Friday, November 15, 2013

Tintin Weekly Series #3

The closest the young Belgian reporter Tintin has ever come to entering Canada was in 1931-32, although he regrettably chose the land of the eagle rather than the beaver.

I mean, what could Chicago have over Toronto or Montreal? What could possiblywhat's that? ? And he was responsible for the diamond smuggling operation in Africa Tintin broke up in the previous adventure? Hmm, well come to think of it, that's actually a pretty good reason.

Photo by Mark Neil.

is the third title in the Tintin series. It is also, chronologically, the first of the books I have read in both English and French, so my many thanks to for helping me vastly improve my fluency in the second of our two official languages. Though I have to admit, it is somewhat of a sight to read American characters speaking perfect French in the original version while I still have stumbles and errors.

Tintin's adventure into the land of the free and the home of the brave, as mentioned earlier, follows up the end of the previous story, . Tintin arrives in Chicago to continue his investigation into Al Capone's diamond smuggling operation he'd exposed and broken up in Africa, a goal which predictably puts him in the path of dangerous gangsters, of which there is no shortage in this city. Chicago's criminal elements have their hands in virtually every corner of society, leading Tintin and his faithful dog Snowy to come up against one challenge after another, each one more perilously close to ending their adventures than the last.

Hergwould frequently write his strips to match real world events and also to reflect his view of the world. In Tintin in America, his portrayal of Blackfoot Natives being forced off their land for oil interests was labelled by Tintinologist Michael Farr as "the strongest political statement" in the series, reflecting his dislike of the American capitalist system where "the dollar is almighty." His portrayal of the , where gangsters do as they please and the police are largely ineffectual or, in many cases, on the criminals' payroll, is very accurate for the time.

Even though the strip has much of the previous stories' meandering sort of narrative with the lack of a well-crafted central plot, it does offer a look at what readers can expect from the upcoming adventures. The title contains what Tintinologists Jean-Marc and Randy Lofficier refer to as "the first great villain" of the series in the gangster Bobby Smiles, who Tintin spends much of the adventure pursuing. Al Capone is also featured in the adventure, one of only two real people to appear in the series.

Photo by Mark Neil.

The Lofficiers argue that characters within the strip reflect recurring characters who would be introduced in subsequent titles. This includes the incompetent hotel detective Mike MacAdam as a possible precursor to Thomson and Thompson, and the drunken sheriff anticipating . If true, it would be a classic example of Hergcoming back to ideas he had first brought forward in previous adventures.

Much like with the Thompsons in Tintin in the Congo, readers will observe a special cameo appearance of a future recurring character - the man who would become the arch villain of the series, . Seated next to Tintin at a banquet held in his honour, there is little to indicate the battles the two will have in the near future.

Tintin in America was not without its critics in the , as Michael Farr points out. When it was first published, U.S. publishers were uneasy about the scene where the Army forcibly ejects natives from their land, though Hergrefused to change it. For the 1973 version, however, American publishers forced him to change African-American characters into Caucasian or Hispanic ones, apparently so as not to encourage racial integration among children. The fact that this happened nearly a decade after the passage of the Civil Rights Act is very surprising. Perhaps it's because, in the Western world today, it's hard to imagine this being a legitimate argument.

I find Tintin in America to be a fairly unique novel, sort of a bridge between the seemingly random occurrences in Land of the Soviets and Congo and the more detailed and linked adventures that were to follow, especially with the next two stories. His depictions of Native Americans, while perhaps as somewhat gullible and na ve, was not nearly as controversial as his depictions of other non-Belgian/non-white/non-European characters. Indeed, his realistic portrayal of their treatment at the hands of American authorities is the first real stand against bigotry in the series. That, in itself, is worthy of praise.

It's indeed a shame that, their mission complete, set sail eastward for Europe instead of north to Canada. There's plenty of mystery up here. Maybe he could figure out why the Maple Leafs never win a Stanley Cup.
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