But for all that, and even with the involvement of Spielberg and Jackson, the prospect of the upcoming movie hadn’t motivated me to dig out any Tintin books and re-read them. It’s the way many British people feel about cricket. Nice to know that it’s still played. What’s on the other channel?
Until this week, that is, when I caught up on Hero Complex with what Steven Spielberg has to say about the first movie, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn.
“It just seemed that live action would be too stylized for an audience to relate to. You’d have to have costumes that are a little outrageous when you see actors wearing them. The costumes seem to fit better when the medium chosen is a digital one.”It’s not so much what he said about the movie, interesting as that is. It’s the screenshots that have me really stoked. And those images have been on the web since last November, so why hadn't I even bothered to take a look before? Well, what did we know about the Tintin movie? At least it wasn’t going to be 2D. Gotta love those Studio Ghibli movies but it’s love with a shrug, admit it. And as for mo-capped 3D? If you see me shiver, that's the grisly memories of Polar Express that won't stay buried.
Instead of either of those extremes, Spielberg and Jackson have picked a very slightly cartoonish 3D styling. It’s a look that’s grounded in realism but with just enough Disneyesque stylization to nudge the characters safely away from Auton spookiness and into warm relatability. Of course. Should’ve figured that Steven Spielberg isn’t the sort of man who’d get trapped under a boulder in the Uncanny Valley and have to saw his own arm off.
So here’s the thing. Up until this week I could’ve waited for the DVD. Now I’m really keen to see the movie in theatrical release. But in the meantime, if I do happen to look at any of the original albums (European for “graphic novels”) it’ll only be one or two of them, and the reaction they’ll evoke will be a sort of kept-your-dinner-warm admiration. A rich glow of nice. Nobody is going to be devouring those old Tintin stories in a fever pitch of tunnel-visioned excitement as if the sun might go out at any moment…
And why not? That crazed all-consuming zeal is what I feel when I’m reading The Walking Dead or Irredeemable. You want the truth? The world moved on. The art in those Tintin books now, it’s been damned with the label of “classic”. Like The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, Vampyr, even Battleship Potemkin – sure, you and I and Martin Scorsese watch those movies. No, we don't; we study them. They’re what the vintners drink.
Tintin books shift, at best, two or three thousand copies a year in the UK. I doubt if it’s even as many as that in the US. Yet a movie can exponentially boost the sales of an attached comic. What’s the use of getting the Tintin books in front of the wider, non-fan market if they can’t see past the quaint old wrapping to enjoy the stories?
You know what I’m going to say. And you know I’m right, even if you don’t want to hear it. It’s time to modernize. Comics can be reinterpreted as movies, as TV, even as Broadway musicals, so why not as new comics too?
They need to remake the original Tintin books using the art style of the movies.
An expensive undertaking? Not when you have a crack at selling north of half a million copies of each of twenty-four books. And that’s just the English language editions.
I don’t say this to court controversy, whip up a fake debate, or take a potshot at a beloved and brilliant comics creator. In the English speaking world, Hergé’s stories are fading away into obscurity. They deserve a wide audience but, just like those classic old silent movies I cited, fewer and fewer people are going to seek them out in their current form. Do we want Tintin to be known only as a series of movies, or would it be a good thing if the movies drove people to read the stories as comics too?
If all this sets your blood to boiling, remember I’m not the one stopping people from reading Tintin. If it was up to me, the series would be taught in schools. And remakes wouldn’t invalidate the original albums. They’d still be there, and maybe the newer versions would provide readers with a stepping stone (a Rosetta Stone?) to real appreciation of Hergé’s work as a storyteller. And surely that can only be a good thing.