I didn’t do much this weekend just gone. I went to the pub on Friday, slept late, ate pizza, and went with my boyfriend to his mum’s house for Sunday lunch. But in between, I read The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn.
Though I read a lot of Tintin as a child, there are still a lot of stories I haven’t read – which I kind of like, because it means I’m still discovering them. I read the A4 paperback ‘albums’ when I was little, and had a couple of the compact editions (A5 hardback with three stories in each volume), and I bought a couple of the young readers’ editions a while ago in the lovely Blackwell’s on Broad Street in Oxford.
Those these editions are meant for youngsters, they are a very convenient size and have a section at the back with background information about how Herge put each story together, and the research and inspiration behind them.
It’s ‘educational’ but also fascinating and genuinely interesting. Par exemple:
Lots of little facts and anecdotes, but then also genuinely cool and amazing stuff, like THIS:
Herge actually got a master shipbuilder to draw plans of The Unicorn so that he could make his drawings accurate. He also researched Royal British ships in the 1600s. Amazing! It’s things like this that make Tintin so much more than a kids’ comic for me – and for many others. In particular, the Tintinologists, who have a very active website and social calendar, including a Tintin conference (which I just missed this year, it was 10th January at UCL). Nerdy yes, but when you read what they have to say they are intelligent, interested people with a variety of interests who have been brought together by the charming character, created by a Belgian (as someone with Belgian heritage, I can say, not the coolest place) 85 years ago.
There is of course also The Tintin Shop in London’s Covent Garden, which opened in 1984 and has always been an absolute treat to visit. They also have an ace website where you can browse and buy everything they sell in the store – though nothing beats an actual visit there.
I’m writing this post because I was reminded this weekend of how much I love the Tintin stories, and why I love them, and why they have been so important to me. Reading them as a child, they were always fun and exciting, and the drawings were attractive. The stories themselves were always interesting and a little different from anything else I read at the time – and I can say that now too. I think an adult can enjoy them just as much as, if not more than, a child because as an adult you can appreciate the subtleties and nuances, as well as the in jokes and contemporary references. I personally also love the old cars, technology and clothes, and the sense of adventure – round-the-world voyage anyone?
Tintin lives in a funny old world, but it’s one I’m very happy to visit him in.
PS – I’ve not seen the 2011 movie, but I plan too. Also the American Tintin website is pretty good too.
[Apologies for the terrible quality photos – taken on iPhone in living room! But I think they convey my point.]