Tintin! Are you dead? Say yes or no but answer me!
— Snowy, in Tintin in the Land of the Soviets
Billions of bilious blue blistering barnacles! Tintin’s back, and you don’t need Thomson and Thompson to tell you why fans in Calcutta from eight to 80 are ready to croon like Bianca Castafiore at the thought.
Herge’s The Adventures of Tintin had disappeared from bookstores the past year because of problems between publisher Egmont UK and its distributor EuroBooks India. But fans of the nosy reporter, he of the puffed red hair that is never out of place, will be delighted to know that Penguin India has stepped in to ensure the legend endures on the bookshelves.
“We have always aimed to bring in the best of publishers to the Indian marketplace. Egmont UK have the original rights of publishing Tintin and since February 2013, we have a tie-up. In the matter of a month, we have sold about 5,000 each (of every title). Our main concern right now is to make sure Tintin is available on a regular basis,” said Ananth Padmanabhan, the vice-president of sales at Penguin India.
Actress Swastika Mukherjee, one among the legions of Tintin followers in town, recalls how kids would blackmail their parents into buying them titles of their choice during her younger days. “I remember when young, my neighbours, mostly guys, would go on a hunger strike if they couldn’t get their desired Tintin title from their parents! And during the Calcutta Book Fair, a large bagful of Tintin was a major attraction,” she told Metro.
Teenaged daughter Anwesha is a recent convert, having started reading the series only after the movie The Adventures of Tintin released in 2011. “My mother had asked me to first read the book and then watch the movie. In fact, I went with mom to the movie and loved it,” said the student of Class IX at South City International School.
Tintin’s almost year-long absence had not only affected loyal fans but the bookstores too. “During the transition period when the rights were being passed to Penguin, we had no stock.There was huge demand and the unavailability of titles meant loss of business,” the CEO of Starmark, Gautam Jatia, said.
The good news is that not only are almost all the Tintin titles back at the paperback singles price of Rs 425 each, fans will soon be able to buy hardcover, three-in-one and gift editions.
“There are also going to be special editions with an extra 24-page section documenting the inspirations behind the characters in that comic. Tintin and the Black Island and The Crab with the Golden Claws will be launched in April and eight more will be up by June. We want to provide as many variables and collectibles to a Tintin fan as possible,” said Padmanabhan of Penguin India.
For those who have grown up with Tintin, Captain Haddock and Professor Calculus and travelled to mysterious lands and lost civilisations with them, the second coming of the series in India is cause for celebration even if most of them would have read the titles many times over already.
“I love Tintin and each time I open a book, I notice a new detail in Herge’s sketches. And Haddock’s profanities never get old! Growing up with Tintin made me curious about dustbins and pendulums and made me think that all men with French beards are funny. In fact, it wasn’t until the Captain’s encounters with the llama in The Prisoners of the Sun that I knew about the animal,” said Nilanjana Debnath, an old-school comic-book fan.
Calcutta-bred billiards champion Sourav Kothari has a more personal reason for loving Tintin.
“I share an inseparable bond with Tintin. Reason? My nickname is Tintin,” smiled Sourav.
“My mom and dad were avid readers of Tintin’s adventures and as I grew up, even I relished reading them and got deeply influenced by the maverick character who epitomised the most daring and daunting persona with all the ingredients of intellect and subtle humour. With time, I realised that Tintin was not just a fun read but all the adventures also carried messages to the youth of the world.”
While the release of the 2011 movie, directed by Steven Spielberg, spawned a new generation of fans who hadn’t been introduced to reading Tintin till then, distribution problems proved a dampener.
“After the movie released, the already popular comic series became even more popular. But some of the titles were unavailable because of erratic supply. Now that our stock is back, readers are happy and sales are booming,” said Sidharth Pansari, the director of Crossword.
So whether you are plodding through Red Rackham’s Treasure again or taking off to Destination Moon, it’s time to raise an imaginary welcome-back toast to Tintin with Haddock’s favourite brew: a glass of Loch Lomond!
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