30 Novels, day 22: Dreams of mountains and snow

30 Novels, day 22: Tintin in Tibet

The adventures of Tintin were the first “graphic novels” I ever encountered. I loved American comic books, too, but you could zip zap pow your way through them in a few minutes, while the Tintin comics were actual books. They were not superhero stories, but they were epic in other ways -- in time and distance, for example. 

They were also full of hair-raising action (Tintin had no superpowers and so his death-defying climbs and leaps were all the more exciting), they were full of movement (Tintin’s almost always in motion), they were intriguing mystery stories, and they were very funny.

Tintin in Tibet was my favourite of the stories, and to this day I’m not sure why. Maybe even then, before my family had moved to Jasper, I was already falling under the spell of mountains. And Hergé (whoever he was) could draw wonderful mountains. Actually it seemed he could draw anything and make it look real, and yet somehow better than real.

The simplicity, precision, and clarity of his style appealed to me immensely. Years later I was drawn to the work of Italo Calvino probably because it seemed a written equivalent of the luminous, clutter-free panels of a Tintin book.

I returned again and again to the images of those mountains. Dream-like, infinite, weightless. (This for me is one reason why the recent Tintin movie was a disappointment: it didn’t have that quality of lightness Hergé’s style could give to even the heaviest, most solid things. Even the movie’s Captain Haddock was too “heavy”). 

And all that snow. The silent blank snow of the white page beneath the drawings. The story goes that Hergé went to see a psychoanalyst (a student of Jung's) in the late fifties because he was having terrible nightmares in which everything was  white. The psychoanalyst advised the artist to stop drawing comic books. Instead, Hergé started work on Tintin in Tibet.

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