Tintin-ology

Weta Digital Ltd.

Here's what you need to get up to speed on the famous Belgian action hero, now a movie star.

The Adventures of Tintin, which hits theaters Dec. 21, is based on the classic Belgian comic series. Hugely popular around the world, the adventures of the boy reporter and his dog, Snowy, are not well known in the U.S. Publishers are looking to change that with a slate of Tintin-themed books and DVDs timed to the movie release. Here are four of the best:

The Adventures of Tintin: Young Readers Edition
By Herge with additional commentary by Stuart Tett (Little, Brown, 96 pages, $8.99)

New fans should read the original adventures, here given a fantastic makeover in these compact-size editions aimed at young readers but sure to entertain adults as well. Eight (of the 23) original stories are out now, with the rest to come over the next two years. Start with The Secret of the Unicorn and its sequel, Red Rackham's Treasure, long considered the best in the series and the basis for the movie (the film also used parts of The Crab With the Golden Claws). Each volume is packed with more than 20 pages of bonus material, including mini-bios of the main characters, original sketches and info on real people and places fictionalized by Tintin creator Herge. Unicorn includes drawings of old ships and a history of flea markets and pirates. Grown-ups should not be put off by the "young readers" tag: The bonus material is interesting and rewarding.

The Adventures of Herge
By Jose-Louis Bocquet and Jean-Luc Fromental, illustrated by Stanislas Barthelemy, translated by Helge Dascher (Drawn & Quarterly, 64 pages, $19.95)

This biographical comic about Herge (the name is the French pronunciation of the initials of the writer's real name, Georges Remi, reversed), drawn in the style of a Tintin comic, is better in theory than execution. Herge's time in the Belgian boy scouts and his years as a cartoonist shed light on the origins of the character. But the most interesting and controversial part of Herge's life -- his work during World War II on a Nazi-sanctioned magazine in occupied Belgium and his near-execution after the war for being a collaborator -- gets a confused telling that makes it difficult to understand the issues at stake. On the other hand, his zany meeting with Andy Warhol in the '60s is amusing, and the hunt to find his lost Chinese friend Chang after 50 years is moving. Overall, this is a useful introduction to one of the 20th century's most important cartoonists.

The Art of the Adventures of Tintin
By Chris Guise with forewords by Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson and introductions by Joe Letteri and Richard Taylor (Harper Design, 200 pages, $39.99)

This is perfect for film geeks or anyone amazed by the motion-capture technology used in the movie. Featuring early concept art, a step-by-step guide to turning a man into a cartoon and finished shots from the film, this lavishly illustrated volume offers an in-depth look at the wizardry of WETA, producer Jackson's special-effects company. The e-book version is a stand-alone app that includes audio commentary, animations and bonus images.

The Adventures of Tintin: Season One
(Shout! Factory, 2 discs, $19.93)

This 1991 French-Canadian animated adaptation, which had runs on HBO and Nickelodeon, is now available on DVD in the U.S. for the first time. The first season covers seven books (including the three on which the movie is based) over 13 episodes. The plots and animation are faithful to the comic-strip originals, which makes this a fun watch for diehards as well as newcomers. However, the quality of the DVD transfer isn't up to the usual high standards of Shout!, and it's disappointing that the set doesn't include extras.

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