October 19, 2006 10:55 AM   Subscribe

The Adventures of Tintin — where to begin?

I read a lot of (non-superhero) comics, but for some reason I have yet to read any of Hergé's Tintin. Where should I start? Are the stories chronologically dependent that I should start at the beginning? Or are there particular noteworthy adventures that would be a good introduction?
posted by Robot Johnny to Media & Arts (20 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I read them out of order and didn't really notice a problem -- sometimes they reference an earlier adventure but you don't need to have read it. My favorite is Tintin in Tibet.
posted by JanetLand at 11:03 AM on October 19, 2006

I also read them out of order - it's not a problem. There are a few coupled books - Destination Moon and Explorers on the Moon for example, but it doesn't really matter. Tintin in Tibet is also one of my faves, but I think The Blue Lotus is tops.
posted by handee at 11:11 AM on October 19, 2006

You could try a 3-volume-set that contains Tintin in Tibet and two other excellent ones: The Calculus Affair and The Red Sea Sharks.
posted by EiderDuck at 11:17 AM on October 19, 2006

I remember Flight 714 being my favourite ...but every one is just excellent. Herge really is ina class of his own - those books were a huge inflence on me.
Actually Tintin in America I thought wasn't up to some of the others, and I never did read the Blue Lotus.
posted by Flashman at 11:38 AM on October 19, 2006

I know of almost no-one who read them chronologically, but there exists a fairly major plot thread starting in The Cigars of the Pharaoh that runs through a good portion of the series. I would consider starting with that one, then The Blue Lotus, then Tintin in Tibet (which contains plot elements from The Blue Lotus but otherwise depends on nothing significant beyond the Captain's presence).
posted by j.edwards at 11:42 AM on October 19, 2006

I read them out of order and had no problem. Warning: make sure you have lots of free time. Once you start reading the Tintin comics you will not be able to tear yourself away, they are really incredible.

You might also try Asterix, but only if you have a bit of knowledge of French and European history.
posted by arcticwoman at 11:45 AM on October 19, 2006

Sadly, Tintin is really racist. THis comes out in a particularly ugly way in Tintin in the Congo , but I've noticed painful asian stereotypes in other adventures.

On a more fun note: Breaking Free! The anarchist adventures of Tintin.
posted by serazin at 12:28 PM on October 19, 2006

Serazin - Tintin is certainly a creature of his time - and a lot of popular European literature from the earlier 20th century does have similar sterotyping. I wouldn't write off the entire series on that basis however - most are fine. Indeed a friend of mine who tried to buy a copy of Tintin in the Congo at the Tintin museum in Belgium very nearly got thrown out - at least they recognise the error...
posted by prentiz at 12:47 PM on October 19, 2006

i have to agree with serazin.

i grew up reading tintin. loved it then. i've never read the congo episode but i've heard of serazin's point before. also, after i've moved to the u.s. as an adult, i started noticing the asian stereotypes serazin is talking about.
posted by eebs at 1:02 PM on October 19, 2006

They are chronological, but not to the degree that you'll be lost if you read them out of order.

Here's the "official" chronology:
Tintin in the Land of the Soviets
Tintin in the Congo
Tintin in America
Cigars of the Pharaoh
The Blue Lotus
The Broken Ear
The Black Island
King Ottokar's Sceptre
The Crab with the Golden Claws
The Shooting Star
The Secret of the Unknown
Red Rackham's Treasure
The Seven Crystal Balls
Prisoners of the Sun
Land of Black Gold
Destination Moon
Explorers on the Moon
The Calculus Affair
Red Sea Sharks
Tintin in Tibet
The Castafiore Emerald
Flight 714
Tintin and the Picaros
Tintin and Alph-Art

Note: You may just want to skip straight to Cigars of the Pharoah or The Blue Lotus. Herze started as a fairly conservative, pretty prejudiced guy (well, same as the times), and his early work (especially "Tintin in the Congo") reflects this. It isn't his best, either.
posted by schroedinger at 1:04 PM on October 19, 2006 [1 favorite]

As Schroedinger suggests, there is definitely an order to the series. The earliest adventure — Soviets — was published in 1929. The last adventure — Alph-Art — was unfinished at the time of Hergé's death in 1983. Of these 24 books, only 21 make up the Tintin canon (at least in the U.S.). Soviets and Congo are not widely available, nor is Alph-Art. No great loss.

I, too, started in the middle with Tintin. I read Red Rackham's Treasure in the fifth grade, and was a little lost. (It's actually the 2nd of a two-parter!) As others have reported, you can just start anywhere, especially since Hergé made many revisions over the years that effectively blended continuity, so as to actually make it confusing.

That said, I'd actually recommend starting at the beginning, which in the U.S. (and Canada), generally means America. That books will feel rather cartoony, and its narrative thread is rather primitive, but it's the first chronologically. But if you wanted to bypass America, Cigars of the Pharoahs and The Blue Lotus (a two-parter) make an excellent introduction. They've got a great Tintin story that really fits the mold.

Hergé drew these stories over the span of many years. That is, the first adventure was serialized in 1929. Most of the adventures were published before the end of the second world war. Thereafter, the space between each subsequent tale increased at a great rate. The later stories become more intensely personal, and as many have suggested Tibet is probably Hergé's masterpiece. It was first serialized in 1958-1959.

The Tintin adventures are remarkable. I think one can best appreciate their development — and Hergé's development — by consuming them chronologically. By reading them this way, you get an added dimension that's not there if you just read them piece-meal. But they're great fun if you just pick them up at random, too.

You can get more information from this book list. Also — Hergé certainly had some racist tendencies and Nazi sympathies, but I agree with what somebody else said: he was a product of his times. That doesn't excuse his behavior, but it helps to consider his attitudes based on his time culture, not on ours.

(My very first web site, back in 1995, had a very large Tintin subsection. At one time I wanted to have THE best Tintin site on the net. That goal has faded with age, but I still love the books.)
posted by jdroth at 1:58 PM on October 19, 2006 [2 favorites]

I really liked Red Rackham's Treasure and Red Rackham's Treasure. If I remember correctly, you can also neatly avoid overwhelming racist portrayals in those issues.
posted by Deathalicious at 2:03 PM on October 19, 2006

Tangentially, I really enjoyed the Tintin and I documentary. See it if you get the chance.
posted by juv3nal at 2:49 PM on October 19, 2006

Seconding the Tintin and I docu - among other things, it explains some of the cultural stereotypes that others have noted here. I have it saved on my PVR and just watched it again the other day. It's really fascinating.
posted by autojack at 3:43 PM on October 19, 2006

There are a few coupled books - Destination Moon and Explorers on the Moon for example, but it doesn't really matter.

Note that there's some residual stuff going on in Destination Moon which you won't understand unless you've already read Land of Black Gold.
posted by Rash at 5:00 PM on October 19, 2006

Thanks everyone. I may very well try and start from the beginning, as I get the feeling that the books will get better as I go along, especially if Tibet is considered the best (at least that seems to be the general consensus).
posted by Robot Johnny at 5:04 PM on October 19, 2006

Just don't be dissuaded if Tintin in America is not to your taste. It has most of the Tintin elements, but it's very primitive. The stories get richer and more textured as the series progresses.
posted by jdroth at 5:31 PM on October 19, 2006

Thanks jdroth!
posted by Robot Johnny at 5:37 PM on October 19, 2006

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say: you can't go wrong.

You're in for a treat!
posted by ikkyu2 at 8:46 PM on October 19, 2006

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