Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Tintin, the Picaros and the Gallaudet Revolution

Commentary by D. McClintock

While I do cartoon blogs here, I also like to blog on other cartoonists' work. One of the most famous cartoonists I would like to blog on is Hergé, creator of The Adventures of Tintin. Have anyone of you ever read these classic books? They are among my favorite graphic novels that I love to read. Let me briefly introduce the artist Hergé, then I will get to the point of my essay here, the parallels that I see between his book Tintin and the Picaros and the Gallaudet revolution. You'll find this a little amusing as well as interesting.

Hergé (real name George Rémi, b. in Brussels, Belgium in 1907) was a Belgian illustrator who began his career by doing work for a local newspapers. He originally created a comic strip Tintin for a weekly supplement for children that would appear in the newspapers on Thursdays -
Le Petit Vingtieme. Tintin first appeared in Le Petit Vingtieme on November 1, 1928. Since then Tintin ran for more than four decades, with his adventures graphically depicted in twenty-two series. According to biographer Michael Farr,"worldwide sales of the Tintin books totalled over 120 million, with the annual figure topping four million as the adventures came to be translated into more than fifty languages - from Arabic and Chinese, Icelandic and Indonesian, Japanese and Korean to Persian and Serbo-Croat, not forgetting optimistic departures into Esperanto, Latin and Luxemburgisch."

There's one language that Tintin was never yet translated into...American Sign Language. Wonder how this could be done? Maybe through a comic strip in Hergé's honor or a play or a vlog drama of Tintin and his friends? Something to chew on...

Actually, for your information, one of the characters in Tintin's Adventures is deaf. Well, more likely, late-deafened. This character is named Professor Cuthbert Calculus, and he is the one in the middle between Tintin and Captain Haddock on the front cover (see above), with his trademark battered green derby hat, his goatee and his granny eyeglasses. Calculus, in my opinion, is one of the funniest characters I've ever seen in comic book literature. Biographer Michael Farr describes Calculus' first appearance in the following paragraph:

His introduction on page five of Red Rackham's Treasure is a comic tour de force, contrasting Calculus' quiet persistence with Haddock's explosive impatience at the professor's deafness - a "little hard of hearing" by his own account. "I'd like to speak to Tintin," the professor inquires politely after Haddock has despatched the crowd of "fancy-dress freebooters" claiming to have a connection with Red Rackham. "Why? No doubt your name happens to be Red Rackham?"
"Yes?" replies an uncomprehending Calculus. And when, after another unsuccessful exchange Haddock blasts:"YOUR NAME!", the comedy reaches a climax with Calculus' staggering reply:
"Gone away? What a pity! Never mind, I'll come again. I particularly wanted to speak to Mr. Tintin himself." The combination of deafness and inventive genius provides a rich vein of humour for the rest of the Tintin series. Like Haddock, the professor never misses an adventure and even has one named after him, The Calculus Affair. "The dear professor!...Another whom I never suspected would take on such importance," Hergé came to admit.
(Tintin The Complete Companion, Michael Farr, Last Gasp of San Francisco, First Edition 2002, p. 106)

All information on the creator Hergé and his beloved character Tintin can be found on www.tintin.com. You can even order his books or other products from this website.

I have been reading Tintin since when I was a child, when my mother gave me a French translation of Flight 714. (Incidentally, this was how I learned French! Comic books are one of the best ways to learn a foreign language, fyi!) At his personal library my late grandfather the diplomat had a wide collection of Tintin as well as other graphic novels from different countries, some in different languages. Seated in a plumb leather armchair in his stuffy office, I would read those books while he was either busy working on documents on his desk or running errands with my father. Ah, cherished memories...

Because so many years had passed since then, I started re-reading Tintin recently. This was shortly after the Gallaudet protests when I saw parallels between his last book Tintin and the Picaros and the Gallaudet revolution. The story is quite amusing.

General Alcazar wanted to overthrow depot General Tapioca, who had previously seized control of government from him in his country San Theodoros (a fictional country set in South America). But he was frustrated by his band of guerrillas' drinking problem. A successful revolution cannot be carried out by a bunch of drunks, he pointed to his friend Tintin. In the book we find that alcohol was actually supplemented in boxes by air from General Tapioca to Alcazar's band of guerrillas in the jungles, to keep them inebriated. Tintin found a solution to Alcazar's problem: Calculus' special medicine. To help cure Captain Haddock's alcoholism, Calculus invented a kind of pill that would make the drinker sick every time he or she drinks alcohol. Tintin successfully cured Alcazar's band of their drinking problem by secretly spiking their food with Calculus' pills. Tintin also successfully convinced the passionate Latino generalissmo Alcazar to lead a revolution without violence, without a shot fired, without a drop of blood. How Tintin, Alcazar, his band and their friends pulled off this feat...I'll leave this to you to read the book. I don't want to spoil the ending!

The story of the revolution on campus of Gallaudet University is similiar to the Picaros story. There was in the beginning a great deal of toxicity we dealt with in blogs and protests on the campus...anger, hatred, profanities, threats of violence. All probably fueled by alcohol or God knows what else in the students' lives. Maybe not every student involved in the protests, mind you. But it was clear last October that the toxic emotions ran very high, and this would have erupted into something bigger and uglier we wouldn't like or accept. One poster left a comment on my blog, that appeared to advocate violence on campus, giving a hint that a riot was inevitable. I told this poster that violence did NOT need to be the solution to every problem! I know from seeing other blogs that many alumni, professionals and mature students share this view. We needed to educate those young, new students who didn't understand better.

I would not allow violence to happen on campus, period - because there are children living on the same campus. MSSD students. Children going to school, too...KDES students. Any act of violence, any move towards organizing a riot on campus, would not only be outrageous but stupid as well and dangerous to the safety of children on campus.

Thankfully debate followed. We bloggers and protestors took time to debate the issues back and forth, and - what happened? Reason prevailed on campus. Reason won over violence. We have proved ourselves to the world that we're smart. That, like Tintin and his friends, we are capable of intelligence and self-control. You should applaud yourselves. With exception of someone's blemished toe (aptly nicknamed "The Stubbed-Toe Gate" by critic Mike McConnell), no blood was shed, no bullet was fired, no lives were fortunately harmed or lost. Gallaudet is now becoming a good example that a peaceful revolution is indeed and can be possible!

¡Viva la revolución de Gallaudet!


Anonymous said...

Yes yes I grew up reading Tintin as well! :) I don't have any of the comics anymore though but as a child, a roomie who was my mom's good friend and was German. He had a shelf full of Tintin stories and i would read every one that was in English :)

Another one i was fond of that belonged to the roomie was... Asterix! Did you ever read that too? Copy and paste this url below to check out a picture if you aren't sure whate xactly I am talking about.


Barinthus said...

Tintin! I also grew up enjoying his comics. (Asterix as well). There was even a tv adaptation - http://imdb.com/title/tt0179552/

Funny, I never really connected to the professor as a deaf person even although I knew he had hearing loss. This does not mean he's any less of an unique character.

Personally I'm more particular to the captain and his amusing temper.

Interesting connection you made to the Tent City Revolution and I agree with you - I'm glad violence did not break out. All acts of violence were intialized by the administration.

Carl Schroeder said...

I grew up reading Tintin, first in Dutch (Kuifje) and then in English. They are still the best anthropological cartoon because they took me to many different places around the world.

Dan McClintock said...

1. Zoee - oui! I read Asterix, too! In fact, that happened to be my late grandfather's favorite comic book and he had quite a collection of the Asterix books that I used to read when I stayed at his house. I think he probably identified with Asterix because of the similiar white mustache he has and the French culture he loved. My grandfather was something of a Francophile.

2. Barinthus...I think I might have seen the TV adaption, but I'm not sure. What year was it made? I'll check out the link.

In the Calcus Affair, the professor finally revealed to his friends that he was actually only hard of hearing in one ear. And later in the book he at last wore a hearing aid. Wish he'd learn sign language so he'd save the captain all the times from blowing his top...(heh heh)

3. Carl, yes, I felt the same way with the Tintin and Asterix books! I love travelling, and I've been to 14 countries around the world. I still feel this urge for travel, so to satisfy this urge I'd take a Tintin book with me to my home and escape to wherever it may take me!