Asterix and Obelix

In the vein of older European comics, which was introduced with Tintin, I now present AsterixAsterix is an entertaining comic series written by R. Goscinny and A. Uderzo. Both men were born in France and published the Asterix stories in French publications. The comics follow (big surprise!) Asterix and his friend Obelix, two Gauls who live in a small village surrounded by Roman legions. They spend their days eating boar, hurling menhirs, smashing Romans, and having many adventures.

Even though the stories were originally published in French, the dialogue is still very clear and witty in translation. The stories make plentiful use of wordplays in the dialogue, and all the names carry some humorous reference to the character of their owners.  Asterix is largely character driven, and the interplay of personalities in the different situations is always humorous to read. The stories provide a good mix of wit, both historical and mythological settings, and an ancient Roman cast of characters to continually keep the adventures  interesting.

Not only are the dialogue and stories well done, but the comics are also splendidly made from a visual standpoint.  The panels are laid out in a grid pattern and are easy to follow. The artwork is very clear and well rendered, and Uderzo does an excellent job of exaggeration in his art, adding a humor outside of the dialogue.  These factors make the comic very easy to read.  Finally, regarding color, either the comics were originally printed at a very high quality, or the illustrations have been masterfully re-colored. Needless to say, these comic books do not look like they were printed nearly fifty years ago, but are sharp and vibrant.

If you want some humorous, light reading, give Asterix a look. With witty dialogue and stories –accompanied by a superb cartoon style –you can’t go wrong.

Happy Reading!

-flint-

Top 10 Colorful Adventures of Tintin

As I said in my last post, if you like colorful plots, good characters, elaborate settings, and are O.K. with slightly exaggerated escapes and a few stereotypes, then you should give Tintin a read.  Following is a list of (in my opinion) the top 10 best Tintin books.  You don’t have to read them in this order, but if you do, the characters will be introduced chronologically:

  1. King Ottokar’s Scepter – Tintin attempts to stop a plot to dethrone the king of Syldavia (a fictional European country).

  2. Cigars of the Pharaoh – A crazy professor and a mysterious smuggling organization make this comic interesting.
  3. The Blue Lotus – Continues Tintin’s adventures from Cigars of the Pharaoh.
  4. The Black Island – Tintin uncovers a gang of counterfeiters in Scotland.
  5. The Broken Ear – A precious gem, a stolen statue, and two cutthroats combine to make this story highly dramatic.
  6. The Crab with the Golden Claws – The belligerent Captain Haddock is introduced in this book.
  7. The Secret of the Unicorn – Captain Haddock and Tintin begin a treasure hunt for the lost gold of Haddock’s ancestors, but they are not the only ones searching for the gold.
  8. Red Rackham’s Treasure – The treasure hunt culminates in a sea voyage to find the location of the lost fortune.
  9. The Calculus Affair – Maybe a bit far-fetched in terms of technology, this story succeeds because of the hair-breadth escapes, humor, and complex plot.
  10. Land of Black Gold – A nefarious villain from The Black Island returns, this time plotting war in the Middle East.

These colorful collections are each 62 pages in length, and can be purchased from www.amazon.com, among other online retailers

Edit: just to be clear, we are in no way affiliated with Amazon.com.  We are not being paid to advertise products for Amazon.com (Ouch.  That’s a pretty harsh way to end a review…)

Anyway, happy reading!

bone

A Golden Oldie Comic (which you probably haven’t read)

The old comic books that decorate my bookshelf seem to fall into two categories—the ones that are forgotten and the ones that seem to improve the more I read them.  One of these old comics is Tintin by the Belgian artist Hergé (pronounced hair-jay).  Maybe you’ve wondered what was so great about Hergé’s work.  Maybe you’ve heard that there was an animated series or heard rumors that Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson (of Indiana Jones and Lord of the Rings fame, respectively) were teaming up to make this series into a movie trilogy.  And so you might be wondering whether Tintin is worth reading, whether it is one of those stories that improves with age or not.

Though Tintin is not perfect (more on that at the end), Tintin is a pillar of European comics because of its “cliffhanger” plots, its interesting characters, and its elaborate settings.  If you’re looking for a comic series with a great balance of humor, suspense, dialogue, and visual interest, then Tintin is for you.

Plots

The plots of Tintin keep the story interesting and moving.  Hergé uses the “cliffhanger” extensively, drawing the reader on to the next page:

So that’s where the page ends. And then:

…The problem is resolved.  Hergé makes liberal use of this simple device to keep the plot interesting.  Though I’m sure the “cliffhanger” could become pretty gimmicky, in the hands of Hergé, the creator of the series, the plot shines (and, in the cliffhanger’s defense, popular movies like Indiana Jones have been crafted around a series of “cliffhangers”).  Hergé’s stories strike a balance, much like a Hitchcock film, of generating suspense and raising questions that may only be answered at the end of the film.  In some ways, Hergé even uses Hitchcock’s signature plot device—the MacGuffin.  A MacGuffin is anything in a story that seems initially to be important but turns out not to be (pop culture example: in the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? the “treasure” George Clooney and his two cronies are looking for is a MacGuffin because there isn’t any hidden money stash; George Clooney is actually looking for his wife).

Characters

In addition to the plot, the characters of Tintin are also interesting.  From the proud and vengeful villain Rastapopulous to the young Chinese castoff Chang, Hergé crafts interesting characters from all sorts of fabric.  Hergé’s stories are also interesting because of recurring characters.  Tintin, in his many adventures with his dog Snowy, comes across the bumbling detectives—the Thompson brothers, the ever-vocal Captain Haddock, the faithful butler of Marlinspike, Nestor, the deaf Professor Calculus, and the singer Bianca Castafiore.

Settings

The settings of Tintin are one of Hergé’s trademarks, as well (I understand) as the trademark of European comics in general.  Every place that Tintin, boy reporter, visits—from the forests of a South American country to the craters of the moon—is elaborately detailed to the point that every locale feels like a living, breathing place.  Personally, my favorite location is Scotland, where Tintin uncovers a gang of counterfeiters in The Black Island.

Unfortunately, Tintin, like every other comic book, is not perfect.  Some people might get tired of a few far-fetched escapes from danger and clichés (the ape in The Black Island is deathly afraid of Snowy’s bark; there are other “yeah…sure” moments as well).  Also, in Flight 714, Hergé does a sort of “deus ex machina” sort of ending.  Deus ex machina, “god out of a machine,” is where the author  invents a solution to a problem out of thin air.  I’ve heard this term comes from Greek plays where Greek “gods” would descend onto the stage using some mechanical crane.   This “god” would then liberate the main character in the play from some sort of “cliffhanger” situation.  Well anyway, Hergé does this in Flight 714.  In a word—aliens.  Yes, the sort of aliens that fly in super-secret spaceships.  The sort that save Tintin and his friends from danger.

But If you like colorful plots, characters, settings, and are O.K. with slightly exaggerated escapes and a few stereotypes, then you should give Tintin a read.  Be on the lookout for part 2 of this series of Tintin reviews where I will give a top ten Tintin comic books list!

Until then,

Bone