The Tintin 2015 Reading Challenge: The Crab with the Golden Claws

Next up in my Tintin Reading Challenge is The Crab with the Golden Claws. (Last time I read King Ottokar’s Sceptre). It’s been a while since I’ve posted on Tintin and, as before, I’m behind schedule so expect a few more Tintin posts close together soon 🙂

#9 – 1941

Another of my favourites – probably because it’s here that we first meet Haddock AND get treated to some of his fantastic strings of curses!

People familiar with the recent CGI film will see a lot of plot elements and scenes taken from the Crab, like the way Tintin meets Haddock and the use of the Karaboudjan, the sea plane escape and shootout, the crash and hallucinations in the desert etc

There’s also a fantastic little sequence where Haddock is screaming for revenge and the snap-zooms and rage on his face is priceless. More fantastic full-page images here too – this issue feels jam-packed with them, though it’s the underside of the sea-plane one that I liked the best.

Next up: The Shooting Star.

The Tintin 2015 Reading Challenge: King Ottokar’s Sceptre

The next entry in my Tintin Reading Challenge is King Ottokar’s Sceptre. (Previous entry is The Black Island). While I’m still running behind, I’m confident I can finish them all in 2015! And so, here’s my review:

#8 – 1939

I felt Ottokar’s Sceptre was ‘only’ good rather than great.

It’s not that there are any clear faults – and we’re treated to another absent-minded professor, as Herge continued to warm up for Calculus’ eventual appearance – but the adventure was missing some tension for me. It might have been a case of expectations not quite being met, as I wanted a little more depth to the mystery of how the sceptre is stolen I think, more detail to that plot.

The premise I really enjoyed – the theft of a royal sceptre as a per-cursor to war between ‘Syldavia’ and ‘Borduria’ with Tintin having to thwart various war-mongers and duplicate professors, but I think the scale of the conflict implied didn’t really come off in the space of a single volume.

There were some great mountain-based panels at the Syldavia border but again, for me, the range of colour and settings appeared a little repetitive this time around. Perhaps Herge put more effort into creating the warring countries in the story as stand-ins for Germany and Austria?

Still, no Tintin adventure is terrible and this one is notable for the first appearance of Bianca Castafiore and her…powerful voice.

Next up: The Crab with the Golden Claws.

The Tintin 2015 Reading Challenge: The Black Island

Continuing my Tintin Reading Challenge is an entry for The Black Island. (Last time I read The Broken Ear). I’m actually running behind, so somewhere between now and December I’m going to have to post a few extra reviews in one month, but for now – here’s my response to the 7th adventure:

#7 – 1938

Fantastic! Not my all time fav but right up there among Tintin’s top 5 adventures I reckon.

There’s so much to like here – it’s one one of the more deft, tightly controlled plots with Herge bringing together his usual twists, humor, intrigue and scene-setting in a brilliant work that never lets up but never feels rushed. I won’t rehash the plot but I was gripped instantly the first time I read this as a kid – and this time around – Tintin is shot on the opening page!

His investigation sends him eventually to Scotland, sees him piloting a plane and taking on a gorilla, the poor, mistreated Ranko. In fact, I must say Tintin is VERY impatient with Snowy in this adventure too, thumping him a bit and generally being ungrateful.

As ever, there are some wonderful panels and settings. I enjoyed seeing Snowy quite pleased with himself upon finding the bone and the detail inside Dr Muller’s home was lovely too. The great vertical panels where the fire inspector climbs to the nest also stood out – or the medium shot of the island and the ruined castle.

In fact I wish there’d been more time spent on the island, it’s my only real issue with this volume – but as compensation, there were rakes – man’s oldest foe.

Next up: King Ottokars Sceptre.

The Tintin 2015 Reading Challenge: The Broken Ear

Finally posting the third entry in my 2015 Tintin reading challenge tonight with The Broken Ear! (So far I’ve also read Cigars & The Blue Lotus).

This one’s a solid entry into the Tintin series  for me– and a solid Tintin story is still pretty ace when you get down to it, but ultimately, it’s just not one of my favourites.

The Broken Ear

#6 – (1937)

During his search for the missing fetish with the broken ear, Tintin ends up in South America where he enlists in the army under the temperamental General Alcazar (who will go on to have other appearances in Tintin adventures) the high point of which being a pretty impressive car chase.

As ever, there are some great phrases in Tintin comics – often insults or exclamations – and it was fun to see ‘great snakes’ in this one. I also really enjoyed the comedy around the ‘fake Tintins’ on the ocean liner scene. Especially noteworthy, I thought, were the devils who are seen taking two of the villains away right near the end of the story.

Again, not the best Tintin adventure, but in no way disappointing.

Next up: The Black Island.

The Tintin 2015 Reading Challenge: The Blue Lotus

Continuing my 2015 Tintin reading challenge tonight with The Blue Lotus. Earlier in the month I read Cigars of the Pharaoh and the storyline from that volume actually wraps up here.

The Blue Lotus is a special one for a few reasons, it’s got a pretty fantastic cover and some wonderful large panels, especially when entering towns, and perhaps most important to the history of Tintin, the introduction of Chang – who becomes vital to a future adventure.

#5 - (1936)

#5 – (1936)

Another twisty tale with some great double-bluffs, perhaps the most impressive thing about this one is the changes Herge makes to his research. The setting is much more accurately rendered in terms of dress and backdrops, characters on banners etc and a more balance view on race – where Tintin even discusses cultural misconceptions with his new friend Chang.

Thomson & Thompson return with one of their best single panels – where they attempt to blend into the streets of Shanghai with predictable results. I also loved hearing Thompson (or Thomson?) using the word ‘botheration.’ Fantastic.

There’s also some more instances of Herge’s fondness for alliteration (‘seventy-seven suffering samurais’) and some great night panels which always remind me of the ‘day for night’ shooting used in the older films (such as Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief.)

Another great adventure!

Next up: The Broken Ear.

The Tintin 2015 Reading Challenge: Cigars of the Pharaoh

So, a while back I decided to read all the Tintin books in 2015, which I’m really looking forward to. The challenge itself is pretty simple – I have to read about 2 a month. What might take a bit of time will be tracking down the first few and the last one. (The others I have on the shelf 🙂 )

And being as it’s 2015 now, I’m kicking off with one of the earliest Tintin’s I remember reading as a kid – Cigars of the Pharaoh. (I’ll read in chronological order from here, looping back to the first Tintin in December.)


#4 – (1934)

Still one of my favourites, Cigars of the Pharaoh feels like ‘classic’ Tintin, even if it’s only the fourth release in the series and a lot of aspects to Herge’s Tintin-universe were still being developed.

It’s got a heap of action and the twists are piled on, there’s great word play from Thomson & Thompson (who make their first appearance) and the bounds of reality are amusingly stretched when Tintin carves a trumpet and learns the language of elephants. There’s also plot lines that run into the next volume and Snowy’s asides are great – and as ever, I love the ‘clear line’ style and the expressiveness of those few lines. There’s a panel where Snowy thinks Tintin has been killed and the despair on his poor face is drawn so well!

Easily one of the best Tintin adventures in my book.

Next up: The Blue Lotus.

Tintin & Tess – a series of favourites, reflections and responses to Tintin by guest bloggers


One of my fondest memories is discovering Tintin for the first time in a very dark corner of an empty high school library in West New Britain Province, Papua New Guinea.

It wasn’t my school—I was seven or eight at the time. The library was empty because it was a Sunday, and it was dark because the school’s generator had broken down. I was there because my father was fixing that generator.

He often took me with him when he attended jobs in interesting places; I don’t know if it’s because he wanted my company, or because he wanted me to see interesting places. Maybe it was both. Or maybe it’s because I was pretty low maintenance for a kid: give me a corner full of books, and I’d be happy for hours.

As I traipsed about an Egyptian tomb with Tintin and Snowy, delving ever deeper into their wonderful cloak and dagger world in that hushed, darkened corner of the library, my father was somewhere on campus, up to his elbows in engine ichor.

For some reason, that thought has always made me smile.




Tess Grantham is a British fiction writer living in Papua New Guinea with her husband and kids – visit her here!

Tintin in Tibet


Perhaps the most emotional volume in Herge‘s Tintin series, Tintin in Tibet (1960) is certainly the one I’ve read the most times.

There’s not as much action as usual, but with its mystery woven around a heartfelt storyline that sees Tintin and Haddock searching the snowy mountains of Tibet for Tintin’s friend Chang, it’s a fantastic piece of storytelling, that, despite the darker subject matter, is still graced with Herge’s usual fine sense of humour.

While it can be difficult to separate pleasant memories of reading this one as a child from the reviewing process, I can safely say that Tintin in Tibet remains distinctive not just for the personal nature of the story, but for the powerful use of white space in the panels – Herge’s famous ‘clear line’ style is so direct in conveying a sense of space that I always find myself drawn in to the setting as much as the story. This is partly what makes the moments of colour, such as the visit to the monastery, so vivid.

If your only experience of Tintin is the more explosive CGI outing from Jackson and Spielberg, and you’re not sure about the comics, perhaps start with some of the faster-paced volumes such as the Calculus-themed releases – but if you’re already a fan and you don’t actually have this one, then don’t deny yourself one of the most moving Tintin adventures any longer.



Stay tuned for more in the series of Tintin guest posts – here are the first two from stuart and Maekitso!

Tintin & Stuart – a series of favourites, reflections and responses to Tintin by guest bloggers

In 1986, aged nine, for twenty-four consecutive Saturday mornings, I bowed before a revolving magazine rack in a corner of Hobart’s Angus & Robertson, mesmerised by the twenty-four Adventures of Tintin. The half-hour it took to read and twice re-read each book was an immunisation for the half-hour of pallid, ludicrous Anglicanism I endured the following morning.

……..The Ancient Egyptian pantheon had bewitched me at an earlier age (my bibliophilic parents would deliver me to the State Library—my preferred childcare centre: so many heathen texts—and pick me up hours later). Accordingly, my favourite Adventure was—and still is—Cigars of the Pharaoh: the eccentric Doctor Sophocles Sarcophagus who, struck by one of the Fakir’s poisoned darts, eventually went insane (‘Well, between you and me, I AM SECRETLY RAMSES THE SECOND’); the introduction of Thomson and Thompson, the bowler’d, bumbling detectives; the rank of mummified Egyptologists, gothic, catalogued (one—‘Lord Carnaval’—a nod to George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon, Howard Carter’s financier); the vivid hieroglyphics and the gleaming uraeuses that might have been Xeroxed from the volumes I pored over.

Cigars of the Pharaoh instructed me to keep writing, to smoke opium, to visit Egypt.

I’ve yet to take my trip.

Stuart Barnes

Tintin & Maekitso – a series of favourites, reflections and responses to Tintin by guest bloggers

My Grandpa introduced me to Tintin and Snowy when I must have been 10 or 11. As I remember it, we were sharing our stamp collections after lunch and it was almost time for afternoon tea.

He gave me a stamp that had Tintin and Snowy on it. I asked him who Tintin and Snowy were. He went out to his shed for a couple of minutes and came back with a comic strip from a newspaper. I didn’t understand what they were saying.

I still can’t remember what stamp I swapped for the one with Tintin and Snowy, but I can remember that just after Grandpa put the newspaper strip back in his shed we shared an Iced VoVo and Grandma spun the teapot anticlockwise three times.