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Is it time for official new Tintin adventures?

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John Sewell
#11 · Posted: 18 May 2005 17:48 · Edited by: John Sewell
Harrock n roll:
I think it's likely that many of the aspects of the adventures which we take for granted would be too controversial by today's politically correct standards and regarded as racial stereotyping/inappropriate for children, etc.

That's a very valid point, especially in today's paranoid atmosphere. A good example would be Land Of Black Gold. In its mk 2, 1948 version, it featured Arab and Jewish freedom fighters / terrorists (depending on your viewpoint) and the occupying British forces, all part of the then-current Middle East political climate.

If it were being pitched nowadays, Herge would probably have Tintin dodging Iraqi dissidents and US soldiers alike, and whatever focus group at the publishers vets these things would probably take a dim view at any form of political comment: "Sorry Georges, but we can't offend the Muslims / Americans / Christian Fundamentalists etc... can you take these bits out?"

From beginning to end, Herge had a habit of using Tintin to make points, from the naive flag-waving of the first two stories right through to the cynical "meet the new boss, same as the old boss" ending of Picaros (another one that he might have trouble with now; "That would cost us the whole South American market... can't you show some new homes being built instead, or something?")

Apart from the WWII period (and the occupying nazis missed the references in King Ottokar's Sceptre, despite them being less than subtle, banning America and Black Island instead for having Tintin consort with the enemy!), Herge was lucky enough to have the freedom to include what he wanted in the adventures, and despite all the talk of "freedom" nowadays from certain quarters, I really think that he wouldn't get away with a lot of it if he was trying to get his point across now.
#12 · Posted: 18 May 2005 20:57
Politically correct Tintin, he'd meet nobody and probably just hunt treasure in his garden or something

UK Correspondent
#13 · Posted: 18 May 2005 21:36
Politically correct Tintin, he'd meet nobody and probably just hunt treasure in his garden or something

- and declare it to his regional Finds Liason Officer, so as to set a good example to his readers.
#14 · Posted: 19 May 2005 04:49 · Edited by: Pelaphus
You know, I take and acknowledge the legitimacy of all your collective points (well, most of them) but they still amount to projecting a scenario based on apprehensions. Not baseless ones, but not provable ones either.

I prefer to project a more positive scenario. I think it IS possible to move forward with new stories ... but I think you DO acknowledge and EMBRACE the fact that they WON'T be pure Herge. Let's say one particular writer is given the mandate for a time, let's even please generously assume s/he's a good one. And after several years and a number of books, another writer becomes the official voice, etc. You can BET that each of these will somehow make the Tintinverse his or her own ... in fact, that's optimal (take deep breaths, hang on, bear with me) because that's where passion, freshness and the best kind of innovation inform creativity. And it's okay. HOWEVER --

-- making it "their own" would also involve the ability to absorb and honor and not contradict continuity/canon ... as well as the ability to capture the authentic voices, behavior and personae of the characters. With that intact, and a certain visceral (as well as intellectual) understanding of what makes a story belong credibly in the Tintin continuity, which is NOT impossible (if it were we wouldn't all be able to dissect and discuss the books as passionately and intelligently as we do), I think the prospects are tantalizing and fascinating.

More than this, if we accept the thesis that new stories might well be novels, that by itself defines a new territory, a new articulation, a new approach. Because now you get into character's heads, you don't just observe from an illustrator's remove; now it's about creating the literary equivalent of a Tintin album. Not equivalent at all really, but a tone and texture that evoke resonance, familiarity and nostalgia, even as they explore new territory. Difficult? Perhaps, in some respects. As Sondheim wrote, "Art isn't easy." But do-able? Absolutely. Ab-so-freaking-lutely.

I prefer to believe in the capacity of the inspired torch bearer to surprise, delight and do Mr. Remi proud ... (whether he likes it or not) ...
#15 · Posted: 19 May 2005 10:55
You still haven’t provided a real, compelling, why for the enterprise, Pelaphus; why wouldn’t a wholly new character be a better bet for a truly gifted artist/ writer?

To name but two, from our own community, I think I’d rather read Garen’s Rainbow Orchid and Les’s Jonny Crossbones - new, unique, yet in the spirit of Hergé, than read erzats Tintin from either of them. I’m sure they both have the capacity “to surprise, delight and do Mr. Remi proud…”, as you say, but he’d be all those things for their own work as it stands.

I grant you that the idea of writing a novel is a wholly different ball-game to a comic-strip, but the essence of Tintin is to many, if not indeed most, Hergé’s unique synthesis of narrative and graphic artistry.

It is possible to transliterate these elements to media, albeit in a dilute form, such as theatre, animation and even live-action movie; it even survived on radio - but maintained my interest as it preserved so much original Hergé, and I could mentally supply the correct pictures.

I don’t deny it is possible - I would name Elliot S! Maggin’s Superman: Last Son of Krypton as a wholly satisfying book drawn from a strip-cartoon, but largely because he used it as an opportunity to meditate on the lonliness of an outcast, and to play on ideas such as is evil innate (e.g. would Lex Luthor be bad if Superman wasn’t around?). That he managed to make it an entertaining book was a real plus. But that book is an aside - it runs parallel to the movies and on-going comics, which is a far broader church than the Tintin canon.
#16 · Posted: 19 May 2005 15:02
Two different issues, Jock.

As to "why wouldn't a wholly new character be a better bet for a truly gifted artist/ writer?" ... that's up to the writer and the circumstance. In my resume as a musical theatre writer, I've almost always (as is common in that art) been adapting one thing or another; and outside of theatre I also *have* in fact, written an original tie-in based on licensed characters (ALIEN NATION #6: PASSING FANCY for Pocket, 1994), and it was one of the most fun and gratifying things I've ever worked on (and happily, readers and -- to my astonishment -- even a few print reviewers shared the enthusiasm). No less a light than William Kotzwinkle (who did a SUPERMAN film *novelization*, come to think of it) went on record as saying how much he loved getting to work in the morning on the novelization of E.T. -- and later on the original sequel he was commissioned to write. The joys and advantages (to a writer) of either playing in a shared universe or creating a universe of one's own are not mutually exclusive. (I've recently mentioned Max Allan Collins's CSI and CSI: MIAMI novels. This is a respected, Edgar award winning writer with a long resume and no need to pad it with tie-ins. [Among his other accomplishments is the creation of the ROAD TO PERDITION graphic novel, which became the film, which he then novelized! -- walking both sides of the fence at the same time.] You read them and they're delivered with such gusto and affection for the characters and concept, that clearly he LOVES the assignment. AND he takes several novelization commissions a year to boot, and seems to love them just as much, if you read his author's commentary at the end of each. And why should that be any less joyous, fulfilling or professionally rewarding for him than one of his Nate Heller private eye novels?) And I know of several writers who enthusiastically play in shared universes because they know that doing it well can only shed light on their original work. (I freely admit there are dozens of wonderful writers whose work I "discovered" over the years as a consequence of reading their tie-ins first.)

As to Maggin's SUPERMAN novel, you're right: it's a lovely book (as is its companion piece MIRACLE MONDAY). But I disagree that it's of singular quality in the tie-in library. I admit it's exceptionally good ... but ANY novel written with such verve and vision would rise above ANY pack ... At any given period, the proportion of great tie-ins to mediocre isn't much different than the proportion of great original novels to mediocre. If the borrowed characters and concepts can sufficiently engage a gifted writer's enthusiasm, what difference? I'd even submit, Your Honor, that LAST SON OF KRYPTON makes the case for the defense!! ;-)

Now if the question is "Why do it at all?" I think it's the same reason creatures started to emerge from the pond and walk. Because we can. And because it's worth doing.
#17 · Posted: 19 May 2005 16:15
I agree entirely that LSOK is a plank in the defence case, that’s why I threw it in there - but also to point out the rarity of such an event. However I disagree entirely that the never-ending slew tie-ins, novelizations, adaptations etc. is anything like the quality of original work: it is best fair, but generally poor. If this really were not the case, then there would have been true break out sensations in the last fifty or so years, and there haven’t. Not to say that all hit main-stream novels are good either - don’t get me started on just how poor that multi-million selling Da Vinci Code is…!

However adaptation/ shared universe novels that glitter like gold are vanishingly rare, and almost all are only good in terms of their source material - a good Star Trek, or a good Columbo - not actually a good book, per se., that I could put along side Huckleberry Finn or Treasure Island... I could do that with Hergé’s Tintin…

I don’t want even one good new Tintin book not to be as good as Hergé’s…

The Superman movie novelizations, like the Columbos, Rockfords and all the other film and TV tie-ins of my youth were there not as art but as a pocket aide memoire in the days before VCR and DVD made it possible for us to have movies at home, and the way to relive them was to play the sound-track album, and read the paper-back.

Max Allen Collins will be remembered for Road, I’m sure, but not for writing CSI books, which will go out of print when the series ends, never to be heard of again in all likelihood. It also has to be noticed that the fact that he, not some other author, has written it as a book and a comic rather takes away from the defence case… ;-)
#18 · Posted: 20 May 2005 13:12 · Edited by: Pelaphus
Well, I'll say this much, Jock, it sure is fun agreeing to disagree with you.

Okay, quality: most tie-ins may be only fair (actually I find that most of the ones I have time to read these days -- not near what I used to -- hover between good and pretty good), but note I said that the PROPORTION of worthy ones to bad ones, AT ANY GIVEN TIME, is not much different than the PROPORTION of good to bad originals.

And yes, I agree too that (for example) the COLUMBOs (almost all teleplay novelizations, save the first two COLUMBOs by Alfred Lawrence) and ROCKFORDs (teleplay novelizations by Edgar winner Mike Jahn) of our youth had a different impact because of a different technological daily existence. But those are two curious examples to have chosen, because in the post VCR era both detectives graced HARDCOVER series of original stories, that sold well and were well reviewed in the mainstream press: Two ROCKFORDSs by Stuart Kaminsky and six COLUMBOs by the late William Harrington, both established crime/mystery novelists. These did very nicely for a different generation -- well a different generation PLUS the previous one -- in a time when profligate and ubiquitous rerunning made taping and reliving the eps. easy for anyone who desired to.

In fact, onto popularity now (putting aside quality as a subject just for a moment), certain kinds of TV tie-ins have proliferated at a rate UNHEARD OF in our youth. Yes: I remember the MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.s very well -- 23 over six or seven years (after the series was cancelled, Ace Books continued to burn off manuscripts they'd already commissioned); next to the DARK SHADOWS series by Dan Ross as "Dorothy Ross" (never got into those) it may have been the tie-in series with the most titles, published at what was then an average rate. But that's nothing compared to over 100 one-a-month BUFFYs and I don't know how many ANGELs, plus SABRINAS and ALIASes & etc. So "tie-in as pre-VCR memory aide" doesn't explain the continuing popularity of the genre. In point of fact, during that period where TV tie-ins were adaptations more than originals (the 70s), a trend due to a writer's guild contract development that made them cheaper to produce, the sales went down so drastically that for awhile the genre all but vanished. So tie-in as pre-VCR memory aide didn't even WORK for very long, and even then, only here and there. It was the original TREKs of the late 70s that turned the tide and set the "new" precedent. Which really only renovated the old precedent. The most popular teevee tie-ins prior to that had been the "classic" 60s ORIGINALS: not because they massaged the memory by adapting scripts, but because they expanded the lore with new stories.

Shelf-Life: It may be possible that the Collins CSIs will leave print once the series is no longer actively produced, but not necessarily (the MURDER SHE WROTE novel series is still producing new titles; and the current DIAGNOSIS MURDER books began only AFTER its parent series was cancelled). And that's still a worthier (even a better) shelf life than most original novels get in the ruthless marketplace. (From my own personal experience: ALIEN NATION was on the air for one year; the tie-ins didn't get published until two years after cancellation, and my title stayed available -- and in big bookstores visibly so -- for about four years thereafter; so there really is no clean generalization.) To me media-related shelf-life is a bit of a straw argument ... it doesn't hearken at all to quality or intrinsic worth, merely the possible vicissitudes of the marketplace. I don't even think it matters that such novels are created as merchandising ... when it gets down to writing, it's still one lonely scribe in front of his/her computer doing the best s/he can within the parameters of the task.

And you say there have been no breakout successes. Well, I'm not sure how you define that but, sure there have. Danielle Steele's career was BUILT on a tie-in (to a flop movie at that), her cannily marketed novelization of THE PROMISE. Ubiquitous SF writer Alan Dean Foster only became ubiquitous after his STAR TREK LOG series made him the SF novelization king for a time (and many of the film titles stayed in print for YEARS on the strength of his by-line, long after the films vanished -- some are STILL available). A.C. Crispin became a SF writer of note on the strength of her TREK books, as did several others. And some writers became breakout (or maybe break-in) successes WITHIN the tie-in genre: look at the career of Peter David. And of course a brand-name by-line can flummox any expectation: HOW THE WEST WAS WON by Louis L'Amour is still in print; so's FANTASTIC VOYAGE by Isaac Asimov. And there are cultural phenomena -- Various publishers have continued to reprint the three late 60s THE PRISONER novels by Thomas M. Disch, David McDaniel and Hank Stine (the first especially). And a new edition of Peter George's DOCTOR STRANGELOVE emerged not long ago. Again, there are no clear generalizations, nor any clean way to make the case for the prosecution -- OR the defense for that matter, if you want to use things like shelf-life and marketplace trends or "well, most of them are sub-par" as your barometer. Because all those things are true and not true, provable and disprovable.

The only case I'm making is ... even within the "confines" of a commission ... even within the mercenary objectives of franchise merchandising ... quality is VERY possible. And is as likely as not to make its own case for existence and continued shelf-life. It all depends upon the suitability and enthusiasm of the lonely scribe who gets the gig. And that, for me at least, is enough reason to explore new TINTIN tales. And even to suffer a few that may well be sub-par while the series gets its sea legs. And with Spielberg about to thrust Tintin into (please, we hope) higher prominence with (please, we hope) decent films, it's not a bad time to examine the potential ...
#19 · Posted: 30 Jun 2005 15:42
Well, Herge started a tradition. Someone has to keep traditions, or else they'll die out completely. Revitalizing them without dating them is the real puzzle here, and one that could take years to solve. However, adding new innovations to older ways isn't inherently harmful, but can instead enrich what exists.
For any of the above suggestions to be done well, it would require that those involved:
-be dedicated fans
-be well-read not only regarding Tintin, but also the history, languages and cultures behind each graphic novel, and not just work off superficial knowledge
-have a good list of contacts regarding those things listed above.
If people are going to take on such a task, the least we can ask is that they do it wholeheartedly or just leave it alone.

#20 · Posted: 30 Jun 2005 16:26
People still read and enjoy Charles Dickens and Shakespeare.

My whole objection to the new innovation of new Tintin adventures are the way people seem to think they need to dumb down/relate to the youth of today. There are so many examples - Dennis the Menace in trainers, a slimmed down Desperate Dan, James Bond's School Days.

People object to Tintin's trousers in Picaros and a more modern version simply wouldn't work. Many of the books I enjoyed as a child were not modern and I enjoyed them for it (stuff like Swallows and Amazons).

The books that exist are so good that they can be reread over and over again, there is simply no call for new material aside from a cheap cash in.


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