I want people to appreciate real Tintin

Originally Published: December 21, 2011
By Jim Caple | Page 2

When I was a kid, my heroes were Willie Mays, Snoopy, Donald Duck, Winnie the Pooh, Daredevil and Tintin. I am now an adult and, sadly, those are still pretty much my heroes.

Thus, the Daniel Craig movie I am most eagerly awaiting this week is not "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo'' but "The Adventures of Tintin,'' directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by Peter Jackson. I'm also very nervous. I've been waiting for a Tintin movie ever since I was 8 years old and first read the Herge stories serialized each month in "Children's Digest'' (that and "Baseball Digest'' were my first magazine subscriptions). I want this movie to be good. I want two of cinema's great directors to fill me with the thrill and wonder Herge did. I want the movie to be a hit so that I no longer have to explain who Tintin is, how the comic has been hugely popular in Europe and parts of Asia for more than 70 years, how his adventures have sold more than 200 million copies in more than 50 languages.

But mostly I worry the Tintin movie will be too popular, that if I wear my Tintin watch and my Tintin T-shirt now I'll seem like a Trekkie. That once everyone in America knows who Tintin is, being a fan here will lose the sense of being in a secret, exclusive and cool club. That Tintin will be regarded as Garfield in knickers and a trenchcoat.

I wonder whether some soccer fans felt this same way when the World Cup and foreign games began gaining popularity here. As nice as it must be now that so many sports bars televise so many games and you see so many people wearing Man U and Real Madrid jerseys, there probably is a nostalgia for the days when you and a select few other fans rose on a weekend morning for an early pint at an out-of-the-way pub that showed a feed from England. When you read Nick Hornby's "Fever Pitch'' and shared his obsession with Arsenal, a team few others in this country were even aware of. When you could feel like you were so hip and in the know that it was almost like being able to speak a foreign language. That it was your own personal sport you didn't need to share.

My friend Ian recalls going to the university library to read the European league scores in the London newspapers. Now those games are regularly broadcast on TV yet he doesn't even watch them.

"The Seattle Sounders have seemingly great fans, but it's not really genuine,'' he said. "It's fans pretending to be European soccer fans. It's almost like a costume party, with folks wearing scarves and whatnot. Who wears scarves? For crossover fans -- guys who are fans of both the Sounders and the Seahawks -- would you ever in a million years see one of those scarf-wearing Sounders fans wear a scarf to a football game? Or sing songs? It's all kind of phony.'''

Older Red Sox fans can understand the feeling as well when they look out and see all the pink-cappers filling Fenway. The old fans feel that because the new fans didn't endure the bad years they don't truly belong in the club. And yet, there the new fans are anyway, wearing their brightly colored caps, taking up seats, driving up prices and inspiring the Jimmy Fallon/Drew Barrymore version of "Fever Pitch.''

I remember old Mariners fans feeling the same way when their popularity exploded with the 1995 season. I suppose this is how all older fans always regard their team's new fans.

That's what I worry about. I worry there will be all these Tintin wannabes who only know the character from the movie, who don't appreciate Herge's genius, who don't know what it was like to wait a month for the next 10-page installment or when you had to special order the few books made available in America. Fans who didn't earn this movie.

I know that's selfish. And it's also probably silly. Because there is a greater worry -- that the movie won't be any good. This happened before with one of my heroes. All the Marvel characters have been made into good and very popular movies, except for one. My favorite. Ben Affleck starred in the Daredevil movie, and the result was so bad it turned the Man Without Fear into Gigli With Red Lycra.

Hmmm. Maybe I'll just go see "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" instead.

Jim Caple is a senior writer for You can follow him on Twitter at jimcaple.

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ESPN Senior Writer
Author of "The Devil Wears Pinstripes" and winner of a Sports Emmy. Reported from 17 World Series, 9 Olympics, 6 continents.