls along the Seine. Just went to my bookcase and found edition Tin Tin and the Seven Crystal Balls..I will sit down and retread this again while. Await the movie

  • Emanuel

    We are the Librairie de France in New York, wwwfrencheuropean.com.  We have all the Tintin titles in English, French, German, Spanish and Italian and we will be having them in other languages as well.  If you wish to order, our number is 212 581-8810, email livresny@gmail.com.

  • Philippa

    I am English, educated in France and England, and I grew up reading and loving all the Tintin books. In the 1980s (before the TV show came to America), when I first met my 8 year old american stepson, I wanted to buy him a Tintin book, but my husband said (and I quote) “he won’t be interested in some little guy wearing knickers”. Well, I bought Evan the “Secret of the Unicorn”, anyway, and he loved it so much that he asked me to get him all the Tintin books I could find!

  • Lisa Breit

    My son discovered TinTin at the public library when he was 8 years old.  After that, we bought and read every single book (Over and over. And over…if I had a nickel for every reading, we would have paid for the books many times!). One of the marks of excellent children’s stories is that they appeal to adults as well. Now my son is 23, and when he recently received a gift certificate to Amazon, of all the items he could buy, he chose to buy a bound volume including all of the TinTin books.  He’s taking no chances that they’ll ever be unavailable to him!

  • Michiganjf

    I’m looking forward to my full collection of nearly vintage, mint, 30 year old Tin Tin figurines jumping a bit in value.

    E-Bay, don’t let me down!

  • listener

    My son taught himself to read with Tintin.  We would read to him – but not “comics” – so he would sit and study the books for hours.  At age 4, he emerged from his room saying “Captain says ‘Blustering Barnacles!’” Now he is 12 and can’t wait to see the movie.

  • AD888

    My father told my brother & me years ago that “Tintin in America” wasn’t published in the U.S. because one panel showed an obvious gangster casually handing a handful of cash (notes) to a cop on a street corner. Is that true?

  • Peter Mork

    In the 60s my high school library had the books in the original French. When I discovered them, suddenly it became very necessary, and enjoyable, to take my French studies seriously

  • Sputtydog

    I first read Tintin when my brother brought two volumes back from France in 1963.  What a treat.  I could not understand a word because they were in French, but that made no difference.  When I found they were available in English, I bought every one.  When traveling around the world, I picked up copies in other languages, and one daughter has picked  up copies in Arabic while in Egypt.  My daughters were brought up on Tintin, and never seemed bothered by the fact that the only female in the series is the Milanese Nightengale  I always found it fascinating that a lot of the stories take place in the middle east, and that characters and drawings have changed to reflect changes in colonial administration, including erasure of the Irgun..

  • Michiganjf

    … Now if only someone of Spielberg’s caliber would bring Modesty Blaise to life on the screen in a manner that does the amazing, 40 year serial comic justice.

  • heaviest cat

    oh yaaaaaaawn ,more “hero” schlock

  • Lpparlee

    Growing up in Canada the school library always had hardcover Tintin comic books in French, I can still remember many of them today. I’ll be going to see this movie.

    • Lpparlee

      Next Speilberg can make an Astrix and Obelix movie and I’ll be all set.

  • DG

    I first heard of TinTin when we lived in Colombia in the ’60s. I have one hardback book in Spanish, I’m guessing it was a gift. As a girl, TinTin appealed to me because he was cool & adventurous, but a nice boy who loved his little dog. I am looking forward to seeing the movie!

  • Brennan511

    I definately read (solo) tintin as a child, though I don’t see the classic [cheap] books on shelves today $30. books yes, but honestly!
    The adventures in the Inca and Amazon left the deepest impression on me. I had similar California-eXperiences as Jim Morrison did [The Doors] dude…, only we went right into the “non-Belgian” new world [alienating] realities.
         I always felt that untill I was MARRIED! I wasn’t worthy to ExPerience the good good world that tintin was geographically blessed with. Europeans like “Sven the penguin” {from “Happy Feet 2″ !!!} felt this same alienation in the U.S. of America. like Calcutta fony-booze, we need to “make tintin _a_travel agent_” and open the golden-gate for the golden rule.
         My central geo-ancestry would be at! the tip of Belgium. china is STILL  a second-world nation. Europe needs RESPECT! Mojo Risin needs a lift, QUICKLY! …blistering balanced balLads.

  • Bruce Armstrong

    Sorry Tom, but really, just because you’re an American doesn’t mean you’re obligated to rhyme Tin Tin with “win win.”  If you can handle the pronunciation of Hergé (which for some reason you didn’t feel obliged to rhyme with “surge”) you (and we) can handle Tin Tin. It’s not that hard.  Nobody will accuse you of being a cheese-eating surrender monkey.

  • Doo2walker

    been reading tin tin forever the best

  • Pingback: Jeremiah’s Blog » Blog Archive » Sherlock Holmes vs. Tintin

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