Which are the best Tintin stories?
October 17, 2011 10:05 PM   Subscribe

Which are the best Tintin stories?

So I've been randomly picking up the various Tintin books by Herge at the local library when I've seen them on the shelves over the last couple of years. Now I'm thinking I'd like to go and buy a few to have on the shelves at home. But which in your view are the best (particularly in terms of story and iconic art) 4-5 of the 24 volumes?
posted by jjderooy to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
They are ALL awesome! It is extremely hard to choose. You ought to go to a big bookstore that has them all and flip through them so you can really see them all in their full glory. Last time I flew through Schiphol they had a bookstore with all the Tintins and I was in raptures.

Some of my favorites:
- Cigars of the Pharaoh
- Prisoners of the Sun
- The Calculus Affair
- The Castafiore Emerald
- Flight 714
- Tintin and the Picaros

I like lots of Haddock, lots of Calculus, lots of Jolyon Wagg and Thomson/Thompson!
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:01 PM on October 17, 2011

They're like candy corn, how can you stop before eating the whole bag?

If you like the more serious albums, go for The Blue Lotus (a surprisingly well-researched picture of China in the '30s), followed up by Tintin in Tibet.

For pure adventure, I like King Ottokar's Sceptre and The Calculus Affair.

For slightly goofy fun, The Castafiore Emerald.

I understand the upcoming movie is based on Secret of the Unicorn + Red Rackham's Treasure, so those would be good preparation.
posted by zompist at 11:35 PM on October 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm generally in agreement with treehorn+bunny but I suggest you avoid the first two written, at least for now.

Tintin in the Land of the Soviets is an interesting curiosity, but the style and flavor are different (mostly black and white; late 20s, conservative catholic, anti-communist propaganda for children). Tintin in the Congo is visually closer to the iconic style (at least in the post '46 colored editions), but it can seem shockingly racist to a modern sensibility.

Personally I would recommend Destination Moon and Explorers on the Moon both because they are great stories and because they were imagining a fully fleshed out expedition to the moon in the mid 50's, about fifteen years before we all got to find out what it was really like.
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 11:38 PM on October 17, 2011 [5 favorites]

I would recommend
  • The Black Island and Cigars of the Pharaoh for their North By Northwest feeling of an "everyman" thrown into an adventure.
  • Destination Moon and Explorers on the Moon for the Sci-Fi-ness (imagining the moon landing over 15 years prior to Apollo 11) and the cool looking rocket and interiors. And
  • The Blue Lotus and then Tintin in Tibet for the friendship.

    Personally, I pretty much avoid anything with Bianca Castafiore, Picaros, or general Marlinspike slapstick.

    The following Tintin's I'd look at only after having exhausted all else, and just more for a "let's look at some early rough work...":
  • Tintin in the Land of the Soviets,
  • Tintin in the Congo (I think this may only be available in French), and
  • the never-finished Tintin and Alph-Art. (Better than these last three, you might actually get more enjoyment taking a look at the Jo, Zette and Jocko comics—although I've only seen a couple, and they're targeted towards younger readers, so they may be hit and miss)

    (Also, sometime you catch sight of an Adventures of Blake & Mortimer comic and think it looks incredible... but while, yes, the art is Tintin-esqe and great, for some reason the panels eschew actions and instead give you talk balloons wordier than a Cathy comic strip; sadly, all that work and talent to make an end product that's boring.)

  • posted by blueberry at 12:33 AM on October 18, 2011

    King Ottokar's Sceptre is the best.
    posted by parmanparman at 1:08 AM on October 18, 2011

    I think Hergé got better as time went on and only ran out of inspiration at the end (when the gaps between the publication of the albums got bigger and bigger). Anything he made between 1940 (when he started The Crab with the Golden Claws) and 1962 (when he finished The Castafiore Emerald) is masterful. Please note this excludes Land of Black Gold (which Hergé worked on in 1939 and 1940 but had to wait until 1948 to resume work on it).

    If I had to pick five personal favorites I would go with the two double albums from the 1942-1948 period (The Secret of the Unicorn / Red Rackham's Treasure and The Seven Crystal Balls / Prisoners of the Sun) plus Hergé's own favorite Tintin in Tibet (which he started working on in 1958).
    posted by dinkyday at 1:22 AM on October 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

    The documentary Tintin et Moi (trailer) makes a pretty strong case for Tibet and Blue Lotus.
    posted by unmake at 1:49 AM on October 18, 2011

    Cigars of the Pharaoh

    Secret of the Unicorn /
    Red Rackham's Treasure

    Seven Crystal Balls /
    Prisoners of the Sun

    (If I can cheat and count two-parters as a single story, then add:)

    The Crab with the Golden Claws

    Destination Moon
    Explorers on the Moon
    posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:14 AM on October 18, 2011

    So yeah, this is obviously personal...

    In terms of drawing style, I'm a fan of the (what I'd call) middle-period ones, beginning with the Shooting star, which is a model of neatness and austerity in drawing. I'm not a fan of many of the remakes from earlier versions, as for example apparent in the now usually known version of Cigars of the Pharaoh (that story especially seems very fragmented anyway).

    It pretty much stops for me with the style transformation (in drawing and story-telling) taking place around the Calculus Affair (to be sure, the level of detail in that album is absolutely stunning). Flight 714 is, for me, the worst of the lot (disregarding the very early ones that are problematic for reasons of political correctness): idiotic plot, unrealistic characters.

    Of the early ones, of course, The Blue Lotus is special because of the amount of personal interest and research that is said to have inspired the story (in this case, I do like the 1946 version, which is the one usually sold now).
    posted by Namlit at 4:34 AM on October 18, 2011

    The Black Island is my favorite (I see it mentioned only once so far).
    posted by rom1 at 6:17 AM on October 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

    This is personal, but if I had to give someone only 5 Tintin books they'd be:

    The Blue Lotus
    King Ottokar's Sceptre
    Tintin in Tibet
    Seven Crystal Balls/Prisoners of the Sun (one story in two books)
    The Castafiore Emerald

    But as mentioned, they're all worth owning (except Tintin in Congo which is racist bilge and happily avoided). Even the two late ones are good, even if Hergé's cylinders aren't all firing at once.

    Oh, and the rocket from Destination Moon/Explorers of the Moon is probably the most iconic image outside of the recurring characters.
    posted by Kattullus at 6:27 AM on October 18, 2011 [1 favorite]

    Just to note that The Crab with the Golden Claws is where he first meets Captain Haddock, which is rather notable IMO.
    posted by Magnakai at 7:20 AM on October 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

    Two years ago I burned through my old collection, archived at my parents house. My personal favorites remain Destination Moon+Explorers on the Moon but that story really begins with The Land Of Black Gold so that's the Tintin trilogy, to me.
    posted by Rash at 8:04 AM on October 18, 2011

    My favorites were the Seven Crystal Balls and Prisoner of the Sun.

    The imaginary ones I wish I could read are here.
    posted by procrastination at 8:04 AM on October 18, 2011

    Somebody already mentioned the Jo, Zette and Jocko series but I would like to single out the last album in this short-lived series: 'The Valley of the Cobras'. It was made just before what I consider Hergé's 'golden age' (1940-1962) and it is, unlike the other Jo, Zette and Jocko stories, almost in the same class as the Tintin albums of that period.
    posted by dinkyday at 8:35 AM on October 18, 2011

    My favorites were always Destination Moon, Explorers on the Moon, and Tintin and the Picaros.

    For earlier stories, King Ottokar's Sceptre (look for the miniature of the Battle of Zileheroum) and The Shooting Star are excellent.

    The Castafiore Emerald is pure silliness.
    posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:52 AM on October 18, 2011

    Great link, procrastination! It would be complete if Tintin in Thailand were included.
    posted by Rash at 9:58 AM on October 18, 2011

    related link to where Cthulhu and Tintin meet
    via Lovecraftsman
    posted by zombieApoc at 10:08 AM on October 18, 2011

    Certainly my favorites are the Seven Crystal Balls/Prisoner of the Sun two-part story, with Secret of the Unicorn/Red Rackham's Treasure a close second.

    I have always remembered the Jo, Zette and Jocko books that one of my cousins had as being really racist - a revelation to me as a pre-teen in Sweden. I think it might have been the cannibals in The Eruption of Karamako, perhaps, or that I'm mixing recollections of them and the Tintin in the Congo book they also had....
    posted by gemmy at 10:29 AM on October 18, 2011

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