“ Author: Herge / Format: Paperback / Date of publication: 04 November 2002 / Genre: Children's Comic Strips & Graphic Novels / Publisher: Egmont UK Ltd / Title: Tintin in America / ISBN 13: 9781405206143 / ISBN 10: 1405206143 / Alternative title: The Adventures of Tintin: Tintin in America - Herge / Alternative ISBN 10: 1405206144 „
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Tintin in America is the third book in the classic series by Belgian writer and illustrator Hergé and first appeared in 1931 as a black and white comic strip in Le Petit Vingtième before later being reworked and coloured. The story begins in Chicago where Tintin arrives and is promptly kidnapped by none other than Al Capone - the henchmen of which he encountered in the previous book Tintin in the Congo. 'Listen and listen good,' Capone tells his goons. 'Tintin, world reporter number one is coming here to clean up. He busted my diamond racket in the Congo and landed my pals in the cooler. So here's the score: not one single day does he spend in Chicago. Ok?' Although he turns the tables, this is only the beginning of Tintin's troubles and he soon starts a game of cat and mouse with an equally nasty mobster called Bobby Smiles, becomes mixed up with Indians, the crooked oil industry, the police and has numerous attempts on his life involving dynamite, train capers, guns, booby trapped limousines, snipers, meat mincing machines and more besides. Can this plucky hero of the Old World get out of America alive?
This is the first Tintin book that Hergé felt relatively happy with and was content to fully share with the world and the blueprint for the series - cliffhanger situations, humour, travel - is slowly starting to morph into place even if it isn't quite perfected yet. Although the book is set in 1931 this is the America of the Wild West with Hergé riffing on old serials and Westerns with sharpshooting, lynchings, being tied to railway tracks ('These knots are like iron!') and supplying much danger and peril for our hero as he draws the attention of various gangster types. There is some political commentary too with the effects of the depression touched upon and a subplot involving an oil company driving the Indians off their land when black gold is struck. We see that the company offers the Indians a pittance but Tintin - as a white man - is offered much more when they mistakenly believe the well belongs to him.
Although the depiction of Indians is rather stereotypical and the book has an anachronistic quality, Hergé seems inspired by the mythic notion of America and creates wonderful drawings of skyscrapers and open vistas with some lovely panels set during the night. Some of the city scenes (especially a ticker tape parade) are superbly detailed and it is of course great fun to see Tintin encountering Indians on horseback, cloth capped gangsters and cliffhanger situations from being tied to railway tracks to coming under attack while climbing up perilous rocks. He is even threatened with death by a meat grinding machine which the gangsters use as a front to dispose of victims. Bobby Smiles makes the first great villain of the series here and Al Capone (who doesn't feature much) became the first and last real life person to appear in a Tintin story. In the original black and white version, the actress Mary Pickford appeared at a dinner for Tintin but this cameo was taken out of later editions.
Hergé spins out his usual fast moving early Tintin story in the vein of The Blue Lotus and his inherent reflections on America and approach adds to the interest of the reader picking this up now. It's an America mostly gleaned from pulp novels, magazines and Westerns but the increasing industrialisation and modernity of the country is also addressed by Hergé with wrecked cars, advertising hoardings, Indians being thrown off their land to make way for a new town and what seems to be a fairly blatant critique of the horrors of a modern industrial meat industry where animals are not treated as living creatures but a mere product to be killed as cheaply as possible. Despite the social satire, Hergé clearly loves the landscapes and spirit of adventure he was able to tap into from his research and it's fitting that Indians featured in a Tintin story as the Belgian boy scouts that Hergé served in (and played a major role in inspiring his famous fictional creation) were themselves based on them.
Of course, this being an early Tintin album, there are one or two flaws. Some of the groups depicted veer towards caricature and Hergé has not yet started to develop the intricate Tintin plots that all hang together and spin out in complex and interconnected fashion. Tintin in America is a little rambling, basically a series of incidents and situations, but it is negated somewhat by the generally entertaining and inventive nature of the book. The art in Tintin would become crisper and more polished in later volumes but this is still wonderful stuff with vertigo inducing skyscrapers, horses, Indians, gangsters, rocky mountains, vast open plains, old cars and cruise ships. The first two Tintin books, Tintin in the Land of the Soviets and Tintin in the Congo, are hopelessly dated now and are almost considered as early oddities rather than a part of the series. Tintin in America could perhaps be seen as the first book in the series that clearly shows the potential greatness of Tintin and it's no surprise that it was the first book that Hergé was happy to licence outside of the Le Petit Vingtième magazine.
One other interesting thing to note about Tintin in America is that although this book occurs before the Thompsons and Captain Haddock were introduced to the series other characters do suggest these future staples. MacAdam, a bumbling hotel detective, is very Thompson and Thomson, and a drunken comical Sherriff who Tintin encounters strongly anticipates Captain Haddock. Tintin in America might be a transitional book in the series that lacks the complexity and polish of later adventures but despite its dated elements and lack of a unifying plot device it still remains a great deal of fun with the pleasant art and the classic Hergé spirit of adventure.
Like most of the Tintin comics, Tintin in America was first published in Le Petit Vingtieme in 1931. This episode definitely reflects some of the real-life happenings at the time, mainly about gangsters such as Al Capone and the riots caused by rival gangs. I will not say that this is my favorite Tintin book: While the illustrations and adventure are as wonderful as ever, it was a bit too dark for me, which is why I tend to favour the later, and somewhat lighter Tintin episodes. This in fact follows Tintin in Congo and continues on the same theme of Tintin clearing the city of gangsters.
World-famous reporter and his world-famous dog, Snowy are now heading for Chicago to continue his mission of capturing the fearful Al Capone and his henchmen. He temporarily captures him but the police refuses to believe his claim and a series of circumstances lead to Al Capone escaping yet again. Bobby Smiles, Capone's greatest rival, is also a gangster and invites Tintin to join his gang. But when Tintin refuses, he finds himself with not only Al Capone but also Bobby Smiles on his tracks. Will he be able to clear the city of the greatest gangsters?
Along with it being rather dark, I also didn't like this particular adventure because it has too many stories that weave in and out- making it quite tough for me to follow. The adventures are all very complicated and the number of gangsters that Tintin has to capture means a number of fights and escapes and in the end, it turned out to be a little overwhelming for me. Also, there were plenty of repetitive patterns in this episode: Tintin often catches a gang which escapes and he captures them again and they escape again....and the same pattern occurred with most of the other people that he has to capture. At some point, the repetition took the luster out of the adventure because it took the suspense out of it all.
On a brightener note, however, this also has an exotic appeal since Tintin ends up among Red Indians and this lead to some Western scenes reminiscent of Lucky Luke. I personally liked these bits because they are quite original and rather rare scenes for Tintin: In all the episodes I've read, very few depict the ace reporter in the typical Western scenes which include ropes, horses, lassos and guns. I don't want to give anyone the wrong impression about this book: The adventure was certainly an exhilarating and quite well-crafted one, but it just wasn't my kind of read at all- which is why I'm not overly fond of this particular Tintin book.
Overall, I will recommend it to you if you like rather lengthy, and very action-packed adventures filled with the world's toughest gangsters. Not for me, but an okay read all the same.
~Thanks for reading~