I recently got a couple of the new collected editions of the Tintin books that Little, Brown are putting out – nice thick hardcovers, three Tintin books collected per volume. They’re a bit smaller than normal Tintin books, but Herge’s art is still gorgeous and easy to appreciate even at the slightly reduced size.
But, because I am anal in some ways, I got the first two Tintin volumes – the early books, before Herge really hit his stride during the first appearances of Captain Haddock and Professor Calculus. And I am bearing in mind that these were written for children (although Tintin, much like Asterix, was originally serialized in newspapers and enjoyed by adults as well as children right from the get-go).
And even keeping all that in mind, Tintin In America, the “first” adventure of Tintin (since the Congo adventure never happened, you understand, and if you think it did, you’re wrong), is totally fucking bugshit crazy.
Don’t believe me? Well. Here is the second panel of the book.
Understand the following things:
1.) Tintin coming to America is apparently front-page news in Chicago, where honestly I would have thought they would have more interesting things to write about. “BELGIAN BOY COMES TO CHICAGO” is right up there with “IDENTICAL TWINS JOIN CHRONICLE STAFF” for underwhelming headlines. (Points for recognizing the reference.)
2.) Al Capone (who is sitting in the chair) is so angry about this that he wants to make sure that this intrepid boy reporter gets whacked. You know he is serious because he tells his crime friends (Four Eyes, Dapper Dan, Big Irish Albert, “Icepick” Salvatore and The Negro) and gives them orders.
So what cunning plan do they come up with?
They trick out a taxi and trap Tintin in it.
What would have happened if Tintin had gotten into a different taxi? Would they just have sat around, getting all depressed? “Gosh, we done spent five thousand bucks to turn this taxi into a rollin’ death trap and our sucker didn’t even get inta it. How will I ever make my dead father proud of me now, huh?”
But luckily, there’s no way out of those steel-plated windows that even the dog can’t chew his way through! Even that tire going flat means no escape!
Unless, of course, you are Tintin, never without your trusty silenced hacksaw, which allows you to saw through the roof without the driver hearing it.
So Tintin finds some cops and they catch the bad guy tax driver, who decides to talk, but…
A 1930s Chicago gangster using a boomerang to take down his enemies.
That is quite possibly the most random thing ever. I mean, this isn’t Tintin In Australia. He’s in Illinois. Illinois is not exactly famed for its Aborigine warriors. So one of Tintin’s enemies is now a boomerang-slinging criminal. I know what you’re thinking – “wow, this guy has to be a major antagonist for our hero Tintin.” But after his escape, we never see him ever again. My guess is Herge sat back, after plotting the whole thing out, and decided “hm. Bit dry. This needs a boomerang.” And he just kind of shoved a boomerang in there where he could make it fit.
Anyway. There’s a car chase, and a wreck, and Tintin spends a few days in hospital. Then:
Al Capone was such a powerful mob boss he installed a series of trap doors all over the Chicago streets just for this very purpose. No wonder he was so feared. I understand Robert de Niro used elements of this story when developing his performance of Capone in The Untouchables.
Understand that at no point during this story so far has Tintin said dick about his plans to take down Al Capone, or indeed anything other than “we’re here in America!” and “Ow! After him!” If I were Tintin, I would have replied “wait, you mean this isn’t Cincinnati? I was scheduled to take down the King of Cincinnati. Oh, gosh, this is embarrassing…”
Anyhow. Tintin of course gets free…
To be fair, this is probably what a real Chicago cop would do in the same situation. On the other hand, real Chicago cops probably wouldn’t get into the chase sequence that followed, complete with Keystone Kops-level running-into-one-another-ness.
But Al Capone, having learned his lesson, this time decides to send Tintin a polite note first before killing him.
“I am an intrepid boy reporter with a trusty dog sidekick and he is merely a crime boss commanding the loyalty of thousands of amoral killers, with his fingers corrupting every major civic institution this city has to offer! What can possibly go wrong?” Oh, Tintin.
Two attempted murders of Tintin later, the “police” show up to tell Tintin how awesome he is, and could he come give them some help?
What is wrong with this picture?
1.) Tintin is retarded enough to even consider the possibility that the police station is a room in an apartment building with a “Police” sign tacked hastily on to it.
2.) The gangsters are stupid enough to have a headquarters with a sign on it. “Hey, federal agents! Do not go here! You will find nothing! Sincerely, The Bad Guys.”
3.) ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.
What does Tintin’s letter really say?