Tintin & Snowy Coming to a Theater Near You

June 2008


If you’re a history buff and enjoy graphic novels too, check out The Adventures of Tintin. Creator Georges Prosper Remi, born in Belgium in 1907, wrote under the pen name Hergé, which is the French pronunciation of R.G., his initials reversed. Tintin is a young reporter who travels the world, always finding himself in the midst of a grand adventure. Tintin travels with his faithful, all-white, wire fox terrier named Snowy. Interestingly, in the books, Snowy has dialogue bubbles and “speaks,” but in the televised animated series, Snowy communicates only with whines and barks.


The story line of most episodes mimics an actual historical event. Some adventures of note are a visit with Native Americans in 1930’s America, a tour of Egyptian tombs and incitant of the Curse of the Pharaohs, landing on the moon only to experience Apollo 13–type difficulties on the return to Earth, defeating a coup attempt reminiscent of Nazi Germany's takeover of Austria, involvement in a pseudo–Manchurian Incident during the lead-up to the Chinese-Japanese War of 1934, and a variety of experiences in China, the Middle East, Tibet, and Peru.


The main cast of characters appears in most episodes with Tintin: Professor Calculus, the simple-minded, hard-of-hearing, scientific genius; the bumbling twin detectives Thomson and Thompson, who amazingly always get their man and are only discernible from one another by their slightly different oversized moustaches; and sea captain Sir Francis Haddock living at Marlinspike mansion, modeled after the Château de Cheverny in France’s Loire Valley. Captain Haddock’s favorite expletives are “billions of blistering barnacles” and “thousands of thundering typhoons.” Itinerant characters include the Chinese boy Chang, South American Generals Tapioca and Alcazar, film producer Rastapopoulos, Professor Sarcophagus, and the ear-splitting opera sensation Bianca Castafiore.


Hergé gathered photographs from all over the world to use for illustrating his stories. Michael Farr’s book, Tintin: The Complete Companion, includes a side-by-side comparison of many of Hergé’s original photos with their illustrated panes. The representations are remarkable. No wonder each story completed by Hergé took close to a year to write and illustrate.


The Tintin graphic novels are easily found at your local library. The DVDs of the series are a little tougher to find, but I was able to buy a 20-episode set from a Canadian company last year. Interestingly, the episode Tintin in America is not included in the set. But don’t worry, since Steven Spielberg is directing the upcoming Tintin film, due out in September 2009, Tintin merchandise will soon be available everywhere, and everyone will be able to buy the books, the DVDs, and a white wire fox terrier plush to name Snowy. I know I will.