It seems I may have forgotten to go into more detail about the Tintin movie which I saw last month. Well, I liked it. It was enough like my memories of the books to keep me entertained, and the animated characters all looked just as I’d hoped. The only thing missing was that we didn’t get to hear Snowy’s thoughts, which were always a significant part of the stories, but I suppose you can’t have everything…
Anyway, having enjoyed the movie, I thought it might be nice to see the books again. I’d read some, but not all of them when I was younger, and I wondered if I would still enjoy them. I did the usual shopping around, and found that buying all of the separate books would be a bit expensive. Then I saw that there were these omnibus volumes available, which worked out a lot cheaper. There was a possible catch, however – rather than the A4 or thereabouts size of the original books, these were somewhat shrunken versions. As some comments suggested that the reduction was enough to make them hard to read, I decided a hands-on investigation was necessary.
So I popped into Waterstones and had a look. They had the various omnibus volumes, which I was able to look at and confirm that while the pages were smaller, the print was perfectly clear, the pictures didn’t seem to be lacking any detail, and they generally looked like nice things.
What was even nicer was the special price on the slipcased set of all eight hardback omnibus editions. This worked out a lot cheaper than buying the individual books, and so I bought it.
I’ve read them all now, and I really enjoyed catching up with the stories I had read before, and indeed the ones I hadn’t. Lots of good fun, quality silliness, and incredibly clever translation work together to create something quite special.
It’s worth noting that the set includes the two earliest Tintin stories – the more or less forgotten and never redone in colour Tintin in the land of the Soviets and the, err, controversial Tintin in the Congo. The first is a rather crude propaganda piece which pours scorn on the rather crude propaganda of the Soviet Union (hi, Mr Pot, my name’s Kettle, etc). The second is rather more disturbing, so much so that it comes with a disclaimer – the single volume has a wrapper you need to remove before opening the book. It warns that the book reflects the colonial attitudes of its time, and indeed its portrayal of Africans isn’t what you’d expect today (he said politely). These two stories are carefully isolated in the first volume, so if outdated attitudes disturb you, you can safely ignore them.
Hergé got better at this kind of thing later, though there are still some unfortunate racial stereotypes in the later books. But these are no worse than a lot of work from the middle decades of the last century. It’s more important to enjoy is the quality of the stories and the drawings, and the characters, and the running gags.
The set rounds off with the unfinished Tintin and Alph-Art, which exists as sketches for perhaps half the story and translated text on the facing pages. It’s probably not something the general reader would buy separately, but it’s nice to have the set completed.