Yesterday I was asked by a comic book publisher to write an upcoming parody comic book and it got me thinking as to my favourite comic parodies.I've had a go at a few myself, principally X-Flies, Civil Wardrobe and Watchmensch, but I don't think I'll ever be able to top my absolute favourite, Tintin: Breaking Free written under the pseudonym of J Daniels from 1988. At their heart, the best parodies are always about something else. Rather than the Scary Movie approach of reprising a scene with a twist, the best actually have something to say and use the imagery and iconography of the parodied object to do just that. So with the movie upon us, I thought it was worth revisiting.
I mentioned it the other day in a review of Frank Miller's Holy Terror – this is also a didactic polemic, but from a left-wing anarchist point of view. It is also far more complex in that it just as it demonises what it sees as the opposition, the bosses, the police, the government, the media and the unions, so the group that make up the protagonists of the book are more complex, divided, arguing, at war with each other until they find a way to unite.
Tintin, a young thug, is fired from his training scheme for punching his boss, become educated in the ways of anarchism. Rather than his simplistic view of mindless violence, he starts to understand the politics involved and his own prejudices. He still finds it hard to reject his violent instincts but he manages to channel them into a positive force. If you mean bringing down the government is a positive force, that is. Oh, and he still seems up for theft, violence and property damage, as long as he identifies that the target is part of The Enemy.
Captain Haddock is Tintin's uncle who, with his wife Mary, live in a council block in an unidentified city, and give Tintin a home when he needs it. Through them, Tintin meets a range of revolutionary types and after working on Haddock's building site, where a fellow worker dies due to poor health and safety, he is instrumental in fanning the fire that propels the narrative through the book. And so it becomes a book about a growing revolution, ugly in places that seem reminiscent of the recent UK riots, but also inspiring, human will uniting to find a way to beat its oppressors.
Because this isn't some pamphlet, this is a dense wordy comic book that propels a certain political point of view through to its logical conclusion, while constantly juxtaposed with the content. It's disarming and lets the medicine go down in a way which would have been stodgy and off-putting otherwise – inspired by Mike Gilliland's The Free, it's so much more readable.
Here are a few pages to share the flavour of the book.