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The Books > #14: Prisoners of the Sun

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message 1: by Sammy (new)

Sammy (thecardigankid) | 72 comments Mod
Continuing directly from The Seven Crystal Balls, Prisoners of the Sun sees Tintin, Snowy and Captain Haddock journey to Peru in pursuit of Professor Calculus and his kidnappers. Battling an Inca threat, Tintin must somehow uncover the location of his friend, and find a way to escape the clutches of a curse that has already taken the sanity of seven men.

Still reeling from the aftermath of WWII, Hergé was free again and able to write to his own requirements, with a magazine solely devoted to his work. Continuing on from his previous story, however, this tale lacks either political insight or a contemporary feel, but is nonetheless engaging and different in tone to all that had come before. Herge had very much enjoyed the process of writing a two-parter with The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham's Treasure, so was content to do another here. After already suffering a two year delay, this album took twenty months to publish, but resulted in a professional and acclaimed album.

After the character overload of the previous tale, "Prisoners of the Sun" takes our central foursome out of their comfort zone, and introduces no new elements or characters to the overarching series. Instead, Herge continued to focus on recreating details that he had discovered in photographs and magazines, to create as realistic a picture as possible of another world. By the time the serial was published as an album, in 1949, there was interest in filming the "Tintin" works and his publishers - Casterman - were considering expanding to the English speaking market. And most of his albums - except for his "baby picture" The Adventures of Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, Cigars of the Pharaoh and the still-unfinished Land of Black Gold - had been redrawn in colour. Herge would no longer publish new serials at a once-a-year rate from now on, but his stock was rising higher all the time.

"Prisoners of the Sun" was published in English in 1962 by Methuen. It has since been adapted into various media. In 1969, a French animated film entitled "Tintin and the Prisoners of the Sun" was released. In 1992, it was made into a two-episode story in the animated TV series. In 1993, the story was made into a half-hour radio play for the BBC radio series. Subsequently, in 1997, a video game of the same name was produced. Finally, 2001 saw a musical stage show released in Dutch - "De Zonnetempel" [Temple of the Sun] - which was adapted the following year into French.

Links:

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prisoner...

Tintinologist: http://www.tintinologist.org/guides/b...

24 Days of Tintin:
http://tintinblog.com/2009/12/04/24-d...


message 2: by Merry (last edited Nov 01, 2010 04:59AM) (new)

Merry | 34 comments Places visited or mentioned in "Prisoners of the Sun" )(with some thanks to Wikipedia):

* Callao, Peru
* Jauga, Peru
* Santa Clara, Peru
* Brussels, Belgium [Thompsons subplot]
* Paris, France [Thompsons]
* Valley of the Kings, Egypt [Thompsons]
* Antarctica [Thompsons]

(This is the last sighting of France and Egypt in the albums, although Tintin doesn't visit them personally. Tintin also doesn't visit his native Belgium in this book. This is also Tintin's only trip to Peru.

Antarctica is never confirmed on the page as the location of the Thompsons' journey, but it is likely given the penguins and the snow, and notable Tintinologist Michael Farr says so too. As a result, this is the only appearance of Antarctica in the albums, which is the sixth continent visited (only Australia remains thus far))


message 3: by Sammy (new)

Sammy (thecardigankid) | 72 comments Mod
"Prisoners of the Sun" is a memorable 'Tintin' story, full of attention-grabbing set pieces, and there's no surprise it has been adapted so many times. But, it's not one of the greatest 'Tintin' albums, at least in my opinion.

Tintin, Haddock and Snowy set sail for Peru to find the missing Professor Calculus. There, they travel to isolated towns and through the Andes in search of a lost Inca temple. This is a beautifully drawn album, with Herge revelling in his research into Peruvian culture. There's a lot of colour, depictions of native wildlife, and movement between lush greens and browns to the whites of the mountains. There's plenty of amusing comedy here - particularly in Haddock's battle with the South American animals, and Calculus' inability to grasp the severity of their situation - and some of the earlier sequences, such as the journey aboard a runaway train, are bracing and thrilling.

Things drag a bit, however, once our heroes reach the Andes. As in many of his middle period albums, Herge was fascinated by the research and spent a lot of time padding his stories. The excursions are lovingly crafted and enjoyable, but not much really happens between Tintin's arrival in Peru and his discovery of the temple. Interestingly, Herge had to cut out page after page of story when he transferred the original comic strips into book form, but most of it was diversions from the narrative anyway. A lot is still left in - including several pages of animal attacks in the Andes. (That's not to say it isn't worthwhile reading, it just doesn't teach us anything new).

Similarly, the period in captivity is not exciting at all. We don't learn anything about the Inca captors, nor about Tintin and his friends. Instead, for several pages, Haddock and Snowy continue to doubt Tintin and wonder how they can escape. It must've played really well to the original readers, I'm sure (!). On the other hand, the cutaways to the Thom[p]sons - who are searching the globe unsuccessfully for Tintin - are hysterical.

The climax of the story - in which Tintin successfully tricks an entire culture using science - always felt a little backward to me, even as a child. Apparently, Herge himself doubted the believability of this story (which was passed down from Christopher Columbus himself), but decided it would make a good climax. In the end, though, the Inca and Tintin come to understand each other, and accept that neither one was entirely right. Herge humours himself a little bit with further dream sequences, and an occult-based resolution to the plot, but his Inca are sincere and well-meaning people who don't come across too much as stereotypes, so it's forgivable.

Reading back on my review, I realise that I sound quite undecided about my feelings. At the end of the day, this is an enjoyable read and uses Herge's characters well. Unfortunately, it's quite predictable and seems to go on far too long without much to tie things together for the middle third of the story. Not the best, but a welcome addition to the series nonetheless.


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