Books: Hergé, Son of Tintin

April 15, 2012

I came across this book in the library’s electronic catalog while looking for Tintin books for my son to read. I have never cared much for reading biographies (and I was more than a little dismayed when my high school guidance counselor suggested biographer as a good career choice for me), but the title intrigued me. In what sense was Hergé, who created the character, Tintin’s son?

I also wondered what made the Tintin books so popular in the Europe but much less so here in the U.S. Where they part of a larger cultural difference? There are plenty of popular comic books in the U.S., but they are actually periodicals, not books. The Adventures of Tintin, and other popular series such as Asterix, are published as books. I also saw the periodical-type comic book when I was in Europe, but I have trouble thinking of examples of U.S. equivalents of Tintin or Asterix.

There were other questions I wondered about as well. Where did Hergé get some of the names of his characters? I read recently that the name Tintin refers to the character’s prominent tuft of hair. But what about Professor Calculus? Why in the world is he named Tournesol, which means sunflower, in French? And where did Hergé dream up some of the outlandish adventures in which Tintin finds himself?

Hergé, Son of Tintin didn’t give me any answers regarding the differences between comics in Europe and the U.S., or much about the characters’ names, but I did learn a lot about where the ideas for the adventures came from. What had struck me as extraordinarily imaginative and highly unlikely adventures were in fact generally based on current events at the time they were written. As most of them were written before I was born, naturally I had no reason to connect them to real-world events. But for Hergé, basing comics on current news was a way to get children interested in what was going on in the world.

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Remembering Woodstock

August 15, 2009

No, I knew nothing of the rock festival that took place when I was seven years old. I liked rocks, and I collected interesting ones that I found. But if I ever heard rock music, I considered it noise.

I did enjoy reading the comics in the daily paper, and even more so the Sunday comics. (Though at that time I knew them as the “funnies.”) And while there were several I enjoyed (Blondie, Beetle Bailey, Henry, Family Circus), my favorite for many years was Peanuts. And while I wouldn’t say that Woodstock (who was named for the rock festival) was my favorite character (that would be Snoopy, although I identified most with Charlie Brown), I certainly enjoyed his interactions with Snoopy.

I stopped reading Peanuts after Schulz died, as I didn’t find it as entertaining to read reprints. But the sight of that little yellow bird brings back happy memories of sitting on the living room rug, reading my favorite part of the Sunday paper.

Movies: Garfield’s Pet Force

July 3, 2009

I don’t remember where we bought the first of Jim Davis’ Pet Force books, but once we read that we had to find and buy the rest. I had never cared for Garfield, and couldn’t understand the appeal of the comics, but Garfield and his friends as superheroes are funny.

When I saw the DVD of Garfield’s Pet Force at Wal-Mart today, I decided the movie would be a perfect rental for a holiday weekend. (So I went put it back on the shelf and went to Blockbuster to rent it.) It’s hard to find a movie that the whole family can enjoy, with plenty of action but not scary, and humor that all ages can appreciate. This one worked very well.

Garfield fans who aren’t Pet Force fans probably wouldn’t appreciate it much. Looking at customer reviews of one of the other CGI Garfield movies released in the last couple years, a user complained that these new Garfield movies just don’t work at all. You can’t take the Garfield from the comics with all his obnoxious habits and attitudes, and combine him with the cartoon style appealing to and suitable for young children, and have something anyone will appreciate. (Well, my younger son might – he likes anything to do with Garfield, whether he understands the humor or not.)

The movie is – like most adaptations from books – different in significant ways. Whether or not you like the movie, you could still enjoy the books. If I had to choose between books and movie, I’d take the books. But the movie is good, just in a different way. This is no doubt in large part because Jim Davis was both the writer and executive producer for the movie himself. He uses the same basic premise as the books, and most of the same characters, but goes off in new directions.

Two paws up!

Bedtime blessings

May 5, 2009

I celebrated Cinco de Mayo by getting lunch at Taco Bell (largely because that’s where my ride to our Toastmasters meeting chose to stop for her own lunch), and buying frozen taquitos and Wild White Nacho Doritos for supper. And I celebrated National Cartoonist Day (without even knowing it) by reading and coloring on newspaper comics with my younger son for our “bedtime blessing.”

Back when his older brother was young, I bought Bedtime Blessings (published by Focus on the Family, and apparently out of print now) to use at bedtime with him. When I first tried it, he was perhaps too young – at any rate, he didn’t seem to find them meaningful, and I went back to reading to him, with him picking the books. Years passed, and by the time I came across my copy of Bedtime Blessings again, he had grown past the recommended age range (3 to 7).

I tried again with my younger son, with initially more success. I forget why we didn’t keep up with it – he lost interest, or the book was mislaid. Or maybe he turned eight and thought he was too old for it – for a while we used another devotional book for elementary age boys. But recently he came across Bedtime Blessings and asked if it was OK to do even if he was “too old” for it (I assured him it was).

One day we looked at a tulip in our garden to remind us of what Jesus taught about the lilies of the field. (I picked the tulip because it said to use a flower; after reading the devotional I pointed out that the violets might fit Jesus’ teaching better and are just as pretty in my opinion.) One evening we played hide-and-seek with special objects that remind us how much we love each other.

I’d been skipping over the page that required black-and-white newspaper comics, because we only get the Sunday paper. But this evening, while out on our evening walk, Kyra helpfully picked up a folded newspaper and brought it home (she brings home a piece of trash just about every time I walk her). The outside section was in pretty sorry shape – even before I let her start tearing at it – but the sports section inside (with comics on page 5B) was just fine.

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A long-lived comic

September 4, 2008

I don’t read the comics much anymore. Partly it’s lack of time, sometimes it’s lack of a newspaper (delivery is somewhat spotty – or else someone takes my paper off my front steps), but usually it’s lack of interest. When I was a child, the funnies were the only part of the paper I understood. Now I’m more likely to read the local news and the editorial page, and when I do read the comics (does anyone call them “the funnies” anymore?), there aren’t that many I really like anyway.

I can think of lots I enjoyed as a child, but only a few of those still appear in today’s papers. And those that do often just aren’t the same – sometimes because they’re drawn by someone different from who drew them in my childhood. Peanuts still looks like it always did – but that’s because they’re all reprints now, since Charles Schulz’ death eight years ago. So I was somewhat surprised to discover that today is Mort Walker‘s 85th birthday, and that he is still drawing Beetle Bailey, as he has since September 4, 1950.

I found out lots more interesting stuff about the comic strip as I read about Mort Walker and his work. For as long as I can remember (and since long before I was born), Beetle has been goofing off in Camp Swampy. But it turns out he started as a university student, and joined the Army when the comic strip was not doing well and in danger of being dropped from syndication. I had always figured Beetle must have been drafted, but it turns out he enlisted – not out of patriotic motivation but because one day he needed to duck out of sight quickly and found himself at the door of an Army enlistment office.

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Happy Birthday, Garfield

June 19, 2008

I saw my first Garfield comic strip in the early 1980’s – and wasn’t very impressed. Why would I want to pay any attention to a fat, lazy, arrogant cat? A few years later I had a friend who liked Garfield so much she had a plush Garfield on her bed. And now I have two sons who collect Garfield books and laugh uproariously at his antics.

I have to admit I like him better now than I did as a college student. I don’t know how much it’s how he’s changed, or how I’ve changed. (He certainly looks better than he did thirty years ago.) I still don’t enjoy him as much as my sons do – my younger son came in this evening to tell me a Garfield joke, and I couldn’t quite see the humor in it.  But I did enjoy watching the movie Garfield 2 with the family a few months ago.

If you’re a Garfield fan, you probably already have lots of his books and can see how he’s changed over the years since his first appearance thirty years ago today. If not, you can check out his history, including the huge vault of daily comic strips, at his very own website. (I’ll have to show this to my younger son tomorrow. He’ll be occupied with it for hours.)

So Happy 30th Birthday, Garfield, and may you have many more.