Tintin finds his way to America's HBO


Have you found Tintin yet? The cowlicked cartoon character from France has finally found America -- or at least the America that can watch cable television.

"The Adventures of Tintin" is a new half-hour series that can be seen at 9 a.m. Sundays and 7 p.m. Mondays on the HBO premium service.

Based on the graphic novels -- some might call them long comic books -- of Belgian artist/author Herge (aka Georges Remi), they tell some tall tales about Tintin, a young, Jimmy Olsen-type newspaper reporter, and his dog, Snowy.

In this country, only comic book lovers have known Tintin for a long time. Most Americans likely would confuse him with another Tin Tin -- the canine Rin Tin Tin of TV. But the character has been popular in Europe for some 60 years, and some of his adventures are set in a politically charged World War II time frame.

"The Adventures of Tintin" debuted on HBO earlier this month. Tomorrow morning's episode, "The Secret of the Unicorn," is the second in the series, and Monday's "Red Rackham's Treasure" is the third.

Viewers should know that the HBO arrival is also being accompanied by a major marketing push through New York's F.A.O. Schwartz toy store, with a variety of related products.

In animation style, the series is reminiscent of the look of both "Popeye" and "The Katzenjammer Kids."

But the TV series "has been very faithful and true" to the 24 Tintin books published by the late Herge, who died in 1983, says co-executive producer Michael Hirsh of the Ellipse-Nelvana production team -- that is, with some attention paid "to reflecting today's values."

In some instances, he says, the original artwork was more violent than will be seen in the series. For example, in the premiere episode, "The Crab With Golden Claws," Tintin gets whacked over the head by some bad guys. In the TV series, we don't actually see the impact of the club.

Similarly, ethnic stereotypes seen in some of the books have been toned down.

"Wherever there's a minority group that was depicted stereotypically, we've tried not to repeat the stereotype," says Mr. Hirsh, adding, "People's sensitivities are radically different today than when these were written."

In recognition that many viewers will be children, Mr. Hirsh also said the series has tried not to show violent or dangerous activities which youngsters might be tempted to imitate.

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