Tintin VS Asterix

Scott’s post on Tintin inspired me to get a move on with a post I’ve been meaning to do for a little while–on the contrasting joys of the two great Belgian comic-strip adventures, the Tintin books and the Asterix books. Like fellow Belgian, the fabulous singer/songwriter Jacques Brel, Herge(Tintin) and Goscinny–text– and Uderzo–pictures(Asterix) seem to come straight out of classic French culture–and have indeed been claimed as such by French people–but their appeal stretches far, far beyond the realms of parlez-vous francais.
I read both Tintin and Asterix as a child, in both French and English(we had some adventures in double editions, others in either French or English)and I’ve never stopped loving them both. They are very different, in genre–one loosely follows ‘detective’ conventions, the other ‘light fantasy’ conventions–and different in tone, and yet they share some points of similarity, especially a love of punning, of silly names that are in-jokes, and of sly wit, as well as social and political comment. The fact that Herge began his comic strip in the late 1920’s and Goscinny/Uderzo in the 60’s, of course influences tone, but both are timeless in their different ways. And both seem so far to elude transfer to the screen–the only screened Tintin has been an animated series which compared to Herge’s beautiful work is an abomination in style(and indeed Herge never gave permission for these) and as to Asterix, there have also been animations which have worked because the original creators actually did them, and a live-action movie,(starring the ubiquitous Gerard Depardieu as Obelix) of which less said, the better.

Perhaps the fact they don’t translate so well to screen, unlike, say, the Marvel comics like Spiderman, X-Men, Batman, etc, is that though the storylines are every bit as fun, entertaining, twist-a-minute and hokey as the American comics, a great deal of the appeal of both Tintin and Asterix lies in their marvellous, inventive use of language. From the gorgeous range of insults that Captain Haddock indulges in to the crazy Roman jokes of the Asterix books, they depend on a a fairly agile intellect–and would need a good scriptwriter to get in just right. Both have been extraordinarily well translated (I can vouch for that, being perfectly bilingual), with even the jokes and word-play done with the exact touch. Beautiful!
Who’s the best, Tintin or Asterix? For me, it would have to be Tintin. I thoroughly enjoy Asterix–its charm added to for me because I am very interested in both Celtic and Roman history, and love the send-up of both the series does so well–but because it is so much more a parody than Tintin is, it doesn’t engage your heart quite as much. And the artistry in Tintin is so gorgeous–and the development so amazing–I’ve got fascimiles of the earliest one, Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, and the artwork in that is really rather primitive, you might say–that it is a real pleasure just to trace them through, right up to Alph-art, the unfinished work which would no doubt have been stupendous if Herge had lived long enough to complete it. Herge was a great popular artist in the same way that Agatha Christie, Alfred Hitchcock and the Gershwins were; a man of true genius, even if it’s in a so-called ‘minor’ art. Goscinny and Uderzo are not quite in the same league, it seems to me. But it’s a subjective thing.
And both of them continue to go strong. In both school and public libraries, they’re among the most borrowed books, and libraries have to have multiple copies. In our own kids’ bookshelves, they’re the most battered, thumbed and falling-apart books, so often have they been read. I still love going up there on a rainy Sunday afternoon, pulling out a Tintin, and rediscovering one of the purest reading pleasures there is.
Favourites? In the Tintin adventures, I’d have to say The Blue Lotus, King Ottokar’s Sceptre, Tintin in Tibet, The Castafiore Emerald, Cigars of the Pharaoh, The Seven Crystal Balls, Temple of the Sun, The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham’s Treasure. Not too keen on the Moon ones, though.
In Asterix: Asterix and Cleopatra, Asterix and the Roman Agent, Asterix vs Caesar, Asterix and the Normans, Asterix in Britain, Asterix and the Soothsayer. Not at all keen on the ones Uderzo’s done by himself since Goscinny died a few years ago, such as Asterix and the Secret Weapon. His text is much ‘grosse-ficelle’, (thick string, or obvious) and much less funny than his late collaborator’s.
What about you?

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susoz
2022 years ago

My six year old has been into Tintin for the past two years. He also reads Asterix in the library, though I haven’t borrowed any as I want to wait till he can read them himself. The BBC has brilliantly transformed Tintin into a series of radio plays, with Leo McKern as captain Haddock. The interesting thing is that they make them sound ultra-British, which must be testament to how good the translations are too. You can buy these on tape – fun to listen to on long car journeys.

Nabakov
Nabakov
2022 years ago

What about Lucky Luke!

James Farrell
James Farrell
2022 years ago

‘the only screened Tintin has been an animated series which compared to Herge’s beautiful work is an abomination in style(and indeed Herge never gave permission for these)’

We can’t be talking about the same thing. The ones they showed in SBS were made in the 1990s at the earliest, and they don’t really have any ‘style’ to speak of – they’re sort of neutral. Yes, they leave stuff out, including most if not all of the dry humour, but at least it’s not a case of someone trying to improve on or update the original. Spielberg’s 714 (if Nabakov is right) will have a love interest in for Tintin, put Jolyon Wagg on the flight, cast Jim Carrey as Haddock and Mike Moore as Calculus… Argh!!

Anyway, it’s hard to pick the best, but my choice is Destination Moon. The scenes where Calculus goes ape and then loses his memory, with Haddock trying to bring it back, were the high point of Herge’s inspiration. And Haddock’s antics while Calculus is explaining the technicalities of the nuclear rector. Mind you, the rubber band episode in Tintin and Tibet is priceless as well.

Tintin over Asterix, by the way. More human, more subtle, more ridiculous.

Phil
Phil
2022 years ago

Tintin and Spirou were two weekly magazines and we never missed one…
you also forget Gaston Lagaffe, les Schtroumpfs, Boule et Bill, Tif et Tondu, le Chat…
Belgium is the best for chocolate, beer and B.D.
Cheers.

Nabakov
Nabakov
2022 years ago

“Do you sleep at night with your beard over or under the sheet?”

No James, I hadn’t heard that Speilberg was gonna make Flight 714 but it’s exactly the kinda Tintin story that would appeal to him. Airports! planes! UFOs! volcanoes! Cheating at Batteleships on closed circuit TV!

James Hamilton
James Hamilton
2022 years ago

I remember Tin Tin In Tibet was rather traumatic. Loved it though.

Asterix & Cleopatra was a favourite in that series (I suspect true Asterixophiles will scoff)

Have seen Jacques Brel Is Alive and Living In Paris and have an album. In English, alas. In all of the above I think I am selling myself short not speaking French.

Tin Tin, Asterix and Jacques – good reasons to learn French. Another good reason to learn French is being able to join the Swann Club

http://www.berluti.com/html-en/index_club_swann.html

Apart from that (big aparts though they may be) -it is the language of surrender monkeys.

Nabakov
Nabakov
2022 years ago

“Asterix & Cleopatra”

Scott Wickstein
2022 years ago

My Fave Tintin books..well, three really stand out for me- Flight 714, The Red Sea Sharks, and The Blue Lotus.

Asterix- well, yes, I loved them but not in the same way. My faves- Asterix in Switzerland, Obelix and Co, and The Mansions of the Gods.

Nic White
2022 years ago

Whats wrong with the Tintin TV series? I grew up with it and watched it compulsively, it was brilliant and I didnt notice much of a deviation from the comics.

Asterix I only ever read the comics.

I really cant pick a favourite, thats just far too hard a choice. And its been far far too long since I read them.

Russ
2022 years ago

There was an interesting documentary on Tintin and Herge called “Tintin and I” made a couple of years ago. The screened it at the Melbourne International Film Festival last year.

I never go into Tintin when I was younger but I loved Asterix. The characters in Asterix were more expressive and likeable whereas I think the humour in Tintin was lost on me. My favourites: Asterix the Legionary, Asterix in Corsica and Asterix in Switzerland.

sophie
sophie
2022 years ago

The Tintin animated series was never approved by Herge(in fact he hated it)–it changed a great deal of the wordplay, put in lame jokes of its own–it might have kept most of the storyline but it is most definitely not the same as the books.
Not sure though if the SBS one is a different thing or not to the ones I’ve seen. Herge lost control of a lot of thing the Herge Foundation did in his name–including the ‘Tintin’ magazine. Harry Thomposon, in his excellent biography of Herge and his work–called, simply, ‘Tintin’ (you can find copies in second hand bookshops, incl. online)has a great deal of stuff about that..
Herge was a perfectionist, and he just felt the series of animations wasn’t good enough. And as it was pointed out, they are a ‘diet lite beer’ version of the fine champagne of the original!
Phil, yes, I do remember all those other comics–but I thought maybe English-speaking readers might not know them–except for Lucky Luke, of course!

sophie
sophie
2022 years ago

sorry, it’s ‘Thompson’ not ‘Thomposon’–shades of Thompson/Thomson or Dupond/Dupont as they’re in the original French..
BTW it appears that Spielberg plans a trilogy of Tintin, based on 6 of the books, with THe Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham’s Treasure being the inspiration for the first movie..The blue lotus was also presented as a possible base..I didn’t see mention of Flight 714, though it would seem to fit his tastes, wouldn’t it!

Mick
2022 years ago

Oh crap.
Not Spielberg!!!

James Farrell
James Farrell
2022 years ago

See Nabakov’s lengthy optimistic speculations about Spielberg-Tintin on Scott’s thread:

http://troppoarmadillo.ubersportingpundit.com/archives/008492.html

Nic White
2022 years ago

I honestly didnt see much deveation from the comics in the animated series.