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Mr. Pump's Legacy (The Stratoship H.22, Part One, The Adventures Of Jo, Zette And Jocko)
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Non-canon > The Adventures of Jo, Zette and Jocko

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message 1: by Sammy (last edited Jun 13, 2012 11:33PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Sammy (thecardigankid) | 72 comments Mod
I've just begun reading Herge's other series, "Jo, Zette and Jocko", which I hadn't read properly since I was a young child. There are only three of the five albums translated into English, so I'm going to read and review them this week.

First up, Mr. Pump's Legacy (The Stratoship H.22, Part One):

For Tintinologists and casual fans alike, the adventures of Jo, Zette, and Jocko, are fascinating excursions into the embryonic narrative styles of Herge. For many, however, they remain simply unknown.

Created shortly after Tintin became a success throughout Belgium and France, "Jo, Zette and Jocko" were made for a slightly different type of readership. The weekly 'Coeurs Vailliants' was founded on principles of traditional values, and Herge was asked to provide a traditional family as the centre of his new adventures. Enter Jo and Zette, children of an engineer and his domestic wife, and their lovable pet monkey, Jocko.

It's perhaps no surprise that this scamps never became as popular as the boy reporter. While Tintin has agency on account of his age and profession, Jo and Zette are only children, and can never be as active protagonists as the blonde one - at least, not for more than a few adventures. There's also more didactism present, given the younger age group Herge was writing for, meaning there are moments of pure science or instruction. (A few of these elements seep into some of the weaker 'Tintin' installments, but they're more prolific here.) And, finally, the book shows its origins as a weekly serial, much as the early 'Tintin' works do. The first third is just set-up and continuous attempts at sabotage by a villain who threatens to become as comically inept as Wile E. Coyote. Indeed, the whole piece has a "Boys' Own" feel about it, with Jo or Zette constantly getting near the truth, only to find themselves in terrible danger.

To speak ill of this adventure, however, is to short-change it. Herge's humour abounds throughout the volume, from the very first page which creates the absurd and complex idea of the millionaire John Archibald Pump and his requirement for a butler who can roller skate. Everything about Pump's "Modern Times"-esque lifestyle is hysterical, and the misadventures of the monkey Jocko easily live up to those of his more famous canine cousin. (In the naughtiest frame of this 'family friendly' adventure, the culprit of a missing bottle of champagne is revealed to be Jocko, sleeping drunkenly behind some barrels.)

More to the point, Jo and Zette show a fair amount of chutzpah and insight, with Herge treating them equally. (It's thoroughly refreshing to see Zette get just as much action as her brother.) While the adventures rarely rise above standard chase-escape-chase fare, it's done with a level of panache and humour that equate with the increasingly complex 'Tintin' albums of the late '40s. Herge plays with our point-of-view, as when Jocko embarks on his own adventure to save Zette, even though we already know she's been saved.

There are a few other issues I had with 'Mr. Pump's Legacy', particularly the lack of dimensions to the villains, and the inadequate characterisation of poor Mrs. Legrand. However, as these are rectified in the second volume ('Destination: New York'), I retract them immediately!

It's clear that "Jo, Zette and Jocko" will never be a series esteemed as "Tintin" was. There are only five completed albums, and the first two (a two-part story entitled 'The Secret Ray') have never been translated into English. While the trio could have occasional adventures, their lifestyle didn't allow for such globetrotting as Tintin. Sure, Enid Blyton could make the English countryside a playground for decades, but Herge was never as attracted by bucolic tales. Unlike the many great works in the 'Tintin' oeuvre, 'Jo, Zette and Jocko' reveals its serialised origins far more often, and this inevitably tarnishes its reputation. Still, the album features some enjoyable characters, rip-roaring chase sequences, and an egalitarian attitude to its heroes - boy, girl, man, and monkey - which is admirable. For anyone who's enjoyed Herge's albums, it's worth a look.

Sammy (thecardigankid) | 72 comments Mod
Second review, for Destination New York, the sequel to "Mr. Pump's Legacy".

"Destination New York" is the second of three "Jo, Zette and Jocko" albums published in English. (The first two albums have never been translated.) It follows on from "Mr. Pump's Legacy" as our titular trio embark on a daring round-the-world flight.

Whereas "Mr. Pump's Legacy" had a "Famous Five" feel about it, this volume is far more fantastical, as the journey takes the kids from the equator to the North Pole. In spite of this, the story relies on Herge's trademark deflating humour (the kids explain their situation to an Eskimo in pidgin English, only for him to reveal he's learned the language years ago). The villains are more complex than in the first half, with a splinter through their group. One villain gives up the fight, not just because he's suddenly reformed, but because of the danger of the enterprise. It's quite a neat psychological moment, comparable even to few things in the 'Tintin' canon.

Even for such a fantastical story, there's only one annoyance: that one of the main villains just happens to be on the same beach where Jo and Zette unexpectedly land at one point! Apart from this, Herge gives us a surprisingly broad story. We follow Professor Legrand as much as his children, and Jocko gets his own story as he sets off for New York. They all tie in to one another toward the climax though, when Madame Legrand gets in on the action, as she gets to hear an important dying confession. Any character could've fulfilled this role, but clearly Herge wanted to give even his housewife character some fun.

There's a lot to love in this volume. It perhaps sacrifices some of the pure realism of "Mr. Pump's Legacy", but rewards us with non-stop action. Jocko is just adorable in his little hooded coat, and it's interesting to note the parallels to early Snowy in how he fights with walruses, polar bears, and the like. There are some lovely callbacks to the first volume (particularly on the last pages), and some great satire. My favourite frame has to be reporters besieging the triumphant children: "How did you feel during the flight? Do you like icecream? Do you play with dolls?" While the final plot twist seems like an unnecessary coda (complete with overly simple solution), it's the only moment in the album that reveals its original serialised format. Quite a step up from the chase-escape-chase format of "Mr. Pump".

If there is one interesting item of note, it's in the death of a poor stuntman - employed by the villains, yes, but not himself of malicious intent. He is killed in a rather brutal crash, in a death that would be rare in 'Tintin'. Perhaps "Coeurs Vailliants" - a magazine more involved with its 'traditional family values' - was happier to trade in black-and-white morality than Herge's usual approach. It's not a sour note, but certainly a noticeable one.

All in all, I've enjoyed "Jo, Zette and Jocko" thus far. They don't have the durability of Tintin, certainly: there are no delightful secondary characters, and undoubtedly the agency of these children would've faltered if they continued to have adventures (ten-year-olds can't get away with quite as much as reporters), but they're worth a look nonetheless.

message 3: by [deleted user] (new)

Sammy wrote: "Second review, for Destination New York, the sequel to "Mr. Pump's Legacy".

"Destination New York" is the second of three "Jo, Zette and Jocko" albums published in English. (The first two albums h..."

Nice review. Growing up in India, I had read "Jo, Zette and Jocko" books in Bengali, which happens to be my mother tongue, way back in 1998. After almost 12 yrs when I read them, again, in English, I found them boring, unlike Tintin, which I had read a zillion times, and continue doing so. For me the "Jo.." series is a bit juvenile, the plots weren't very convincing, two children flying a plane across the globe is not really my cup of tea.
For me the best book in the series was,
The Valley Of The Cobras.
Having said everything, I still rate Herge as my favorite author, it was because of him and Tintin, that I started reading thrillers and continue to do so even today.

Sammy (thecardigankid) | 72 comments Mod
Anirban wrote: "Nice review. Growing up in India..."

I like your thinking, Anirban! I've never read The Valley of the Cobras, although I plan to do so this week. I look forward to it!

I have to agree that these books are far less interesting. For the most part, they don't have the complexities or the level of humour and artistry that make the Tintin books so brilliant to read over and over again. I don't dislike the "Jo..." books, but I probably wouldn't read them again. Once was enough!

I think that, like you, Herge had a big impact on me. I'm not really into thrillers, but the cinematic quality of his stories must have been part of the reason I became a writer. When I was 9 or 10, I used to adapt all the Tintin books into screenplays! They weren't very good, but I was so excited by the nature of the stories and the characters. Isn't it fascinating how one Belgian man, who never thought he would be so famous, had impacts on people from all over the world?

message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

Sammy wrote: "Anirban wrote: "Nice review. Growing up in India..."

I like your thinking, Anirban! I've never read The Valley of the Cobras, although I plan to do so this week. I look forward to it!

I have to a..."

True, so very true. There is a huge fan base for Tintin, in Calcutta, the city I live in. It is said that Herge received
letters from Calcutta, and reportedly wanted to visit Calcutta.
The cinematic impact which you spoke about also had a huge impact on me. As a child of 5 or 6, Tintin was my gateway to the world. When I think about it today, I really wonder was there a single place in this planet(or outside it) that he didn't take us with him??
It saddens me today when I see people, in my city, the place where India got her first Tintin, branding him as a racist. Just because of that TINTIN IN CONGO fiasco, which Herge himself was apologetic about.
For me, he will remain my first HERO, who could do anything, who would take me along with him, to dig mummies, fight despot generals, save a professor from being a bait in a cold war.
Life without Tintin wouldn't have been that funny.

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