KICK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (16)
February 24, 2022
One in a series of 25 enthusiastic posts, contributed by 25 HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of a favorite sidekick — whether real-life or fictional.
Romantically disinclined, unfailingly virtuous, Tintin is just this side of annoyingly bland. What is it then, that elevates Hergé’s series into the upper echelons of the adventure-comic pantheon? Captain Haddock. A bearded, foul-mouthed, inveterate drunkard… and one of my favorite characters ever.
We first meet Haddock in The Crab with the Golden Claws, when Tintin and Snowy, taken prisoner aboard a ship commandeered by drug-runners, finds his way into the captain’s cabin — where we find the sailor, not for the last time, self-medicating with a bottle of whiskey. Tintin convinces the captain of his crew’s criminal activity and they manage to escape the ship… but the captain’s love affair with booze embroils them in a cascade of fraught and abusive interactions. After finding a bottle of rum aboard their longboat, Haddock sets fire to the vessel. Later, after our heroes have commandeered a seaplane, the captain finds whiskey on board and — in a drunken haze — knocks Tintin out with the bottle, sending them plummeting to a fiery crash-landing in the North African desert.
While Tintin and the captain achieve something of an entente in the later books, Haddock will never let go of his first love. His lingering addiction will on occasion even infect his compatriots, most notably Snowy. In Tintin in Tibet, Haddock has forgone transporting mountain-climbing gear and warm clothing in his rucksack in favor of whiskey bottles, some of which have been damaged en route to the Himalayas. Snowy laps up the free-dripping alcohol, rendering him well blotto — with treacherous results for all concerned. And in the emotional epilogue to Explorers on the Moon, Tintin and Snowy come back to earth unscathed but we find the captain stretched out on a gurney… until the attendant doctor’s mere mention of whiskey brings him back to life.
Haddock plays the id to Tintin’s superego, not only in his Dionysian love for the drink, but in his lush and fruity use of language. In the heat of confrontation with an adversary, his eyes white with anger, the captain’s famous barrage of epithets are let loose: “Swine! … Jellyfish! … Tramps! … Troglodytes!” Words, in such moments, become as potent a brew as liquor.
Much has been made of this relationship — two single men with no apparent romantic inclinations, stuck in a dynamic that resembles a marriage more than a friendship. Tintin actively seeks Haddock out whether on holiday, in quiet moments, or in the thick of adventure. Clearly there is love between the two, but one that is implicit and unspoken. Once Haddock reacquires Marlinspike (his grand ancestral mansion) in Red Rackham’s Treasure, and phases into a nouveau-aristocratic lifestyle complete with butler, monocle, and riding jacket, he and Tintin even settle into something resembling an on-off domestic partnership.
Here’s to you, dear Archibald – I raise a glass of Loch Lomond to your salty majesty, your boozy joie de vivre, and your unshakeable loyalty. May you long weather a thousand thundering typhoons.
KICK YOUR ENTHUSIASM: INTRODUCTION by Josh Glenn | Annie Nocenti on RATSO | Barbara Bogaev on TRIXIE | Sara Ryan on SWIFT WIND | Carlo Rotella on BELT BEARERS | Adam McGovern on JACKIE McGEE | Josh Glenn on RAWHIDE | Gabriela Pedranti on KUILL | Douglas Wolk on VOLSTAGG | Serdar Paktin on CATO | Deirdre Day on TRAMPAS | Dean Haspiel on TIN MAN | Flourish Klink on THE APOSTLE PETER | Miranda Mellis on FAMILIAR | Peggy Nelson on COSMO | Beth Lisick on MARTHA BROOKS | Bishakh Som on CAPTAIN HADDOCK | Stephanie Burt on SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE | Greg Rowland on SPOCK | Adam Netburn on SENKETSU | Mimi Lipson on ROBIN QUIVERS | Jonathan Pinchera on GUTS | Tom Nealon on TWIKI | Mandy Keifetz on DR. EINSTEIN | Judith Zissman on IGNATZ MOUSE | Anthony Miller on DOCTOR GONZO.
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