Tintin and the Picaros

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Tintin and the Picaros
(Tintin et les Picaros)
Tintin, Snowy, Haddock, and Calculus are running towards us, into the jungle, with the view of an Aztec pyramid in the background.
Cover of the English edition
Date 1976
Series The Adventures of Tintin
Publisher Casterman
Creative team
Creator Hergé
Original publication
Published in Tintin magazine
Date of publication 1 September 1975 – 1 January 1976
Language French
Publisher Methuen
Date 1976
  • Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper
  • Michael Turner
Preceded by Flight 714 (1968)
Followed by Tintin and Alph-Art (1986)

Tintin and the Picaros (French: Tintin et les Picaros) is the twenty-third volume of The Adventures of Tintin, the comics series by Belgian cartoonist Hergé. It was the last Tintin adventure to be completed by Hergé, serialized in Tintin magazine in 1976.

Tintin and his friends are invited to San Theodoros by General Tapioca to clear themselves of accusations of working with Tintin's old friend, General Alcazar. Tintin declines the invitation, but his friends go only to be imprisoned. Tintin joins them and they all escape and join Alcazar and his rebels, the Picaros. After a successful revolution, Tintin and his friends fly home, seeing the country is no better off than before.

The book is notable for the changes made to many of the characters. Tintin no longer enjoys adventuring and has abandoned his trademark plus fours for bell-bottoms, Captain Haddock can no longer drink alcohol, and General Alcazar's masculinity is ridiculed by his new domineering wife.[1]


Cuban revolutionary Fidel Castro (left, photographed in 1972) served as the inspiration for General Alcazar

Tintin, Captain Haddock and Professor Calculus hear in the news that Bianca Castafiore, her maid Irma, pianist Igor Wagner and Thomson and Thompson have been imprisoned in San Theodoros for allegedly attempting to overthrow the military dictatorship of General Tapioca, who has yet again deposed Tintin's old friend General Alcazar, this time with the help of the Kûrvi-Tasch regime of Borduria. The trio themselves are soon accused of allegedly taking part in the conspiracy, but are later invited by Tapioca to Tapiocapolis, the capital of San Theodoros, to hear their side of the story and clear them of all charges if they are innocent. While the Captain and the Professor accept the invite, Tintin decides to stay back at Marlinspike, as he is suspicious of the nature and reason of the invite.

At Tapiocapolis, the Captain and the Professor are received warmly by Colonel Alvarez, aide-de-camp to General Tapioca and are accommodated in a luxury apartment in the outskirts of Tapiocapolis, which is bugged (though the duo don't realise it immediately). The Captain soon finds out that they are being imprisoned after he is restricted from doing normal activities (such as buying tobacco on his own at night). Later, Tintin joins them due to the need of trying to rescue Castafiore, her entourage and the Thompsons. A few days later, Pablo, (who had saved Tintin's life in The Broken Ear), meets the trio and reveals that Colonel Sponsz, the former Chief of the Bordurian secret police ZEP who has now been posted as Technical Advisor to Tapioca, was responsible for framing the entire plot to trap them in revenge for his humiliation at their hands in Borduria (from The Calculus Affair) and also adds that Alcazar would rescue them from being killed by Sponsz and his men while on a trip to an ancient pyramid the following morning. Alcazar does rescue them, but it soon turns out that Pablo and Alvarez are involved in Sponsz's plot to kill the trio and Alcazar. The four narrowly manage to escape being blasted to death by the San Theodoros Army and soon Tintin, the Captain and the Professor seek refuge in Alcazar and his small band of guerrillas, the Picaros, who are leading the resistance against the Tapioca regime.

At the Picaros' camp deep in the jungle, the trio find out that all the Picaros are inebriated, thanks to Tapioca dropping boxes containing a large number of whisky bottles over their camp (The indigenous Arumbayas are also inebriated because of this) as a result of which they are not in a position to revolt against Tapioca. They also find out that Alcazar is now being dominated by his wife Peggy Alcazar, who nags him constantly about his failure to achieve a successful revolution.

Later, they see the trial of Castafiore and the Thompsons on television, which turns out to be nothing more than a show trial orchestrated by Sponsz. The Thompsons and Castafiore show courage and express contempt at what a farce it is. Castafiore is sentenced to life imprisonment, while the Thompsons are sentenced to death by firing squad during the annual San Theodoros carnival, which is only three days away. Castafiore has the last word, with her rendition of her trademark Jewel Song causing them to clear the court.

Tintin and the Captain, though uninterested in Alcazar's cause, decide to assist him in overthrowing Tapioca as that is the only way they can save Castafiore, her entourage and the Thompsons. They decide to use the Professor's latest invention to cure the Picaros of their alcoholism. The Professor had invented a pill that makes alcohol taste disgusting to anyone who ingests it with food or drink. He had first tested it on the Captain (as a result of which he can no longer drink alcohol, and is extremely offended when he finds out why) and later on the Arumbayas (when they had camped in the Arumbaya village for the night on the journey to the Picaros camp) with successful results. At first the Picaros are suspicious, thinking that the Professor is trying to poison them, but later change their minds and eat the food with the pills in it after they see Snowy eat the food, thus curing their alcoholism.

Soon, Jolyon Wagg and his troupe, the "Jolly Follies", arrive at the camp, having lost their way to Tapiocapolis where they are going to take part in the carnival. Alcazar, with a little advice from Tintin, launches an assault on Tapioca during the carnival by "borrowing" the troupe's bus and costumes, using which he sneaks himself, Tintin, the Captain and the Picaros into the capital. He topples Tapioca, but on Tintin's urging, does not execute him, as is the tradition. Tapioca is banished from the country instead, while a disappointed Sponsz is sent back to Borduria. Pablo is also freed and pardoned by Tintin despite his treachery, as he had once saved his life (which does not go down well with the Captain), while Alvarez defects to Alcazar's side. Alvarez, along with Tintin and the Captain, then go down to the Tapiocapolis prison and rescue the Thompsons, who are about to be executed.

The next morning, Alcazar takes over as the President of San Theodoros and honours Tintin, the Captain, the Professor, Wagg and the Jolly Follies for their efforts to overthrow Tapioca. He also gives his wife the presidential palace he had promised her, but she is still not impressed and continues to henpeck him. A few days later, with all matters resolved, Tintin, the Captain and the Professor return to Marlinspike. As their plane is taking off, a final, skeptical political message is pictorially displayed - as under Tapioca, the city slums under Alcazar's regime are filled with wretched, starving people and patrolled by apathetic police. Nothing has changed, except the police uniforms and a Viva Tapioca sign that has been changed to read Viva Alcazar.



"It's the atmosphere that has inspired me: everything happening in South America. Brazil and torture, the Tupamaros, Fidel Castro, Che. Without even saying where my sympathies lie... I obviously sympathize with Che Guevara, but at the same time I know terrible things are happening in Cuba. Nothing is black or white!"


Hergé began Tintin and the Picaros eight years after completing his previous Adventure of Tintin, Flight 714.[3] It would prove to be his only book that was completed in his final fifteen years.[4] He decided to develop the story around a group of Latin American revolutionaries, having had this idea since the early 1960s, prior to embarking on The Castafiore Emerald.[5] In particular, he had been inspired by the activities of Fidel Castro's 26th of July Movement when they were launching a guerrilla war from the Sierra Maestra during the Cuban Revolution against President Fulgencio Batista. Specifically, Hergé was interested in Castro's statement that he would not cut his beard until the revolution had succeeded.[6] Adopting this idea of the revolutionaries' facial hair, he initially planned to refer to Alcazar's group as the Bigotudos, from the Spanish word bigotudos, meaning 'moustached'.[6] As such, the story's initial working title was Tintin et los Bigotudos, before Hergé later settled on Tintin et les Picaros.[7]

Hergé's depiction of Latin American revolutionaries was also influenced by the French leftist activist Régis Debray's accounts of his time spent fighting alongside the Argentine Marxist-Leninist revolutionary Che Guevara in the Bolivian Andes.[8] Hergé's depiction of Bordurian support for Tapioca's government was a reference to the Soviet Union's support for various Latin American regimes, most notably that of Castro's Cuba,[9] with San Theodoros being depicted as having been governed under the ideological system of Borduria's political leader, Kurvi-Tasch.[10] Further reflecting the influence of Western multinational corporations in Latin America, in the story Hergé included a reference to Alcazar being backed by the International Banana Company.[10]

Colonels Sponsz and Alvarez in a scene drawn for Tintin and the Picaros, but not included in the final book.

Hergé's depiction of the city of Tapiocapolis was visually based on the city of Belo Horizonte in Brazil.[11] His depiction of a public sculpture in the city was inspired by the work of sculptor Marcel Arnould,[11] while the paintings that are seen in the Tapiocapolis hotel which Tintin and Haddock stay in are based on the work of Serge Poliakoff.[11]

Hergé incorporated many characters from previous Adventures into Tintin and the Picaros; these include Pablo, Ridgewell, and the Arumbaya tribe from The Broken Ear, as well as Colonel Sponz from The Calculus Affair.[12] The character of General Tapioca, who had been mentioned in previous Adventures but never depicted, was also introduced.[13] Hergé also introduced a new character, Peggy Alcazar, whom he had based upon the American secretary to a Ku Klux Klan spokesman whom Hergé observed in a television documentary.[14] In his preparatory notes for the story, Hergé had considered introducing Peggy as the daughter of arms dealer Basil Bazaroff – a satirical depiction of the real-life arms dealer Basil Zaharoff – who had appeared in The Broken Ear.[15] He also introduced the Jolly Follies into the story, a group who were based on three separate touring party groups that Hergé had encountered.[16] He had initially considered a number of alternative names for the troupe, including the Turlupins, Turlurans, and Boutentrins.[17]

Tintin's clothes were updated; he was depicted wearing a motorcycle helmet with a CND symbol on it, and was given new flared brown trousers rather than his old plus-fours; in this Hergé had been influenced by the depiction of Tintin in the animated film Tintin and the Temple of the Sun.[18] Later commenting on the inclusion of the CND peace symbol, Hergé stated that "That's normal. Tintin is a pacifist, he was always anti-war."[15] The behaviour of several characters was also changed, with Tintin practising yoga and Nestor the butler eavesdropping and drinking Haddock's whisky.[19] Haddock's first name is also revealed to be Archibald for the first time.[11]

Hergé's depiction of the San Theodoran carnival was drawn largely from images of the Nice Carnival.[11] Among the revelers, he included those dressed in the costumes of various different cartoon and film characters, such as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Asterix, Snoopy, Groucho Marx, and Zorro.[20] He also inserted the Coconuts band into the carnival scene, who had been created by Bob de Moor for his own comic series, Barelli.[11] The street that they were marching down, Calle 22 de Mayo, was named after Hergé's own birthday.[21]


Tintin et les Picaros began serialisation in both Belgium and France in Tintin-l'Hebdoptmiste magazine in September 1975.[22] It was then published in a collected volume by Casterman in 1976.[22] For this publication, a page was removed from the story so that it would fit the standard 62-page book format.[23] The page in question was located between pages 22 and 23 of the published book, and featured Sponz attempting to smash a glass, but accidentally breaking a statue of Syldavian political leader Kurvi-Tasch instead.[23] A launch party was held at the Hilton Hotel in Brussels.[24]

Upon publication, it proved a commercial success with one and a half million copies soon sold.[25] It was nevertheless critically panned at the time,[26] with various contemporary critics condemning the political apathy of the story.[27] On this front, Tintin in the Picaros was defended by the French philosopher Michel Serres, who stated that "The criticism that has been levels at Picaros is astonishing. There is no talk of revolution; the people are in the favelas, and they stay there. It is only a government overthrow. A general, aided by several assassins, takes the place of a general protected by his own bodyguards. This is why it is only repetition; it is just a movement reduced to this. ANd that is the chloroform; it is what we see everywhere. You can give as many modern examples of the Alcazar-Tapioca rivalry, or of double identities, as you want."[28]

In June 1977, Hergé travelled to Britain for Methuen's launch of the story's English translation, where he spent two weeks giving interviews and book signings.[29]

Critical analysis[edit]

Harry Thompson felt that Hergé's use of various characters from earlier stories lent Tintin and the Picaros "the air of a finale".[4] Hergé biographer Benoît Peeters felt that in this story, the characters were "more passive than in the earlier adventures, submitting to events more than setting them off", with this being particularly evident for the character of Tintin.[30] Michael Farr stated that "Tintin has changed", as is evidenced by the change in his clothing, however he felt that "such image modernising only succeeds in dating the adventure", adding that "Tintin's appearance at the end of his career was not only superfluous but a mistake".[15] Jean-Marc Lofficier and Randy Lofficier stated that in this story, Alcazar was "a deflated version of what he used to be", noting that by the end of the story he had become "a prisoner in his own palace. A sad, yet somehow appropriate, ending."[22] Farr suggested that the changes to the characters represented "an element of dismantling of the characters and their traits", something that he believed had also been present in the previous two adventures, Flight 714 and The Castafiore Emerald.[31]

The Lofficiers saw it as a partial sequel to The Broken Ear, which was also set in San Theodoros and which contained many of the same characters.[32]

Thompson considered it to be "Hergé's most overtly political book for many years" but felt that unlike Hergé's earlier political works, here "there is no campaigning element."[16] Peeters agreed, noting that Tintin in the Picaros is "a far cry from the denunciation of a political system found in Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, and also from the almost militantly anti-Japanese tone of The Blue Lotus."[33] He thought that in this story, "a sense of dissilusionment has taken over", for it is "quite clear that [Alcazar's seizure of power] is no real revolution but a palace coup."[33] Farr noted that this story showed that "the idealist of the 1930's is by the 1970's a realist", in that while "totalitarianism... and the manipulation of the multinational concerns... are still condemned... Tintin accepts he can do little to change them".[34]

The Lofficiers were ultimately highly critical of Tintin and the Picaros, awarding it two out of five, and describing it as "just sad".[35] Specifically, they felt that the "undefinable magic of the Hergé line" was "sometimes missing" from the story, believing that this had been caused by too much of the work having been turned over to his assistants in the Studios Hergé.[35] Further, they felt that the "characters seem tired: Tintin is totally reactive - even on the book cover, it is Haddock who takes the lead."[35] Thompson echoed similar views, believing that "life has not been breathed into the characters as normal" and that there was "something indefinable absent" from the drawings, "enjoyment, perhaps".[36] He added that while it contained "many fine vignettes", "over all it is a lacklustre story, missing the sparkly of a genuine Tintin adventure".[4] Peeters thought that "the comedy here seems mechanical" and "neither the characters, nor the plot, not the drawings ring true".[28]


Tintin and the Picaros was one of the stories animated for television in 1991 by the French studio Ellipse and the Canadian animation company Nelvana. Directed by Stéphane Bernasconi, the series has been praised for being "generally faithful", with many compositions taken directly from the panels of the original comic book.[37]



  1. ^ Apostolidès, Jean-Marie (2009). The Metamorphoses of Tintin. USA: Stanford University Press. ISBN 9780804760317. 
  2. ^ Peeters 2012, p. 323.
  3. ^ Peeters 1989, p. 125; Farr 2001, p. 190; Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 82.
  4. ^ a b c Thompson 1991, p. 195.
  5. ^ Farr 2001, p. 189; Peeters 2012, p. 323.
  6. ^ a b Farr 2001, p. 189; Goddin 2011, p. 132.
  7. ^ Farr 2001, p. 189.
  8. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 196; Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 83.
  9. ^ Farr 2001, pp. 193, 195.
  10. ^ a b Farr 2001, p. 195.
  11. ^ a b c d e f Farr 2001, p. 197.
  12. ^ Peeters 1989, p. 127; Farr 2001, p. 190; Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 83.
  13. ^ Peeters 1989, p. 127; Farr 2001, p. 190.
  14. ^ Peeters 1989, p. 126; Thompson 1991, p. 199; Farr 2001, p. 190; Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 83.
  15. ^ a b c Farr 2001, p. 190.
  16. ^ a b Thompson 1991, p. 196.
  17. ^ Goddin 2011, p. 168.
  18. ^ Peeters 1989, p. 126; Thompson 1991, p. 194; Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 83.
  19. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 194.
  20. ^ Farr 2001, p. 197; Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 83.
  21. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 196; Farr 2001, p. 197.
  22. ^ a b c Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 82.
  23. ^ a b Thompson 1991, p. 199; Farr 2001, p. 195.
  24. ^ Goddin 2011, p. 189.
  25. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 82; Peeters 2012, p. 325.
  26. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 82; Peeters 2012, pp. 323–324.
  27. ^ Peeters 2012, pp. 324–345.
  28. ^ a b Peeters 2012, p. 325.
  29. ^ Goddin 2011, p. 192.
  30. ^ Peeters 1989, p. 126.
  31. ^ Farr 2001, p. 192.
  32. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 83.
  33. ^ a b Peeters 1989, p. 127.
  34. ^ Farr 2001, p. 193.
  35. ^ a b c Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 84.
  36. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 199.
  37. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 90.


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