Tim Pendry's Reviews > Tintin in Tibet

Tintin in Tibet by Hergé
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's review
Nov 09, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: graphic-novels, cultural-studies, modern-european, popular-culture
Recommended for: Children

Herge's 'Adventures of Tintin' are classic 'ligne claire' comic books, representing a type of clear Continental style of draughtsmanship that often contrasts with the moodier styles more recently developed in the US and East Asia.

There has been some politically correct criticism of the Tintin adventures, which amount to 24 comic books written from the 1930s to the 1970s (the last unfinished from the early 1980s) - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herg%C3%A9 - but the truth is that the adventures were often the first introduction to the graphic novel in school and public libraries.

Only the most po-faced critic would object to the vast bulk of the output. The girl in Forbidden Planet in London who took my money was excited to see that I had bought it because it had introduced her to the world she now worked in.

And miserabilists who would edit out all past children's literature because of the political conditions of the day and different sensibilities are insulting kids' intelligence (they soon filter out the objectionable themselves). Worse, denying them access to their own cultural history is a crime because it deprives them of the right to make their own judgements on 'progress'. Captain Haddock is a likeable alcoholic - so what? Likeable alcoholics don't cease to exist because you edit them out of children's history.

Tintin in Tibet is the acknowleded classic among classics, missing only the Thompson Twins as characters that include Haddock, Snowy the dog and, of course, the intrepid man-child Tintin himself.

What is remarkable, in view of the dominance of fantasy in most contemporary graphic design, is the lack of the fantastic. The world was small enough in 1960 that Tibet could be, in itself, an exoticism - last frontiers such as the Amazon, Space and the Pacific Islands still existed for kids at that time. The story is a succession of classic adventure incidents, any of which could (except for the comical denouement which will not be spoiled by me) have taken place in real life.

This is a world closer to Rider Haggard or Henty, upgraded for 'modern' (mid-twentieth century) kids, than it is to the usual fantasy fare of today - but its general humanity (the values are primarily ones of concern for others regardless of cultural origin) and the constant incident still make it perfect for tweenies.

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