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on 11 June 2001
In this story Tintin, Captain Haddock and Professor Calculus return to San Theodoros, the land of the Arumbayas first visited in "The Broken Ear". General Tapioca has imprisoned Bianca Castafoire and her retinue in an attempt to lure Tintin and friends to Tapiocapolis (the capital of San Theodoros). Unleashing a wave of propoganda he claims Bianca Castafiore is a spy and that a plot to overthrow his government was conceived and planned at Marlinspike (presumably in "The Castafiore Emerald"). Haddock and Calculus travel to San Theodoros to the aid of the Milanese Nightingale (Bianca Castafiore) but Tintin is reluctant at first fearing a trap. His fears are well founded as an old enemy, Colonel Sponsz (from "The Calculus Affair") is waiting to enact his revenge. An adventure ensues during which Tintin helps General Alcazar regain control of San Theodoros again through the use of the costumes of "The Jolly Follies" (a band of performers among whom travels the ubiquitous insurance salesman Jolyon Wagg). The Arumbayas are revisted again also during this adventure.
This was the last complete adventure that Herge created for Tintin ("Tintin and the Alpha-Art" was an incomplete story). "Tintin and the Picaros" was finished in the spring of 1976. Eight years had passed since the previous story "Flight 714" and Herge was in no rush with this story. Tintin was a successful product now and the financial pressures had gone.
Something I found interesting about the story was that many have criticised Herge's political correctness with very early adventures such as "Tintin in the Congo" (which has never been released in it's colour form in England presumably because of fears about this). "Tintin in the Congo" portrays black people in Africa in a somewhat dubious way. To Herge's defense he has claimed that he was merely echoing how society thought then. His peers and people around him did think that Africa was full of savages in the 1930's when the book was created and so he was merely reflecting this. Some have found this claim a weak defense.
But I think that "Tintin and the Picaros" illustrates well how Herge's politics in the stories do reflect thinking around him. In this adventure Tintin sports a motorbike helmet with a CND sticker on it. The way the characters speak in the story is noticeably updated and they sound far more modern. The view of politics in San Theodoros is also a more modern one though no less cynical! In my opinion Herge does reflect attitudes around him - he doesn't create them - at least not conciously (he is only human so some influence from what's around him is always going to creep in).
I was a little disappointed with the return to familiar territory in the form of San Theodoros... I felt perhaps a lot of story was covering already well trodden ground. "The Broken Ear" was written in 1935 and really "Tintin and the Picaros" just revisits many of the same themes but in a more modern way. It's a little like Herge is saying that this was "a unstable country almost in constant revolution in 1935" - and then "here it is again now in the 1970's". The thing is not much has changed. Just the maturity of the writing and the change in thinking (back in 1935 nobody cared if the revolution was bloodless or not!).
Nevertheless, despite these reservations, this is a good Tintin story (if a little predictable) and so again it's as essential as any other to a Tintin fanatic such as myself...! Oh and do be sure to pay special attention to the language of the Arumbayas. It's "knot'llits eems" ;-)
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The last Tintin adventure that Hergé saw through to completion, Tintin And The Picaros has divided opinion among fans and critics.

As Harry Thompson, author of Tintin: Herge and His Creation notes, somewhat disdainfully, Hergé makes some concessions to the times. Our plucky hero loses his iconic plus-fours, does yoga, and has the CND logo on his scooter crash-helmet! Prior to this Tintin and co. seemed to inhabit a permanent time warp located somewhere between the 1930s and the 1950s.

Well, I for one still enjoy this Tintin adventure, despite agreeing that these concessions to modernity weren't needed. It's certainly not the best or most engaging Tintin story, although it is undoubtedly, both visually and narratively, a 'mature' work. But, most importantly, it has all the major qualities one expects in a Tintin story: exotic globetrotting adventure with colourful characters, many familiar, some new, intrigue, skulduggery, heroism and comedy all mixed in.

Considering some of the political ups and downs Hergé lived through, his final public comment on politics seems apt: the book starts and ends with almost identical scenes. At the beginning we see one form of tyranny, the neo-fascist regime of General Tapioca, which by the end is simply replaced by another, namely General Alcazar's socialist regime. Both add up to the same thing; slums policed by the salaried henchmen of the current regime.

By this time Hergé was fed up with both Tintin (not that this was at all apparent to me when I first read this as a child) and politics, but true pro that he was, he nonetheless turned in a decent solidly enjoyable final instalment in the long-running saga.
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Comfortingly enjoying life in Marlinspike Hall, there 's a marked reluctance on the part of Tintin and Captain Haddock this time to get involved in another mad adventure, and one perhaps senses a similar reluctance from Hergé, eight years after publication of the previous Tintin adventure Flight 714, to run his characters through the same old paces once again. Once they all get going however, it's pretty much business as usual in Tintin and the Picaros, although it would prove to be the last completed Tintin adventure.

Hergé initially has a great deal of fun at the expense of his heroes' prevarication. The opera singer Bianca Castafiore has been arrested in San Theodoros while on a tour of South America and charged with spying offenses. Despite pressure from press and television reporters and despite the gallant words of Calculus, Haddock is the last person to the rush to the aid of the diva, believing correctly she is quite capable of looking after herself. The pressure mounts however as General Tapioca turns it into a very public challenge offering safe passage if they come to negotiate in person. Normally, Tintin and co. would be on the next plane for South America, but this time they are a bit more canny, and have clearly learned lessons from past, aware that the challenge is nothing more than an attempt to lure Tintin, as well as General Tapioca and his Picaros rebels, into a trap. Nonetheless they do make the journey and soon find their suspicions confirmed.

As recompense for putting Tintin and Haddock through the same old routines one more time, Hergé takes some pleasure in bringing back a few old faces, not only reigniting the struggle between Tapioca and General Alcazar from The Broken Ear for control of the Banana Republic of San Theodoros, bringing back the associated characters of Doctor Ridgewell and the Arumbaya Indians, but connects their revolutionary activities with the Kûrvi-Tasch regime from the fictional Balkan state of Borduria first seen in King Ottokar's Sceptre and later in The Calculus Affair, bringing in Colonel Sponz. The connection is somewhat forced, but it makes for a great deal of entertainment, Hergé finding a new way after the previous adventure, Flight 714, to characterise and make fun of villains and dictators and their mad, absurd lust for power.

Entertainment is to be found also in a few familiar places, with Captain Haddock - much to his horror - taking an aversion to whisky (with Calculus snickering in the corner of the frames), and the hilarious cockney-speak "foreign" language of the Arumbayas. The artwork is latter-day clear-line Hergé - not as pure as his early and mid-period style, with rather too many large speech-bubbles, but attractively designed nonetheless in its South American jungle and Carnival settings.
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on 19 January 2010
Sadly this was the last ever Tintin book to be completed, and fortunately it can stand as a fitting tribute to Herge's work over the previous 40 years.

As usual in these late Tintin adventures, the artwork is superb, with some splendidly drawn large panels of South American street life, and there is an entertaining story, which sees Haddock and then Tintin travel to San Theodoros, where they are soon drawn into the deposed General Alcazar's plans to regain power from his arch enemy General Tapioca.

By this stage, Herge had become quite whimsical in his treatment of his familiar old characters, and we see Haddock forced to become a teetotaller, while Tintin has taken up yoga and sports a CND badge on his motorbike helmet.

Of course the book is far more than just a comic book for children, and there is much that will appeal to the older reader, such as Herge's obviously critical view of the military regimes then dominant in South America and his portrayal of the henpecked Alcazar.

Watch out too for Herge's take on foreign military aid to third world countries, as embodied by Borduria's Colonel Sponsz, who has become an 'advisor' to the Tapioca regime under the alias 'Esponja'!
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on 7 August 2015
“Tintin and the Picaros” is the last “real” Tintin comic, originally published in serialized form in 1976. As usual, I don't see any particular difference between it and earlier adventures, while the aficionados complain about various novelties, such as Tintin wearing different trousers and Captain Haddock not being able to drink whiskey. Above all, I think the story is rather uninteresting, revolving around a palace coup in the fictitious Latin American nation of San Theodoros.

Hergé's political sympathies might perhaps be gauged from the fact that the bad guys are Communists, while the good guys are pro-American. Overall, however, the political message is one of cynicism: the freedom fighter Alcazar is on the payroll of a multinational banana company, the “Communist” military and police change sides almost instantaneously after Alcazar's coup, and the nation of San Theodoros is strongly implied to be an impoverished police state under both Communist and pro-American regimes.

The guerilla theme feels very “1970's” (despite the Picaros really being contras), but overall, I must say that “The Adventures of Tintin” didn't go out with a bang, but rather with a whimper... Only two stars. Or perhaps two-and-a-half.
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on 14 August 2015
It's no co-incidence that Herge's best work came with his advancing years. His wisdom, political suaveness, and better understanding of the realities of the world increased with age raising his later works above the cliché and the popular stereotypes of the time that characterised his earlier years.

Tintin and the Picaros continues where the Castifiore Emerald left off. Packed with wit, great artwork, and political savvy, this is one of Herge's best works.

From starting off as a two dimensional drunkard, Captain Haddock, morphs into a genius invention of comic relief, as his struggles to continue drinking, and his battle of wills with General Tapioca, reach their zenith. The insults traded by the two are something to behold.

Tintin himself, had gone beyond the boy reporter ever ready to leap into danger at the drop of a hat. Cautious, wiser, but no less braver, we see a new side to Tintin's characterization, and Herge deserves full credit for this.
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on 29 June 2013
I chose to buy this comic book because I had just bought the Tintin poster and I felt that I could not have the poster on my wall without knowing the story behind it.
The Tintin stories are timeless although slightly non-PC for today's kids. Wonderful!
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on 24 August 2005
The "Picaros" was really the last Tintin book before Herge's death. And it is facinating to see the development of our hero. Now, we see Tintin in flairs and slip-on shoes............whatever next? I believe Herge was beginning the process to "modern up" Tintin. Also, points to note, Nester becoming a snoop by listening around doors,(surely not the Nester we knew!) Haddock's wonderful seventies spacehelmet TV. Also, try to look for Asterix and Lucky Luke in the book! All in all, a wonderful effort by Herge to begin to modernise his characters but with this process, it makes "Picaros" a little bit set in time. We can only guess as to what direction Herge was taking Tintin if he had lived to create further stories. But a must to have for your collection and also the full page "brilliant" art work throughout the book.
Thank you.
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on 25 December 2014
I am a massive Tintin fan for the past 30 years. This book is still in the same style with the usual characters in an enjoyable yarn.
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on 12 February 2015
I have managed to buy the entire collection of hardbacks for my husband. He is very happy with them. Great quality.
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