Sunday, May 24, 2009

Tintin vs. Tom Swift

tintin.jpg tom-swift.jpg

As noted yesterday, I don’t know if 2011 will bring Skynet’s destruction of civilization. I do know that it will bring a pair of computer-animated/motion-capture Tintin films co-directed by Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg. Some fans of the original comic books (anti-communist comics, I must note) may already be nervous, but this is a perfect example of something I try to keep in mind: Given how hard it is to get any decent Hollywood project off the ground at all, one really shouldn’t complain too much about Jackson and Spielberg, in the grand scheme of things. They’ll probably do something halfway decent, even if it’s not what you had in mind. I’m sure it’ll at least feature a plucky young reporter and his thinking dog Snowy (not talking dog, mind you — I’ve been corrected about that before).

There was also talk not long ago of a possible Tom Swift movie in the style of Jimmy Neutron — featuring “green technology,” alas, whereas in the books Tom was an unabashed user of oil, nukes, and whatever else impressed commie-fighting capitalist boy tech whizzes in the 1950s. If he goes all eco-hippie, this will not be the blonde, buzzcut, bourgeois, nuclear-family-possessing (in multiple senses), crime-fighting, science-loving, all-American youth who was my inspiration around age four (a couple decades after his creation and a good half-century after the books about his dad, who tended to use mere canoes and such). But again, things could be worse. For example…

The only actor to play Tom Swift in a live-action production so far, Willie Aames (also of Eight Is Enough and Charles in Charge) — in The Tom Swift and Linda Craig Mystery Hour (which apparently existed in 1983 without me ever hearing of it before) — went on to become an alcoholic and drug addict, then born-again Christian starring in obscure Bibleman videos, then a divorcee and attempted suicide who went bankrupt and made the news not long ago for having a garage sale to try and make ends meet. Has Swift Industries come to this? Sounds like Tom Swift and the Brutal Fist of Reality.

The financial crisis must be severe indeed, and the commies of all parties should just get out of the way now and let a million Tom Swifts bloom.


Chris Tregenza said...

A small correction.

Only the first Tintin book, Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, is anti-communist. It was commissioned by, and published by, a catholic, anti-communist newspaper where it appeared in weekly installments aim at children.

In later years, when writing about uprisings in middle-eastern countries and coups in banana republics, Herge had plenty of scope to attack communism but never did. In fact, Herge stayed away from all political ideologies in the other 22 stories.

In his childhood he was heavily influenced by the right-wing catholic clergy and was unquestioning of its assumptions in his youth. However, along with his colonial style racism, his anti-communism appears to have disappeared once he started to create his own world view.

Todd Seavey said...

Thanks for the clarification. Still, better youthful anti-communism than none at all.

pulp said...

I disagree, I think the series remained basically anti-authoritarian, while admittedly promoting a common mid-20th c. post-collonial European (Belgian) views of the world, as noted. Herge wisely toned down the rhetoric in order to appeal to a wider– and younger– audience, which was the right thing to do (art ought to entertain and stimulate rather than proselytize covertly). Tin-Tin is still decidedly anti-authoritarian throughout all the books, particularly the last few, in which the recurring villains are corrupt or brutal or bumbling dictators. There is the mock Castro/Che characters in Tin-Tin and the Picaros, as well as General Sponsz, a sort of Nazi sadist. There are the Stalin-lite stand-in called Kurvy Stash (Turvi-Stash? I forget the spelling offhand), numerous gangsters and pirates, and corrupt princes and kings, etc etc. The good guys are always inventors, explorers, or small businessmen.

As you know, I too love Tom Swift stories, despite all their pre women’s lib chauvinisms and worringly causual use of atomic energy. I don’t see any way in hell Hwood would ever do justice to the original intent of those books. Anymore than John Ford could get his classic John Wayne cowboy pictures made in Hwood today.

There is also talk of a live-action Johnny Quest film floating around; I know Paramount paid for a script, which apparently exists.

For the record, I don’t have very high hopes for the Spielberg/Jackson Tin-Tin film.