Wed 02 Apr
If you really want to see graphic communication — the artful combination of images and words put in service to narrative — at its most powerful, then have a look at this picture of my nephew reading a copy of “Explorers on the Moon,” the seventeenth in master draughtsman and storyteller Hergé’s long line of Tintin comic albums, which he acquired last week during our trip to visit my dad, his grandfather, in Paris.
“Explorers on the Moon” is actually only the English translation of the title. This particular episode in the adventures of boy reporter Tintin and his comrades was originally published in French as “On a marché sur la Lune,” way back in 1954, when my father was in his teens and living in France. He was a Tintin fan then, and read most all of the twenty-four or so installments. A few decades later, he introduced me to the English translations of Tintin’s adventures when I was growing up in the States, and I devoured them all, becoming a lifelong fan myself.
So here’s my 11-year old nephew, discovering them for the first time thanks to my dad, who bought him this copy and a copy of its immediate predecessor, “Destination Moon,” (the titles together form a two-part story) for the plane ride back to the States. The characters and the franchise were essentially new to my nephew; he’d heard the name Tintin before but had never read the books, and he certainly knew nothing of the franchise’s legacy or formidably devoted worldwide following. (Or even of the forthcoming movie adaptation from Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson.)
Still, he became engrossed by the cast and story immediately, burying himself in the books without hesitation. Before we’d even crossed the Atlantic, he’d finished both, laughing at the comic hijinks, connecting effortlessly with the characters, and marveling at Hergés pristine, still amazing ligne claire drawing style.
Just think about that: a simple comic book, originally intended for children (or the young at heart), that’s captured the imagination of three generations of my family, and has probably done the same for countless other multi-generational families, too. That’s powerful.