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Recap / Tintin: The Red Sea Sharks

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The Red Sea Sharks (1958) is the 19th adventure of Tintin. It is notable for its re-introduction of Tintin's Rogues Gallery and a number of supporting characters. The album begins with a reference to the Land of Black Gold. In Khemed, Sheikh Bab El Ehr has finally managed to depose his rival Emir Ben Kalish Ezab. Abdullah, the Royal Brat son of the Emir, is sent to Marlinspike Hall for protection.

In various subplots:

  • Doctor J. W. Müller ( The Black Island, Land of Black Gold) has allied himself to the new regime in Khemed, playing an influential role under the alias Mull Pasha.
  • The struggle for power in San Theodoros is still ongoing. Rival leaders General Alcazar and General Tapioca (The Broken Ear, The Seven Crystal Balls) secretly purchase weapons from a smuggling operation.
  • Leading the smugglers is J. M. Dawson, a Dirty Cop previously active in Shanghai (The Blue Lotus). His police days seem to be over but his criminal connections endure.
  • Marquis di Gorgonzola, a Corrupt Corporate Executive, seems to have behind-the-scenes involvement in many of the recent events. His main plan however is reviving an illegal slave trade operation by abducting pilgrims to Mecca and selling them. The Marquis is actually Roberto Rastapopoulos, mastermind behind a supposedly defunct crime syndicate (Cigars of the Pharaoh, The Blue Lotus).
  • Allan, Captain Haddock's former second-in-command (The Crab with the Golden Claws), resurfaces as captain of a slave ship.

Tintin has to face many of these old foes in order to resolve the situation in Khemed and in a revived slave trade.


  • Abandon Ship: Tintin and Haddock's kidnappers abandon ship after setting fire to its cargo of ammunition and explosives. As the heroes struggle to extinguish the fire, it is swamped by a large wave and Haddock is able to get the ship working again. The Ellipse-Nelvana adaptation removes the wave: Tintin and Haddock rescue the prisoners and bring the fire down with their help.
  • Accidental Misnaming: Castafiore never can remember Haddock's name, so he reintroduces himself to the opera singer as "Harrock, Madam... Captain Harrock-and-roll!".
  • Adaptational Heroism: In the original story, the Emir knew that Arabair was being used for slave trafficking, and only threatened to expose it if the airline didn't pull a ridiculous stunt to appease his son. In the Nelvana adaptation, he initially didn't know and cancelled Arabair's contract once he knew about their trafficking operations.
  • America Saves the Day: While Americans in previous albums are typically villains, this album culminates with the USS Los Angeles coming in to rescue the heroes from submarine attack by dropping depth charges. The United States Navy saves the day.
  • Artistic License – Biology: Tintin, Captain Haddock and Skut are shipwrecked on the ocean, and Tintin suggests that they drink sea water to survive. Yes, Tintin, who usually knows everything. And to make things worse, the captain only objects to the taste and its unhygienic nature, not the fact that drinking salt water would only make them more thirstynote . Haddock of all people should know this, due to being an experienced sailor. However, they do refer to the studies Dr. Alain Bombard did on a sea water diet, so it may just be that Science Marches On.
  • Badly Battered Babysitter: Nestor, the butler of Marlinspike Hall. While Haddock is off adventuring, Nestor has to take care of young Prince Abdullah. The situation is "a little trying" on him. He loses a lot of weight while taking care of the Royal Brat.
  • Bait-and-Switch Gunshot:
    • A menacing hand points a gun at Tintin, only for it to be Abdullah wielding a water pistol.
    • As Haddock is desperately dodging torpedo strikes, a formidable explosion is heard... the Los Angeles' seaplane dropping depth charges on the submarine.
  • Battering Ram: Tintin and Haddock use a heavy chest as an improvised one to escape their cabin on the Ramona.
  • Bilingual Bonus: The kidnapped pilgrims argue in authentic Yoruba.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: When the Emir lists the Marquis di Gorgonzola's businesses.
    Di Gorgonzola — shipping magnate, newspaper proprietor, radio, television and cinema tycoon, air-line king, dealer in pearls, gun-runner, trafficker in slaves...
  • Butt-Monkey: Haddock suffers from a series of Prat Falls that lead to him repeatedly falling on his face or into the ocean. When Tintin later sprays him with a hose (to stop him being attacked by rioting passengers) he tells Tintin not to apologize as he's gotten used to it.
  • Centipede's Dilemma: Captain Haddock is unable to sleep after Allan mockingly asks him if he sleeps with his beard under or over the covers. This ends up saving his life and those of everyone on the ship.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Captain Haddock's nautical skills are essential to keep the slave ship from being destroyed by Rastapopolous's submarines.
  • Clingy Aquatic Life: Captain Haddock falls off a raft and comes up spitting out a fish. He falls off again later, coming up wearing a jellyfish as a hat, allowing Tintin to make a pun on the raft of the medusa.
  • Coincidental Dodge: The ship manages to avoid torpedoes by accidentally reversing and changing speed. Then they lose the engine control.
  • Continuity Porn: Villains from no fewer than seven previous entries in the series are somehow involved in the plot.
  • Contrived Coincidence: As per usual for this series — the airplane Tintin and Haddock are on crashes due to an engine fire, saving their lives when a Time Bomb in the hold explodes. A freak wave puts out the fire threatening to blow up the ship's cargo of explosives. Haddock drops the anchor, knocking out the frogman attempting to put a limpet mine on their hull. The trope is lampshaded at the beginning of the story, when our heroes (literally) bump into General Alcazar moments after discussing him (and right after Haddock was complaining how ridiculous the trope is, after seeing it in a movie).
  • Cool Boat: The escape submarine concealed in a "sinking" motorboat.
  • Covers Always Lie: The scene depicted on the cover is different from how it happens in the comic. The cover shows a single circle surrounding the heroes, implying a telescope view, but in the comic, they are watched through binoculars, with an appropriate 8-shaped field of vision. Also, the raft has red barrels attached on the cover, but they are not present in the comic version.
  • Fate Worse than Death: After the heroes are rescued by a cruise ship, Bianca Castafiore shows up to greet them. Haddock seriously considers returning to the raft.
  • Feed It a Bomb: A shark accidentally swallows a mine intended for Tintin's ship. We hear it hiccup for a while, then it culminates with a "hicBOOOOOOOOOMMMM" several miles away.
  • Good Angel, Bad Angel: Captain Haddock has the two sides of his conscience appearing when he contemplates whether or not he should drink out of the bottle Allan had left in his cabin. When the bottle gets smashed, the bad angel leaves angrily while the good angel happily smiles.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Tintin, Haddock and Piotr Skut are adrift on a raft in the middle of the Red Sea. They eventually are sighted by some passengers on Gorgonzola's ship, after which a woman immediately shouts to the latter, "Look! Real castaways! How madly gay!"
  • Heel–Face Turn: Skut falls in with the heroes pretty much instantly after they rescue him from his downed plane. It helps that he really wasn't anything more than a Punch-Clock Villain in the first place.
  • Hiding in a Hijab: Tintin and Captain Haddock sneak past Khemed guards while wrapped up and balancing urns on their heads. The captain trips, nearly swears, and manages to keep the urn balanced to the guards' unhidden admiration.
  • High-Speed Missile Dodge: The Big Bad orders his submarine to sink the ship, killing the meddlesome Tintin and destroying all the evidence against him. Haddock has to keep turning the ship to avoid the torpedoes being fired at them, only to have an Oh, Crap! moment when the handle of the engine order telegraph breaks off in his hand. Funnily enough, the telegraph is jammed at 'half speed astern,' which enables the Ramona to dodge a torpedo.
  • Human Traffickers: Rastapopolous's new business venture: luring Muslim men onto voyages to Mecca during the Haj pilgrimage, then selling them to slave traders halfway. In the English dub of the cartoon, they instead take their money and then throw them overboard to die.
  • Hurt Foot Hop: Captain Haddock, after accidentally breaking and then failing to fix the steering wheel on the Ramona, fumes in Angrish and lets the "confounded rattletrap... tin-can contraption" have it with his right foot. The next panel has him clutching his foot while howling in pain.
  • Idiot Ball: Tintin, of all characters, suggests that they drink the sea water to survive while he, Haddock and Skut are drifting away on their raft. Altough Haddock is against the idea, this is not for the realistic reasons and he's just trying to find an excuse to not drink water.
  • I'll Never Tell You What I'm Telling You!: While supposedly interrogating Tintin, the Thompsons let him know which hotel Alcazar is staying at.
  • Immediate Self-Contradiction:
    Captain Haddock: If we go on much longer, I'll be on my knees! If only I could lie down!
    Tintin: Lie down? We simply must reach Wadesdah before Dawn, Captain. Lying down is out of the question. (next frame) Quick, lie down!
  • Implied Death Threat: Allan reminds Haddock and Tintin of the eponymous sharks when warning them not to be troublesome.
  • In My Language, That Sounds Like...: In French, Skut's name, Szut, sounds like he's saying "Zut", meaning "Push off!", when Haddock asks his name. The English version changes it to Haddock thinking he'd said "Scoot" and getting angry.
  • I Surrender, Suckers: The submarine surfaces waving a white flag after they get bombed, but send a frogman to put a limpet mine on the hull.
  • Karma Houdini: Subverted. Rastapopolous seems to get away scot-free at the end of the book. However, when he reappears in Tintin: Flight 714 it's revealed that Tintin and Haddock's ruining his plans in The Red Sea Sharks nearly bankrupted him. As part of his Villain Decay, he's reduced to trying to steal another man's fortune, instead of rebuilding his own.
  • Megaphone Gag: Tintin and Haddock end up on a ship belonging to a slave-trading operation. When one of the slavers boards the ship to inspect the cargo, Haddock drives him off with a volley of insults. After a minute, Tintin points out that the man is out of earshot, but the Captain, not to be defeated, runs to the bridge to continue his tirade through a megaphone.
  • The Millstone : Abdullah is an even greater thorn in the heroes' side in this album, as it was him putting an alarm clock in Tintin's coat that caused Tintin to be nearly caught before he could listen the end of the conversation between Dawson and his subordinate, and that allowed Dawson to find out about Tintin and try to eliminate him. It's also revealed later that it's his absurd request of making Arabair passenger planes do loops before landing that started the conflict between his father and Gorgonzola in the first place.
  • Mistaken for Badass: Not that they aren't badasses, but in a deadly game of cat and mouse between the protagonists' ship and a submarine, Captain Haddock accidentally gets the ship stuck going astern (backwards). When this results in a torpedo barely missing the ship, the villains marvel at the captain's tactical genius.
  • The Namesake: The English title for this story is metaphorical, referring to the villains and their predatory traffic in human lives. However, an actual shark appears and plays a minor role towards the end.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Airplanes and armoured cars are sent to stop our heroes. One ends up bombing the other due to a miscommunication.
  • Percussive Maintenance:
    • The radio Skut is trying to repair works perfectly after Tintin accidentally knocks it off the table.
    • Subverted when Haddock is trying to unstick the engine lever that controls the ship's speed with a hammer, which works as well as expected. Haddock is reduced to yelling into the hammer while holding a phone receiver in his other hand.
  • Race Lift:
    • The Nelvana Animated Adaptation turned the enslaved black people onboard the Ramona into enslaved Middle Eastern people.
    • They are Muslim pilgrims who were seeking a means to travel to Mecca in the French version of the cartoon. Allan's crew took them onboard and enslaved them.
    • They are Khemedian refugees trying to get to America in the English dub. Instead of selling them into slavery, Rastapopolous and his goons take the refugees' payments for passage and then plan to kill them at sea.
  • Rebus Bubble: Haddock has one of these when his brain is figuring out that the sound of a bottle being uncorked means there's alcohol in the vicinity.
  • Rogues Gallery Showcase: The issue brings back many of Tintin's old enemies and connects them to each other in various ways. Included are Dawson (The Blue Lotus), Bab El Ehr (Land of Black Gold), General Tapioca (mentioned in The Broken Ear), Dr. Müller (The Black Island), Rastapopoulos (Cigars of the Pharaoh and The Blue Lotus), and Allan Thompson (The Crab with the Golden Claws and, in a later edition, Cigars of the Pharaoh).
  • Skewed Priorities: While slave traffic is indeed a very odious crime, Emir Ben Kalish Ezbab's reasons for threatening the Arabair to reveal it to the world were not out of moral concerns but because they refused Abdullah's ridiculous request of making the Arabair planes fly in loops before landing (for which they gave justified reasons to explain their refusal none the less).
  • Slavery Is a Special Kind of Evil: Haddock gets so enraged at the slave trader when he realizes just what he does that he bellows insults at him long after he's out of earshot, to the point of getting a loudspeaker so he can keep going.
  • So Much for Stealth: Tintin is listening in on Dawson arranging a weapons shipment, only to find Abdullah has planted an alarm clock in his coat as a practical joke.
  • Submarine Pirates: Di Gorgonzola's slaver gang uses several ships and a submarine to attack targets. The submarine is a German Type VII U-boat.
  • Suicidal "Gotcha!": Villainous example. Recurring Big Bad Rastapopoulos has been caught as the master of the Evil Plan which involved literal slave-trading, and the navy is closing on his superyacht. He goes out in a launch, supposedly to give himself up, but it suddenly sinks. The heroes and the world media think that he is dead, but he has in fact escaped in a mini-submarine hidden in the launch.
  • The Thing That Would Not Leave: Haddock goes on the investigation just to get away from Abdullah. On returning he finds to his relief that the Royal Brat and his entourage had left the day before, only for Jolyon Wagg to turn up, having decided to hold a car rally at Marlinspike Hall.
  • This Cannot Be!: Rastapopoulos, when he hears the radio message ordering his arrest.
  • Threatening Shark: Despite the English title, this story actually features just one shark. It swallows a bomb that was meant to be planted on the side of a ship, unintentionally saving the lives of everyone on board and blowing itself up in the process.
  • Time-Passes Montage: As Tintin and Haddock are recounting the events of the story so far to Oliveira over a bottle of wine, four panels show the wine bottle emptying:
    • (First Panel: Wine bottle is 3/4 full) "...and so Abdullah..."
    • (Second Panel: Wine bottle is half empty) "...aircraft for sale..."
    • (Third Panel: Wine bottle is 3/4 empty) "...letter from the Emir..."
    • (Fourth Panel: Wine bottle is completely empty) "..flew to Wadesdah..."
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: Dawson is portrayed as much more of an outright villain than he was in his debut, where he generally stayed in the confines of the law while trying to catch Tintin. Here, he decides to have Tintin blown up based purely off a second-hand report of him skulking around Dawson's weapons warehouse.
  • Training the Peaceful Villagers: The captured slaves are trained by Haddock to crew the ship.
  • Underling with an F in PR: : Captain Haddock finds himself in charge of a cargo ship full of black Muslims. When the villains' buyer (who think Haddock is substituting for the usual captain) comes aboard and starts examining the passenger's muscles and teeth, Haddock angrily tells him the man isn't a slave, and the buyer rebukes Haddock for using the "s" word instead of "coke" in front of witnesses. Haddock goes ballistic, bellowing insults at the fleeing slaver even after he's out of hearing range (and getting a megaphone so he can yell at him for longer than he could on his own).
  • "Wanted!" Poster: Wanted posters for Tintin and Haddock are put up in Khemed.
  • Who's on First?: Haddock asks a shot-down fighter pilot his name and he thinks he's replying "Scoot!" as a rejection. Turns out he's Estonian and his name is actually Piotr Skut.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Subverted with the black Muslims whom Allan and Rastapopulous are slave-trading under the guise of transporting them to Mecca on the Hajj. Initially Haddock is completely unable to convince them of this, but after a bit of consideration, most of them decide he probably has a point, as some previous hajjis Allan took on the journey never came home.