I read "Tintin in America" relatively late in my journey through the Adventures of Tintin, which might not be fair since this early work by Hergé certainly pales in comparison to some of our beloved heroes later and greatest adventures (e.g., "Land of Black Gold" or "Explorers on the Moon"). From that perspective you notice that the art is a bit more cartoonish than what comes later but the most important difference is that this is basically Tintin and Snowy on their own. The wonderful cast of colorful supporting characters that end up populating the Tintin universe are not to be seen at this point, which might explain why Snowy "talks" a lot more in this early Tintin adventure than is his habit in later volumes.
While this is not a great Tintin adventure, "Tintin in America" is certainly an interesting one because of the way Hergé presents America to his readers. In a manner that reminds me of Babe's fanciful vision of the big city in "Babe: Pig in the City," Hergé presents the U.S. as half Chicago gangsters and half Wild Wild West cowboys and Indians. Tintin arrives in Chicago to clean up the city ruled by gangster bosses and Al Capone is not happy to see the world famous reporter. Tintin survives so many attempted gangland hits that you lose count of them, and it is a toss up whether there are more last second escapes or scenes where Tintin pulls a gun on a gangster. The perils of Tintin continue even when our hero and his faithful terrier companion make their way out West and become involved with some of the quaint customs of the local natives.
The final word would be that if you have heard people raving about Hergé and Tintin, and then you start at the "beginning" (in terms of what is readily available of the Adventures of Tintin) you might be wondering what all the fuss is about. Do not fear. "Tintin in America" represents the early days when Hergé was still finding his way and learning his craft. This is actually the third Tintin adventure, but "Tintin in the Soviet Union" and "Tintin in the Congo" have been let out of what is now the official canon because of Hergé's take on communism and colonialism. However, the best Tintin adventures are yet to come after this one and the best is very, very good.
There's not really a whole lot to recommend about one of Tintin's earliest adventures. In terms of plotting, characterisation and artwork, Tintin in America - created in 1931 and completely redrawn for collected colour publication in 1945 - is rather primitive compared to the sophisticated later adventures, the story suffering from no clear single storyline other than Tintin chasing one particular criminal across America. The book reflects rather its serialised origins where Tintin and Snowy are put through sequences borrowed from every genre of Hollywood filmmaking, from gangster films to Westerns.
Following on from Tintin's run-in with Al Capone's operations in, of all places, the Belgian Congo (in Tintin in the Congo), the news that the fearless reporter is coming to America to continue his crusade against the gangster strikes fear into the hearts of Al Capone and his gangsters, who immediately try to capture and dispose of him the moment he arrives in Chicago. Escaping their clutches, Tintin however soon breaks up their organised crime activities, but has to chase one big-time gangster, Bobby Smiles across half the continent and through Red Indian lands.
There's at least no shortage of incident in Tintin in America, a mixture of crime-fighting, mishaps and adventuring through exotic landscapes that would become a familiar formula in later Tintin books. It gives Hergé the chance to indulge in classic US movie imagery and escapades, with gangsters and Indians, lynch mobs and runaway trains, with Tintin in cowboy gear sitting at a campfire or dressed as a bellboy. Even if all those incidents and imagery are well-worn clichés from Hollywood films of the period, and the artwork isn't quite as refined as it would later become, there is at least some flair in how those sequences are storyboarded, with some terrific larger splash frames.
Warning: this review contains spoilers.
This was, if I recollect correctly through the mists of time, the second Tintin book I got, as a child, so I have a certain nostalgic attachment to it. Looking back now it's not amongst the best of the Tintin adventures. But, it being a very early work, that's not so surprising.
Although his main adversary in the adventure ends up being the fictitious Bobby Smiles, Al Capone is the mobster behind the criminal network Tintin is initially pitted against. This follows on from the mention of Al Capone in Tintin in the Congo, these instances being, as far as I know, the only times Hergé refers directly and by actual name to a real person in the Tintin books. As well as taking on the mob the plucky young reporter is embroiled in, amongst other things, an oil discovery, leading to a surreal sequence in which a city springs up instantly around him, literally overnight.
Of course he gets himself into numerous other scrapes - in this early adventure the serial nature of the original story is more apparent than in later, smoother-flowing works - and these scenarios allow him to narrowly escape being killed by Indians, lynched by rednecks, run over by a train, drowned in the bay or turned into tinned meat (is it dog food? I can't recall offhand!) by mobsters, amongst numerous other potentially grisly ends.
I wouldn't recommend this as a starting point - it doesn't hang together or flow as well as later, better Tintin adventures, seeming like a random assemblage of largely unconnected ideas - but for those who know and love Tintin it's an essential chapter the saga. There was much better to come, but this story retains a place in my heart and my collection, both for old times sake, and for its own early Tintin-era charm.
on 19 August 2015
This book is the third comic book by Hergé after “Tintin in the land of Soviets” and “Tintin in the Congo,” (not the river dummy, the Belgian colony, even if we do not use the article in front of this country name any more). We must remember we are in the late 1920s and the early 1930s. The first book was strongly anti-Soviet. The second book was strongly in favor of colonialism, and this third book is strongly in favor of the end of prohibition and the incorruptible war on gangsterism via the fight against the selling of alcohol, prohibited by a constitutional amendment and the Volstead Act, in other words in favor of Roosevelt and Eliot Ness, the first one still to come since Roosevelt was elected the first of four times in 1932 and Al Capone was convicted and sentenced to a long term in prison on October 17, 1931, exactly twelve months before this comic book was published in October 1932 (though it was serialized starting just before the sentence against Al Capone). That’s the first characteristic of Hergè’s work at the beginning of his career: he stuck to the news and was inspired by what was happening I n the world.
The second characteristic is that Hergé is Belgian and as such he has little to invest his Tintin who is going to remain young for so many years u=in Belgium itself and thus in Belgian adventures. These might come but later in his life. He chose at the beginning of his professional life to invest Tintin in the world and, mind you, in the whole world. These books are definitely written for a young audience and were published in magazines for young people originally. In this case it was published by “Le Petit Vingtième” from September 1931 to October 1932. That explains why Tintin will remain young all his life and why he is getting involved in adventures that take him far away in many countries and cultures. Young people after WW1 and even before liked exotic adventures and discovering foreign countries and civilizations. Tintin was a typical young man of his time, a young man who represented the young people who were emigrating to the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and going in the various colonial empires to build a presumably better world. At the same time that young Tintin reflects the human and humane values of his own time: education, sobriety, the refusal of any criminal activity, the love of the people, democracy too.
It is on that last line we can find debatable situations and remarks in these early books. They will be justly corrected, some of them at least, and vastly compensated in later volumes when he will deal with international gangsters who loot historical and archaeological heritage in various countries and exploits people in all possible ways, particularly black people, though he will keep a strong anti-Arab though not anti-Muslim stand till the end. He apparently never liked the oil-barons of Arabia who have little to do with Lawrence of Arabia and his Tintin-like ideals. In this book he was criticized, and he did correct some of the questioned pictures, for his clichés on the verge of stereotypes about black people and Indians. One example is the Cactus and Petroleum Bank page 29. The concierge, if he is a little more than a doorkeeper, is no longer black.
The question to know whether this book was racist and is racist is just a fake question; First of all the author is not at stake, only the book. The book represents with quite a lot of humane sense the ideology of its time. In Europe in those days anti-black humor and stereotypes were not on our TV screen yet but on all our radios and on all our walls with Banania at the top and its black man saying with a strong African accent “Y’a bon Banania!” And we must not forget Josephine Baker dancing more than half nude on some Parisian stage dressed in bananas, let alone the numerous colonial international exhibitions and the use, overuse and abuse of Indians by Buffalo Bill in circuses all over the western world not so long ago. As for Indians once again Hergé is of his time but he avoids the extreme vision of anti-Indian literature or journalese ranting of a degenerate “race” that has to be either entirely assimilated or totally exterminated. He shows them with some naïve customs but in a way rather logical and persistent in what they think right. The main point here is clear: a white gangster is manipulating them and not with whisky nor with weapons, just with some words. The gangster is despicable as such and he is a liar with the Indians. The Indians are just naïve, easily manipulatable and manipulated. Luckily they are because otherwise Tintin would have been nicely, finely sliced up and bled to death.
But the funnier part of it is of course the persistence of the gangsters who are going to try, try again and still try a third time and a fourth time still again, maybe more, to get Tintin six feet under and they will fail systematically. The serial publication of this book can be felt still because every three pages you have a cliff hanger of some sort or other: The boomeranged gangster who has just killed a taxi driver is escaping the cops by talking their motorbike page 3 for a first one. What will come next? You’ll know next week, boys and girls, or rather next month if we consider the cliff hanger page 6. Tintin’s triumph is of course the only possible end and the pleasure of the audience does not come from that but from the successive cliffhangers that create suspense and every single time he gets out of it brilliantly even if many times thanks to a Deus ex Machina that comes from the pen of Hergé himself who is kind of God Almighty, the Creator of all things, at least here of all boxes and bubbles.
I am afraid young people would lose something if that book were banned from public libraries and schools. Winnipeg is wrong, even though they are Canadian and are totally dedicated to the valorization and respect of Native Canadians, also known as Native Americans, though they were Natives for sure but neither Canadians nor Americans originally and had nothing to do with India and Indian people. The latest DNA studies show they are of mixed origins, Eastern European and Asian, meaning of the Sino-Tibetan stock because those two DNA stocks were mixed in Siberia where they came from, which is natural since the Sino-Tibetans and the Agglutinative-language-speaking Turkic migrated into Siberia (and the whole of Europe for the Turkic). At least those who are identified as Native Americans and Native Canadians, because we might have surprises if we went down south. But it is a basic human truth that you cannot prevent human mistakes even the most fundamental ones that reject culture, art, and plain human heritage, even if decades later or centuries later the same people or their descendants will have to go on their knees and apologize for their or their ascendants’ dumbness, narrow-mindedness and bigotry. Look for one example how Shostakovich’s music is finally rediscovered and revaluated, Shostakovich, that strong follower of Stalin, you know the leader who was taking over the land of Soviets in 1928-1929-1930!
Dr Jacques COULARDEAU
on 7 August 2015
“Tintin in America” is a sort-of-sequel to “Tintin in the Congo”. If you've taken the plunge and read that album, you know that the mysterious attacks on Tintin's life in Africa were ordered by Al Capone, notorious Chicago tax evader, who wanted to prevent the brave reporter from exposing his diamond smuggling operations. In this album, Tintin and his heroic terrier Snowy goes to the United States to challenge Capone on his home turf.
“Tintin in America” is obviously an early Hergé comic, with very little plot development, unrealistic action and a lot of stereotypes. Cowboys, American Indians, Mexicans, gangsters, rogue cops, greedy oil companies, striking workers, hillbillies, liberal do-gooders, private eyes and “high society” are all lashed by the comical whip. It's interesting to note that Hergé, despite the heavy stereotyping of Indians and the near-total absence of Blacks in his story, nevertheless criticizes ethnic cleansing and lynching. He also makes fun of American commercialism. And no, Hergé wasn't a leftist. This was rather a kind of Catholic “criticism from the right”.
Today, “Tintin in America” is interesting mostly as a historical museum piece. As I said, the plot itself isn't particularly exciting or clever, although I admit that I liked it as a kid. The main character has a remarkable way of surviving all the gangster attacks. The funniest plot twist is when Tintin manages to catch Al Capone, but the Chicago police refuses to believe him and calls the psychiatric ward, thinking that the reporter is out of his mind! I suppose our young hero should have checked Mr Capone's tax returns instead, LOL.
on 19 January 2010
I first read this book in French, in France with the book owned by my host 30 years ago with the book already 20 years old. Still a fascinating read of America seen through Herge's eyes, the original read helped me a lot with my French at the time.
on 11 May 2013
Purchased for male relative who has started a collection of tintin books. I seem to be the only person buying these for him so have told him at two a year (birthday and Christmas) it will take some time to complete collection.
on 7 December 2011
This is one cartoon character which doesn't need any review. Every single story is a favourite of mine and I wish they would turn each of that into a motion picture. An excellent addition to my Tintin collection.
on 5 January 2010
If you like TinTin you will like this book! It is as good or as bad as all the others! For me, I love those comics - they are simple, easy to read and have a clean sense of humor! Fantastic!
on 14 March 2014
A great book which was bought as a gift and was very well received by the intended audience. To say "over the moon" is an understatement.