Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"Blistering Barnacles!"

I read Steven Spielberg is releasing a Tintin movie. Film adaptations seldom live up to their source material, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed. Tintin was a childhood friend and I look forward to reuniting with him.

I first encountered Tintin in the pages of Children’sDigest. Every month, an issue of the digest-sized magazine would arrive in my mailbox, filled with puzzles, games, and stories but the first feature I would turn to was the Tintin comic strip. Belgian artist Georges Remi, under the pen name Hergé, created Tintin in 1929. What made Tintin a brilliant strip loved worldwide was a combination of clean artwork, quirky characters, and good storytelling that included a balanced mix of humor and adventure.

Tintin was a teenaged newspaper reporter who appeared in about two dozen books (what we would call graphic novels today) that have been translated into dozens of languages and sold worldwide for decades. Some of these stories were serialized in the now defunct Children’s Digest. Tintin was idealistic and inquisitive, traits most boy could relate to, and which often led him into trouble and adventure.

Tintin’s assignments took him all over the world, under the sea, and even to the moon! Tintin’s character was clever but somewhat bland, yet his adventures were enlivened by his unusual coterie. His entourage included the cantankerous, usually drunk and short-tempered Captain Haddock uttering pseudo-curses like "Blistering barnacles!"; the addlebrained and hard-of-hearing inventor Professor Cuthbert Calculus continually mishearing what others said; the incompetent, derby-wearing twin detectives Thomson and Thompson (who can be distinguished by the fact one lacks a ‘p’ in his name); and his faithful dog, Snowy, a whisky-drinking white fox terrier. Each adventure added quirky guest stars to the cast.

In many ways, Tintin served as an inspiration for my own Halos & Horns series. It’s easy to watch archangel Gabriel berating demon Lucifer as he taps into his cask of Merlin ale and conjure visions of the Boy Scoutish Tintin lambasting the whisky-chugging Captain Haddock. Like Hergé, I blend humor with adventure and drama. Halos & Horns has some very funny scenes and lines, but it is not strictly a humor series, any more than it is straight drama, or an action-adventure saga, but rather a blend of all three. Following Hergé’s lead, I’ve packed Halos & Horns with a variety of quirky characters embroiled in adventures across several locales, finding themselves in both dramatic and humorous situations. I hope my characters and stories prove as enduring… and endearing… as his have.

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