Follow TV Tropes


Recap / Tintin - Tintin in America

Go To

It's 1931 and having dealt with Al Capone's diamond smuggling operation in the Belgian Congo Tintin and Snowy head for Chicago to clean up Gangsterland. He almost at once runs afoul of Al Capone himselfnote  but manages to evade the mob boss only to find himself making an enemy of Capone's rival Bobby Smiles.

Smiles repeatedly tries to have Tintin killed but after the young reporter turns the tables on him Smiles flees Chicago for Redskin City and Tintin spends most of the rest of the adventure trying to bring him to justice. He returns to Chicago in time for a showdown with the rest of the mobsters.

For many years Tintin in America was the earliest adventure available in English and it shows. Aside from Tintin and Snowy there are no other familiar characters, the plot (and research) is near non-existent, and Snowy still talks (admittedly only on one page).


  • Aborted Arc: The comic starts with Tintin searching for Al Capone. After a short confrontation, Al is never seen again, and the story switches to having Bobby Smiles as the main villain. This is averted in the animated adaptation where Al Capone is the main villain and he gets arrested by the end.
  • Americans Are Cowboys: Once Tintin leaves Chicago and its mobsters, pretty much every American he encounters in the countryside is a cowboy or some other kind of frontiersman. Somewhat justified, as the cowboy era was not long dead. The trope is Played With in the same book, however: A Boom Town is built overnight in an area that used to be pretty Wild West. The next morning, Tintin finds himself the only person in the city still wearing his cowboy outfit, and receives a chiding from a police officer who tells him to put on something proper. The boomtown story is not shown in the animated version.
  • And the Adventure Continues: As the final episode of the Ellipse-Nelvana animated version, an altered ending shows Tintin receiving a call and rushing off for a new adventure.
  • Animal Wrongs Group: An elderly woman on a train pulls the lever because she saw a puma attack a deer and insists the conductor intervene. She ends up inadvertently saving Tintin's life since he was Chained to a Railway at the time.
  • Ascended Extra: Al Capone in the Nelvana adaptation.
  • Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop: Some of them actually make the Thompsons look halfway competent.
  • Balcony Escape: Tintin switches rooms this way.
  • Barbell Beating: Towards the end, Tintin is captured by gangsters who throw him into the river tied to a dumbbell. However, it turns out that it was actually a fake dumbbell made of wood, which allows him to float. Tintin then manages to get on a boat belonging to members of the gang and breaks the wooden dumbbell in half to use it as a weapon to beat up the gangsters.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: Bobby Smiles is the principal villain of the story, but Al Capone is actually the first gangster who Tintin runs up against, and a separate gang tries to go after Tintin in the closing sections, after Smiles has been caught. In the Ellipse-Nelvana animated adaptation all the Gangsters Tintin encounters work for Al Capone.
  • Boom Town: The discovery of oil in a piece of Injun Country leads to its overnight conversion into a bustling small city (the Indians are forced to leave within an hour by the army at bayonet-point). The next morning, Tintin finds himself the only person in the city still wearing his cowboy outfit, and receives a chiding from a police officer who tells him to put on something proper.
  • Bowled Over: Tintin does this with half of a wooden dumbbell on the second-to-last page complete with a bubble showing imaginary bowling pins knocked over.
  • Brandishment Bluff: When two gangsters are seeing if they've actually killed him after throwing a him in the lake (which he survives because, of course, he does):
    Tintin: "Hands Up! Put your guns down and slide them behind you"
    (Gangsters comply. Tintin collects guns.)
    Tintin: "Much obliged, seeing as I didn't have one of my own."
  • Cassandra Truth: The police officer thinks Tintin is taking him for a ride when the latter tells he captured Al Capone.
  • Chained to a Railway: Bobby Smiles does this to Tintin.
  • Chandelier Swing: Tintin defeats the villain with his Sword Cane this way.
  • Climb, Slip, Hang, Climb: The Ellipse-Nelvana animated version adds this to a ledge-walking scene that had averted it in the book. Made more egregious by Tintin outright pulling himself up using only his arms to climb back on the platform.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: All over the place. Maurice Oyle is a prime example.
  • Counting to Three: Another case of Bond Villain Stupidity. One gangster has Tintin at gunpoint and counts to three to pull the trigger, giving Snowy time to drop a vase on his head. Although to be fair at that point Tintin looked very unlikely to escape and he could hardly have known a dog was about to drop something on him.
  • Covers Always Lie: The Nelvana animated adaptation uses the same album cover, but no Native Americans appear in the story.
  • Cowboy Episode: It was based on European stereotypes of the USA and features plenty of Wild West imagery despite being set in the 1930s.
  • Crapsack World: America. Crime runs rampant, and meat producers put dogs, cats and rats in the meat.
  • Curtain Camouflage: Tintin hides behind curtains to evade some mooks.
  • Deadly Dodging: Of the accidental kind. One goon picks up a vase to throw at Tintin who stands by the door. Then Al Capone comes through the door and receives the vase in his face.
  • Deus ex Machina: Arguably uses this more than any other entry in the series. Smiles' mooks using knockout gas instead of poison gas by mistake, the animal lover stopping the train, Tintin and Snowy being tossed off a cliff and landing on a branch conveniently next to a cave network, the cannery workers going on strike, Tintin mistakenly being tied to a set of wooden weights rather than real ones.
  • Dog Pile of Doom: Tintin is falsely accused of being a bandit, and a group of yokels try to lynch him. After failing to do so repeatedly, they all descend on him in a dogpile, each wanting to be the next one to try. Tintin escapes by crawling out from underneath.
  • Eagleland: Flavor 2.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: Roberto Rastapopoulos in one panel. He is one of the guests of a reception in honour of Tintin.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Tons of it!
    • Basically, the USA gets Flanderized to the point that it reads like an ...actually pretty amusing parody overall.
    • This is the last Tintin book where Snowy is shown actually talking, and (though it's slightly ambiguous) Tintin seems to understand what he's saying.
    • Al Capone appears in the book. No later Tintin album ever depicted a real person.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Some members of the gang who threw Tintin into Lake Michigan spot a man floating on the surface of the lake and immediately help him out of the water... until they realize it's Tintin himself and try to kill him again.
  • Evil Versus Evil: Tintin is upset when the people most applauding him for taking on Al Capone are a rival group of gangsters led by Bobby Smiles.
  • Extra! Extra! Read All About It!: Twice. First it's a random paperboy, later it's Tintin disguised as one.
  • Foreboding Fleeing Flock: Tintin wonders why all the animals are passing him. Then he sees the prairie fire.
  • Gangsterland: Tintin is pitted against Chicago gangsters, including an undisguised Al Capone.
  • Gas Chamber: The bandits drop Tintin into one through a Trap Door.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: One villain charges Tintin with a bottle but then the latter pulls out gun and the fight is over.
  • Here We Go Again!: The Animated Adaptation ends with Tintin finishing his report, before getting a phone call about an unknown situation and leaving to solve it. He even mentions the trope name. Since this was also the last episode aired, it also qualifies as And the Adventure Continues.
  • Historical Domain Character: Al Capone, who was still alive at the time this story was drawn. For obvious reasons Hergé had to let him escape. In Harry Thompson's "Tintin and Hergé: a double biography" Thompson wrote down a funny quote about this cameo: "We don't know what Al Capone ever thought of the album. He probably never read it, seeing that Hergé was never found on the bottom of a Belgian river with his feet in a block of cement."
  • I Have Your Wife: Snowy is kidnapped by gangsters, and Tintin has to rescue him.
  • Inexplicably Identical Individuals: The horses appearing in the story have pretty strange postures. And if you compare carefully, they all have just two or three different outlines.
  • Injun Country: A rather mixed example — the Blackfeet Indians are violent and gullible but they are also depicted as victims.
  • In Medias Res: Because Tintin in the Congo was not available for so long but this story was, it came across as this. Al Capone referring to his previous clash with Tintin sounded more like a Cryptic Background Reference to readers than referring back to an actual written previous story.
  • Karma Houdini: Al Capone, assuming he had not been arrested offscreen. In Real Life, Capone was tried and arrested for tax evasion while this story was still being serialised, so one can presume his fictional counterpart eventually followed suit. Averted in the Animated Adaptation, where he's arrested alongside the other gangsters (due to the real Capone being long dead at that point).
  • Knight's Armor Hideout: Tintin sneaks into the castle where the members of the KIDNAP Inc. meet. He hides inside a knight's armor in the corridor and takes out one unsuspecting baddie after the other as they pass by.
  • Knockout Gas: The Gangsters Syndicate of Chicago uses knockout gas on Tintin after dropping him through a Trap Door and before dumping him into Lake Michigan. Fortunately for Tintin, they used the wrong kind of gas.
  • The Man They Couldn't Hang: Tintin. Twice.
  • Mob War: Played with; the mobs are initially battling each other, but near the end of the story most of them call a truce in an effort to get rid of Tintin once and for all.
  • Mystery Meat: Grynde Corp. make their tinned meat out of dogs, cats, rats and nearly Tintin, until he escaped.
  • National Stereotypes: The USA is depicted as a country full of gangsters, skyscrapers and cowboys and Native Americans who apparently still roam the Wild West. When Tintin strikes oil countless American business people quickly appear out of nowhere to buy the ground from him (offering sums in tens of thousands). After being informed that it actually belongs to the Native Americans the business people quickly pay them a paltry $25, force them to leave immediately and build an entire city from scratch in a matter of 24 hours!
  • Or My Name Isn't...: This line is used twice by hostile people. The French version was "As true as my name is X, I'll [get him]!"
  • Punny Name: Mr. Grynde and Grynde Corp., who make ground tinned meat.
  • Random Events Plot: Not to the same extent as Land of the Soviets or Tintin in the Congo, as about half of the storyline is focused on Tintin's attempt to take down Bobby Smiles, but it still doesn't really have a coherent overall storyline, instead just being based around the general theme of Tintin battling gangsters.
  • Revealing Reflection: There's a scene where a gangster enters Tintin's apartment. Tintin, who is in front of a mirror, notices the gangster and goes to the toilet while acting like he saw nothing. While the bandit waits for Tintin to come out, Tintin leaves the toilet by the window so he can enter from another window and sneak up on the gangster.
  • Runaway Train: The brake lever is broken on the train so it runs head on into a boulder on the tracks.
  • The Savage Indian: The book features somewhat unfortunate depictions of a plains tribe as rather primitive and hostile towards outsiders.
  • Saved by the Platform Below: Tintin falls off a cliff while pursued by angry natives, but is saved by a small tree with a ledge right below... and that ledge has an entrance to a secret cave.
  • Senseless Violins: There is a single panel showing one of the gangsters with his gun inside a violin.
  • Set a Mook to Kill a Mook: Tintin tricks the Indians to fight each other so he can escape in the meantime.
  • Sherlock Scan: Tintin hires a private detective after his beloved dog Snowy goes missing. The detective examines the scene and quickly produces a detailed scenario of the dog-napping. Tintin wonders if this man is a Sherlock or a charlatan it's unfortunately the latter as he repeatedly turns up with every kind of dog except Snowy.
  • Shout-Out: The original 1931 story had a shout-out to Mary Pickford near the end, when Tintin is speeching to a bunch of rich people. This was removed from the color version.
  • Speedy Snail: One of the animals in the Foreboding Fleeing Flock is a tortoise, and it's apparently running as fast as both a fox and a hare.
  • Spinning Clock Hands: One panel shows the clock at different times while Tintin is running in circles waiting for the dog detective to return with Snowy.
  • The Strongman: Tintin is kidnapped by a gang of criminals and thrown into Lake Michigan chained to a barbell... which floats. Cut to a strongman trying and failing to lift his barbell and figuring out someone stole his wooden ones.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: The ending of Tintin in the Congo teased a battle between Tintin and Al Capone, and the early stages of the story seem to be setting him up as the main villain, but he ends up disappearing quite early on, with Bobby Smiles subsequently taking over as the main villain. It's thought that Hergé actually did intend to have Capone as the main villain throughout the story, but for whatever reason — either due to the possibility that one of the then-ongoing investigations into Capone would actually lead to his being jailed, which would pose a problem given the serialised nature of the story, or the off-chance that Capone had some Belgian friends who he might send to teach Hergé a lesson — wrote him out and replaced him with Smiles.
  • Sword Cane: One of the villains pulls out a sword hidden in his cane.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Tintin tries to catch Bobby Smiles during a horseback chase by throwing a lasso. However he's never tried it before, and only ends up tangling himself and his horse up with the rope.
  • Technical Euphemism: Bobby Smiles doesn't like being called a gangster, preferring the term "syndicate member".
  • Tickertape Parade: In Tintin's honor at the end, after he cleans up Chicago.
  • Trap Door: Bobby Smiles presses a button with his foot to make Tintin fall through the floor and into a room with some Knockout Gas.
  • Translation Convention: The French version had American characters who appear to be speaking French, but begin their sentences with English phrases such as "How do you do" and "Good morning" to remind the readers that they are really speaking English. Obviously, the English translation averts this.
  • Villain: Exit, Stage Left: One of the baddies escapes through the Trap Door in his office.
  • Water-Geyser Volley: The oil geyser first lifts an Indian up in the air and then Tintin is floating on its top as well.
  • Weird Trade Union: There is a meeting of "The League of Distressed Gangsters".
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The detective who was looking for Tintin is trapped by the gangsters along with Snowy, but we're never shown what happens to him after that.
  • What the Fu Are You Doing?: Tintin attempts to use his lasso, only to end up lassoing himself and his own horse instead.
  • When Elders Attack: An older lady hits the dog detective with her umbrella because he stole her Fritzy.
  • The Great Depression: This story takes place during Prohibition in the Great Depression era, and the impact is shown in society, like sit-down strikes which have been common when workers wages were cut.
  • The Wild West: Apparently coexisting with 1930s Chicago. That being said, the redrawn version at least indicates that Tintin needs a two-day train journey to get there, whereas the original edition had it practically on Chicago's doorstep.
  • World's Strongest Man: Bolivar, the strongest man in the world. Turns out he is a fake.
  • Wretched Hive: Chicago is presented as such, and the US as a whole comes across as a Crapsack World.