The comic strip revisited

I've never read a graphic novel. I did think about venturing to dip a toe in the water after reading a blog post by Aarti, but never quite got around to it, and then I was taken ill....Illness seems to be a good time to revisit all those books you loved (childhood favourites, classic crime, lots of light reading), and give yourself the luxury of indulging yourself in them, and perhaps finally taking a light plunge into something new. A friend helpfully brought me a new issue of library books including one of Herge's Tintin adventures - The Calculus Affair.

Now I grew up with Tintin, I followed all his adventures on the TV, my favourite cuddly dog toy (now celebrating his 90th birthday) was alternately named Krypto (after Superman's dog) or Snowy (for Tintin's canine companion). And in fact I learned to read (although I have no clear recollection of a time before reading) from a mixture of Grimm's fairy stories, the Arabian nights, and comics (I have a vague memory of a very clever Uncle Scrooge McDuck skit on Hamlet). So, I have no excuse for an aversion to graphic novels. OK - Tintin is an easy way to start, what's there not to like? But, it's a way into the genre.

As for The Calculus Affair itself, it is completely and unutterably brilliant. Great, witty translation - very funny. The illustrations are fabulous, each one a mini work of art in itself. And the story is clever too - at heart a spy story with some Slavic types (apologies to non-sinister Slavs, but somebody has to be the baddie!) out to steal a weapon of mass destruction which uses sound waves to destroy all in its path. There's an interesting little aside here too as the scientists wrestle with their consciences trying to decide what to do with their dangerous knowledge. Written in the 1950s, it owes a lot to the Manhattan project and the atom bomb spies. Herge brilliantly combines a cracking adventure story with some laugh out loud moments, the insurance agent Jolyon Wagstaff and his effect on poor Captain Haddock is hilarious. It's not easy coughing and laughing at the same time, but Herge got me doing this to perfection.


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