(Born Georges Rémi) Belgian author and illustrator of comic strips.
The following entry presents commentary on Rémi's "Tintin" comic strip series (1930–1986) through 2004. For further information on the "Tintin" series, see CLR, Volume 6.
One of the pioneers of the French art form of the bande dessinée—otherwise known as comic strips or sequential art—cartoonist Georges Rémi, better known under his pseudonym of Hergé, chronicled the far-flung adventures of the boy reporter Tintin, his trusty dog Snowy, and their companions Captain Haddock, Professor Calculus, and the twin detectives Thomson and Thompson. Collected in twenty-four volumes and spanning over fifty years, Hergé's "Tintin" series is one of the most internationally recognized comic strips of all time, translated into more than thirty languages with collections selling over one hundred and fifty million copies worldwide. Tintin's adventures contain little dialogue, yet still manage to present a cohesive and compelling narrative through their unique intertextual harmony between word and image. Still, despite the enormous popularity of the series, there has been some controversy surrounding Hergé's legacy, with certain critics accusing his "Tintin" comics of endorsing racism, rightwing extremism, and paternalistic colonialism. However, regardless of such questions surrounding Hergé's personal politics, his child-hero Tintin has remained as an international icon of graphic literature and continues to inspire a loyal global fan base over twenty years after his creator's death.
Hergé was born on May 22, 1907, to Alexis and Elisabeth Rémi in a suburb of Brussels, Belgium. Fascinated with art from a young age, Hergé was largely self-taught as he disliked the regimented methodology of art classes. At the age of eleven, he joined the Belgian Boy Scouts whose ideals would eventually become one of the primary inspirations for the character of Tintin. A natural storyteller, Hergé earned a reputation for his vivid tales of daring-do and, at the age of nineteen, began writing and illustrating a comic strip called "The Adventures of Totor" for the official Belgian Boy Scout magazine. The strip was relatively primitive by his later standards, but it marked his first arrival as an artist and the origin of his nom-de-plume, "Hergé" (pronounced "Air-Jay"), comprised of his initials "G. R." reversed and pronounced in the French dialect. Shortly thereafter, Hergé began working in the advertising department of the right-wing Catholic daily newspaper Le Vingtième Siècle. After his Belgian military service was completed in 1926, he returned to Le Vingtième Siècle, where he managed a new juvenile supplement for the paper called Le Petit Vingtième, while continuing to illustrate various comics, including "The Adventures of Flup, Nénesse, Pousette, and Cochonnet." He quickly grew bored with the strip and decided to incorporate the speech balloons he had seen in such groundbreaking American comics as Krazy Kat and The Katzenjammer Kids into the newspaper's French-style narrative comics. Hergé used this innovative style to launch a new comic strip, "The Adventures of Tintin," which proved to be an almost immediate success upon its newspaper debut on January 10, 1929. He published his first bound edition of collected "Tintin" strips in 1930's Tintin au pays des Soviets (Tintin in the Land of the Soviets). As Tintin's international popularity began to grow, Hergé continued to publish new "Tintin" strips and collections during the 1930s and 1940s. During the late 1930s, as the Nazi Party began sweeping across Europe, Hergé agreed with the King of Belgium, King Leopold III, who asserted that Belgium's best course lay in a policy of neutralism during World War II. After marrying Germaine Kieckens, the secretary to the director of Le Petit Vingtième in 1932, Hergé was called to serve as a lieutenant in France at the beginning of World War II in 1939. Upon his return after France's surrender, he obeyed the king's order to continue working as normally as possible and took a job at Le Soir, a well-known newspaper in Brussels. Seized by Axis forces, the newspaper became renowned as a Nazi mouthpiece, and after the war's conclusion, many of its chief staff were imprisoned for treason. For several weeks after the war, Hergé was among those under threat of death for Nazi collaboration, despite having only served in his traditional role as comic strip creator and editor of the junior Soir publication, Le Soir jeunesse. Authorities charged that his efforts in creating the enormously popular "Tintin" comics for Le Soir increased the newspaper's circulation dramatically and thus contributed to the Nazi war effort. He was eventually cleared of all charges, but the author was never fully able to shake the taint associated with his presumed association with the Nazis. With the help of his friend and former resistance fighter Raymond Leblanc, Hergé was able to start a magazine called Tintin in 1946, publishing new "Tintin" adventures as well as comics by other artists. The magazine was highly successful, reaching one-hundred thousand readers within a few years. By the early 1960s, Hergé's production had dropped dramatically. Only able to produce five more "Tintin" books in the last twenty-five years before his death, Hergé struggled with his creation, instead focusing more on other arenas, such as marketing and film production. He eventually died of complications from anemia on March 3, 1983. Since Hergé's death, the "Tintin" oeuvre has been managed by the Foundation Hergé in Belgium, a nonprofit foundation devoted to the saga. The foundation handles the reprinting of Hergé's body of work and oversees the marketing and merchandising of the strip's characters. Various "Tintin" products still enjoy millions of dollars in sales annually. Despite the continuing popularity of Hergé's character, no new artist has been allowed to continue the "Tintin" comic strip. Hergé insisted that "Tintin" should die with him, and the Foundation Hergé has respected that wish.
PLOT AND MAJOR CHARACTERS
Primarily the life story of its titular hero, the "Tintin" comic strips were a reflection of the eponymous adventurer's attempts to make the world a better place, while ostensibly reporting on those events as a celebrated journalist—although readers never actually were party to Tintin's writing efforts. An apparent orphan of fifteen or sixteen, Tintin is a young boy reporter who frequently battled gun runners, smugglers, corrupt politicians, and pirates in the course of covering a story. He has a tuft of yellow hair sticking from the top of his head, a round, naive face, perpetually raised eyebrows, and is dressed in slightly ridiculous-looking baggy pants. His white fox terrier Milou ("Snowy" in English) accompanies him on all of his adventures, providing companionship and comic relief. Snowy is able to speak, although only the reader can understand him, and he enjoys making snide comments on the story's development. Over the course of the books, Tintin is joined by a cast of eccentrics, including a bumbling pair of twin Keystone Kops named Dupond and Dupont ("Thomson and Thompson"), distinguishable from one another solely by a slight difference in their mustaches (Dupond/Thomson's mustache has a slight curl to it), and Tryphon Tournesol ("Professor Cuthbert Calculus"), a nearly deaf yet surprisingly enterprising inventor who joins Tintin's gang in Le Trésor de Rackham le Rouge (1944; Red Rackham's Treasure). However, Tintin's closest friend is Captain Haddock, a gruff, tough, and salty sea captain who swears colorful oaths in original and yet ultimately acceptable language. Haddock first appeared in Le Crabe aux pinces d'or (1941; The Crab with the Golden Claws) and eventually became the only member of Tintin's inner circle to accompany him in all of his remaining books. Not as quite as rough as he pretends, Captain Haddock's arrival offered a strong yet crusty counter-balance to Tintin's own youthful exuberance, creating a whole new layer of complexity for the series. Tintin also came with an arch-villain, the nefarious Rastapopolos—the Professor Moriarty to Tintin's Sherlock Holmes. Together, the group solved mysteries and pursued adventure in such exotic locales as Tibet, Arabia, India, and even on the moon. Most of the plots revolved around such staples as hidden treasure, stolen jewels, and sinister criminal plots.
While Hergé argued that his "Tintin" stories were ostensibly apolitical adventure stories, he nonetheless packed his narratives with deep layers of subtextual meaning. However, in Tintin's earliest adventures, many of the plotlines present a mélange of potentially offensive portrayals of specific cultural groups mixed with occasionally insightful and sympathetic perspectives. For example, in Tintin en Amerique (1932; Tintin in America), Hergé's heroes come to the defense of subjugated Native Americans. Further, the stories depict background imagery showing African and Caucasian children intermingling, which were particularly progressive images for the era. Alternately, in a review of the long-delayed English-language publication of Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, Jeff Zaleski noted how "the Soviets are generally portrayed as corn-stealing murderous scum; among other things. Tintin is tortured by thoroughly caricatured Chinese employees of the Soviet secret police. These stereotypes and others like them are a part of the time period, although they've been cited as evidence of Hergé's racism." Still, as critics like Zaleski and others have asserted, Hergé was very much a product of his time. From these early books forward, Hergé was able to show a marked evolution, as Hergé critic Serge Tisseron points out: "A quick survey of the iconography of the turn of the century does indeed demonstrate that when it came to racism, he faithfully reproduced the xenophobic mood of the time, especially in [Tintin au Congo (1931; Tintin in the Congo)]. Unfortunately for him, as it were, most of these documents have sunk into oblivion, while Les aventures de Tintin have remained. From [Le Lotus bleu (1936; The Blue Lotus)] on, however, Hergé resolved not to be guided only by what he saw and heard around him, but also to refer to reliable documents, to the point where Lévi-Strauss could praise the precision and ethnological accuracy of the places and objects presented in these works." This speaks to an increased emphasis on global social justice that several scholars have noted in Hergé's later "Tintin" collections. Whereas 1931's Tintin in the Congo shows a disturbingly paternalistic view of the Congolese, in addition to their stereotypical black-face visual depiction, 1936's The Blue Lotus decries the imperialism of the Japanese occupation of China. In his even later collection Tintin au Tibet (1960; Tintin in Tibet), Hergé criticized the Chinese rule over Tibet and presented one of his most humanistic portrayals of Asian characters throughout the entire "Tintin" series. And while L'Étoile mystèrieuse (1942; The Shooting Star) is still considered one of Hergé's most offensive volumes for its exaggerated portrayal of Jewish stereotypes, he demonstrates an acute social conscious with his attack on Middle Eastern slavery in Coke en Stock (1958; The Red Sea Sharks). Hugo Frey has even suggested that Hergé's apparent rejection of colonialism in Les Sept Boules de Cristal (1948; The Seven Crystal Balls and Le Temple du soleil (1949; Prisoners of the Sun) is borne less from a genuine sense of humanitarian concern than from a typical European anxiety of racial intermixing, saying that "there is a sustained development of the idea that disease, infection, and illness being the product of a foreign, culturally and ethnically different, source." Whether he was the product of a less-enlightened era, or the victim of a smear campaign by enemies who never forgave his lack of discretion during World War II, Hergé was almost certainly a man of numerous strongly-held opinions that remain immutably on the page.
Separating the political from the artistic has proven difficult for many scholars and critics in critical evaluations of Hergé's "Tintin" series. There has also been much critical debate surrounding the translations of the "Tintin" strips—the series has primarily been translated into English by the British duo of Michael Turner and Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper. Certain critics, such as Jan Baetens, have argued that the cultural subtleties expressed by Hergé cannot withstand translation into other languages, though Margaret R. Higonnet has asserted that such translation efforts "do remarkable justice to Hergé's puns." Still from a purely aesthetic view, his work has been widely praised for its pioneering style in developing la ligne claire (a clean or plain artistic line) which Amanda Macdonald cites for its "importance of graphic harmony between word and image." Many critics have cited Hergé's artwork as his strongest legacy. Crisp yet simplistic, his illustrations have been applauded for their highly expressive and meticulous detail. Hig-onnet has claimed that the strength of Hergé's pictures "derives in part from the ethnographic accuracy, dramatic composition, and refined color values of each frame" But however strong his artistic influence, Hergé's politics have remained as an undeniable aspect of any analysis of the artist's varied career. Despite recurring complaints about Tintin reinforcing negative cultural stereotypes, Hugo Frey has suggested that Hergé was largely oblivious of such issues, noting that "Pierre Assouline, probably the world's leading expert on Hergé accepts that the father of Tintin was 'under the influence' of the fascisant Catholic milieu, but equally he notes that Hergé's main obsession was the successful publication and dissemination of his artwork." In his review of Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, Jeff Zaleski has defended the volume's release, stating that "setting aside the political context, the book is a valuable documentation of the rough and underdeveloped work of Hergé's early years as a cartoonist." But regardless of such political debates, Hergé has remained as one of the most beloved authors/illustrators of the modern era, whose works continue to attract new readers. William Cook has opined that Hergé's "globetrotting escapades continue to sell well, not just because they're among the most beautiful comic books ever produced, but also because they double as a chronicle of the 20th century." While discussing the international appeal of the "Tintin" series, Hergé scholar Michael Farr has argued that, "The child will be gripped by the excitement of Tintin, the comedy, even farce. The adult will additionally find political satire and parody, puns and prescience. The most dedicated Tintinologist, as he or she may be called, may have read the stories any number of times and still discover something new; they bear repeating rereading. The adventures, like their hero, are inexhaustible."
∗Tintin au pays des Soviets (comic book) 1930; published as Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, 1989
Tintin au Congo (comic book) 1931; published as Tintin in the Congo, 1991
Tintin en Amerique (comic book) 1932; published as Tintin in America, 1978
Les Cigares du pharaon (comic book) 1934; published as Cigars of the Pharaoh, 1971
Le Lotus bleu (comic book) 1936; published as The Blue Lotus, 1983
L'Oreille cassée (comic book) 1937; published as Tintin and the Broken Ear, 1975
L'Ile noire (comic book) 1938; published as The Black Island, 1966
Le Sceptre d'Ottokar (comic book) 1939; published as King Ottokar's Sceptre, 1958
Le Crabe aux pinces d'or (comic book) 1941; published as The Crab with the Golden Claws, 1958
L'Étoile mystèrieuse (comic book) 1942; published as The Shooting Star, 1961
Le Secret de la licorne (comic book) 1943; published as The Secret of the Unicorn, 1959
Le Trésor de Rackham le Rouge (comic book) 1944; published as Red Rackham's Treasure, 1959
Les Sept Boules de Cristal (comic book) 1948; published as The Seven Crystal Balls, 1963
Le Temple du soleil (comic book) 1949; published as Prisoners of the Sun, 1962
Tintin au pays de l'Or Noir (comic book) 1950; published as Land of Black Gold, 1972
Objectif Lune (comic book) 1953; published as Destination Moon, 1959
On a marchésur la Lune (comic book) 1954; published as Explorers on the Moon, 1959
L'Affaire Tournesol (comic book) 1956; published as The Calculus Affair, 1960
Coke en Stock (comic book) 1958; published as The Red Sea Sharks, 1960
Tintin au Tibet (comic book) 1960; published as Tintin in Tibet, 1962
Les Bijoux de la Castafiore (comic book) 1963; published as The Castafiore Emerald, 1963
Vol 714 pour Sydney (comic book) 1968; published as Flight 714, 1968
Tintin et les Picaros (comic book) 1976; published as Tintin and the Picaros, 1976
Tintin et l'Alph-Art (unfinished sketches) 1986; published as Tintin and the Alpha-Art, 1990
∗All original publication dates refer to the first collected French language editions.
Dorothea Hayward Scott (essay date April 1984)
SOURCE: Scott, Dorothea Hayward. "The Tintin Saga: A Tribute to Hergé." Horn Book Magazine 60, no. 2 (April 1984): 230-41.
[In the following essay, Scott offers a posthumous tribute to Hergé (Georges Rémi) on the occasion of the author's death, recounting Hergé's personal life and the publishing history of his phenomenally successful "Tintin" series.]
"Tintin an orphan." "Tintin is all of us." "Death of a genius." "Belgium in mourning." Such were the headlines of the leading Belgian and French newspapers following the death on March 3, 1983, of Georges Rémi, creator of Tintin, the intrepid young journalist whose adventures recorded in strip cartoons have carried him around the world.
In a series of revealing interviews with Numa Sadoul in 1971, Rémi told the story of how he became a cartoonist.1 He was born in 1907 in a suburb of Brussels and attended a local school until he was eleven, when he began preparing for the lycée. Inspired by the German occupation of Belgium during World War I, he was always decorating his schoolbooks with drawings of unnamed Belgian military heroes. When Rémi was eleven years old, he joined the Boy Scouts, becoming an enthusiastic member and continuing to take part in their activities until he was a young man. The ideals of scouting had a profound influence on him all his life. As a teenager he attended the Collège Saint-Boniface, a Catholic lycée, where he was an excellent scholar. When Rémi left the lycée in 1925, his parents arranged for him to attend classes in drawing, which seemed to be his natural bent. But he left almost immediately when he was told to draw a Corinthian capital; he was interested only in drawing people.
Rémi had often invented stories to tell to his fellow Boy Scouts and began illustrating them for the magazine Le Boy-Scout Belge. He called his hero Totor, leader of the Cockchafer patrol, and the first page consisting of nine small drawings was published when Rémi was nineteen. It was not yet a cartoon strip but rather a series of drawings with captions. He signed his work "Hergé," his initials G. R. reversed and pronounced the French way; he was to use the pseudonym throughout his artistic life.
Hergé obtained employment in the advertising department of a Catholic newspaper, Le XXe Siècle. There he was noticed by the director, who took the young artist under his wing, guided his reading, and generally encouraged him. In 1926 Hergé did his military service but continued to contribute his Totor drawings to Le Boy-Scout Belge. Returning to work for the newspaper, he was now a sort of jack-of-all-trades—doing lettering, decorative headings, and illustrations for the literary and the women's supplements. In 1928 the director decided to begin a weekly supplement for children, to be called Le Petit Vingtième (The Junior Twentieth Century), and such was his confidence in Hergé that the young man was put in sole charge of it. To begin with he simply illustrated an existing story suggested by a colleague, but he quickly got bored. "I am a storyteller," he always insisted, and because he had an absolutely free hand with the new supplement, Tintin was born. In the office Hergé had come across some American strip cartoons reproduced in Mexican newspapers; from these he got the idea of writing a minimum text in speech balloons, instead of in captions below the drawings, and was most strongly influenced by "Bringing Up Father," "Krazy Kat," and "The Katzenjammer Kids."
The first series of Tintin adventures was Tintin au pays des Soviets (Tintin in the Country of the Soviets), which began in 1929 in Le Petit Vingtième; the first collection appeared the following year in book form, printed in black and white. This is one of only two of the twenty-three Tintin books that have not been translated into English; and it became generally available in French only with its republication in the Archives Hergé for the benefit of collectors. Hergé insisted that the anti-Soviet tone of the story was typical of the time in which it was conceived—the late twenties—when he was working for a Catholic newspaper and strongly influenced by its dynamic director. His second series, Tintin au Congo, appeared in 1931, again printed in black and white; and because of its racist overtones, it too has never been translated. Preparing for his third series, Tintin in America (1932), Hergé realized that he knew very little about the country to which he was now sending Tintin—beyond the name of the Chicago gangster Al Capone and the fact that the USA was the country of the American Indians, who had always fascinated him. So he read a history of these people, and for documentation of Al Capone he relied on Crapouillot, a magazine of social reform.
In 1930 Hergé's newspaper staged a successful publicity stunt, announcing that Tintin and his dog Milou (Snowy) would be returning from the Soviet Union on a certain Thursday morning at the Gare du Nord in Brussels. An enormous crowd gathered, adults as well as hundreds of children, to see Tintin and Milou driving in an open-top car and to hear the remarks he addressed to the crowd. A similar welcome was staged for Tintin's return from the Congo and from America.
The first three collected books of The Adventures of Tintin (a subtitle for the whole series) were published by the newspaper itself, but beginning with the fourth collection, all editions in French were published by Casterman in Belgium or by its branch houses. With the fourth book The Cigars of the Pharaoh (1934), a splendid mystery and suspense story, the true character of Tintin evolved. Always shown as a boy about fifteen or sixteen years old, with a cowlick of blonde hair, dressed in a shirt or pullover and outmoded baggy knickers (until the very last album when he goes into jeans—an epoch-making event), Tintin looks more or less blank, his face simply expressing basic emotions of surprise, determination, anger, or distress. His dog Milou, who accompanies him everywhere, is the one who reflects Tintin's real feelings in a variety of masterly drawings and soliloquized thoughts expressed in balloons. Tintin is intrepid, quick-witted, resourceful, kind, polite, faithful, and a born leader, always on the side of the underdog and ready to fight for any just cause. He lives alone and refers to himself as a reporter, but as far as his readers are concerned, he seems merely to read newspapers, not to write for them. In reality he is a young and innocent knight-errant living only to help others.
In The Cigars of the Pharaoh Hergé began to surround Tintin with a wonderful cast of characters who turn up again and again in subsequent adventures. Appearing in the book are two clownlike detectives, Dupond and Dupont—Thomson and Thompson in the English versions—whose antics can be compared favorably with those in a Charlie Chaplin film. The men look like identical twins with their bowler hats and walking sticks, but one has his moustache turned down, while the other has the ends of it slightly turned up. In conversation one detective echoes the other with near-repetition, making complete nonsense of every remark: "He can't have gone too far," says one. "No, we aren't too far gone," says the other.
When The Cigars of the Pharaoh was ending in Le Petit Vingtième, Hergé boldly published an announcement that Tintin would continue his travels in the Far East. This news prompted a letter from a chaplain concerned with a group of Chinese students studying in Belgium, warning Hergé that if he drew the Chinese in the stereotyped fashion too often seen in the West, representing them as ruthless, cruel, and deceitful, he would gravely offend the students. The letter begged Hergé to become well informed before he wrote about China. As a result Hergé was introduced to one of the Chinese students, Tchang Tchong-jen, a painter, calligrapher, sculptor, and poet; a sincere friendship grew up between the two young men. The experience changed the artist's whole attitude toward his work; Hergé now felt a keen sense of responsibility to his readers; he became genuinely interested in the lives of the people in the countries Tintin went to and concerned about representing them authentically, down to the last detail. He also learned to appreciate Chinese art, calligraphy, and poetry.
The collection of Tintin's adventures in China, Le Lotus Bleu (The Blue Lotus), was eventually published in 1936 and is considered Hergé's masterpiece. The underlying story concerns drug trafficking and the Japanese aggression in China from 1934 onward. Admittedly, the book is bitterly anti-Japanese in tone, but it also makes fun of the Western powers occupying "concessions" in Shanghai. The street scenes, the interiors, the costumes, and the uniforms of the soldiers and the police of different nations are all drawn with consummate skill and with meticulous attention to detail. Hergé's characters are all caricatures, but national characteristics are not sacrificed. Ships, cars, railways—all are appropriate to the time and the place.
A seminal book, The Blue Lotus has had a checkered publishing history. The French edition has been readily available in the French-speaking world, but until recently it was not available in an English translation. Methuen of London began publishing the Tintin books in English in 1958 and has published them ever since. The masterly translations, done by Michael Turner and Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper, are so brisk and natural that they have been retained without alteration by the American publishers. Since 1974 the Atlantic Monthly Press has published the twenty titles available in English. The delay in issuing The Blue Lotus in English was due to concern at showing all Japanese people as either villainous or ludicrous. But the English publishers now feel that "in the context of history it can stand along with the other adventures."2 Hergé also wanted to revise the drawings before the English edition appeared and was able to complete them only just before his death.
Hergé published three more collections before World War II—The Broken Ear (1937), The Black Island (1938), and King Ottokar's Sceptre (1939), the last set in an invented Balkan country, Syldavia. Hergé explained: "Above all, I mustn't cheat. If I invent a country like Syldavia or San Theodoros in South America, I give it a history, an economy, a language, a constitution and a folklore. The nation must 'exist' before my readers and I can take off."3
At the outbreak of World War II Hergé was called up and served as a lieutenant. During the German occupation of Belgium, following the king's call to his countrymen to continue working, he became editor in chief of the Soir Jeunesse (Youth Evening News), the children's supplement to Le Soir, and Casterman continued to publish collected editions of his work. The Crab with the Golden Claws (1941), The Shooting Star (1942), and The Secret of the Unicorn (1943) appeared during the war, and Red Rackham's Treasure immediately afterward in 1945. With the growing popularity of the books, Casterman arranged with Hergé to publish them in color; but because of the wartime paper shortage, they were limited to sixty-two pages—the standard length for all his books published since The Shooting Star. Earlier collections were gradually republished in color, and for the first time Hergé used collaborators to redraw the uniforms and reduce the number or size of the drawings, where necessary, to fit the new format.
In 1946 the weekly magazine Tintin was founded in Belgium, and in 1948 a separate French edition appeared. One page of the current Tintin adventures was included on the back page of each number, and there were other strip cartoons as well as serials, articles, and competitions. A highly successful magazine, it is still being published and distributed throughout the French-speaking world.
In 1950 Hergé formed the Studios Hergé. His own description of his research is interesting.
An album represents a minimum of two years' work and demands scrupulous research ranging from photographs to ethnological treatises, from technological texts to studies of Hebraic script or African dialects. Of course, I use just a fraction of this information but I need all of it in order to create a real world. Children are tireless critics. Too bad if I forget a button on a pair of leggings or make a mistake in a car body: the smallest discrepancy unleashes a hail of corrections.4
One of Hergé's most intriguing characters is the inimitable Captain Haddock, who first appears in The Crab with the Golden Claws. Wearing his turtleneck sailor's jersey, always half-drunk or pining for whiskey, and hurling an extraordinary variety of insults at everyone, the old sea dog with his rough-cut hair and thick black beard becomes Tintin's staunch right-hand man. Captain Haddock comes into his own in The Secret of the Unicorn and in its sequel Red Rackham's Treasure. The story concerns Captain Haddock's ancestor, commander of the good ship Unicorn, and the tremendous battle with Red Rackham and his pirates for possession of the treasure in the hold. A magnificent series of drawings shows Haddock reenacting the fight while recounting it to Tintin. "Back you rats! Avast sea-lice! Belay lubberly scum!" and other suitable piratical epithets are added to the Captain's usual colorful and alliterative expressions, ranging from "blistering barnacles" to "thundering typhoons."
Professor Cuthbert Calculus (Tryphon Tournesol in French) makes his bow in Red Rackham's Treasure and completes the Tintin family of characters who appear in every collection once they have been introduced. He reads about the search for treasure and comes to offer his latest invention, a shark-proof diving bell, to help in the search for the Unicorn on the sea bottom. In the end the professor provides the money for Captain Haddock to buy his ancestral home Moullinsart (Marlinspike Hall).
Following Red Rackham's Treasure, Hergé published The Seven Crystal Balls (1948) and its sequel The Prisoners of the Sun (1949) in which the professor falls under the curse of the Incas of Peru. The Land of Black Gold (1950) deals with the oil war in the Middle East. And after all this, where could Tintin go but into outer space? Destination Moon (1953) and Explorers on the Moon (1954) were followed by The Calculus Affair (1956), in which the professor's inventions take him to the Balkan Syldavia, and by The Red Sea Sharks (1958), dealing with the obnoxious black slave traffic in Arab countries.
Hergé confided to his interviewer, Numa Sadoul, that about this time he suffered some sort of breakdown and underwent analysis. He had never forgotten his Chinese friend with whom he had completely lost touch, and in Tintin in Tibet (1960) the artist worked out his anxieties. In a dream Tintin discovers that his young friend is lost in snow-covered mountains; the very next day Tintin learns that the man was indeed on a plane that had crashed in the Himalayas. Although it was reported that there were no survivors, all ends happily; tenaciously insisting on searching for his friend, Tintin finds him alive and well cared for by a yeti. The book has been called a hymn to friendship. The real reunion between the two old friends did not come about until much later. Through a chance Chinese acquaintance Hergé discovered in 1976 that Tchang Tchong-jen was actually living in Shanghai, where he was director of the Academy of Fine Art. Eventually, in 1981 he and his son were officially invited to Belgium by the government, and the dramatic reunion of the friends was celebrated on Belgian television.
The next volume, The Castafiore Emerald (1963), was again very different from anything Hergé had done before. Few female characters appear in his stories—"I like women too much to caricature them. And women, young or old, pretty or plain, are seldom subjects for humour." But he added an outstanding woman to his cast, the opera singer Bianca Castafiore, who stars in the story. She previously made intermittent appearances in other books, driving Captain Haddock mad with her signature tune, "The Jewel Song" from Faust. In spite of his reactions she has had a soft spot for him, and eventually a romance is announced in a hilarious scene.
Separated by a fairly long interval, Hergé's last two collections send Tintin once more on his travels. "I am not in a hurry … I work for fun, not for money," the artist said. In Flight 714 (1968) the arch-villain Rastapopoulos—who has already come up against Tintin while engaged in drug smuggling, arms running, and black-slave trafficking—is foiled in his attempts to recoup a lost fortune by kidnapping a rascally millionaire. Tintin and the Picaros (1976), the last book, tells how Tintin returns again to San Theodoros, engineers the ouster of the guerrilla General Tapioca, and triumphantly reinstates his friend General Alcazar as president.
Designed for children with "a discreet wink at adults," the stories have a quintessential element—humor, with a maximum number of gags, however tense the situation. The texts vary in length but are always economically written. Good always triumphs, but Hergé's essential aim is excitement, entertainment, and laughter. Numa Sadoul told Hergé, "It seems to me that your work … is against all forms of intolerance and fanaticism." And a Paris newspaper said: "Great variation in plot within set limits, perfection in design, precision in documentation, intelligent use of background and meticulous format … ensure their popularity with young readers from seven to seventy."5
There can be no doubt about the success of Tintin. Tintin numbers among his admirerers André Malraux and Madame Chiang Kai-shek; and Charles de Gaulle once said, "Fundamentally, you know, my only international rival is Tintin!" The volumes are now published in thirty-three languages, including the latest addition of Chinese, and have sold over eighty million copies. While Tintin has not the enormous following on this side of the Atlantic that he enjoys in Europe, American sales have gone well over half a million copies. Several films have been made from the stories as well as animated cartoon films for television. Such work continues from the Studio Hergé.
In his native Belgium Hergé became an institution; a statue of Tintin and Milou was placed in the Parc Wolvendael in Brussels. An official Tintin Museum is planned, and work on an enormous fresco depicting scenes from the books is in progress at a Brussels subway station. The Belgian government honored him with the Grand Prix St. Michel for the whole body of his work, and he was made Officer of the Order of the Crown. In 1972 at the first congress of strip cartoonists in New York he was accorded public recognition. Tintin's fiftieth birthday in 1979 was marked by a wide celebration, including a Mickey award from the Walt Disney Studios. And to honor his seventy-fifth birthday the Belgian Astronomical Society named a small planet between Mars and Jupiter after Hergé.
The cartoonist was a much-loved man. The "Spécial Hommage à Hergé" issue of the magazine Tintin published extraordinarily affectionate tributes from many of his colleagues. Le Nouvel Observateur wrote in March 1983, "With the death of Hergé part of the childhood of millions of adults also died. A very modest man who preferred to hide behind Tintin, he never ceased to be astonished at his hero's success."
1. Tintin et Moi: Entretians avec Hergé. Casterman; Tournai, Belgium, 1975. All quotations of Hergé's words unless otherwise indicted are from this source.
2. Letter from the editor, Methuen Children's Books. July 22, 1983.
3. "Bad Guys Go on Forever" in the Manchester Guardian Weekly Supplement Le Monde, (Paris) April 7, 1973.
5. "Tintin, c'est nous" by Bruno Frappat in Le Monde (Paris), March 6-7, 1983.
Jean-Marie Apostolides (essay date 1985)
SOURCE: Apostolides, Jean-Marie. "Tintin and the Family Romance." Children's Literature 13 (1985): 94-108.
[In the following essay—translated and introduced by Margaret R. Higonnet—Apostolides examines the structure of the familial relationships between the lead characters in Hergé's "Tintin" series.]
Introduction by Margaret R. Higonnet
In 1929 a Belgian illustrator, Georges Remi (1907–83), published under the acronymic pseudonym of Hergé (R. G.) his first large album of comic strips recounting the adventures of a newspaper reporter, Tintin au pays des Soviets. The childlike hero stumbled in this and subsequent volumes into civil wars, mysteries, and criminal conspiracies (bootleggers, counterfeiters, drug rings). He was, of course, always able to escape or solve the difficulties he encountered. Since the 1930s, Hergé's twenty-three colorful albums have captured French imaginations and persuaded la grande nation that Belgian culture goes beyond pommes frites. In the last decades they have become readily available in English translations that do remarkable justice to Hergé's puns (the one objection American readers might raise is that the translated names and jokes are so very English).1
John Rodenbeck in volume 1 of Children's Literature argued that Hergé's series offered an almost unique conjunction of high artistic quality with genuine mass popularity.2 Devotees including Henri Peyre and André Malraux have admired the beauty and brimming life of the books,3 as did the reviewer in the Times Literary Supplement. An Aristotelian would note the pleasures of recognition: everywhere Tintin goes, he is accompanied by his devoted little dog Snowy (Milou in French) and runs into many of the same characters. This central cast of warmly comic figures engenders both slapstick and verbal play: two bumbling policemen reminiscent of the Keystone Kops, a happily drunken sailor prone to polysyllabic invectives such as "bashi-bazouk! diplodocus!," a gentle inventor whose deafness leads to comic misunderstandings, and a generously endowed diva whose piercing voice takes her to a variety of political hotbeds. The artistic quality of these comic strips derives in part from the ethnographic accuracy, dramatic composition, and refined color values of each frame. Adventures set in Egypt thus provide splendid images of pyramids, mummies, and cartouches whose visual puns are charged with an "aesthetic overplus." The narrative too balances suspense against physical farce in a comic, episodic mode reminiscent of a Fielding.
Yet the appeal of the books seems strangely linked to the character and moral vision of Tintin. As Rodenbeck put it, "Tintin is absolutely and almost mysteriously autonomous" (95). Jean-Marie Apostolides here pursues that mystery in depth, focusing on certain recurrent structures: doubles, scenes of regression, disguises, and above all the insistently ambivalent relationships among the characters. He turns to Freud to explain the connections among these narrative patterns, in the process enhancing our understanding and our pleasure in the series.4
The first seven albums by Hergé depicting the adventures of Tintin present a childhood myth that Freud called the "family romance of neurotics." During his (or her) first years, according to Freud, a child finds security by idealizing his parents as divine or royal beings whose commands and values seem absolute. In time, the child compares his procreators to other living or imaginary beings and discovers that they share the human condition of fallibility, far from the omnipotence of his narcissistic revery. To overcome his disappointment, the child concludes he is simply a foundling adopted by these parents. He traces an imaginary genealogy and imitates invented, more prestigious parents, represented as monarchs whose omnipotence helps the child to deify himself.5
Marthe Robert has shown that part of Western literature—fairy tales, romantic literature, and pathbreaking works such as Don Quixote and Robinson Crusoe—emerged directly from this fantasy of the "family romance," common to many individuals and not just to neurotics.6 The theme produces a common literary stance: the foundling turns his back on real life; dominated by an exigent ideal, he refuses women and sexuality, for he aims directly at the infinite. He can be content with revery, but if he fights, it is to impose his values on the world, though he sometimes does so only in his imagination.
In this theory there is a key that permits us to understand several traits of Tintin. In effect, we do not know his parents or his kin. When asked if Tintin were an orphan, Hergé answered with a joke or a rationalization that concealed his hero's aggressiveness toward his parents.7 Yet this nonexistent family can in the long run be found everywhere, especially in the many paternal figures Tintin encounters and helps.
The parental figures closest to Tintin, the two police-men named Thomson and Thompson (Dupond and Dupont), who recur in all seven of the first episodes, are constantly ridiculed. Like automatons, they mirror each other in looks, gesture, and errors; as Tintin becomes involved in the cases they wish to investigate, he unsettles their plans, then helps them. His own omnipotence compensates for their slapstick incompetence. The hero's relationship to the two policemen also betrays his unconscious guilt and need for punishment. Tintin never stands up to the father but refuses the combat that would make of him an oedipal rival. In the albums up to King Ottokar's Sceptre (1938), the Thompsons pursue the hero and condemn him (on false appearances). They arrest him three or four times, taking him for a bandit, and Tintin submits to their decision with an astonishing docility for so bold a hero. Behind his nonconformism lies a conformism that, like (or even better than) that of the indistinguishable police, ultimately restores order.
Tintin cannot stand the ambivalence of the paternal figure, and to escape it he makes use of a typically preoedipal strategy.8 He rarely confronts a single image (at once positive and negative): the father substitutes he encounters usually come in pairs. Thus on a hunt for big game during his tour of Africa, Tintin encounters twin white-frocked fathers, one good, who saves him several times from death, the other evil (the bandit Tom in disguise), who tries to kill him (Tintin au Congo, 1930).
If the father figures are not doubled, Tintin misinterprets their attitude, denying their hostility. In Tintin in America (1931) the bootlegging gangster Bobby Smiles at first appears as police chief, until his twinship with Al Capone is uncovered (the United States is a country of evil, just like the Soviet Union). Tintin's difficulty in interpreting the father emerges most clearly in the original version of The Cigars of the Pharaohs (1932), when he stumbles onto a conspiracy to smuggle opiates hidden in cigars. Tintin first suspects the scholar Siclone of complicity, but this innocent addict does not know the consequences of his acts when he tries to stab Tintin or shoots pointblank at him. Senor Oliveira de Figueira undergoes the same transformation: apparently criminal, he eventually will save the life of the hero. The businessman Rastapopoulos presents an inverse difficulty; not until the very end does the hero unmask his bandit's face. Most important, the maharajah who rescues Tintin from Siclone occasions the "romance" triumph of the hero: it is Tintin who will return power to his weakened father. (His relationship to the threatened monarch Muskar XII is similar in King Ottokar's Sceptre. ) Tintin thus inverts the normal process of creation; it is not the father who engenders the son but the latter who permits the father to exist and to declare the law. By this imaginary inversion of the relationship of power, the hero escapes from conflict, that is, can at once exist beyond the law and preserve the structure of order.
Tintin's anguish before the paternal figure is perceptible in an early page of The Cigars showing a narcotic-inspired dream sequence. Tintin has just penetrated the pyramid of Kih-oskh, the forbidden place par excellence, since it is there that the father hides the arsenal of his power (the cigars). The hero approaches oedipal knowledge when he picks up a "cigar of the pharaoh"—which we learn later is untouchable (The Cigars, 61). He will not have time to break the object and discover its secret until the end of the adventure, under the approving eye of the maharajah. Just when he could resolve the enigma of the father, Tintin is overcome by a narcotic. Before he falls unconscious, his hallucinations reveal to him part of the truth, the secret of his relationship to the father (The Cigars, 9).
In the first image on this dream page, Tintin imagines himself embalmed with Snowy; he realizes his transgression has provoked the father's menace—there are things the child should not know, scenes he cannot see without punishment. The second image shows the seeping green vapors of the narcotic (emblematic color of rebirth in Egyptian religion). Tintin on all fours (regressing to an anterior phase) sees two figures: the Pharaoh, about to capture him, and Anubis, the jackal-god, who presides over funerals and embalmings. He holds an umbrella, a polysemic object which condenses cultural and individual meanings: it evokes both the hook Osiris carries at judgment and the phallic instrument of Professor Siclone.
In the third image, Tintin discovers the forbidden scene: the Thompsons, archaic parents, faintly differentiated as male and female.9 Thompson, on the left, smokes a cigar and wears a phallic serpent on his hat and masculine toga. On the right, Thomson, more feminized, lights the cigar of his colleague in a gesture of submission and wears the toga of a queen. Retreating, Philemon Siclone doubles the image of the father by bringing a box of cigars, symbol of power and sexuality. We interpret this scene as a substitute, acceptable through its censorship, of the primal scene; the Thompsons are rolling their eyes, like the severe parents of infantile fantasies; their menacing looks address Tintin, voyeur of the scene. The voyeurism of the hero immediately entails his punishment in the next image; judgment is held, the sentence executed. A box of cigars floats above the scene as a reminder of the law. In the first half of the scene Tintin is carried to his tomb (or in the first version to a green sea) by Rastapopoulos, dressed as an Egyptian, and by Snowy-Anubis. The balance of forces has been inverted, the animal dominates man, though keeping his human characteristics. In the second part of the scene the hero returns to his origins, shrunken into a baby crying in anguish in a sarcophagus-cradle and swaddled in the wraps of a mummy.
After The Cigars Tintin will always confront doubled paternal figures, one good and the other evil, with the exception of General Alcazar in The Broken Ear (1935). The Latin American revolutionary Alcazar is an ambivalent father, who honors the hero, then condemns him to death. One can consider him as Hergé's first attempt to stage a realist image of the father. But at contact with such a father, Tintin sees his imaginary superhuman power melt because the two are linked: the ambivalent father corresponds to a son deprived of magic power, who must confront the world with more realistic arms. Hergé chooses to go backwards to the principle of twins, which permits him an economy of guilt.
Whereas the "evil" double allows us to exculpate the father of the murderous desires that the son projects onto him, the strategy equally applies to the son. Tintin constantly encounters brothers filled with desires that he does not recognize in himself, a strategy which permits the hero to keep his mask of innocence. The young boys with whom he keeps company are generally foundlings, but Tintin must always disrupt the situation of twinship in order to avoid recognizing himself, to remain unique. Thus he must constantly reintegrate his young friends into a family. For some, such as the son of the maharajah in The Cigars, it is their own family, for others it is adoptive—Chang in Tintin in Tibet (1960) and Zorrino in The Prisoners of the Sun (1949). The most complex of these is Didi, almost the twin of Tintin. He is the closest to the oedipal situation and threatens to castrate the father to avenge his own castration. Tintin succeeds, however, in silencing this double, whose madness is too visible, and he has him "cured" by a paternal figure traditional in Hergé, the scholar: Professor Fang Se-Yang, friend of Mr. Wang, who finds the cure for the terrible radjaijah, the poison that makes its victims go mad (The Blue Lotus, 1934).
The rejection of overt rivalry and constant regression into a safer preoedipal zone explain certain special characteristics of our hero. Like the characters in a fairy tale, Tintin has neither personal life nor individualized name. His "infantile" nickname, which may have come from a poem by Benjamin Rabier, "Tintin lutin," may also be taken as a pun.10 For the exploits of Tintin resemble the titanesque labors of mythology and tales. Always leaping from the grandiose to the ludicrous, he draws these albums toward the epic mode as long as he remains the principal figure in the adventure. The hero's remarkable powers, and more particularly his capacity for metamorphosis, permit him to escape the constraints of reality. Pursued by the Thompsons (themselves endowed with ubiquity), Tintin becomes an aged lady or the old man of the village, a monkey, a giraffe, a black, a Japanese general, a Chicago kid, and so on. Naturally, we never see how the change came about.
Just as imaginary as his omnipotence, of course, is the evil he combats. He simply projects on to the external world the double structure of his parental image, the only efficacious means of escaping ambivalence and relativity, that is to say, from an adult conception of the familial and social universe. Tintin, the little boy who does not want to grow up, understands the world as a single family. That is why, in the first episodes, he overlooks the differences between people and between cultures. He has in common with the hero of romance a pessimistic vision of the world, onto which he projects narrow-mindedness, lovelessness, and incoherence—effects of his own immaturity. As Marthe Robert writes, "Romantic desire is always divided between truly promethean ambition and that mystic communion with the world soul which is the other side of megalomania."11 The Herculean labors of Tintin, who aims at nothing less than imposing on the world his obsession with the good and his ignorance of sexuality, are as impressive as they are imaginary.
The hero can do everything because he is the incarnation of a dream of an impotent child who never accepts adult exchange. Tintin will not marry, any more than we see him accept money. Lost in the symbolic universe of the exchange of persons and consumer goods, he seeks magically to reestablish on earth the age of paradisal innocence which was his before he gained knowledge of reality. For lack of power to find the lost paradise (except for those rare moments when Tintin finds someone like Chang who shares his vision of the world), the hero flees the degraded world to return to mother nature. There, like Mowgli, he is on an even footing with animals, speaks their language, cares for them, becomes their master, and makes use of their power. In short, he takes the place of Snowy and regresses to a state anterior to all distinction. Nature then is not hostile to him, because his soul is in union with that of the world. At other times Tintin flees into Robinsonades. He seeks a deserted island where he can restore the lost paradise. But the father, whom he can of course never eliminate, always precedes him and establishes his kingdom of exchange and death. For Tintin, every island becomes a black island.
He must always start again from zero, repeating the same exploits, for the villains he fights (for example, Rastapopolous) are not creatures of flesh and blood; they are fantasms that incarnate evil and disappear with daylight. The first seven episodes do not engage the hero personally because he refuses all situations of conflict. He accumulates nothing, learns nothing, possesses none of the characteristics that would make him like an ordinary human. Experience leaves no trace on him. His first adventures present themselves as a cyclic epic. All he could learn is cast onto the doubles who disappear as soon as Hergé creates them; that is why Tintin never ages. The apartment he occupies on Labrador Street is revealing. Despite his wanderings around the world, nothing of the external universe penetrates Tintin's home. We never see any personal souvenir, any trace that would indicate a private existence or even a human sentiment. His lodgings are cold by contrast with the chateau of Marlinspike (Moulinsart) where he finally agrees to live.
The lack of any personal life, linked to the humanly unexplained birth of Tintin, makes of him a soteriological hero.12 Like Christ, he is the savior of a world given to sin. Miracles are the daily bread of the young man. He has neither love nor hatred, simply an obsession with the good which he believes he incarnates. The spiritual salvation that he tries to impose on the world is exercised first on Snowy. This canine companion is constantly victim of the exorbitant demands of his master. As soon as he hopes for some rest or simply tries to profit from the goods of life (to drink, to gnaw a fine bone), Tintin arrives to keep him from satisfying his desire. Pleasure does not count in the face of the only task worthy of the superman: bringing the world back to its primal innocence.
Probably at the outset Hergé projected much of himself onto Tintin (who resembles him physically) and associated the good with the rightwing thought which then seemed to him absolute: Tintin flees from Soviet Russia. Gradually, the concrete experience of the world separated the author from his character. Tintin prevents the anschluss of Syldavia by Borduria in King Ottokar's Sceptre ; Hergé knew perfectly well that Hitler was preparing for war and that fascism was only a caricature of his own ideas. After King Ottokar's Sceptre (which marks the apogee of Tintin as world savior, irrealism in his adventures, and the reconciliation of the foundling with his parents) the author retreats in his relationship to his hero. Facing Tintin there will now be the figure of Captain Haddock.
The passage from a theological universe to a psychological one in Hergé's work is accompanied by a recentering of the point of view. Starting with The Crab with the Golden Claws (1941), when Tintin meets Captain Haddock, the limelight falls to a greater extent on his inebriated friend. Haddock, like Tintin, can be attached to the family romance, of which he too is an avatar. But with Haddock, Hergé develops the theme at a later stage.
Freud notes that as soon as the (male) child acquires some knowledge of human sexuality, he modifies the myth of his family origin. He discovers that maternity is certain, but not paternity. This discovery permits an alternate way of inventing his paternal filiation. After having thought of himself as a foundling, he now imagines that his mother has had sexual relations with prestigious men other than his father and that he is a bastard born from one of these encounters.13 Such degradation of the maternal image at the moment of the oedipal crisis reverses the prior tendency to idealize her. To consider the mother as a woman desired by men other than the father permits the child to satisfy in good conscience the oedipal drives that push him toward her at the same time.
According to Marthe Robert, the image of the bastard dominates nineteenth-century literature, and she analyzes its principal traits starting with portraits of adventurers in the novels of Stendahl and Balzac. Opposed to the introverted foundling, the bastard profits from his precise knowledge of the world to conquer society and carve out an empire, the model of all bastards—from Vautrin to Julien Sorel—being Napoleon. He wants all the signs of success: women, money, power, honors. He acts in the world as if on a battlefield. Rather than try to transform the world by imposing his own values, as the foundling does, the bastard wants to avenge himself and profit from everything that he can offer to his appetite for conquest. In a more recent essay, Marthe Robert has shown how an author like Flaubert can be divided between the attitude of the foundling and that of the bastard.14
The same duality is at work in the universe of Hergé and perhaps in his existence. Besides the Hergé sensitive to success, brilliantly worldly, and fond of the pleasures of existence that some of his friends have presented to us,15 there was Hergé the rigorous artist, harnessed more than fifty years to the same task, who complained of being bound to Tintin as a criminal is chained to his ball. The maniacal perfection of Hergé's albums was legendary. Sometimes he spent five or six years in completing an adventure. Unlike Flaubert, the readability of his style aimed not at eternity but at becoming the most precise witness of his epoch, another way of escaping time. The albums constitute a first-class digest of material civilization, since the author surrounded himself with specialists responsible for reproducing with the greatest possible fidelity the objects, places, and people to be depicted.
This fundamental duality is already perceptible in the first two albums in which Hergé attributes to Snowy or Tintin the characteristics of both the foundling and the bastard. Already in Hergé's first comic strip, his earliest protagonist, Totor, who prefigured Tintin, had entered into oedipal rivalry, taking on the father to conquer the woman.16 It was Tintin who in the USSR had a fondness for alcohol and cursed with words found later in his friend's mouth. It was he who in the first version of Congo lounged in a luxury hotel dressed elegantly in the fashion of the 1930s. From Tintin in America onward, Hergé tends to attribute each tendency to a different person, and from The Crab onward Haddock naturally replaces the fox terrier and his master in the role of the impenitent hedonist. Since the pursuit of mundane values was incompatible with the rigorous ideal of the later Tintin, Hergé chose in later albums to limit Tintin's personality primarily to the traits of the foundling, though permitting him to keep a few of the bastard.
The way in which the early Tintin prefigures Haddock can perhaps best be observed in The Broken Ear, in which Tintin seeks a fetish stolen from the Brussels Museum, encountering Latin American Indian tribes and becoming involved in a war between two countries modeled on Bolivia and Paraguay. In this album, the only adventure before 1940 in which the light style cuts across the imperturbable seriousness of the others, Tintin clearly reveals his resemblance to the bastard. Tintin cannot resist the prestige of a uniform; he accepts the grade of colonel that his friend General Alcazar offers him and the title of aide-de-camp of the new head of state. In this album, too, he faces up for the first time to ambivalent paternal figures. We see him fight Alcazar, first in a game (he beats him at chess), then really in politics, making decisions that the general refuses to carry through (rupture with the General American Oil Company). Tintin is also the rival of Ridgewell, who tries to chase him from the forest where he wants to rule among the Arumbayas. But in subsequent albums, especially King Ottokar's Sceptre, Hergé tries to recoup, for he must have realized that in following a penchant for worldly vanity, Tintin loses not only his soul but the omnipotence that makes him so different a hero. The Broken Ear is also the adventure in which the hero loses his imaginary power: he is borne in triumph by the partisans of Alcazar, but he has done nothing more than offer some puns under the influence of alcohol, at the moment when he was to be shot.
This episode is so clearly appropriate to the character of the bastard that Hergé did not hesitate to reuse it to describe Haddock in The Crab with the Golden Claws, the album in which Tintin meets him during an inquiry into drug traffic that leads him to Morocco and the Sahara. When Haddock's last bottle of aperitif has been broken, the captain, half-drunk, leaves his protected position to leap to an attack on the Berber bandits, yelling curses. He thinks that his cries alone sufficed to put the enemy to flight but discovers later that he is but a cardboard hero—the men sent by Lieutenant Delcourt with their rifles have done the job (The Crab, 37-38).
The arrival of Haddock permits Hergé to oppose the two tendencies without risking Tintin's heroic personality. Unlike the hero, who defines himself an orphan, the captain immediately invokes his mother. Tintin's comment when he finds the captain of the ship drunk ("What would your old mother say if she saw you in this state?") releases a crisis and the tearful cries of the drunkard: "Boo … hoo … Mummy!… mummy!" (The Crab, 16, dramatized even more in the first version by bold letters). While the maternal figure is evoked here in a clearly oedipal fashion, the biological father of Haddock is never mentioned. Having suppressed him, the captain feels freer to invent a prestigious filiation. In The Secret of the Unicorn (1943) he will discover a glorious ancestor, rich and titled, the chevalier François de Hadoque, who will compensate for the modesty of his real origins. (The different spelling of the names is a tip that this kinship is imaginary.) Of course, it is only little by little that one discovers in Haddock the principle traits of the bastard. In The Crab, the claim of infantile love is still too pronounced for him to use the world to his profit. Moreover, in this—their first—encounter, the moral demands of the foundling weigh too heavily on the captain for him to express freely the bastard's penchant for pleasure. It exists nonetheless, manifest in a primitive fashion in his immoderate taste for drink, with all the ambiguous aspects that one can read in such a penchant.
The distinction between Tintin, as foundling, and Haddock, as bastard, is clearly delineated in their relationship to the main woman of the series, Bianca Castafiore. Both male characters repress sexual desire, but with a difference. The infantile, preoedipal foundling Tintin flees whenever he meets her from her repetitions of the "Jewel Song" from Gounod's Faust, the only means by which she attempts to seduce the young hero. He thus negates the difference between the sexes.
The oedipal bastard Haddock likewise flees "Catastrophe," hiding behind a pillar or evading her through poses of sleep and impotence. But he is more seriously threatened than Tintin by Bianca's universal flirtation with potential admirers, her wordplay and significant gestures. Indeed, Castafiore's advances to him are all symbolically castrating: her arrival at Marlinspike precipitates his sprained ankle, the parrot she offers him as a house gift bites his nose, and a wasp hidden in the rose she holds out repeats the insult—she actually removes the "sting" from this appendage (The Castafiore Emerald, 1963). Yet Haddock sits through fifteen performances of the "Jewel Song" (The Seven Crystal Balls, 1946) and slips when he introduces himself in The Calculus Affair (1956) as "Haddada," which can be read in French as "a dada," that is, "on horseback," a playful sexual invitation. Even if he is sincere in fleeing her, we can see from his behavior that she nonetheless secretly attracts him. Her invasions rationalize his flight and permit him to avoid thinking about his feelings. The flirtatious singer threatens him with castration in the name of the father, precisely because the son runs the risk of violating the incest tabu.17
The sequence of Tintin's adventures finds its dynamic in the rivalry between foundling and bastard. The first will continue his vagabond travels around the world, searching everywhere for a place where he can impose his ideas of the good and of justice. But under the influence of his friend, he will soon find that this ideal is literally a utopia, that it can be embodied nowhere (u-topos). As for the bastard Haddock, he takes on greater and greater importance, dominating at first Tintin and then the albums, in which he becomes the central figure, even though he does not figure in any title. The first stage of his rise fixes him in a corner of the world: the "secret of the unicorn" is merely the secret of his birth, of his bastardy. When the captain invents the chevalier François de Hadoque, whose worthy heir he hopes to prove himself, he installs himself in the chateau of this mythic ancestor at Marlinspike, living in leisure and served by a Nestor as zealous as he is discreet.
The bastard's penchant for honors and earthly goods, however, is always balanced by the presence beside him of the foundling. For Tintin, though he soon renounces the conversion of the world, does not despair of improving his friend, of imposing on him his exigent ideal. One might believe, because of the omnipotence Hergé gives his hero, that Tintin would be the winner in this combat. No such thing. It is the drunken Haddock who will end by sobering the foundling. Gradually he brings him to a more realistic and more cynical vision of the world, as one can see in comparing The Broken Ear with the last volume, Tintin and the Picaros (1976). Captain Haddock, Professor Calculus (Tournesol), and Bianca Castafiore will ultimately compose at Marlinspike the family that the foundling claims never to have had. In these last episodes, Tintin becomes a normal little boy: beneath the mask of an adolescent, he finally has the soul of a sobered adult who accepts the world as it is.
1. The original comic strips published in newspapers were revised and collected in the form of large albums. The date of first publication in album format is given in the text; most of the albums were rewritten and redrawn to adapt them to postwar ideological conditions, so that dates of current copyright differ. The following two English translations will be cited in the text: The Cigars of the Pharaoh, trans. L. Lonsdale-Cooper and Michael Turner (London: Methuen, 1971) and The Crab with the Golden Claws, trans. L. Lonsdale-Cooper and Michael Turner (London: Methuen, 1958). French names will be given in parentheses on first mention and French titles for albums not yet translated. The pagination of the French and English fascicles is identical.
2. "The Tin-Tin Series: Children's Literature and Popular Appeal," Children's Literature 1 (1972): 93-97.
3. "The Epic Strip: Tintin Crosses the Channel," Times Literary Supplement, December 5, 1958, 698.
4. Margaret Higonnet has translated and adapted this article from several chapters of Les Métamorphoses de Tintin (Paris: Laffont, 1984) in collaboration with the author, Jean-Marie Apostolides.
5. Sigmund Freud, "Family Romances," The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works, ed. James Strachey et al., 24 vols. (London: Hogarth, 1953–74), 9:235-41. Hergé confessed, "I am always interested in psychoanalysis. Moreover, I have read a good part of the works of Jung." "Entretien avec Hergé," Minuit 25 (September 1977): 26.
7. "He never had parents, they are too burdensome. He would have had to ask permission each time he went out, we would never get over it." Interview of Hergé by Pierre Ajamé, Les nouvelles littéraires, 27 June 1963, 10.
8. Bettelheim explores this technique of splitting the parental figure in The Uses of Enchantment.
9. Freud observed that little boys suppose possession of a penis by members of both sexes and commented, "A knowledge of infantile sexual theories … can be of interest in various ways—even, surprisingly enough, for the elucidation of myths and fairy tales." "On the Sexual Theories of Children," Standard Edition, 9:211.
10. Rabier is cited in Numa Sadoul, Entretiens avec Hergé (Paris: Casterman, 1983), 82-83.
11. Robert, Roman, 115.
12. Otto Rank, The Myth of the Birth of the Hero, trans. F. Robbins and Smith Ely Jelliffe (New York: Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease Publishing Co., 1914).
13. The child's "curious curtailment" of the earlier version of the family romance expresses "his desire to bring his mother … into situations of secret infidelity" (Freud, Standard Edition, 9:239).
14. Robert, En Haine du roman (Paris: Balland, 1982).
15. See Robert Poulet, "Adieu, Georges," Rivarol, 18 March 1983, p. 11.
16. Archives Hergé I (Paris: Casterman, 1973), 37.
17. For a totally different explanation of The Castafiore Emerald, see the fine article by Michel Serres, "Les Bijoux distraits ou la cantatrice sauve," Critique no. 277 (June 1970): 485-97.
Amanda Macdonald (essay date September 1998)
SOURCE: Macdonald, Amanda. "In Extremis: Hergé's Graphic Exteriority of Character." Other Voices: The (e)-Journal of Cultural Criticism (online journal) 1, no. 2, http://www.othervoices.org/1.2/amacdonald/herge.html (September 1998).
[In the following essay, Macdonald examines how Hergé worked to unify both words and images into a cohesive whole in "Tintin," while additionally noting the "tension of philosophical proportions … between subject functions and object functions" throughout the entire "Tintin" series, with particular emphasis on Les Sept boules de cristal.]
The imperatives of titling sometimes produce an almost arbitrary relation amongst the terms of an enquiry. I might have rearranged the elements of my subtitle to propose, somewhat awkwardly, the subject, "Hergé's characteristic exteriority of graphemes". What is indicated by this feinted propositional reversal is the possibility of chiasmatic relations between notions of "character" and notions of "graphics" in Hergé's Tintin corpus, and it is this relay effect between these two basic functions of comic art that most fundamentally commands the attention of the present essay. Hergé, himself, has been known to offer a much less cumbersome assertion of the relatedness of characters and graphics, but a somewhat less explicit one, in describing the care with which he formed the script used to render the verbal elements of his Tintin albums: it was crucial for him that the verbal line work as a graphic echo of the image line. Hergé's line is, of course, known in the francophone world as la ligne claire—the "clear", "clean" or even "plain" line, we might say, in English—and designates, within the larger francophone tradition of bande dessinée albums,1 a substantial generic tradition flowing from Hergé's example (Edgar Jacobs and Ted Benoît being two of the more famous successors to la ligne claire in the realm of Francophone graphic novels).2 Hergé's concern to match the scripted and the drawn line cannot be construed as simply a matter of aesthetic harmony for the BD3 pioneer. In "Comment naît une aventure de Tintin" ["How a Tintin Adventure Is Born"], 4 Hergé stresses the generative relation between the two functions that he refers to as "texte et dessin" [text and drawing]: "texte et dessin naissent simultanément, l'un complétant et expliquant l'autre" [text and drawing are born simultaneously, each supplementing and explaining the other].5 His avowal of the importance of graphic harmony between word and image can be understood in relation to some of the main preoccupations of BD criticism, serving as a reminder of the fact that bande dessinée is a genre that, by virtue of its making both word and image graphic, raises interesting questions about the relations between two systems often taken to be at war, in either cultural or semiotic terms. More particularly, and this is the first (and least concerted) argument of two elaborated in this paper, Hergé's image-word practice allows us to see that the principal metaphor of a certain kind of semiotics, the metaphor that proposes "language" as a figure for all systems of meaning, need not be viewed as playing into a logocentric discourse subordinating all other systems to that of the verb and its strong forms of semantic governance: for to speak of "language", in the context of a discussion of bande dessinée, is to speak of a system deriving from drawing. Although Hergé describes the genesis of his dual system in terms of an equal partnership, the account from which this description was taken commits almost no time at all to the process of inventing word text, and leaves one to understand that the image line precedes the word line in the production of any album, such that it is the word line that must accommodate the iconographic line, not vice versa.
A pun that can be made in both English and French, a word-play turning equally well on "character" or "caractère", may be produced out of considerations of the workings of Hergé's graphic topos to link the question of word-and-image relations to that of the representation of the human. This pun suggests that the fundamentally "like" graphic elements from which Hergean words and images are formed share the status of "character"/"caractère", namely the status of "distinctive mark", and that, within the Hergean bande dessinée, the formation of these marks into both words and images "draws" both the logo-graphic and the iconographic into the task of constructing "character", now meant in the more elaborate sense of "distinctive human-like figure" or "personage" (I will say something, in a moment, about the neologism "logographic"). These two broad understandings of "character"—the elemental and the complex, the materially available and the semantically constituted—when articulated in discussion of Hergean textuality, enable not only an inflected understanding of the issue of word-image relations, but of what the relations between the materiality and the abstraction of the semiotics of personage might be. Once again, the exploration of this problematic is assisted by consideration of an interesting coincidence of language: on the one hand, the French for a drawn line—the elemental mark of any drawing—is "trait" (the ligne claire might have been the trait clair); on the other hand, in both French and English, the elemental behavioural quality of a personage is a "character trait". Using this term, trait, to rehearse two of the basic points made so far, we can make two reformulations: firstly, that in Hergé's Tintin corpus the verbal and the imaged are made of the same "trait"; secondly, that the entirely visible, graphic character and the largely conceptual personage character are also both made of "traits".6
It becomes very clear why it is important to propose the term "logographic" to designate the verbal function of Hergé's art, instead of following normal usage as does BD commentary: to refer to "the verbal", to "writing", to "speech" or to "dialogue" is to fail to make plain the fact that the materiality of the word in the Tintin corpus is a drawn materiality with graphic properties.7 The term is useful, too, in its accommodation of the fact that Hergé's dialogue is almost entirely written speech: the bande dessinée obliges any speech to be written, making the term "speech" descriptively inadequate; conversely, Hergé's work generally uses the writing function offered by bande dessinée to represent speech, hence my dissatisfaction with the term "writing". Nothing in the term "logographic" precludes reference to the occasional temporal indicator ("Two days later"), or to the not infrequent representation of extracts from printed documents, yet it permits generically exact reference to the particular unvoiced dialogue of Hergé's system, and insists on the drawn property of all wording. The term, of itself, effectively affirms my first principal argument, in that it makes clear the fact that the logos does not exist before or independently of the iconic, since what we are dealing with is an image-word. It should be added that, in a BD system where there is virtually no explicit narration, the writing of speech, writing that is made of the same graphic stuff as imagery, must have a crucial role in the process of characterisation. This last point foreshadows my second principal argument, one that will require more space than the first, and it concerns the notion of character.
"Character", in the broadest sense given to it by general usage and by much cultural criticism, can be read as graphically redefined through the word-image plays of Hergé's albums—and here is another pun with theoretical implications. As against the conception, ever-dominant in some "Occident",8 that assumes the "person" to be a set of interior functions driving all externally perceptible behaviour—a conception rarely challenged in any fundamental way, not even by the most action-valorising films of late twentieth-century Hollywood9—Hergé's functions of characterisation elaborate a definition of "person" that turns on what I will call "exteriority". This, then, is the second principal argument to be offered by this paper: that the necessarily and literally "graphic" quality of Hergé's human figures is cultivated, through Hergé's uptake of certain possibilities of his drawn art, to yield a particular elaboration of what I am tempted to call the general representational function of the "humanesque", an elaboration that works out human character in degrees of extremity—figurative, narrative, and logical extremity—through the understanding of the "graphic" as the vivid and the vivid as the extreme. In the formulation just given, the "humanesque" would be a sort of shorthand for "representation of the human", and can stand where I might have said "human character", to avoid confusion with the more basic sense of character-qua-grapheme that is also at issue here: the "humanesque" corresponds to the "complex", anthroposemic sense of character, not the more elemental mark. The term "humanesque" appeals, also, in that it effectively asserts that what we are dealing with here are human-like figures, semiotic construals of the human, fabricated in generically specific ways, and not some truth about personhood. Not that this should be understood as any form of epistemological escape to the province of mere matter. Like Louis Marin, we should wonder at the fact that it is possible to manipulate ink and paper to unmistakably evoke the human in the humanesque,10 and with equal respect view the fabrication of the humanesque as a basic function of humanity. Moreover, following Anne Freadman, we should see that there is no such thing as "the human", in representational terms, but rather a myriad of ge-neric construals of what can serve to represent the human;11 this might be called, without a hint of deprecation, the humanesque.
Entailed in this materialist construal of character is an assertion of the existence of a more conventional and very generalised discourse on "character", a discourse that is doubtless not universally active even in some "Occident", a discourse that is indeed to be found missing here and there where we nevertheless consider some kind of characterisation to be operative—precisely in the Hergé corpus, for instance—, but a discourse which nevertheless has the distinction of working itself into a sizeable range of genres reliant on characterisation. The idea that character equates with psychology (of one sort or another), and thus with an interior dimension or "depth", is a proposition which, thanks to the very generalised discourse just evoked, is generally accepted as self-evident—whether the character in question is located in courts of law or workplace gossip or novels or theatre or television advertisements. Hence it is possible to lay the charge of "superficiality" as an entirely unexamined expression of serious dissatisfaction with some character or other (be it a co-worker or a film persona): ordinarily, a superficial character—a character defined by its exterior—is axiomatically a defective character.
This assertion of discursivity made—that is to say, this observation of a trans-generic presumption about the nature of character having been established—, it needs to be said that each genre will have its own, quite complex relations to the imperative of "interiority". Such generic specificity is at work, too, in any instance where the assumption of interiority is refused, and it is this which is of most interest in the present discussion. Although many BD albums engage very fully with the discourse of interiority in their execution of character—meaning that nothing in the materiality of bande dessinée precludes the signification of personal depth, and that this materiality can indeed favour such significations—Hergé's representational schema manages to effect a principle of "exteriority" in characterisation by virtue of its manipulation of BD-specific properties in a fashion that is highly assertive of the generic particularities of bande dessinée. While experimental films, novels and theatre of various sorts resist interiority and psychological drive as the necessary basis of characterisation, none of these forms has quite the combination of material conditions at its disposal that is available to the BD artist. Which is simply to say that the particular refusal of interiority constituted within Hergé's Tintin corpus is to be appreciated in its particular materiality, a materiality of iconographics and logographics.
This type of concern with the materiality of the bande dessinée genre is consonant with much of the scholarly work in BD commentary to be found in the francophone literature on the subject. This critical tradition amounts to a semiotics, more or less explicitly declared as such, depending on the writer, flowing from what might broadly be described as a union of Saussure and Barthes, and inflected in individual critical cases by reference to one or more of a number of French philosophers or semioticians favoured by BD scholarship (Ricardou, Ricoeur, and Metz, for example, have a certain currency in the field12). To the extent that one can identify any single project carrying across the span of commentary produced in the French language with respect to bande dessinée—that is to say in a range of commentary produced since the 1960s, when the broader project of semiotics made the study of bande dessinée a worthy avenue of research—, one can reasonably say that it is the description of the material properties of bande dessinée that has most often and most lengthily occupied the pages of BD commentary. Whilst on occasion these descriptions constitute pseudo-scientific taxonomies of little interpretative finesse, and whilst the taxonomic urge is rarely completely absent from BD commentary, most of this descriptive work is concerned to understand the ways in which bande dessinée materiality achieves representational complexity, how it enables semiotic systems to be manipulated.13 The interest of the present discussion joins with and draws on some of this work in that it proposes to examine Hergé's texts—albeit through the example of only one album, Les Sept boules de cristal [The Seven Crystal Balls] 14—as an answer to the fundamental semiotic question of how material systems can be used (whether by readers or by makers of texts) to achieve semantic ends (the semiotic being the articulation of the material, the generic, and the semantic). Numerous commentators tell us that, for Hergé, the question was contained in the term "lisibilité" [legibility], a term that designated his enterprise to make clear to his readers the semantic purpose of each verbal, imaged, or more conceptual narrative element. We might have reservations about Hergé's term in view of its potential implications of authorial intention and monosemous textuality, but its acknowledgement of the challenge of coordinating mere matter to enable meaningful outcomes is important.
In the case of the present examination of the issue of character, and to return to the pun set out at the beginning of this essay, it is a question of understanding how the basic iconographic and logographic characters, made available in Les Sept boules de cristal, are articulated to meet the challenge of representing the humanesque as character. In reading this modality of persona as amounting to an exploration of "exteriority", there is an investment in the notion that the graphic elements make this humanesque modality possible, but there is also a suspicion that a certain notion of the human enables a particular range of graphic plays. In any case, it will be argued that in this regime of interaction between the constitutive (the mark) and the complex (the personage), the tandem of the iconographic and the logographic works to produce a tandem of physical and narrative extremes, a tandem that is textually enabled by an articulating function of the humanesque that is conceived in terms of exteriority.
Jan Baetens is one of the students of semiotics who has most usefully contributed to BD scholarship, in general, as he has analysed the workings of Hergé's Tintinian corpus, album by album.15 Finding in the modernist impulse in much BD research an excessive valorisation of the imaged over the verbal (an overreaction, it is implied, to traditional modes of reading that favour the verbal16), Baetens is concerned to read the dualism of the verb-image relation, reinstating the verbal to its rightful place without effacing the image. For Baetens, the writing of Hergé's BD is image:17
Réduire, dans une bande dessinée, les mots et lettres à leur seule dimension linguistique, sans reconnaître le poids de leurs aspects visuels, serait évidemment le pire des contresens. Dès leurs couvertures, les Aventures de Tintin nous le rappellent d'ailleurs, qui adaptent parfois la forme des lettres du titre aux contenus spécifiques du volume.18
Baetens provides a subtle reading of the semiotics of not just the two systems, written and imaged, but of the relations between the two, and he is well aware of the shared factor of the grapheme. He finds no simple contest between the systems, but a complex of distinctions and complementarity. His minute description of the differentiated space of the speech bubble, for instance, is most instructive. To mention but one observation, Baetens takes the rampant punctuation ("la surponctuation") of Tintin as "la soumission de l'écrit à l'image" [the submission of the written to the image].19 This intensification of the point made in my own first argument, is the consequence of Baetens' taking seriously the manuscripted nature of the written: the refusal of typescript means that the written is composed of the same linearity as the image. What Baetens all but says is that overpunctuation forces the issue about the linearity of all writing: since punctuation is the most purely graphic element of written language, it is through punctuation that writing can be asserted as drawing. Baetens has many interesting remarks about the cross-overs between writing and image in Tintin, but special mention should be made of his efforts to understand the Hergean personages in terms of these relations between the two identified systems: his is, for instance, one of the most persuasive accounts of the characterfulness of Haddock, thanks to his detailed exploration of the particularities of the interaction of word and image in Haddock's case.
Baetens does not make it his business to interrogate the very notion of character, however, and adopts a conventional language of "expression" in his description of the functioning of the word-image composite that is the Tintinian character. In a broad statement about the BD genre, for example, Baetens proposes that "l'émission verbale ne se donne à entendre que médiatisée par l'écriture. En ce sens, elle est image et muette" [the verbal emission does not offer itself to be heard except as mediated by the written. In this sense, it is an image and mute].20 This is as unromantic a reliance on a concept of expression as one might conceive, but it nevertheless entails a notion of interiority for the "emitting" character, the same interiority that is at the base of the notion of expression. My own notion of "exteriority" as the condition of Tintinian character can benefit from much of Baetens' close analysis, but is at odds with his reading of personages as expressive. Baetens' unusually antimaterialistic reference to an audio function of BD speech is a very precise mistake as to the semiotic qualities of the bande dessinée exploited in Hergé's Tintin. It is precisely because cinema is able to show voice emerging from mouth, and is generically compelled to do so (the films of Chris Marker show both that it is materially possible not to do so, and that it is not conventional to enact this possibility), that it is virtually impossible for film to escape the representation of character as an interior domain made manifest in speech and action. And it is precisely because bande dessinée is free from the inherent exhalation of voiced speech, from any necessary movement of speech production involving an in-to-out relation between speech and character, that Hergé's texts can enter into a representational territory where the humanesque need involve no evocation (yet another pun) of interiority.
One might take Hergé's minimal engagement with perspectival depth, his emphasis of the 2-dimensionality of the page and thus of superficiality, as a first step in establishing the function of exteriority as a general rule in the Aventure albums. It is also crucial to point out the role of the marked outline—the graphic foundation principle of la ligne claire and the most exterior element of the iconographic personage—as the only irreducible factor of character formation in Tintin. I will return to the matter of bodily outline, briefly, at the end of this paper. For the purposes of the present discussion, however, I will direct my remarks to the question of the dialogue bubble, with its outline and its logographism as the most compelling factors in the practice of exterioristion. This will involve a quite lengthy analysis of the opening of Les Sept boules de cristal in order to establish the workings of the dialogue bubble. This can only be done by examining the textuality of the bubble in relation to other logographic and iconographic elements. Baetens takes the speech bubble to operate as a type of "souffle" [breath] that leaves the mouth to rise up to top of the frame,21 and in so-doing attributes an interior to the personage which is thus producing or expressing the speech. I will argue, instead, that the graphic logic of the bubbles works as forcefully as the conditions of BD allow to deny any interiority of character, and to insist, via the character marks of speech, on the exteriority of character as personage. Much of what I have to say, below, turns on analysis of representations of movement and representations of stillness, and the differentiable logics of "source" and refusal of "source" that are in play in the logics of interiority and exteriority, respectively. The dialogue bubble, I will argue, is a supremely static function in Les Sept boules de cristal.
At the opening of Les Sept boules (p. 1, strips 1 and 2), in the first frame, a train expells steam from its stack, this steam bulging across the most part of the width of the frame in curvilinear expansion: it is an image of vapour, of emission, of nebulous spread, and of a production from an inside to an outside. By contrast, the first verbal text of the album, the first logographic text, occupies an entire frame (frame 3) and is given in a script to be taken as newsprint in the scriptual scheme of things (i.e. its perfectly straight strokes more clearly evoke typescript than does the slightly wavering-lined script used for dialogue): the resolutely stationary image of writing that is given here (as opposed to the very slightly tremulous effect invested in the writing of the spoken within the album), bounded by the perfectly rectilinear (though very slightly uneven) lines of the frame, admits the reading of a forceful opposition between the figure of "emission" given in the first frame, and its strip-neighbour, the third frame, in which the verbal is figured as immobile and unambiguously "present" (not departing, and quite unrelated to any point of production). Note that the intervening frame (frame 2), depicts train passengers, including Tintin, holding the newspapers that they are reading and from which frame 3's text is drawn: the verb is firmly within the grasp of the frame. The clouds of steam are drawn growing larger as they approach the border of the frame (drawn larger so that they seem to "approach" the border of the frame), creating a graphic situation where the border must "truncate"22 the form which is posited as "stream", that is, the frame must halt the clouds' suggested movement. A similar description could be formulated for the train that produces the steam trail while travelling in the opposite direction. As distinct from this, the frame of newspaper text contains a syntactically and narratively complete chunk of news writing—there is no truncation and thus a minimisation of any sense of "run on" that might have accrued to the written word; the "chunk" is by definition a stationary figure, after all. Notwithstanding the opposition that I made, above, between the unbudging straight-stroke style of the newsprint script and the wavering-stroke style of the dialogue, I would suggest that the third frame of the first page of Les Sept boules de cristal, the first occurrence of verbal text after the title, should be read as emblematic of the properties attributed to the logographic, in general, in this album: that is, that the lographic is defined in opposition to the vaporous figure of mobile emission set up at the opposite end of the strip. (Note that this is not to be taken as an opposition between word and image: the vapour trail is a particular image capable of generating particular semantic values.)
That relations of similitude may be read between the typescript and the dialogue-script, is supported by the fact that the first dialogic statement of the album, produced in frame 4—the first frame of the second strip of the first page i.e. the frame following the newspaper excerpt—both designates the story told in the excerpt and projects an ending for it, linking itself to the preceding frame via a demonstrative pronoun "Ça": "Ça finira mal toute cette histoire, vous verrez …".23 This pronoun does not simply point to the preceding text, but works, within the new frame, as a shorthand that stands for the whole text that has just been read in frame 3 ("Ça", in frame 4, means the text from frame 3, and could be defined by rewriting the text from frame 3); it is a cross-over element between the two frames, asserting the fact that the two texts in question are made of verbal language, thus minimising the generic distinction that can be made between the typographic and the speechgraphic. Moreover, the dialogue bubble in which the "Ça" statement occurs, sits directly below the frame in which the steam trail is found, in a homologous position within its frame (close to the top of the frame, in a horizontally elongated rather than squat form), but is so different in shape from the steam emission that the comparison invited by similar positioning turns to contrast: the dialogue bubble's four boundary lines run in perfect parallel to the frame's four borders, whereas the vapour trail's border lines run in a bubble-edged, unevenly diagonal formation with respect to the frame's rectilinear structure, a formation entailing two quite different outlines for the two sides of the steam trail. The white of the dialogue bubble is so squarely bounded by the black ligne claire that it sits as a flat, contained block, whereas the white of the steam trail is shaped by the projection into it of rounded line-ends that create perspectival relations between different bulges of the trail (the decorative, "nipped" corners of the dialogue bubbles are not allowed to produce lines that might suggest volume). The latter factor, the factor of perspective, is crucial in the depiction of a moving volume of steam, which has not just right-to-left movement but a depth of field that is absent from the dialogue bubble and the newspaper text, both.
Worthy of more than passing mention, this right/left movement factor raises an issue often discussed by commentators of Hergé and described by Hergé himself as of primordial importance. It concerns the stragic exploitation of the left-to-right dynamic of reading for the elaboration of forward imagemovement; its manipulation is considered by virtually all commentators to be one of Hergé's greatest accomplishments.24 Thus, while the train is depicted as moving in a line running from left to right, urging the reading effort forward as would any written line of words, the vapour trail's lines of expansion run in the opposite direction: the figure of emission is thereby defined as involving a kind of movement diametrically opposed to the kind of movement entailed within the scripted text, the latter having more in common with the figure of solidity given by the train, so far as modalities are concerned, despite the white-black graphism shared by the vapour trail and the word texts. This impression of solidity in the verbal (still another pun with "impression") derives from the fact that the blockish shape of the bubbles obliges the written always to interrupt itself at the end of a short line (although very wide frames exist in Tintin, such as frame 1, p. 58, dialogue bubbles are never allowed to run wider than in "standard gauge" frames; dialogue statements can never "flow"). Trains may represent slip-stream lines of movement in other texts, but this train, like this verbal text, is a figure of no more than steady right-left movement. The suggestion of movement evoked by the stroke-style described, above, as "tremulous" and "wavering", is not, then, to be reduced to some essence of "movement" and assimilated to the movement figured by the vapour trail. Rather, the infinitessimal trace of movement in the lettering of dialogues should be viewed as an opposite type of movement, a movement going nowhere and implying no dispersal of form, a barely quavering inflection of the stable solidity imaged in the typescript of frame 3 rather than a weak version of the vapour trail's mode of departure.
In the light of these comments, let us look at the most distinctive feature of the dialogue bubbles: the tail. If the nipped edges that suggest the static positionality of framed portraiture are not a sufficiently compelling reason to abandon any thought of comparison with "breath", the quality of the tail should be. It is important to note, as numerous commentators remind the Tintinologue, that European comics had not discovered the speech bubble and its indexical graphic when Hergé set about making Tintin. Hergé is, then, the pioneer of this function in European comic history, and does not simply follow U.S. conventions. Most crucially, for my point, Hergé's convention in the drawing of the tail is quite different from some of the most famous U.S. instances. I am thinking of instances where the tail has a smoothly curved form that grows markedly wider the closer the tail gets to the point where it will seem to attach to the bubble of which it is, in fact, an integral part. This tail is a figure of expansion and creates the effect of an emission from the character indicated by it. Quite distinct from this is the zigzag form of the Hergean tail, which follows no direct line like that of an expelled puff of breath, but rather seems to reach down from the top of the frame to the personage to which it is connected, much as the lightening bolt comes down from the heavens (see Les Sept boules de cristal, p. 1, frame 4). Notice that the zigzag has a somewhat flabby bend to it, rather than a lightening-bolt angularity, and this counteracts any strenuous dynamic that might have resulted from the zigzag form. The tail always stops short enough of the head to which it points, this restraint further reducing any effect of dynamism. Any suggestion of movement is, then, minimised. Far from the bubbles appearing to have risen up from the characters, they sit squarely above them. The rectilinear form of the "bubble"—as distinct from the rounded form adopted by U.S. artists—of itself militates against an effect of movement, particularly upward movement. Indeed, although the term bulle [bubble]—which seems to have come into francophone usage around 1960, doubtless under U.S. influence—is now very common in BD culture, the more original French term phylactère [phylactery], with its formal antecedents in first religious amulets (pendant boxes containing scripture) then the speech-bearing scrolls within medieval painting, makes no such claim to expansive roundness in the manner of the gas bubble, but rather insists upon the very fixed form of a box or a rectilinear banner.
This examination of what we must now call the "dialogue box", that is to say, this examination of the disposition of the trait that surrounds the logographic text, demonstrates that the graphic logic of this logos-shaping outline amounts to so many refusals of continuity effects with the icon-shaping outline. In other words, there is here a graphic logic of correspondence between iconologic characters and iconographic characters, rather than a relation of production, with speech issuing from some basically constituted personage residing in the image. The Hergean logic of personage, readable from the qualities of the dialogue box in its relation to the humanesque image, posits a notion of "character" (in the composite sense), as essentially "without"—and this term should suggest both non-unity and exteriority—as follows logically from its foundation in "characters" (marks). Those comic works figuring speech as emerging from within personages offer a notion of "character" as essentially "in possession", founded in continuity. Hergé's clear separation of the iconologic and the iconographic (another construal of la ligne claire), including the refusal of any fiction of speech emission, makes characterfulness reside equally in image and word, in the two types of elemental character (even though basic character formation is performed by the iconographic). The bodily form is not the seat of the verb—and as any Tintin reader knows, the word, and particularly the dialogic word, is much more creatively exercised in Les Aventures de Tintin than in The Adventures of Superman.
This conclusion need not so much run against Baetens' reading of the written as "submitted" to the imaged (though we now see that his metaphor does not take account of writing's literally superior position in the frame), as suggest that there is another relation to consider than the centuries-old binary tussle between writing and image, and it is a tripartite relation among the iconologic character, the iconographic character, and the characterful character that results from the co-ordination of the first two functions. Baetens' work is affected by (although, given his attention to textuality, by no means completely reducible to) a common error in BD commentary written under the authority of a certain "semiotics", and that is the error of finding in particular and local textual features only the cipher for monoliths of semiotic history or for genera in a taxonomy of semiotic entities. Although the present discussion is clearly engaging with semiotic classes (but "species" rather than "genera", I think)—"iconographics", "iconologics", "character"—I would argue not only that textual specifics are shaping the classifications but that the particular class which is "character" is especially useful for pushing analysis towards the examination of the textual "ecosystem" (to sustain the biological metaphor), and away from the stereotypes of generalisation.
Baetens looks at those cases of image-word relation where the head of a personage enters the space of the dialogue box and forces the writing to split apart in mid-word or mid-sentence in order to accommodate the image. An example of this is found in a scene of dialogue between Haddock and Tintin, once again from Les Sept boules de cristal, in which Haddock is proposing to do a magic trick with an empty cylinder: Haddock: "Regardez. Voici un cylindre de carton, creux … Creux, vous entendez?… Regardez … Il n'y a rien dedans, n'est-ce pas?" [Look. Here is a hollow, carton cylinder … Hollow, you understand?… Look … There is nothing inside, right?]; Tintin: "En effet, il est vide …" [Indeed, it is empty …] (p. 5, frame 14). Tintin's signature quiff interrupts his own speech between "est" [is] and "vide" [empty]. Baetens reads this sort of instance as proof of the image's superiority over writing.25 It is true that the head never gives way to the word in the same manner, but given that the word is not obliterated by the head, its "submission" is slight and might be more properly described as a partial "accommodation" of the figure. When this sort of example is read with not just the image-word binary in mind but also the problem of character, the unharmful penetration of the iconologic space and the splitting of the iconologic lines by the iconographic space of the head can certainly be taken as a strong assertion of the graphic nature of the verb (one thinks of Godard and his principled use of disruption to emphasise the materiality of film), but also of the existence of a relation between iconographics and iconologics that is governed by both elemental and composite functions of "character". The outlines of the iconographic and iconologic spaces meet—one cannot strictly say whether the box's line has been broken or whether it has merged with that of the head, the elemental traits of word and image being identical in nature. But this conjoining of the two domains of the composite that is character-as-personage does not simply dissolve all difference between word and image, nor establish some hierarchy of importance: it can be read as a limit case that asserts the relation of co-ordination between iconographics and iconologics for the purposes of a specific working notion of personage, a co-ordination dependent on an ultimately strict separation of the two character functions. If the bodily character can be seen to intrude upon the space of the word characters, it is obvious that the latter do not belong to the former, and it follows that they have not emerged from the former. In the dialogue just cited, Tintin's interruptive quiff punctuates emphatically the assertion of emptiness: the personnages of Tintin and Haddock are no more full of words waiting to emerge than the cylinder contains magic properties. The interiority of the cylinder will fail to produce anything in the magic trick of transformation that Haddock attempts, and no personnage is ever attributed with even this much productive interiority.26
The pedantic care that I have taken to establish the dialogue box as a figure and a mechanism of unsourced remove, with respect to the imagery of bodies, is proportionate to the importance of disturbing the presumption of interiority that governs the general understanding of character. This interiority is taken to be confirmed by speech, whether speech is said to "come from the heart", or from the inside of the head, as when one "speaks one's mind". Hergé's dialogue boxes sit at the very top of the frame, a bare millimetre from the frame border in almost every case, and only come close to a personage's head when pressed down towards it by the sheer volume of verbality [see Les Sept boules de cristal, p. 1, frames 5 and 6; p. 5, frame 14], or when some movement of a body in the frame pushes that body into the space of speech. Within the confines of the usually tight space of the Hergean frame, speech, through the positioning of the dialogue box, occupies an extreme position in the BD microcosm, at maximal remove from the body to which it points. The iconologic characters and iconographic characters are in a relationship of graphic extremity: any greater remove would undo the graphic relation enabling the composite of characters that is character or characterfulness in bande dessinée; the degree of remove actually negotiated by all Tintin frames containing dialogue permits its thematisation as both exteriority and extremity.
My title indeed promises a thematisation of this extremity, and this thematisation involves reading character, in the composite sense of "personage", as existing in extremis. We know that the title of the series is Les Aventures de Tintin. and adventure is a genre that places its hero in extremis on a regular basis (attack by gunfire, threat of avalanche, condemnation to ritual sacrifice by burning). Readers of Tintin also know that most of the stories take Tintin and his companions away from their homes and indeed their homeland, to the extremities of the world known to them (to some totalitarian Eastern Europe, to China, to Peru … although they do not make it to antipodean Sydney, doubtless far too uneventful a city to satisfy the criteria of extremity, however remote). But there is something else at work in the Tintin stories, be they set at home or away, that is a more fundamental exercising of extremity.
The Petit Robert dictionary offers the following example for the expression "in extremis": "Rattraper in extremis un objet qui va tomber". Catch an object that is going to fall. It is the last instance of usage in the entry, at some remove from the death throes that open the dictionary's account of the Latin expression. It is a banal usage for a striking locution. As it happens, the depiction of the humanesque offered by Les Sept boules de cristal, in particular, and by the series in general is far more consistently about the problem of catching things before they fall—or perhaps oneself before a prat fall27—than it is about the penultimate moment before death. The problem with being a composite entity known as a "character", in a BD, is precisely not one of struggling with some burden of interiority, but of struggling with the essential exteriority of personage that is made out of graphic characters: the problem is that there is little to distinguish the humanesque figure, separated from the power of speech, from the objects which surround the figure, objects made of the same trait. Indeed, the subject/object distinction becomes a precarious one, since there is no material difference between humanesque figures and others (and this precariousness is acted out in the drawing of object-subject relations).
The graphicness of this generic fact is maximally exploited by Hergé, since he refuses to allow the humanesque sole access to the fiction of movement: objects move and most particularly fall, with disturbing regularity, and humanesque figures get caught up in the trajectories of those objects almost as much as they determine or get caught up in their own trajectories. These personages, whose speech is not a descendant of the ancient trope which makes verbality the expired conversion of inspiration, have had no spiritual property breathed into them, and, not being inspired, cannot be saved from their material predicament by any spiritual transcendence over the world of objects. Solutions will always be based in the organisation of (provisional) material equilibrium.
There is a great deal to be said about the play of order and disorder in the tales of Tintin, and Michel Serres has demonstrated this. But lacking a semiotician's concern with textual materiality, Serres has not explored the drama of character that is played out in the detail of generic specificity. Baetens has gone much further in this, and the present discussion is something of a complement to Baetens' detailed study of numerous textual mechanisms governing the relation of words to image and to various personages. Serres is, however, the model for taking Hergé seriously, and taking Hergé seriously permits one to find not just textual mechanics at work in Les Sept boules de cristal, but a graphic thesis on the humanesque. The slapstick imagery of the accident-prone Haddock, launched in one sequence into a series of mishaps involving a domino-effect of falling objects—stage props of various sorts, including mock walls, mock pillars, and a mock cow's head—, enacts the problem of character as a problem of maintaining one's character traits literally in the face of the encroaching traits of the object realm (see p. 15). Haddock is only Haddock when in catastrophe, but cannot be Haddock if he loses his head completely to the imposing force of objects: by the rule of coordination and correspondence between logographics and iconographics, discussed above, the characteristic oaths and insults that have made Haddock the personage par excellence in the Tintin series cannot attach to some other figure, and Haddock cannot be Haddock without them. This is where the banal and the grave senses of "in extremis" are brought into relation, and it is the basic difficulty of maintaining the object/subject divide in the material world that produces this relation. The corporal outline that is occasionally allowed to come as close as merging with the iconologic outline, in the cooperative graphic relation that enables the subjecthood of character to be defined, is susceptible to being drawn into obliterating relations with object outlines: Haddock's trait of character habitually sets him to having to catch himself from falling, and when drawn into a situation where there is no solidity but only the tracery of support (the wall he leans upon flies away in one direction, the pillar in another), that trait places him not just among objects falling but makes of him an object, because it radicalises into a capacity only for falling, with no chance of stop the fall. In this process, Haddock's character trait makes his character's trait vulnerable to realignment in the shape of a mere object: the excessively animate Haddock does not so much collapse under the weight of a falling object as become transected and deformed—realigned—by the not-so-inanimate object that is the bovine mask, the corporal rendered pseudo-corporeal. A cow of a situation to be in. Or a monstrous one, where the monstrous is the disturbingly multigeneric. The figure of the fake-bovine-headed human torso presents most concisely the problem of maintaining the subject-object divide in a humanesque order where character has no central force of interiority, but is a function of composition.
This, then, is to gesture toward a treatise on the humanesque to be generated out of the complexities of "character" that are exercised in Les Sept boules de cristal : character formation is dependent on the most elemental material arrangements, but challenged by more composed forms of disruptive matter. This challenge is the stuff of which Tintin stories are made. The tension of philosophical proportions in this album, and arguably in all Tintin stories, is not between word and image, which operate in a relation of distinctness but not of conflict: it seems that we can equally well say that images, being made of the same line as writing, are statements, or that writing is drawing. The tension of philosophical proportions in this album is between subject functions and object functions, and it is the same ambiguity in the term "character"—the one that allows for cooperation between the iconologic and the iconographic—that provides the relational mechanism for exploring this tension: the abstracted, complex, semanticised sense of "character", in Hergé's bande dessinée, derives from the basically material one and can revert to that material, subject-less state. Of course, it must be a premise of a semiotic understanding of character in any genre that it has a material constitution, but Hergé's art of character pursues the implications of that fact in an unrelenting fashion. As to whether the treatise on the humanesque deducible from this art has anything to say about the human, in the way that Serres seems so passionately to want Hergé's corpus to do, well that is quite another … matter.
1. I will use the French term for the genre—literally translatable as "drawn strip"—rather than "graphic novel", since the latter term suggests a rather more sobre and literary affair than is presented in many of the works within the bounds of bande dessinée. Although the term "comic albums" comes closer to the unpretentious, catch-all semantic of the French term, it is problematic for the opposite reason, in that it does tend to evoke, for the anglophone reader, a set of things excluding the variety of serious narrative enterprise and aestheticised graphic styles readily found in francophone but not in English-language "comics".
2. Hergé, himself, had some reservations about the way in which the term was applied to other BD artists. In his final interview, conducted by Benoît Peeters on 15 December 1982, a few months before his death, Hergé insists that the "ligne claire" entails a narrative quality as much as a graphic one, and bemoans the fact that numerous artists upon whom the title is conferred, although working with an appropriately minimalist graphic style, fail to make their stories "clear". One might conjecture that Ted Benoît's remarkable 1982 album, Berceuse électrique, with its puzzling multi-generic pastiche of what might best be called narrative componentary, might well have earned Hergé's disapproval, despite Benoît's status, in many commentators' eyes, as the principal inheritor of the "ligne claire" mantle. See "Conversation avec Hergé" in Benoît Peeters, Le Monde d'Hergé (Tournai: Casterman/Carlsen, 1990) 204.
3. The commonly-used abbreviation for bande dessinée, "BD", is quite acceptable in scholarly works on bande dessinée written in French, and will be used in adjectival positions in this paper, for reasons of lexical convenience.
4. Translations will be placed within square brackets, without quotation marks. In order not to encumber the main body of the text, longer or unwieldy translations will be placed in the notes.
5. Hergé, "Comment naît une aventure de Tintin", in Le Musée imaginaire de Tintin (Tournai: Casterman, 1980) 10-16, 10. The translation is mine, as are all other translations in this article. I will err on the side of literalness to allow certain metaphorics to remain clear.
6. Hereafter, when the French word for line is intended "trait" will be given in italics. Note that this entire discussion runs the risk, under the influence of the everyday usage of "graphic" to mean "imagistic", of forgetting that the "graph" is not the sole province of the iconic. Etymologically, "graph" is perhaps more strictly the mark of writing. In any case, in Hergé's system, since both writing and image are "drawn", no real conflict between ancient and modern senses need arise.
7. Jan Baetens does not make a terminological shift of this sort, but does offer a very nicely turned discussion of the way in which the choice of lettering works in Hergé's Tintin: Jan Baetens, Hergé écrivain (Brussels: Editions Labor, 1989). For Baetens, the writing's form "attenuates the possible opposition between word and image" (72). See, in particular the chapter "Les Dupondt, des lettres dessinées" [The Thom(p)sons, drawn letters] (65-80), where the title makes Baetens' point very succinctly (the Dupondt are of course rendered as the Thom(-p)sons in the English version of the albums).
8. I hesitate to use the term "West", since it is the term uttered enigmatically by Tournesol (Calculus) in a number of albums, and indicates, most clearly in Les Sept boules de cristal, Europe's sublime geographical "west", the Americas. This article, being written from Australia, cannot entertain any simplified geographical notions of what the "West" means in the short-hand used to designate "Western-European-derived cultures". The geographics of the cultural entities deriving from Western-European cultures, yet located in countries such as Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia, Singapore and South Africa, are such that it becomes clear that the problem with using the term "the West" is not only one of Eurocentrism, but of East-Westism: even retaining Europe as the point of reference, "the world"—when viewed from one of these countries—clearly fragments and probably decentres, since "the West" is also at least one "East", and a number of "Souths".
9. The reputedly "superficial" characters played by the Stallones, Schwarzeneggers and Van Dammes of Hollywood action drama, antithetical types of character to those of, say, French psychological drama, are nevertheless established in terms of some driving psychological core. Or consider, for example, the telos of character formation that is made evident across the "Terminator" series, despite the lack of any such emotional core to the Terminator in its first incarnation: the indestructible, emotion-free cyborg of the first film comes, in the last, to strive not only to understand the human "interiority" of emotion, but to acquire the movements of that interiority. The shedding of a tear before his suicidal parting from his human friends is the external guarantee of the cyborg's interior development. In this filmic treatise on the nature of humanity, it becomes clear that, while any cyborg may reproduce and surpass the human faculty of bodily movement, the true preserve of humanity—which only a trans-species miracle can reproduce in the fundamentally non-human entity of the cyborg—is that of interior movement, of emotion. Thus, for his definitive, self-inflicted ontological exit, the goodguy cyborg renounces the extremes of physical movement that have characterised him, moderating them in a process of diminishment that first divests him of auto-motion, as he abdicates his own power of movement to that of an industrial hoist, then eliminates even this prosthetic movement by taking it to the point of disappearance through a slow, rope-borne descent into the molten brew. If the initial figure of the Terminator constituted a radically anti-Romantic definition of character, the series as a whole ultimately capitulates to the force of the Romantic notions refused in the first place—as if longevity of character (a span of seven years separates the 1984 original and its 1991 sequel) must ultimately resolve into emotional depth of character, a depth so deep it sinks.
10. I am liberally glossing Marin to suggest that one of his fundamental gestures in respect of the image does indeed involve paying respect to the capacity of the merely material image to evoke the affect-laden or power-rich human. Of course, Marin deals with instances of the "humanesque" of a far more serious type than Tintin and Haddock—the picture of the deceased beloved on the mantlepiece, the portrait of the king, the word-image of the risen Christ. See, for example, Louis Marin, "L'étre de l'image et son efficace", in Des pouvoirs de l'image (Paris: Seuil, 1993) 9-22.
11. Within the substantial body of work by Freadman treating the question of generic representational specificity, I am most mindful, for this point, of her recent study of La Princesse de Clèves which includes an injunction to read for representations of women in a generically precise way, and an exemplary demonstration of the fruitfulness of such an approach through the study of the Princesse. See Anne Freadman, "Reflexions on Genre and Gender: The Case of La Princesse de Clèves", Australian Feminist Studies, 12.26 (1997): 305-320.
12. It is interesting to note that Michel Serres' virtuosic readings of Tintin albums are referred to relatively little in the commentary corpus to which I refer, despite the recurrent reference to Hergé in this corpus. This may be a function of the fact that generic description is the prime concern of BD commentary, whereas Serres offers readings that elaborate philosophical problematics evoked by the BD texts in question, with little clear reference to structural features. See Michel Serres, "Rires: les bijoux distraits ou la cantatrice sauve" in Hermes II. L'Interférence (Paris: Minuit, 1972) 223-236; and Michel Serres, "Tintin ou le picaresque aujourd'hui", in Critique, 358 (1977): 197-207.
13. For a most sophisticated and lucid study of bande dessinée's semiotic possibilities, see Benoît Peeters, Case, plance, récit (Tournai: Casterman, 1991).
14. Hergé, Les Sept boules de cristal (Tournai: Casterman, 1948).
15. Jan Baetens, op. cit.
16. A substantial list of writings demonstrating the validity of Baetens generalisation could be listed, here, since BD scholarship has indeed been heavily committed to redressing an oftasserted historical imbalance in the privileging of the verbal over the imaged. Suffice it to mention, here, just two critics who act as champions of the image, and who risk the charge of neglecting the verbal in their BD studies: Pierre Fresnault-Deruelle, "La BD ou le tableau déconstruit" in Fresnault-Deruelle, L'Eloquence des images (Paris: PUF, 1993) 195-206; Marc Avelot, "L'encre blanche" in Thierry Groensteen, Bande dessinée: récit et modernité (Futuropolis, 1988) 157-173.
17. Baetens, op. cit., 28.
18. [To reduce, in a bande dessinée, words and letters to their linguistic dimension, without rec-ognising the force of their visual aspects, would clearly be the worst kind of misinterpretation. As soon as we see their covers, the albums of The Adventures of Tintin remind us of this, in fact, since they sometimes modify the shapes of the letters of the title to fit the specific contents of a volume.] Baetens, op. cit., 65.
19. Baetens, op. cit., 72.
20. Baetens, op. cit., 28.
21. Baetens, op. cit., 70.
22. Benoît Peeters has a vivid metaphor of truncation at work in his theory of segmentation as it is presented in his Case, planche, récit: depicted objects are said to be "tranchés vifs par les limites de la case" ("severed alive by the boundaries of the frame"), Benoît Peeters, Case, planche, récit, op. cit., 20.
23. [It will all finish badly, this story, you'll see …] Les sept boules, op. cit., 1, frame 4. Literally: "That will finish badly, this whole story, you'll see…", where the "That", ungainly in English, stands for the conventional usage of "Ça" in French. It is important to distinguish between editorial ellipses and the "three dots" that appear regularly in Hergé's script. These should be understood more often as "suspension points" ("points de suspension") than as indications of ellipsis. Hergé's dots will appear in my text, as in the album, without brackets, and without spaces either within the dots or between the dots and the immediately preceeding word.
24. On this point, as on so many others involving Hergé, Benoît Peeters is once again an extremely helpful reference: see his discussion in Case, planche, récit, op. cit., 58-61.
25. This type of splitting is, incidentally, proof that the notion of the bubble as "breath" is unsustainable: the phylactère's contents split apart, like something solid; they do not envelope the head or waft away like so much gas escaping from a bubble.
26. Haddock is, of course, a drinker, and this makes of him a recepticle; he has an unproductive interior: things always go awry when Haddock asserts an interiority by drinking; Tintin never attempts to establish such an interiority and does not encounter the sort of trouble met by Haddock.
27. Note that Michel Serres attributes the greatest human importance to the exposure to the world that accompanies an almost-fall: see Le Tiersinstruit (François Bourin, 1991).
Baetens, Jan, Hergé écrivain (Brussels: Editions Labor, 1989).
Peeters, Benoît. Case, planche, récit (Tournai: Casterman, 1991).
Peeters, Benoît. Le Monde d'Hergé (Tournai: Caterman/Carlsen, 1990).
Freadman, Anne. "Reflexions on Genre and Gender: The Case of La Princesse de Clèves", Australian Feminist Studies, 12.26 (1997): 305-320.
Hergé. "Comment naît une bande dessinée", in Le Musée imaginaire de Tintin (Tournai: Casterman, 1980).
Hergé. Les Sept boules de cristal (Tournai: Casterman, 1948, 1975).
Louis Marin, Des pouvoirs de l'image (Paris: Seuil, 1993).
Serres, Michel. "Rires: les bijoux distraits ou la cantatrice sauve" in Hermes II. L'Interférence (Paris: Minuit, 1972): 223-236.
Serres, Michel. "Tintin ou le picaresque aujourd'hui", in Critique, 358 (1977): 197-207.
Hugo Frey (essay date August 1999)
SOURCE: Frey, Hugo. "Tintin: The Extreme Right-Wing and the 70th Anniversary Debates." Modern and Contemporary France 7, no. 3 (August 1999): 361-67.
[In the following essay, Frey discusses the growing controversy surrounding alleged claims that Hergé's "Tintin" series displays strong right-wing sympathies and offensive racial caricatures.]
In January 1999 enthusiasts from around the world celebrated the 70th anniversary of the bande dessinée Tintin. To mark the occasion, the first adventure in which the boy-reporter featured was finally published in a standard popular edition. Until now it had been reserved for specialists, being only available as part of an expensive deluxe collection. Tintin au pays des Soviets is an account of the young journalist's first assignment to Stalinist Russia. Originally produced in 1929 for Le Petit Vingtième, it is a perfect example of the popular anti-communism of the period.
In the wake of the commemorative publishing event, the apogee of a spring of Tintin-related cultural events was an official French parliamentary debate that discussed the hero's political affiliations. Correspondingly, there was an avalanche of further media interest, which included the honouring of Hergé by Le Monde. In its 28 January edition, the newspaper offered its readers an exclusive Tintin supplement comprising a new adventure. 'Objectif Monde' is a remarkable pastiche of a number of well-known Tintin scenes. In addition, the political cartoonist, Plantu, as usual drawing under the day's headlines, deployed a version of the figures of Tintin and Captain Haddock to comment on the fiscal crisis of the Parti socialiste (PS). Ironically, given the content of Au pays des Soviets, even the reformed communist news-magazine L'Humanité hebdo was keen to profit from the publicity which Tintin generates. As part of its Christmas issue it offered exclusive extracts from the adventure, charting Russian history through scenes from the book and accompanying quotations from other western visitors from the 1930s, for example, Barbusse and Souvarine.
Much of the current media attention has focused on Hergé's politics and the question of whether the crude right-wing interpretation of the Soviet Union found in the first Tintin adventure can be traced throughout the series of children's books. The accusations which were levelled at Hergé and Tintin during the 70th anniversary period are familiar. As no doubt many readers of M&CF will know there are many proximities between Hergé's life and Franco-Belgian right-wing ideology. Similarly, it has been well documented that the narrative content of several Tintin stories can be interpreted as reinforcing outdated stereotypes. For instance, Tintin's travels to the Belgian Congo are deeply marked by the editorial standards of the ultraconservative press for which they were first commissioned. They are not as subtle as the post-1945 adventures which marked the highpoint of Hergé's activities and formed the Tintin cult of the 1950s. The infamous Tintin au Congo is still to be translated into English. The crude image of Africa that it contains is too offensive for the British market. On the other hand, this is not such a sensitive issue in France, or for that matter Germany, where popular editions of Congo are sold as an integral part of the standard series of books. Indeed, Benoît Peeters, author of a major study on these matters, sees this element as a positive virtue, with Tintin au Congo offering a historic snapshot of the imperialist mindset.
Hergé's association with Léon Degrelle forms a second area of interrogation. One must acknowledge that Tintin's creator provided cover illustrations for early political pamphlets written by the infamous fascist. The extent to which this was a commercial arrangement more than a political commitment is impossible to assess precisely. Pierre Assouline, probably the world's leading expert on Hergé's life, accepts that the father of Tintin was 'under the influence' of the fascisant Catholic milieu, but equally he notes that Hergé's main obsession was the successful publication and dissemination of his artwork. Whatever the case, the knowledge that the Tintin strip continued to be published in the collaborating Le Soir, with its stories occasionally containing anti-Semitic clichés, makes it impossible to see Hergé as anything other than someone who was prepared to work within the Nazi New Order. Ultimately Hergé was a target for imprisonment during the purge, only being saved from trial because leaders of the Belgian resistance saw a continued place for his creation in their press.
The purpose of returning to these topics here is to throw two less well-known sidelights on the current debate. First, many readers should realise that contemporary attention which treats Hergé's war record has led to an almost complete neglect for the team production of many of the famous Tintin books. The constant press attention devoted to Hergé's life story and politics has obscured the extensive network of illustrators and assistants that contributed to the œuvre. While Hergé is undoubtedly the father of Tintin, it is too long overdue that a number of other artists should be given wider credit, particularly in Britain, for their work on the series.
Among the many craftsmen who assisted Hergé on the adventures of Tintin, as well as the postwar children's weekly comic of the same name, were Edgar P. Jacobs, Jacques Martin, and Bob de Moor. It was Jacobs acting as 'coloriste' and 'décoriste' who assisted Hergé in the considerable task of transforming many of the prewar newspaper strips into the more familiar colour Casterman editions. In fact, it was this process which removed many of the interwar details which were likely to cause political offence in post-Liberation Europe. Jacobs assisted in the production of the subtly revised versions of Congo, in Tintin en Amérique, and subsequently in Le Trésor de Rackham le Rouge. His artistry was also integral to the creation of what are sometimes considered the finest Tintin adventures, the twin books, Les Sept Boules de Cristal and its sequel, Le Temple de Soleil. Not only restricted to artistic tasks, Jacobs records in his memoirs that he also conducted meticulous research in the museums of Brussels for the authentic bric-à-brac, antiques and objets d'art which fill every frame of the narratives. These contributions were never recognised on the cover of a Tintin publication. Instead, Jacobs was incarnated in the Cigars of the Pharaoh mystery, depicted by Hergé in the text as a mummified archaeologist, 'E. P. Jacobini'. Briefly, he is also to be glimpsed in a second adventure, this time more flatteringly portrayed as a distinguished officer in the service of the fictitious Central European power, Syldavia. Comparatively unknown outside of Belgium or France, Jacobs' individual work is best captured in the 1950s series, Blake et Mortimer. A detective 'BD', the books repeat the detail and seriousness of Tintin, continuing what is known as the 'clear line' style of drawing.
The repeated controversy surrounding Hergé's politics and the potential interpretations that can be placed on the adventures of Tintin has also neglected many other contributors. As Pierre Assouline showed in his excellent biography, Hergé, it was not only in terms of artistic precision and assistance that a group was at work.1 Focusing on the Tintin weekly magazine in which many of the stories were first published in serial form, collaboration included a strong narrative contribution from associates like Bob de Moor. Remarkably, it was de Moor who sketched perhaps the most powerful image from the entire series, the world famous and red-and-white Moon rocket, pictured on the cover of Objectif Lune. These important details about the production of a 'BD' series have been lost in the polemic of accusation and counter-accusation which perpetually refer back to Hergé and the années noires.
There is a second and more politically disturbing edge to the Tintin debates witnessed in the recent anniversary period. The dominant focus on Hergé's war, although sometimes written with a denunciatory tone, tends to coincide with the cultural agenda of today's extreme right-wing. As has been witnessed for some time in France, groups like the Front national (FN), and especially the intellectuals of the Nouvelle Droite, associated with Alain de Benoist, delight in establishing the cultural contributions which the far Right has made to European civilisation. It is a matter of prestige and pride that eminent thinkers, novelists, historians and journalists have come from the extreme right-wing tradition. For example, in terms of historiography, FN scholars like to remember and to discuss the major writers which came out of the Action française movement and its daily newspaper. Jacques Bainville, Pierre Gaxotte, Funck-Brentano, Philippe Ariès and others are often praised in the pages of the newspaper National hebdo. Similarly, the weekly literary column published in the same paper, Jean Mabire's 'Que lire?', celebrates the aesthetic contribution of the far Right to intellectual and artistic life. So, whatever one thinks of Hergé's politics, the extreme right-wing are only too happy to welcome him into their ranks. The mainstream journalists who wished to condemn Hergé's fascist sympathies are indirectly assisting in his recuperation by these groups.
In fact, for New Right magazines like Eléments almost any aspect of popular culture is open for association with the tradition. In the area of the 'BD' this strategy has not been limited to Tintin but has included the lesser known Edgar P. Jacobs and his aforementioned series, Blake et Mortimer. For example, on the publication of a new adventure in this series, in 1996, Eléments claimed that the story, 'L'Affaire Francis Blake', contained a New Right semiology, Jean Desperts argued that its conspiratorial worldview, and infrequent references to Celtic mythology, placed the work close to the New Right cultural agenda. Likewise, he noted that de Gaulle had sought to ban a previous Jacobs book—implicitly suggesting that this meant that the artist was of the non-Gaullist Right, itself a coded euphemism for Pétainism. The pseudo-recuperation which was developed is false. For instance, the adventure in question appears to be derived from John Buchan's classic spy thriller, The 39 Steps, an interpretation which is cleverly acknowledged by Desperts. Nonetheless, on a point of detail, it is worth noting that de Gaulle had only sought to suppress publication of Jacobs' work on the grounds of the violence of its images, rather than on any issue of political antipathy. The story in question, Le Piège diabolique, was adapted for children's radio and found no problem in gaining a licence for its audio transmission. That writers from the Eléments school go to such lengths to claim aspects of European cultural history as their own shows how content they must be by Hergé's almost constant popular affiliation with their cause.
Where does the coincidence between a left-of-centre denunciation and an extreme right-wing recuperation, outlined above, leave Tintin and Milou in their 70th year? In practical terms, although widely documented, the politics of Tintin has almost no bearing on the continued popularity of the series, nor for that matter the millions of other 'BD' which are sold across Europe each year. Here, it is true that all publicity is good publicity. On the other hand, what one is in the process of witnessing is the birth of a potentially never-ending debate. First, mainstream journalists 'reveal' Hergé's political record, subsequently, the far Right champion Tintin as 'their own' which, in turn, only produces further mainstream indignation. Likewise, until there is an end to moralising judgements about the conduct of Europeans in the interwar and occupation periods there is no likelihood of a suspension of interest. Finally, it is plausible to argue that the dynamics of the phenomena I have outlined exclusively serve the contemporary extremists. No matter what further revelations relate Tintin to fascism, this aspect will not seriously harm the popularity of the series. None of the denunciations which have looked at Hergé's record have significantly undermined sales of the 'BD' or related merchandising. With this fact in mind, the only genuine function of the discourse has been to push Hergé closer to contemporary neo-fascism than the internationalist or apolitical content of many of the Tintin adventures merit. As Captain Haddock would have reacted, between sips of rich Loch Lomand whisky, 'Mille Sabords!'
1. ASSOULINE, P., Hergé (Gallimard-Folio, 1998).
Jan Baetens (essay date fall 2001)
SOURCE: Baetens, Jan. "Tintin the Untranslatable." Sites: The Journal of 20th-Century Contemporary France 5, no. 2 (fall 2001): 363-71.
[In the following essay, Baetens asserts that, despite the numerous translations of Hergé's comic strips that have been released worldwide, the "Tintin" series remains wholly untranslatable due to the inherent loss of important cultural subtleties when moving between foreign languages.]
The fact that Tintin has been translated in no way means that this most "universal" of comic strips is in any way translatable. This paradoxical assertion—and the one I shall defend in this article—may seem absurd, for the simple reason that translations do exist, and their very existence solves the problem in the most peremptory way. After all, history is always right … Still, it is obvious that the very idea of "translation" is not used in the same way by those who, on the one hand, claim that Tintin can be translated because it has been, and by those, on the other, who deem that it is not translatable because of certain difficulties unique to Hergé's writing. The first point of view is more normative, attaching the greatest value to "exact" relations between source text and target text. The second point of view attempts to relativize the norms that are in place in both the source and target text. Let us recall that, broadly speaking—and I am aware that this generalization is a bit too sweeping—there are two approaches to translation, which are everything but interchangeable. The first—evaluative and literary—holds that, when it comes to complex, multilayered texts, no translation can be a good translation and, when it comes to very complex and very multilayered texts, even a satisfactory translation is not really possible. The second approach, non-evaluative and a-literary (to avoid the terms "objective" and "scientific," which are too fraught), adopts an entirely different point of view in order to put into question, not the value of translation proper, but the effect produced by a translation. The value, according to the first acceptation of the term "translation," depends on a comparison of source and target texts. The effect produced, according to the second acceptation, is a function of the transformation of a given cultural system inevitably altered by the arrival of a foreign element. In contemporary translation studies, it becomes obvious that the second approach—one that replaces the concept of translation by that of intercultural communication—is becoming increasingly dominant.1
To suggest, as I do, that Tintin cannot be translated is to adhere to the first definition. But it is also a way of reminding us of the limits of today's dominant approach. For in leaving aside the problems of value and judgment implicit in a more literary, more literal approach to translation, the intercultural communication approach at times arrives at results that are a wee bit perverse, or, in any event, unsought and unexpected. (This is true of course for any type of research worth its salt.) In this instance, to refuse to question the details of Hergé's texts risks reproducing and reinforcing the very idea that the advocates of "cultural studies"—one of whom the author of the present text claims to be, and not without a rather hypocritical love of self-contradiction—are trying to eliminate: that of a fundamental difference between, on the one hand, a literary masterpiece whose letter and meaning must be strictly followed and, on the other, something as banal as a popular comic strip (if Tintin had been a movie, we could have spoken, and rightfully so, of something straight out of … Hollywood.) The present article, however, insists that Hergé's work deserves the same attention as any literary work, and starts from the premise that only this kind of approach—one that equalizes from above rather than from below—is capable of putting an end to the sterile polemic of "high" and "low" in matters cultural. The debate about translating Hergé thus leads to a much larger discussion, one that does not spring from some sort of nostalgia for the good old days of "Great Literature," but, on the contrary, calls for respecting all literature equally.
But let's get to the point. Tintin, then, is untranslatable. Fine. But why? The fundamental reason is cultural, even political, since Hergé was in part a bilingual author, but a bilingual author who practiced an oblique bilingualism, one that is repressed and has become incomprehensible to the contemporary reader. Of course, "bilingualism" here does not refer to the recourse to all sorts of words and expressions in foreign languages that pepper the solidly and "purely" French dialogue of Tintin. (Let's not forget that we are in the land of Maurice Grevisse, whose Le bon usage formed generations of school-children!) Rather, it refers to the borrowing of numerous elements from the Flemish dialect that was still being spoken in Brussels when Hergé was young, and whose expressions could mingle freely with French (Belgian and Brussels French, we mean here) in popular speech. Hergé would take great care to eliminate from his texts this popular mixing of two dialects, neither of which was the "official language," just as, in visual terms, his style arrived at the famous "ligne claire" only by taming what was joyously anarchic and disordered in his early endeavors, and just as the language his heroes speak became increasingly polished (and, at the very end, perfectly aseptic, again like his graphic style, which quickly degenerated into academism from the sixties on). This effacement faithfully followed the linguistic politics of the country, which relied on the eradication of dialects, with great success in the French-speaking part of the country, as well as on an increasingly clear separation between the Flemish and French-speaking communities, even in places such as Brussels where they lived in symbiosis.
This makes it easy to understand why the presence of the Bruxello-Flemish dialect (Marrollian) soon became incomprehensible to the French-speaking readers of Tintin, just as the Flemish readers (of whom there were fewer, since the series was never really "popular" in Flanders, where it was always considered a "comic strip for intellectuals") were obviously much less sensitive to it, because the distance between the disguised borrowings from Marrollian and the surrounding language were not nearly as great in the translations into Dutch as they were in the original French. The question to be raised at this point has less to do with the discreet appeal to a public that was originally bilingual but had, one could say, disappeared along the way (since Belgians were becoming less and less bilingual). Rather, it had more to do with the reasons that led Hergé to preserve a bilingualism that—as he no doubt realized early on—was no longer relevant. Indeed, in a medium as sensitive to public reaction as the comic book—the contemporary paragon of popular literature and the serial tradition—if Hergé continued to include fragments of Marrollian in Tintin, it was because he was counting on a particular effect. Why carry on in this vein when such a break between the author and his public occurs? This break was dangerous, especially in terms of sales figures. (And we know that, like all comic-book artists of his generation, Hergé believed himself to be a businessman as well as an artist.) One can thus assume that the author of Tintin must have had—or believed he had—excellent reasons for continuing to have some of his characters speak Marrollian.
For it is Marrollian we are talking about here. Some of the characters speak this Flemish dialect, and others speak French, and it is absolutely impossible to confuse the two. The characters who speak Marrollian are in fact the foreign villains par excellence. Not that all foreigners and all villains speak Flemish in Hergé's work. The rule of thumb in Tintin is the well-known one of popular entertainment: in principle—except in cases when an immediate comic effect is called for—everyone speaks the same language. (Some of course—"we"—speak it better than others—"they"—even if it is true that Hergé did not use pidgin systematically.) On the contrary, the absolute foreigners—the Arumbaya tribe of The Broken Ear, who remain in a state of absolute non-civilization; and the Bordurian tyrant, that arch-villain in whom Stalin is easily recognizable—have the dubious honor of being associated with the use of Marrollian, however difficult it may be at times for them to disguise this depraved linguistic nature.
Still, we must be careful not to read what I just said too literally, because it would lead us to believe that Hergé is making fun—or worse—of the Flemish (and God knows that the relationship between the two linguistic communities has been difficult, especially perhaps during the years in which Hergé's work became well known). If there is humor in this combination of the foreigner and the "other" language of Belgium—and I do not think it can be denied—this humor is not offensive. As far as I know, the fact that Hergé links the Bordurian tyrant to the Flemish language has never been perceived as a mark of aggressiveness toward a community that was long dominated by the French-speaking elite, but became ever less inclined to tolerate their status as second-class citizens. In fact, the opposite is more likely: what Flemish readers noticed—and appreciated!—is above all, and perhaps even exclusively, this persistent use of the Marrollian dialect, which they were proud and amused to find in a comic strip meant to be "universal," and whose regular reappearance was perceived as a kind of insider's joke, even a homage. Most probably, the clear presence of one of their dialects in a series that was internationally prominent must have amused and encouraged the Flemish at a time in their history when they were deprived manu militari, so to speak, of their dialects, which were first decreed unacceptable, and then replaced by a standardized language strongly influenced by the Dutch model, and which the majority of speakers found to be artificial.
Appearances to the contrary, it would be a great mistake to interpret the vestiges of Marrollian as an anti-Flemish move. Something else was at stake for Hergé, and it will help explain more clearly why Tintin may be considered untranslatable.2
I would like to point to two mechanisms that are put into play by the inclusion of fragments of foreign languages (Flemish or others), and which in the end affect all of Hergé's works.
The first has to do with the fact that bilingualism, and therefore the desire to translate, prove to be contagious. In fact, once a reader realizes that a certain number of apparently non-problematic elements lend themselves to the game of translation (for example, a character's name or the name of a foreign city)—thereby revealing an excess of meaning that was originally unsuspected—the entire text of the comic book is potentially opened to this kind of reinterpretation. Bianca Castafiore, for example, must also be read as "Blanche Chaste-Fleur" or "White Chaste-Flower"; and the onomastic pseudo-Arabic may be read in light of Marrollian (the rebel Sheik "Bab-El-Her" can then be understood as "Bavard," or "Talkative One," from the Marrollian "babbeleir"; the name of his country, "Khemed," becomes "I've got it," from the Marrollian "k hem het," the popular equivalent of "Eureka!" (and the perfect self-reflexive designation of a term for which we are, precisely, seeking … the meaning!); the Bordurian language gradually reveals its secrets (if only with the help of the context, which most often leads us in the right direction). In other words, all these translation exercises plant the seed in the reader's mind that something may also be hidden in the French terms themselves, which are, a priori, less suspect. As soon as that particular click occurs in the brain, nothing can stop the reader, who suddenly reads "loup" (wolf) in "Milou" (Tintin's dog), scrutinizes the hidden meanings of Captain Haddock's curses (too strangely "polite" and bizarrely "literary" not to arouse the reader's suspicions), wonders why words are broken up in the balloons the way they are (in the small space of the balloons, the insertion of letters and syllables sometimes obeys a logic that is more visual than traditionally linear), and, finally, multiplies the relationships between, on the one hand, this duplicity on the level of the text, that is, on the level of linguistic elements inscribed or drawn in Tintin and, on the other, the more general thematics of inquiry where, in the boy-scout tradition from which Tintin derives, secret codes and languages are run of the mill. In short, the contagious nature of foreign languages injects into Tintin a kind of internal or interior bilingualism, and transforms the language of the books into a language that is virtually double, into the translation of an underlying language that the act of reading must bring to light. In this sense, Tintin is untranslatable at first glance since the text itself appears less as a text likely to be translated into other languages and more as a text already translated from an original that, since it depends on the hermeneutic abilities of an ideal reader who has become almost impossible to find, is problematic. In order to "translate" such a multilayered text, "translation" is not sufficient, everything must be "rewritten." (A rewriting in Creole or Joual, for example, could give an idea of what I mean.)
A second mechanism is added to this to reinforce the principle of untranslatability. It has to do with the text's penetration of the image and vice versa. This operation is the logical extension of the fascination with foreign languages, which we have seen is gradually transformed into a fascination with language (French) itself as a virtually foreign language. In fact, with this second mechanism, it is not only the text that is doubled, but also the relationship between text and image. Far from being conceived simply in terms of complementarity or of determination (in Roland Barthes's terms, one would speak of "relays" in the first instance and of "anchorages" in the second), this relation becomes more ambiguous, more ambivalent in Tintin, as the image recovers some of the dimensions of language and vice versa. Such reciprocal interpenetration brings about new forms of bilingualism, each "code," each "medium" (the verbal and the iconic) becoming in a certain sense a hybrid structure that violently resists any translation in the classic meaning of the term. From this viewpoint, it immediately appears that a "good" translation should not only tackle the transposition of the text, but also the transposition of the image—and this is something that most traditional theories of translation have difficulty conceiving.
Given the complexity of the stratagems in question, an example will be helpful. Let us take, then, the front cover of Coke en stock (1958), in which the illustration is inscribed in the center of a perfectly circular frame. We see the story's protagonists crying for help from a makeshift raft. Without either the possibility or the necessity of offering here a detailed analysis of the links between the cover and the album,3 we can at least point to a few traits that highlight the interpenetration of text and image. Thus, first of all, we have the visual pun that associates the representation of water ("eau" in French, pronounced like "o" in "tone") with the letter "o" that appears several times, and, on another level, with the "circles." The story that is announced on the cover takes place in the middle of the ocean, the shape of the frame that surrounds it is circular, and the grapheme "o" appears in entirely strategic places in the title. Thus the structural echoes of the visual motif of circularity occur within the specifically linguistic layer: not only does the text multiply the "o"s, but these letters also support, in combination with other letters and other sounds of course, a circular effect that here takes the form of a graphico-acoustic palindrome: the beginning and the end of the title (CO//OC [K]) echo one another visually, anticipating several themes and aspects of the plot that will soon unfold before our eyes and that will be, unsurprisingly of course, particularly … circular. This intertwining of the iconic and the linguistic—of which we find multiple examples in Tintin—introduces into Tintin another kind of bilingualism, this time linked to the mixing of two semiotic systems, and thus a second kind of untranslatability. In order to translate the verbo-visual network of Coke en stock —even simply as it appears on the cover—it would almost be necessary to redraw everything, which would rapidly lead to insurmountable difficulties. How, for example, could the story of Coke en stock be transposed in a landscape that could correspond to the pun "eau=O=circle": the pun works perfectly well with the aquatic motif in French, but gets lost in any "simple" translation.
Obviously it is not sufficient simply to claim failure, or impossibility, pure and simple. That Tintin is, on a certain level, untranslatable, and that the vast majority of existing translations lamentably proves this fact is one thing. Knowing how to deal with this fact is something else entirely. I think that, on this level, there are two strategies that deserve closer attention. First, there is of course the fact that the impossibility of a translation is never absolute and that the degree of difficulty of the task of the translator can be considered a challenge rather than a dissuasive obstacle. This of course presupposes that the still too often upheld distinction between great literary texts—where the idea of a demanding and creative translation is perfectly accepted—and the byproducts of mass culture—where translation is experienced as a tedious pensum without intellectual value—will be abolished. The example of Tintin clearly shows that such an opposition is not valid.
Yet, another path is more interesting still. The formal and semantic difficulties of translating Tintin should not only push translators (and the presses that pay them) to revise their work; these difficulties should also encourage readers and critics (that is, all readers who write) to integrate the bilingual and hybrid mechanisms of Tintin into their own reading, and to explore in their analyses the implications of this kind of duplicity. A good example can be seen in the work of those who pastiche Hergé (and is there a better example of active, creative criticism than pastiche?), who are not all obsessed with the sole idea of bringing to light Hergé's sexual innuendoes, but who also are often actually happy to rework the author's language. In which case they do not really deal with style, but give themselves over wholeheartedly to questions of bilingualism. The best pastichers of the "ligne claire"4 are not people who undress la Castafiore or who show, with a nod to Warhol, the bizarre nature of the friendship between Tintin and his dog, but those who have managed to rediscover the verbal verve and energy of the popular speech that so inspired Hergé. There remain in Tintin sufficient traces of this speech that reorienting the reading of Hergé in this direction can become an important part of any future Tintinology worthy of this name.
1. I cannot go into detail here regarding the differences and similarities between the Dutch language (spoken in Holland) and the Flemish language (spoken in northern Belgium). Officially, they are the same language, but the relationship between the two is, to say the least, complex and complicated. But for our purposes here, the split between the two is not important.
2. I am leaving aside the biographical motives of the author, who must have heard Marrollian at home and for whom the continued use of a language associated with the world of childhood was no doubt related to feelings that had little to do with the linguistic politics of the country.
3. See my Hergé écrivain (Brussels: Labor, 1987).
4. I am thinking in particular of Yves Chaland, author of Bob Fish (Lausanne: Les humanoïdes associés, 1981), and Le jeune Albert (Lausanne: Les humanoïdes associés, 1985, 1993), a masterpiece that has not yet been sufficiently recognized as such.
Michael Farr (essay date 2001)
SOURCE: Farr, Michael. "Tintin and Alph-Art." In Tintin: The Complete Collection, pp. 198-203. London, England: John Murray, 2001.
[In the following essay, Farr offers a critical overview of Hergé's final, unfinished "Tintin" story, Tintin and Alph-Art, calling the volume "a fascinating and fitting testament that provides a considerable insight into [Hergé's] working methods."]
Tintin's final, least known adventure is an almost perfect ending to more than fifty years of defying danger, threats to his life and a succession of villains. Unfinished at Hergé's death in March 1983, [Tintin and Alph-Art, ] this ultimate episode left Tintin's own fate in the balance. Was he to escape the gruesome prospect of being cast as a "living" statue, or not? It was a singularly appropriate end for a reporter who had achieved worldwide fame and whose likeness had already been unveiled as a bronze statue in a Brussels park.
In fact, the fate of both Tintin and Hergé was inextricably bound. Whether and how Tintin escaped this time depended on Hergé living long enough to save him. He did not. For fifty-four years the artist had breathed life into the intrepid young reporter; now that "the good God"—to use his own words—had taken him, his reputation would live on through the extraordinarily enduring popularity of Tintin.
"Tintin, c'est moi!" Hergé had declared. Tintin was his sole creation, his only child. With the setting up of the Studios, others had helped fill in the details, design the uniforms, draw the background, the cars, the aeroplanes. But Tintin himself, his companions and every adventure into which he was propelled were Hergé's responsibility alone. When Edgar-Pierre Jacobs had suggested a shared credit, Hergé ended the collaboration. Bob De Moor was probably the ideal assistant because he accepted his subordinate role willingly. Nevertheless, his closeness to and friendship with Hergé did not qualify him to complete—as he would have liked—the unfinished adventure or undertake any others.
"There are certainly a number of things which my collaborators can do without me and many that they can do better," Hergé told Sadoul, "but to breathe life into Tintin, Haddock, Calculus, the Thom(p)sons and all the others, I believe that only I can do that: Tintin (and each of the others) is me, as Flaubert said: 'Madame Bovary, c'est moi!' It is highly personal work, in the same way as a painter's or novelist's. If others were to continue Tintin, they might do better, they might do worse. One thing is certain, they would do it differently and so it wouldn't be Tintin any more!1"
So Tintin, locked up on the glittering island of Ischia and in a particularly tight corner, came to an end when, on March 3, 1983, a few months short of his 76th birthday, Hergé, who had been suffering from anaemia, passed away in a Brussels hospital.
He had been in poor health for some time. A programme of elaborate celebrations and social engagements for Tintin's fiftieth birthday in 1979 left him exhausted. But physical weakness did not prevent him launching into the new adventure with a gusto not seen since he had embarked upon The Castafiore Emerald.
The drawing for Tintin and Alph-Art —the name he devised for an art movement based on the letters of the alphabet; in English a better translation would have been Tintin and Alpha-Art —is full of a vigour and enthusiasm disappointingly absent from the two previous adventures: Tintin and the Picaros and Flight 714.
The sketches, in pencil and black ballpoint, occasionally heightened in red, black or blue felt-tip pen, extend to forty-two pages of the intended book. The opening frames are highly worked and practically ready for the final ink drawing. The subsequent draft pages are in varying states of advancement, with some existing in different versions. The most rudimentary sketches have an electricity of line that marks Hergé out from his most talented collaborators. The flow, even in such rough form, is remarkable, the story compelling. All in all, it promised to be Hergé's most accomplished Tintin story for twenty years.
It would have been a great loss to have held back an adventure of such potential because of the raw state it was left in. But with twenty pages left to run and Hergé's concept still in a state of flux, it would have been too much—despite his eagerness—for Bob De Moor to complete. The result would certainly have been a pale and inexact reflection of what Hergé himself would have achieved.
Aware of the possibilities and difficulties posed by Hergé's final thoughts, his widow Fanny came to a decision that respected his intentions and preserved their integrity. So in 1986 Tintin and Alph-Art was published as a book in the state in which it had been left: a collection of unfinished sketches with, for the sake of coherence, Hergé's handwritten text typed out separately in the manner of a playscript. It is a fascinating and fitting testament that provides a considerable insight into his working methods. An English translation followed in 1990.
But this twenty-fourth adventure is very much the odd-one-out, incomplete as it is. Even the pioneering black and white Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, which years later Hergé reluctantly agreed could be republished in facsimile form, is less exceptional. If this was music, it would be no symphony but the as yet unorchestrated piano sketches for one. Some effort is needed to follow an adventure which in embryo form is above all a reward for the most dedicated Tintin enthusiasts. Having devised a good many plots over the years, Hergé hit this time upon an idea that appealed to him strongly.
After completing Tintin and the Picaros he had spoken of the possibility of a scenario which "had as a background, the world of painting.2" This time he decided to bring together the often affected and artificial world of modern art with the "production line" forgery of well-known masters. Somehow implicated in the forgery racket is a dubious religious sect and its sinister leader, a vaguely familiar figure.
This intriguing art world-related scenario superseded Hergé's earlier idea of setting his next adventure in an airport terminal, a location already exploited with some success in the opening pages of Flight 714.
As an avid gallery-goer and collector of modern art, Hergé was all too familiar with the round of private views where, champagne glass-in-hand, invited guests would attend an exhibition on the eve of its opening to the general public. If tempted, they could make a purchase and have a red spot placed on a chosen work of art. They were able, moreover, to chat with dealers, critics and, of course, the artist him- or herself. In Brussels, Hergé could regularly be spotted at such occasions and it is exactly such a scene that inspired one of his first sketches for the new adventure's opening. Subsequently, however, he relocated the first page to Marlinspike where Haddock has a fearful nightmare involving Castafiore transmuted into a predatory bird.
If Hergé denied that he intended a final parade or curtain-call of characters in Tintin and the Picaros, he could not this time. He realised that if he was to finish the new adventure, it would be his and Tintin's last. So apart from the usual cast—Tintin, Snowy, Haddock, Calculus, Castafiore, The Thom(p)sons, Nestor, Wagg—we find among his notes for possible inclusion names from the sometimes distant past: Dawson, the chief of police of the International Concession in Shanghai in The Blue Lotus who also reappears as an arms dealer in Red Sea Sharks ; the bullying industrialist Gibbons from The Blue Lotus whom Hergé mistakenly refers to here as Gibson; Chicklet whom he wrongly spells Chicklett (Trickler in the English translation) of "General American Oil" in The Broken Ear ; the clairvoyante from The Seven Crystal Balls Madame Yamilah and her husband; the crooked antique dealers the Bird brothers and the collector Ivan Sakharine from The Secret of the Unicorn/Red Rackham's Treasure, as well as Kanrokitoff and Carreidas (a competitive collector of modern art) from Flight 714. Ben Kalish Ezab is interviewed on television while, predictably, his son Abdullah is responsible for the Thom(p)sons' and Haddock's exploding cigars.
Then there are the new characters connected with the art world, notably the artist and forger Ramo Nash (Ramon Hasj in an early draft), short, bearded and a wearer of Cuban heels, and the gullible gallery assistant Martine Vandezande who, with her large spectacles and dark flowing hair, bears a marked resemblance to the singer Nana Mouskouri. She is one of the few women—apart from Castafiore—to be given more than a walk-on role in a Tintin adventure.
There are other additions. Since her gift of a parrot to Haddock in The Castafiore Emerald, the diva has herself acquired a miniature French poodle which forcefully rejects the brusque attentions—"Hello beautiful!"—of Snowy.
Religious sects, whether escapist or fashionable, had a topicality in the early 1980's that has not been lost since. Generally based on the charismatic personality of an "enlightened" individual, they rely on a fanatically loyal following prepared to reject everyday values and be subjugated to the leader's authority. Hergé produces such a character in the enigmatic Endaddine Akass, the villain of the piece. The gallery assistant Martine is among those to fall under his spell.
There was an actual model for Akass: the notorious purveyor of art forgeries Fernand Legros, a colourful character whose beard, sunglasses and pendant are echoed in Hergé's drawing of the sect leader. But it is obvious too that behind the mask is one of Tintin's oldest adversaries. Nonetheless, just as Hergé's death left Tintin's fate uncertain, so confirmation is withheld that the redoubtable, irrepressible Rastapopoulos has indeed returned to resume his duel with the reporter after his presumed demise at the close of Flight 714.
As Rastapopoulos reminded Tintin towards the end of The Blue Lotus : "And you thought I died … Rastapopoulos, alive and well … And as always, coming out on top …"
Like Conan Doyle's Moriarty, Rastapopoulos was a master of both the unexpected comeback and disguise: as himself (The Blue Lotus and Flight 714 ), as the Marquis of Gorgonzola in The Red Sea Sharks, and now as Endaddine Akass? If not the first villain—various Bolsheviks and a collection of gangsters in the pay of the very real Al Capone preceded him—Rastapopoulos was by far the most durable and formidable of Tintin's opponents. Filmmaker and cinema mogul, drug smuggler, tycoon, slave trader, hijacker and kidnapper, he was a man without morals, a suitable adversary for the impeccably upright reporter. Ill-gotten gains gave him a fortune and a taste for modern art already evident on his lavishly appointed yacht in The Red Sea Sharks. As the Marquis of Gorgonzola, moreover, his name had already been romantically linked to Bianca Castafiore who here is infatuated with Endaddine, whom she considers "the most ad-o-o-rable man."
When out of curiosity Tintin and Haddock attend Endaddine's advertised "Health and Magnetism" meeting, the reporter notes: "That voice … Some of his intonations remind me of … of … but of whom?"
Later, after arriving on Ischia, Tintin receives an anonymous telephone call advising him to leave by the next boat. "Crumbs!… That voice?" he remarks after the receiver is slammed down.
In Flight 714 after the Carreidas jet is skyjacked and landed on the island runway, Tintin hears an angry shout and thinks: "That voice!?" A moment later he exclaims: "Rastapopoulos" and sure enough the reply comes "Himself, dear boy!"
The Road to Immortality
With Alph-Art, Hergé admitted that he was unsure where the adventure was taking him. "Unfortunately I cannot say much about this forthcoming Tintin adventure because, though I started it three years ago, I have not had much time to work on it and still do not know how it will turn out. I know very roughly where I am going … I am continuing my research and I really do not know where this story will lead me," he said just three months before his death.
There were similarities with the early days when he was writing his strip for Le Petit Vingtième from one week to the next, not knowing exactly until the night before what twist or turn the tale would take. The adventure would run its course, eventually reaching a conclusion at which point it could, with some editing, be transformed into book form.
Had Hergé lived to continue the adventure, one must assume that Snowy would once again have rescued his master, as he had last managed when Tintin was locked up in the jungle bunker in Flight 714. This time he will have got to Captain Haddock the message scribbled by Tintin, and at the last possible moment the reporter will be saved from being turned into a sculpture by César, a real artist born in 1921, imitated by Ramo Nash on Endaddine's orders.
"César, the sculptor, the master of compressionism. Look this is one of his. He's also an expansionist, as in this piece here …," Endaddine explains to Tintin on confronting him before the freshly-produced forgeries. "Well, my friend, we're going to pour liquid polyester over you: you'll become an expansion signed by César and then authenticated by a well-known expert. Then it will be sold, perhaps to a museum, or perhaps to a rich collector … You should be glad, your corpse will be displayed in a museum. And no-one will ever suspect that the work, which could be entitled 'Reporter', constitutes the last resting place of Tintin …"
1. Entretiens avec Hergé, op. cit., p. 66.
2. Entretiens avec Hergé, op. cit., p. 202.
Benoît Peeters (essay date August 2002)
SOURCE: Peeters, Benoît. "A Never Ending Trial: Hergé and the Second World War." Rethinking History 6, no. 3 (August 2002): 261-71.
[In the following essay, Peeters re-examines the recurring question of Hergé's political sentiments during World War II, a period which has repeatedly tainted critical appraisals of both the artist's "Tintin" series and his overall legacy.]
Twenty-five years ago, when I first began to write on the Adventures of Tintin, the name of Hergé was already controversial. 'Extreme anti-Communist', 'odious colonialist', 'inveterate reactionary', 'Second World War collaborator', these common judgements were, at the very least, hasty, but they rendered suspect virtually all more attentive readings of his work.
Pierre Assouline's biography of Hergé (1996) tried to clear the air. Thus, when this eminent biographer, known for his work on Gaston Gallimard, Georges Simenon, and other prominent personalities of the 20th century, declared his interest in the creator of Tintin, he demanded free access to the Hergé foundation's archives, including opening files that had previously remained closed. In a methodical fashion, Pierre Assouline undertook the historical and political inquiry that all the world was waiting for, well everyone in Belgium at least. After so many rumours and misunderstandings it was time to soberly dissect the most controversial of dossiers. But although this inquiry, which had been so necessary and was undertaken with so much rigour, constituted a major contribution, it did nothing to quash the rumours about Hergé.
Without doubt some people, like Maxime Benoît-Jeannin, felt that Pierre Assouline's biography did not deal severely enough with Hergé. So, in March 2001, following a withering biography of Maurice Maeterlinck, Benoît-Jeannin, a Frenchman already known in Belgium, published a small pamphlet of 86 pages entitled Le Mythe Hergé (The Hergé Myth). With its hideous unsigned cover illustration, its multiple misprints, its incessant approximations, this short booklet, which also in the final analysis brings nothing new to the subject, does justice neither to the author, the editor, or to the journalists who have reprinted its hateful allegations without the slightest qualification. All this smacks of opportunism and especially it shows that the air has been far from cleared when it comes to Hergé's war record. The trial which Hergé escaped at the time of the liberation seems destined to be never ending, especially in our days of 'political correctness'. We belong to a time when people love to judge, to conclude, to hand out prizes and especially to show-up the faults in others. Sadly, this is also an era when people practice rough justice (without a court or lawyers) just as others practice cod-psychology. An era in which peremptory opinions are pronounced on history while the dramas that are being played out before our eyes are forgotten.
It is not my intention, in only a few pages, to resolve the question of the most difficult chapter in the life of the greatest Franco-Belgian BD artist. For as far as defining clearly the attitude of Hergé under the occupation, one would first have to delve into the period of the cartoonists' youth, the world of the boy scouts and of l'Action catholique in which he grew up. Then one would have to move on to explore the newspaper Le Vingtième siècle in which Tintin was created. I do not intend to look at any of these areas in this essay. Furthermore, it would also be necessary to draw out the specificities of the history of the Nazi occupation of Belgium, a very different situation from the French experience, to also analyse the role of Léopold III and the 'royal question' which split the country, all of which is also impossible within the confines of this brief article. I will therefore only summarize the essential facts, leaving the rest for the biography of Hergé that I am preparing (Peeters 2002).
There is no doubt that Hergé (alias Georges Remi) (1907–83) was profoundly marked by his first mentor, Abbé Wallez, who was an admirer of Mussolini, and that his first publications came from the Catholic milieu that was close to the extreme right-wing. Hergé worked to order, whether it was a matter of running down the 'The land of the Soviets' or capitalist America, or of celebrating the vast colony that was the Belgian Congo. In 1934, his meeting with the young Tchang Tchong Jen marked a new awakening. Now, for the first time, Hergé freed himself from the ideological certainties which had encircled him up to then and he was able to offer a more open outlook.
By the eve of the war, two sentiments guided Hergé's political outlook. Firstly, he believed in a sincere anti-Nazism, witnessed in certain jokes in the Quick et Flupke series and also in the Tintin album Le Sceptre d'Ottokar (1939) (King Ottokar's Sceptre ), and, secondly, most especially, in a neutralist perspective. On the 14 October 1936, King Léopold III gave a powerful speech to the cabinet defending the neutrality of his country. It read:
Our military strategy, like our foreign policy—which necessarily determines the former—must not plan a more or less victorious war, following a coalition view, but to push war away from our country.(…) This is why we must, as the Minister for Foreign Affairs has recently said, follow a policy which is 'exclusively and fully Belgian'.
(cited in Dumoulin et al. 2001: 104-5)
Hergé shared the same views as those gathered around the King. Moreover, he addressed a letter of support to King Léopold. It was only a little later the artist became closer to an influential young journalist named Raymond De Becker, two of whose books he had illustrated at the beginning of the 1930s. In December 1939, Becker founded L'Ouest, which he described rather indulgently as 'the Weekly fight in favour of neutrality'. In it, Hergé published the somewhat forgotten strip, Monsieur Bellum, a typical 'we're-off-to-war' satire. Among the editor's of L'Ouest Hergé indeed rubbed shoulders with several future collaborators.
Hergé's neutralist convictions did not stop him from being mobilized on 1 September 1939, but his poor health permitted him to be quickly demobilized. During the Phoney War, flirting with the contemporary issues of the day, he started to draw the Tintin adventure Au pays de l'Or noir (Land of Black Gold) for Le Petit Vingtième newspaper.
Without an ultimatum or a declaration of war Germany invaded Belgium at approximately 4.30 on the morning of the 10 May 1940. One consequence of this, amongst many others, was that Le Vingtième siècle disappeared. Like nearly a million and a half other Belgians Hergé and those closest to him made for the roads. They left for Paris, and then took refuge in the Massif Central. During these weeks, whilst the Belgian defences and those of their allies collapsed day after day, tensions between the King and his ministers reached breaking point. By 19 May most had left for France. However, Léopold III, who personally had led military operations, refused to leave the country. His duty, he thought, was to remain at the side of his fellow citizens. Subsequently, Hitler demanded an unconditional surrender which Léopold III regretfully accepted so as to avoid a senseless massacre. On the Belgian front-line, a cease-fire was called at four in the morning of 28 May. Shortly after, the radio transmitted the King's message to those who were refugees in France. In particular, it claimed: 'Tomorrow, we put ourselves to work with a strong will to raise the country from its ruins.'
Like the vast majority of Belgians, Hergé approved of Léopold III's position. And, all his subsequent attitudes followed on from this. In a letter to a historian, written sometime later, he explained perhaps most strongly his ideas on this subject:
For my part, sentiment and reason placed me first and foremost, and without hesitation, on the side of those who approved the decision of May 28. Many years have since passed. Never, I think, has any evidence shaken my initial conviction (…) The King was right.1
On 30 June, when Hergé returned to Brussels, he found a country that had been profoundly changed. In contrast to its neighbours, Belgium was placed under the direct authority of a German military administration. General Alexander von Falkenhausen retained full powers and his primary aim was to ensure that the situation rapidly returned to normal, and, in particular, that the country's resources be utilized in support of the German war economy. In short, the occupation was more utilitarian than political.
After the closure of Le Vingtième Siècle Hergé found himself without work. On 10 August, the artist thanked Charles Lesne, his principle correspondent for the Casterman publishing house, for having just handled Hergé's copyright. In the same letter Hergé wrote: 'I am seriously asking myself if I should not embrace a career as a street singer'. Nevertheless, soon after this an offer of work was made to him by one of the lieutenants of the Rexist leader, Léon Degrelle. It was an invitation to come to work for the Pays réel and to produce 'a kind of Petit Vingtième'. Hergé declined this deadly offer. While he had known Degrelle in his youth, when they both worked on Vingtèime Siècle, he had not cared for the political leader. In fact, without doubt, the father of Tintin had already re-contacted Raymond de Becker who had suggested he join him on the leading Belgian daily newspaper, Le Soir, the paper which De Becker had just been appointed to head up.
Hergé was only just 33 years old. This could well have been the age for 'starting out' but he had at least half of his work behind him. Working solidly since 1928, he had drawn eight-and-a-half Tintin adventures, virtually all of the Quick and Flupke series, nearly all the Jo and Zette books and hundreds of illustrations and dust jacket covers. Very quickly his characters were successful in a way that would take much longer for sales to catch-up with. Tintin was still a phenomenon limited to the press and it is cer-tain that at this time Hergé was not in a position to live from his copyright royalties alone. A new source of revenue was needed. And, he had no intention of being forgotten.
Rejoining Le Soir was a personal move by Hergé. A choice that it is important not to understate, even if, thereafter, Hergé always held that he had only sought to stay in work, just as a baker would, and as Léopold III had invited all the Belgians to do. Mainly this is because Le Soir was not just any newspaper to obtain a post with. 'Stolen' from its legitimate proprietors, Raymond de Becker's Le Soir looked to gain from the notoriety of the title from before the war, and succeeded in doing so. A circulation figure of 60,000 copies on 13 June quickly became 100,000, then 200,000, before reaching the 1939 figure of 300,000 daily copies, a considerable number in proportion to the low number of French-speaking Belgians. Ideologically speaking, the autonomy that De Becker claimed for his paper was illusory and his room for manoeuvre could not have been more limited. Even if he did not push pro-Nazi enthusiasm as far as those responsible for other publications, the editor in chief derived his authority from the Propaganda Abteilung and worked under its strict surveillance.
'Tintin and Milou have returned' was the sober headline on the cover of the first issue of the Soir jeunesse (17 October 1940). Now, at the precise moment when Hergé made one of his more questionable political choices, Tintin started to withdraw from politics. Le Crabe aux pinces d'or (The Crab with the Golden Claws) was a new start, a second birth, and the arrival of Captain Haddock provided a new narrative motivation that had great potential. Alongside the 'hollow-headed hero', Tintin, there was now a more complete Romanesque figure who broke abruptly into the story and took no time in finding his place. The new adventure quickly seduced readers and sales for the album started to take off. In fact, they were slowed only by the restrictions on paper.
The following adventure, l'Etoile mystérieuse (The Shooting Star) is much more problematic. Among all the evidence it constitutes the most serious element in the case against Hergé. First, the story begins with the threat of an Apocalypse in the form of a gigantic meteor that is heading towards Earth and bringing with it the prospect of total destruction (an image which can be read as a metaphor for the Belgian military defeat of 1940). In the end, only a fragment of the meteor falls close to the North Pole and two rival scientific expeditions throw themselves into the search for the precious metal that it contains. Some commentators have reproached Hergé on this point because there are only representatives from the Axis Powers and the neutral states amongst the European scientists who embark with Tintin on the good ship 'L'Aurore'. It is however clear that since the story was to be published in a newspaper controlled by the Nazi occupiers he could not have presented it any differently. But if the criticism on this point is a trifle excessive (since neither these scientists or their nationality play any great role in the story), it was at the very least cavalier of Hergé to claim, without more precautions, that the album was about 'the rivalry for progress between Europe and the USA'. On the eve of the Americans' entry into the war, the representation proposed in l'Etoile mystérieuse was more than biased, the behaviour of the Americans in the story being constantly shown to be underhand.
The Blumenstein case is more problematic still. Blumenstein is the financier, devoid of any scruples, who supports the American expedition to capture the meteor. He was drawn according to the stereotypes of the anti-Semitism of the day. Worse still, two boxes from the strip which appeared in the Le Soir serialization, thankfully removed before the first edition of the album, contained a miserable gag which can only disturb all Hergé's admirers. So, while the prophet Philippulus declares the end of the world by tapping on his gong, two Jews are rubbing their hands. Their conversation reads:
You have understood, Isaac? The end of the world! If this was true!
Hey! Hey! This would be a good little earner, Salomon! I owe 50 000 fr to my suppliers … With this, I would not have to pay.2
After the war, Hergé's defence, always remaining the same, was undeniably insufficient:
Effectively I drew an unsympathetic financier, with a Semitic appearance, and with a Jewish name, the name Blumenstein, in L'Etoile mystérieuse. But does this signify anti-Semitism?… It seems to me that, in my panoply of drawings there is everyone. I have shown quite a few bad types from many different origins, without constructing a type particular to such and such a race.(…) Jewish stories, stories of the people of Marseilles, the stories of the Scottish, they have always been told. But who could have foreseen that the Jewish stories, those ones, were going to end in the way that we know they did, in the death camps of Treblinka and Auschwitz?
(cited in Sadoul 2000: 75)
If Hergé was unaware of the Final Solution when he was drawing L'Etoile mystérieuse, he was not lacking in information regarding other anti-Semitic persecutions. Moreover, the first anti-Jewish measures taken in Belgium were on 28 October 1940. Furthermore, in May 1942, one week after the publication of L'Etoile mystérieuse in Le Soir, the Belgian Jews were made to wear the yellow Star of David. As for Gestapo round-ups, they began in July of the same year and of the 70,000 Jews who were living in Belgium in 1940 approximately 32,000 were killed in the Holocaust. The time for 'Jewish stories' was rather misplaced.
The truth is that Hergé's mind was elsewhere. During 1942, and for the following two years, the author of The Adventures of Tintin seemed to hardly notice the war which raged on, except that is for matters that directly concerned him. In his small house on the outskirts of Brussels he worked nearly 12 hours a day, including weekends. Not only did he have to supply a daily strip to Le Soir, but also by February 1942 he succumbed to the advances made by Casterman to 'carefully reduce the number of pages of future Tintins so that they might be printed in colour'. Moreover, it was also necessary to re-edit the prewar albums in the new 62-page format. This task meant that a complete recasting of these albums was necessary. Lettering, the formatting of images, the rhythm of the story, everything had to be rethought. Realizing that it was materially impossible for him to execute all this work alone, Hergé organized 'a workshop, specializing in this kind of work'.
In the next new Tintin story that Le Soir published, the superb twin albums Le Secret de la Licorne (The Secret of the Unicorn) and Le Tresor de Rackham le rouge (Red Rackham's Treasure), Hergé deliberately kept himself at a distance from contemporary events. In an occupied country, where the slightest journey was difficult, he opted for the most romantic theme possible. This was to be the hunt for lost treasure. However, the true importance of these two strips is elsewhere. Hergé deepened his fictional universe and completed his imaginary family of characters. For example, Captain Haddock now finds himself provided with a prestigious past, while Professor Tournesol (Professor Calculus), Nestor, the butler, and the chateau of Moulinsart ('Marlinspike') make their respective debuts in the series. Hergé's universe was enriched and the stories became more complex.
At this time the war changed direction. In political disagreement with the Germans, Raymond De Becker resigned from his post as editor in chief of Le Soir in September 1943 and was subsequently moved to a house in the Bavarian Alps, which was monitored by the Germans. Despite his great affection for De Becker, Hergé did not profit from the situation by quitting Le Soir, which was now placed under the direction of a radical Germanophile, Max Hodeige. Such was the depth of his concentration on his work that it is not even certain that he envisaged the possibility of leaving the paper.
More vigilance was apparent at the Casterman publishing house. When Hergé mentioned his forthcoming edition of L'Etoile mystérieuse, now appearing with the major Flemish daily Het laatste Nieuws, his colleague at Casterman, Charles Lesne, for the first time put him on guard:
The publication of L'Etoile mystérieuse in a daily strip in Het laatste Nieuws is in itself excellent news. I often ask myself—and this is very much a personal reflection—if it would not be more opportune, for your own interests, for you to wait until the end of the war before increasing the publication of your drawings in the press…. We are perhaps not so far from the end of hostilities, and it could happen that once the war is finished there will be reactions which, while unjustified, will be no less disagreeable…. Have you already reflected on this hypothesis?
Hergé's reply was less prudent than the tone of his correspondent. To my knowledge, the following lines are the most explicit statement he ever wrote on collaboration. The decision was made in an absolutely lucid fashion:
I thank you for what you say on the subject of Laatste Nieuws. I did reflect before taking this decision and it seemed that at the end of the day I should accept it. It is now or never to get a foot hold in as many newspapers as possible, even if these papers will come to disappear or change in their direction after the war. Anyway, I will have reached a wider public. And this is an excellent result if one imagines that after all this the American strips and the books will reappear, supported by the propaganda of their cartoon films.3
What follows in the same letter goes beyond irony and testifies to an unpleasant cynicism on Hergé's behalf:
The reactions that you fear are entirely possible. I would even say that they are probable. There are unequivocal signs of it. But I am already listed among the 'traitors' for having published my comic strip in Le Soir, for which I will be shot or hung (we are not yet certain on that point). The worst then that can happen to me is that having been shot (or hung) for my collaboration with Le Soir, I will be re-shot (or re-hung) for my collaboration with Laatste Nieuws, and re-re-shot (or re-re-hung) for my collaboration with l'Algemeen Nieuws, in which my Quick and Flupke series appeared from September '40. The most terrible moment is when one is shot for the first time. After that, it appears you get used to it …
Did Hergé really appreciate the risks he was running? Was he reassuring himself or trying to provoke? One thing for sure is that when one year later he was confronted by the difficulties in question he showed considerably less humour.
In January 1944 the assistance brought by Edgar Jacobs, the future creator of the Blake and Mortimer BD, lifted Hergé's spirits. For some time now Hergé had hoped to meet a true alter ego. Up to the final days of the occupation, he continued to deliver the magnificent scenes from Les Sept Boules de cristal (The Seven Crystal Balls) story to Le Soir and to also continue the re-drafting of his pre-war albums. Writing to Charles Lesne on 19 June 1944 Hergé declared: 'You certainly know the saying: Lord, liberate us from our protectors and protect us from our liberators'. Hergé could not have imagined how true this would be.
Brussels was liberated by English troops on 3 September 1944. Quickly, the legitimate owners of the press took back control of their papers. On 9 September Hergé was arrested, along with many others, and marched by foot to the echoes of jeers from the crowd to Saint-Gilles prison. He spent only one single night in prison. Then he was arrested by another group, and quickly released. All in all, in the first place, Hergé was more frightened than seriously hurt. He even had a tendency to show off which is demonstrated in his letter of 19 September, again to Charles Lesne, who was clearly not of the same opinions as Hergé:
The optimists are wrong. Wrong not to be more optimistic. The pessimists—of which I was one, I swear, are wrong for their brief moment of shame. What is essential is that all this has happened at the speed of lightening, and, for the second time, our country has been, in the main, miraculously saved. Two miracles in four years, that is a lot, and I would never have dared hope for it. I was wrong. So much the better.
Hergé's shame was only brief, if at all. And the summary of the circumstances also rather cavalier. At first Hergé didn't seem to be interrupted in his projects. He even produced some drawings for the historic occasion including illustrating a scarf to the glory of the liberators, and some pretty book dedications to an officer from the 'British Liberation Army'! Moreover, with the help of Edgar Jacobs he finished the colour version of Tintin au Congo and inquired after the original Sceptre d'Ottokar that had been stuck in Paris since the start of the war. It was all as if the shock wave had not yet hit.
It was in the Autumn of 1944 that Georges Remi started to reappear, having been concealed for 15 years or so behind the mask of the nom de plume 'Hergé'. He was 37 years old, and had two thirds of his oeuvre behind him. For the first time in years doubts took hold. Many years later, in his last interview, Hergé still recognized this. In fact, the difficult days of Autumn 1944 were the most important and saddest time of his life. He would never reach an understanding of 'the attacks and the hatred' which were directed at him and especially those which were directed towards his nearest family. He explained:
I had journalist friends who I still believe to this day were absolutely 'clean' and who did not sell out to the enemy. And when I saw some of these people that I knew, and whose personality I knew to be patriotic, condemned to death and some even shot, I no longer understood anything anymore.
This was an experience of absolute intolerance. It was dreadful, dreadful!
(Hergé in Peeters 1990)
Hergé's morale quickly suffered. His self-confidence was broken and he was subjected to long periods of depression in the 15 years that followed. He would never again find the creative energy of his early years.
The artist escaped somewhat better when it came to the question of the legal process. On 8 March 1945 Military Auditor Vincotte shared his doubts with the General Auditor Walther Ganshof van der Meersch. He was increasingly inclined towards not pursuing Hergé. For example:
I estimate that Justice would be undermined if proceedings were brought against an author of harmless children's drawings. However, an examination has been instituted. In question is Le Soir. And, since currently one accepts the principle that cases are to be pursued against those that worked in the collaborationist press, even if they were not personally involved in propaganda…. I am compelled to point out, that, however one looks at it, Remi, with his drawings, is one of those who did the most to sell Le Soir under the Occupation. As I find myself obliged to peruse the literary journalists, the sports' columnists, etc., the writings of whom are nevertheless not subject to criticism, one could say that Hergé has as much, and even more than them, contributed to the approval and spread of the newspaper.
One could not put it any better. The problem is perfectly framed, without hatred but also without indulgence. Also, it is clear that the Military Auditor had not looked so closely at the 'harmless children's drawings'. Comic strips were 'not his thing'. They appeared to him more 'anodyne', or more insignificant, than a sports article.
On 12 October 1945, the scrupulous Vincotte wrote again to the Auditor General:
Preliminary investigation of Hergé has not produced any new information since the 11 September.(…) No other activity, such as cartoons of a propagandistic nature, the membership of a pro-German movement, or even evidence of favourable views towards the New Order have come to light.
The Military Auditor even rejected in very concrete terms the idea that the success of Tintin would have contributed to the sale of Le Soir. He noted:
Everyone knows (…) that very quickly the circulation of newspapers was restricted by the Propaganda (Agency) and that there wasn't unsold stock. The sales figures for the newspaper were determined by the quota of paper fixed by Germany rather than the success of the paper. This being the case, the opposite reasoning, just as theoretical and just as irrefutable, could be made: 'in occupying space in the columns of the paper, in drawing for children, or in speaking of art, or fashion, or sport, I reduced the space reserved for enemy propaganda and I have accomplished a patriotic act'. Moreover, Le Soir had only a moderate position in collaboration and was not subservient to an extremist movement.
Hergé never knew of these documents although if he had they would have probably brought him some relief. It is in any case striking to see that the judges of the purge, acting in the heat of the moment, held a more measured position than the author of Le Mythe Hergé (The Hergé Myth) who was writing sixty years after the events!
Today, what balance sheet can one draw regarding Hergé's attitude during the war?
From a creative point of view these years were essential. Hergé deepened the world of the Adventures of Tintin and drew some of his most beautiful stories. Apart from the at the very least untimely strips from L'Etoile mystérieuse, he kept himself at a remarkable distance from current affairs.
From a moral point of view, one can be more circumspect. Hergé did not conduct himself like an active collaborator but still his attitude was in the very least thoughtless. Uniquely preoccupied with the artistic and commercial development of his work, he lived through the years of the occupation showing an incredible indifference. He saw nothing, and wanted to see nothing.
With his ambiguities and his subsequent loyalty to those who had suffered in the purge, and for who it had not gone so well, the name of Hergé appears to me, when all is said and done, fairly close to that of François Mitterrand. Certainly you can dream of a smoother, franker and more courageous course in life. You can also marvel at the fact that Georges Remi, whose talent developed in such a narrow-minded and hardly sympathetic milieu, succeeded in giving birth to such a universal body of work.
1. Letter from Hergé to Colonel Remy, 19 November 1976.
2. Hergé presented the original conversation in a satirical interpretation of a German Jewish accent. For the record it reads: 'Tu as entendu, Isaac? La Fin du monde! Si c'é tait vrai!'—'Hé! Hé! Ce serait une bonne avaire, Salomon! Che tois 50,000 Frs a mes vournizeurs…. Gomme za, che ne tefrais bas bayer.'
3. Letter from Hergé to Charles Lesne (6 September 1943).
Assouline, P. (1996) Hergé, Paris: Editions Plon.
Benoît-Jeannin, M. (2001) Le Mythe Hergé, Villeurbane: Editions Golias.
Dumoulin, Michel et al. (2001) Léopold III, Bruxelles: Editions Complexe.
Peeters, B. (1990) Le Monde d'Hergé, (updated and reviewed edition), Tournai: Casterman.
Peeters, B. (2002) Hergé, fils de Tintin, Paris: Flammarion.
Sadoul, N. (2000) Tintin et moi. Entretiens avec Hergé, Tournai: Casterman.
Jeff Zaleski (review date 25 November 2002)
SOURCE: Zaleski, Jeff. Review of Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, by Hergé. Publishers Weekly 249, no. 47 (25 November 2002): 45.
This new facsimile reprint of the very first adventure of one of the world's most beloved cartoon characters [Tintin in the Land of the Soviets ] shows Tintin's creator, the famed Belgian cartoonist Hergé, just beginning to learn his craft. The story was originally created in 1929 for a children's supplement in the Belgian newspaper Le Vingtième Siècle. Readers meet Tintin, intrepid red-headed boy reporter, along with his dog, for the first time as they set off to Russia to investigate the evil doings of the Soviets. Hergé later apologized for the heavy-handed anti-Soviet satire on almost every page. The Soviets are generally portrayed as corn-stealing murderous scum; among other things. Tintin is tortured by thoroughly caricatured Chinese employees of the Soviet secret police. These stereotypes and others like them are a part of that time period, although they've been cited as evidence of Hergé's racism. Setting aside the political context, the book is a valuable documentation of the rough and underdeveloped work of Hergé's early years as a cartoonist. Years later, he developed the clear line-drawing style that's influenced generations of European cartoonists. However, while his simple b&w penwork from this period is often clumsy, Hergé's ability to tell a good story is well developed. Tintin rockets from one death-defying scrape to another in a whirlwind of chase scenes. He is dragged behind cars, blown up by explosives, frozen, tortured, shot, chased by a tiger and more, all in the course of a few pages. This is an enthralling look at the early work of one of the greatest cartoonists of all time.
William Cook (essay date 26 January 2004)
SOURCE: Cook, William. "Picture Post." New Statesman 133, no. 4672 (26 January 2004): 38-9.
[In the following essay, Cook maintains that Hergé's reputation has been unfairly tarnished by critics questioning his political affiliations and argues that a cursory examination of the "Tintin" series indicates that Hergé was deeply sympathetic to international human rights issues.]
Seventy-five years ago, a strange new comic strip appeared in a Belgian Catholic newspaper, chronicling the injustices and absurdities of the Soviet Union. It was hardly the most promising subject for a serial, but this unlikely debut heralded the arrival of a journalist whose cuttings file makes Alistair Cooke look like a cub reporter. After all these years, Tintin, created by Hergé (the pseudonym of Georges Rémi), is still the most famous foreign correspondent in the business, even though he never seems to get around to filing any copy. Since 1929, he has sold more than 120 million books in over 50 languages, and this year he celebrates his 75th birthday with a newly minted euro coin, a fresh edition of his final adventure and a major exhibition at London's National Maritime Museum.
A lifetime after his first scoop (and a generation since his last one), Hergé's boyish hack enjoys a bigger byline than ever, and although he inhabits a lost world of seaplanes and ocean liners, his international celebrity shows no sign of waning. His globetrotting escapades continue to sell well, not just because they're among the most beautiful comic books ever produced, but also because they double as a chronicle of the 20th century.
This historical perspective is apparent in Tintin's very first assignment. Hergé subsequently dismissed Tintin in the Land of the Soviets as youthful folly and refused to republish it until the 1970s, when a spate of pirate editions forced his hand. Yet, although the draughtsmanship is relatively rudimentary, there are some inspired satirical touches, as pliable British trade unionists are taken on a sham tour of Bolshevik industry. "That's how the Soviets fool the poor idiots who still believe in a Red Paradise," says Tintin. As Michael Farr observes in Tintin: The Complete Companion (John Murray), the best passages bear comparison with Malcolm Muggeridge's Russian despatches for the Manchester Guardian four years later.
Tintin's next assignment was even more controversial, as our man with the plus fours and windproof quiff set off on a jolly tour of the Belgian Congo. Yet, as Harry Thompson points out in his excellent biography, Tintin: Hergé and His Creation (Hodder & Stoughton), Hergé was scarcely alone in ignoring the vicious repression in this notorious colony, and his attitude to the Congolese was patronising rather than racist. "I was fed on the prejudices of the bourgeois society in which I moved," he told the journalist Numa Sadoul in 1971, in the only substantial interview he ever gave. "I portrayed these Africans according to such criteria, in the purely paternalistic spirit which existed then in Belgium." Indeed, as an authentic record of the imperial mindset, Tintin in the Congo is far more informative than any later, safer study. And anyway, Hergé made amends in Tintin in America, which was remarkably progressive for the 1930s in its Native American sympathies. Hergé included an indictment of lynching, though he had to remove several benign black characters to satisfy his US publishers, who objected to black and white faces appearing side by side in children's books.
Throughout the 1930s, Tintin's reporting grew increasingly courageous. The Blue Lotus lambasted Japan's invasion of China at a time when many Europeans favoured the Japanese. The Japanese ambassador demanded that the book be banned and threatened to take his protest all the way to The Hague. Even the Belgian army got involved. "This is not a story for children," grumbled one general—but as Hergé said, Tintin was for everyone from the age of seven to 77.
Undeterred, Tintin continued to expose corruption in high places. The Broken Ear contained a thinly veiled attack on the real-life arms dealer Sir Basil Zaharoff for selling weapons to both sides in the war between Bolivia and Paraguay. Hergé also attacked western oil companies for their involvement in that bloody conflict (the disputed borderland was awash with oil, and a British company supported Paraguay while an American firm backed the Bolivians). Nor did he shrink from the coming conflict. The Black Island foresaw German plans to destabilise the British economy with counterfeit currency, while King Ottakar's Sceptre bravely alluded to the Anschluss and Sudetenland on the eve of war. Even after he was called up, Hergé began Land of Black Gold, about a dastardly German plot to tamper with Allied oil supplies. Hergé was in France when Belgium fell, temporarily invalided out of the infantry with a bad case of boils, yet he obeyed King Leopold's call for loyal Belgians to return home. The Nazis shut down his old paper, so he started working for another, Le Soir, which was now, like all else Belgian, under German control.
Even with the luxury of hindsight, it is difficult to see what Hergé did wrong. Business as usual was the official policy. Tintin's wartime sagas were scrupulously neutral, and Hergé declined invitations to become a Gestapo informer and the official illustrator of Belgium's fascist Rexist movement. However, when Brussels was liberated, Hergé was ostracised, as the Allies imposed a ban on anyone who'd been employed by the occupied press. Hergé had behaved no differently from numerous patriotic journalists (or countless honourable Belgians in every other line of work), but Tintin was more high-profile than most penny-a-line reporters. Arrested and briefly imprisoned, Hergé toiled away anonymously for nearly two years until he finally secured the certificate of good citizenship he needed to resume Tintin's career. Raymond Leblanc, a publisher and wartime hero, set up Tintin magazine as a weekly forum for his work. Leblanc imposed gruelling deadlines on Hergé, but this helped Tintin get back on his feet.
After these traumas, it's no surprise that Hergé retreated from political reportage, substituting character-driven dramas for the more polemical yarns of his youth. Yet even in his most escapist romps, his humanitarianism shines through, and Tintin couldn't keep away from current affairs for long. Having landed on the moon 16 years before the Americans (in a spaceship inspired by Wernher von Braun's V-2 rocket), he turned his attention to the nuclear espionage of the cold war in The Calculus Affair. In The Red Sea Sharks, inspired by a true story, he frees black pilgrims enslaved on their way to Mecca.
Hergé always backed the underdog, from Tintin in America to Tintin in Tibet. Yet he offered no solutions other than individual acts of kindness. He was a natural liberal with an instinctive distrust of bullies and busy bodies of every ideological hue. "For years the left has said I'm right and the right has said I'm left," Hergé told the Brussels Bulletin in 1976. "I don't like to contradict either."
It is complex plotting, characterisation and detail that make Tintin so great. Yet his engagement with the real world is also an important part of his appeal. Tintin is here to stay, and this anniversary is only the beginning. Even so, 75 years is some milestone, especially in a genre too often dismissed as ephemera. At once populist and sophisticated, funny and profound, Hergé raised the humble comic book to the status of high art. That is why millions of lifelong fans around the world raised a glass of Captain Haddock's Loch Lomond whisky this month to say happy birthday, old chum—if only all reporters were like you. Now where the hell's that copy?
Hugo Frey (essay date May 2004)
SOURCE: Frey, Hugo. "Contagious Colonial Diseases in Hergé's The Adventures of Tintin." Modern and Contemporary France 12, no. 2 (May 2004): 177-88.
[In the following essay, Frey notes the strong paternalistic elements evident in two of Hergé's "Tintin" collections—Les 7 Boules de cristal and Le Temple du soleil—through his analysis of the presentation of disease in both volumes.]
Tintin is perhaps one of the world's best-loved characters from comic book—bande dessinée—fiction. Together with his white dog, Milou, and friends Captain Haddock and Professor Tournesol, he has visited most countries across the world, confronting forgers in Scotland and even gangsters in Chicago. Hergé (alias Georges Remi, 1907–1983), Tintin's creator, could not have fully imagined the enduring appeal of his work when he produced the first Tintin strip, Tintin au Pays des Soviets (1929) as part of the children's supplement to the Belgium Catholic newspaper, Le XXe Siècle. Nor could he have expected the increase in academic interest in his hero, of which there is now a growing volume of contributors in Belgium, France and beyond.1
Tintin's continued popularity has not passed without incident. Scandal quickly developed in the 1990s after Pierre Assouline's biography popularised the scope of Hergé's links to the authoritarian right-wing and his activities during the Nazi Occupation of Belgium.2 Like the better-known case of his fellow Belgian, the literary theorist Paul de Man, Hergé's war record was rather tawdry when contrasted with his contribution to art and literature. Before the war, in the 1920s and 1930s, Hergé had worked as an illustrator for the Belgium 'Rexist' far right-wing leader Léon Degrelle. He had even provided a cover illustration for one of Degrelle's pamphlets.3 Moreover, under Hitler's 'New European Order' Hergé had continued publishing the Tintin strip at Le Soir, a paper controlled by the occupiers. Potentially even more compromising was the discovery that some of his drawings from this period had been removed from their postwar republications. These lost images demonstrated a striking level of anti-Semitism. For instance, material from the 1943 adventure L'Étoile mystérieuse (retitled The Shooting Star in the later revised English translation) forms perhaps the most embarrassing case to answer. This is a story of competing scientific missions to capture materials from an asteroid that has crashed into the North Atlantic. Tintin and his companions, Milou and Captain Haddock, are part of a European team who are racing against a New York-sponsored mission who are also wishing to capture minerals from the asteroid. In the Nazi era edition, the North American team is lead by a clichéd Jewish figure, called Blumenstein.
Hergé's drawing and narrative use of Blumenstein pandered to crude anti-Semitic stereotypes which were common to Nazism and to the Francophone extreme right-wing tradition. Conscious of his political error, but seemingly unapologetic, in the postwar republication of the book the name of this character was changed to the Belgian 'Bohlwinkel', and the location of his conspiratorial headquarters from the city of New York to the fictional, Latin American style, San Rico. Little else was amended and the anti-Semitic caricature of the renamed Bolhwinkel continues to be published, despite protests from anti-racists such as Maxime Benoît-Jeannin.4
This article introduces a different but equally disturbing dimension of Hergé's œuvre which has received little critical attention from either his supporters or detractors in the continuing debates on Hergé's war. The subjects here are the two bandes dessinées which followed shortly, but not immediately, after the publication of L'Étoile mystérieuse in the mid-to-late 1940s: Les 7 Boules de cristal and Le Temple du soleil. Written on either side of the liberation of Belgium, and in that sense comparable to the troubled production history of Marcel Carné's famous film Les Enfants du Paradis (1944), they offer a deeply ambiguous reading of European colonialism at the heart of which is the portrayal of a sinister, mystery, infection.5 Here I aim to analyse how Hergé's work represents one of the most graphic portrayals of a fictional contagion in either childrens' or adults' fiction of the 20th century. Furthermore, the books provide the opportunity to revisit in detail the classic linkage between the idea of illness and the perceived threat of the extra-European colonised 'Other'. Hergé's outlook, as demonstrated in these books, is shaped by extreme right-wing anxieties of retrocolonisation that were common in Belgium, France and Britain from at least the late 19th century onwards. Thus, Hergé's first postwar work offers uncomfortable reading for a politically informed reader at the beginning of the new millennium. There is, however, as we shall see, simultaneously a more paradoxical side to Hergé's work in these albums. For example, it is possible to interpret Les 7 Boules de cristal and Le Temple du soleil as implicit rejections of colonialism. However, this very refusal of European expansion on Hergé's part is itself marked with common European fears of race mixing.
It is now important to review the place of Les 7 Boules de cristal and Le Temple du soleil in Hergé's wider canon. These albums are a much-loved part of the Tintin series. In fact, they represent two of the most admired volumes from the entire series.6 For example, for scholars of the bande dessinée they represent a key example of the increasing maturity of the form. After the infancy of the bande dessinée in the interwar period, on show here was a new sophis-tication and depth that was seemingly untainted by the Nazi occupation of Belgium. Specific historical factors further justify the positive reputation of these publications. The two-album adventure is a prized part of any bande dessinée collection because its creation brought together Hergé and fellow artist Edgar P. Jacobs. In 1944, Edgar Jacobs played an important role in the completion of Les 7 Boules de cristal and Le Temple du soleil. In fact, it was he, and not Hergé, who had conducted some of the fundamental research that lay behind the visual content of this adventure.7 Shortly afterwards, Jacobs produced his own series of bande dessinée: the Blake and Mortimer science fiction collection.8 Thus, Les 7 Boules de cristal represents a singular collaboration between two of Belgian's most important public figures from the mid-to-late 20th century. More practically speaking, these adventures formed the basis upon which the 'Tintin franchise' was relaunched in the postwar world. On the 26 September 1946, it was a scene from Le Temple du soleil that was selected to provide the cover of the first edition of the new Tintin magazine. This weekly publication soon formed a staple part of thousands of children's lives across Francophone Europe. Moreover, by the 1960s, the same adventures were further popularised. Now, Belgian television producers selected them to be adapted into the first fully animated Tintin film, complete with a soundtrack that was composed by that other famous Belgian, the singer Jacques Brel.9
Like much of Hergé's work, Les 7 Boules de cristal and Temple du soleil illustrate the now famous ligne claire style of drawing. Readers will quickly be able to imagine the classic characters that are on display. Naturally one finds Tintin and his loyal canine companion, Milou. They are accompanied by a full supporting cast, including the old sea-dog, Captain Haddock, the eccentric academic Professor Tournesol and the twin policemen, Dupond and Dupont. The artistic layout of the page is also familiar. Generally speaking, this is founded on the orderly development of 12 'cases', or cartoon frames. The smaller, more common, 'cases' are interspersed with larger images of striking panoramas or important magnifications of key scenes. As with so many of the Tintin albums, words, images, colours and narratives collide to fascinate and entertain readers of all ages. However, as I will discuss, any such fascination brings with it a significant political cost.
The contagious sickness which forms a central theme of Les 7 Boules de cristal is both sudden and violent. In brief, days after the return of an ethnographic mission from Peru, complete with the prized relic of the mummified Rascar Capac, one by one the ethnographers fall into a coma-like state. In the narrative that follows, each of the seven members of the 'Sanders-Hardmuth Expedition' succumb to the same sudden, inexplicable, condition. It seems as if they have contracted a tropical disease, the symptoms of which are now more and more evident. Various hypotheses as to the precise cause of the ethnographer's malady are raised in the reader's mind. We are shown press extracts, police reports and other samples of popular opinion on the phenomenon. These diagnoses range from the possibility of a new epidemic to the shocking 'Revenge Curse of Rascar Capac'. However, as Tintin attempts to solve the mystery and tries to protect the last healthy member of the Sanders-Hardmuth team, Professor Hippolyte Bergamotte, one learns that the infection, although connected to the Peruvian mission, has a human-made origin. Close to the sleeping bodies of each of the explorers, the police find small glass shards which suggest that the men are the victims of a strange biological terrorist attack. The crystal balls of the book's title are a bizarre delivery device that contains the infecting agent. The smashing of the crystal balls close to their victims leads to almost instant contamination.
Just as it seems that the sickness is being explained as the rational product of a conspiracy, the victim's symptoms mutate into a different form and the ethnographers begin to suffer new tortures. Professor Bergamotte, the last of the victims, whom Tintin fails to protect, is shown waking from his slumber. His face is tortured, his body movements twisted and contorted. The lethargic stage of the disease has been replaced by a more complex set of fictional symptoms which include an hallucinogenic aspect. As readers, we are shown Bergamotte screaming out, begging for forgiveness from invisible 'demons', before returning to a semi-unconscious sleep state.
The second volume of the adventure, Le Temple du soleil, resolves all the mysteries of the first tome. Here, the adventure moves in focus from Brussels to the presumed source of the illness, Peru. After many twists and turns, Tintin and his readers discover that the ethnographers are being punished by an Inca tribe for having profaned their culture by stealing the sacred Mummy of Rascar Capac. Furthermore, it is confirmed that the illness was indeed induced by a chemical poison, delivered via the crystal ball device. The ethnographer's contortions are shown to be the product of a voodoo-style ceremony, with an Inca priest placing pins into small doll like simulations of the men. Finally, after many other mini-adventures, which need not concern us here, Tintin uses Western scientific knowledge regarding the timing of a solar eclipse to gain the respect of the Inca community who are stunned by his ability to control the Sun. The plot is finally resolved by the lifting of the curse on the ethnographers.
The simplified plot described here is relatively easy to interpret if one is familiar with 19th- and 20th-century colonial discourse, and the recent impressive secondary literature devoted to it. One is, I fear, in the middle of a nuanced, but typical, imperialist myth of colonial contagion. Thus, throughout Les 7 Boules de cristal there is sustained development of the idea of disease, infection and illness being the product of a foreign, culturally and ethnically different, source. As Susan Sontag suggested in her famous essays in this field, this trope was common in European and Nazi racism of that period. And, as Sontag also recalls, the linkage of alien cultures with ideas of sickness or disease is an especially emotive and dangerous discursive strategy because it invites the society which feels at threat to retaliate violently so as to defend itself from perceived contamination.10 Very subtly, Sontag's point is confirmed through Tintin's adventure in Les 7 Boules de cristal and Le Temple du soleil. For example, before Tintin sets off on his mission to South America, he witnesses the sufferings of the ethnologists. An entire page of the adventure is devoted to this plot development. Tintin arrives at the clinic in which the men are being treated. Breaking from the traditional 10-12 mini-frame text and drawings per page of a classic bande dessinée, the reader is treated to a third-of-a-page rectangular image of the hospital, the suffering ethnographers, perplexed orderlies and nurses attempting to restrain the patients. In the middle of the ward, fascinated surgeons and professors observe the agonised ethnographers. The illustration of this scene has no text. It is entirely visual, with Tintin and Milou placed at the front of the ward, looking inwards, sharing the position of the reader and thereby drawing in the reader. Tintin's only speech comes in the form of a single question mark ('?'), in black font contrasting the blues, whites and greys of the medical uniforms and the pyjamas worn by the patients.
The implication of the imagery is that the suffering of the white, male, scientists is terrible and metaphorically represents an attack on the 'body' of European and Belgian culture. Tintin having witnessed this for himself, is legitimated in any course of action he might later choose to take against the foreign source of the sickness and all that it evokes. The clinic scene, which is one of the most memorable from Hergé's entire œuvre, is a warning that Europe's enemies know no limits in their methods. It is Tintin's burden to repulse the contaminating foreigners who have penetrated the capital. To that end a European victory is won in Le Temple du soleil via a combination of scientific superiority and paternalistic benevolence. Tintin and the ethnographers are rescued by the skills of the Swiss astronomers who provided Tintin with the knowledge of the solar eclipse which he manipulates to his advantage against the incredulous Incas. The West is defended and normality at home is restored. A classical right-wing use of the motif of illness and its cure has been repeated and played out in this highly popular children's source.
Furthermore, the only deaths in the books are in fact Inca victims of Tintin's expedition rather than any European character. Whether intentionally or not, Hergé's handling of the symbolism of this scene is striking. Tintin and his companion Captain Haddock become involved in a fight with the Inca tribe's followers in the mountains of Peru. Here, the Inca natives find themselves falling in the avalanche and literally become human snowballs. One by one they plunge over the cliff edge to their presumed death. The symbolic implication is that the crimes of the crystal ball attacks have found their consequence in the justified snowball deaths. The shape of the ball is the visual, quasi-subliminal, quasi-surreal, link between the two events that prompts the connection. Moreover, the genuinely horrible end for Tintin's enemies is cast as an amusing and literally invisible event. This seems typical of the hypocrisy of colonial discourse—the suffering of the white ethnographers is cast as being of central narrative importance whereas the actual deaths of indigenous peoples are glossed over as an amusing anecdote.
The broadly imperialist subtext of Hergé's handling of illness and Otherness prompts the question: Why is the Peruvian Inca group cast as the outside force, the Other? Here the explanation can be read, I believe, in parallel with Hergé's postwar redrawing of the anti-Semitic album, L'Étoile mystérieuse. Just as in the republication of that book, the use of names was subtly changed from the politically charged 'Blumenstein' and 'New York' to the more innocuous, 'Bolhwinkel' and 'San Rico'; Hergé, I think with the agreement of Jacobs, engaged in another displacement strategy in Les 7 Boules de cristal. The metanarrative of colonial infection and Western 'justified' retaliation would perhaps have been too realist for the bande dessinée form had it been applied in 1944–1947 to Brussels and, for example, the Belgium Congo territory. Instead, in a comparable strategy to the Blumenstein-Bolhwinkel switch between Nazi and postwar editions of L'Étoile mystérieuse, Hergé selected a different, more distant and therefore fantastical location to avoid too direct an association with a classic ideological outlook which might be vulnerable to political attack from opponents. An ideological outlook which nonetheless is also clearly maintained.
An illustrative comparison helps further understand this rhetorical device. Social psychologist Michael Billig has shown that postwar neo-fascist groups in Britain have tended to replace anti-Semitic narratives with anti-black-migrant racism.11 However, his research showed that the basic structure of the anti-Semitic conspiracy narrative, associated with traditional fascism, was retained by contemporary groups. The narrative category of the conspiratorial group was now switched to more openly target black and Asian immigrants to Britain. In the case of Hergé, the narrative type is the classic 'colonial infectioninvasion' and the 'imperial cure' story line, but this is displaced from the Belgian Empire to that of Inca culture and Peru, perhaps also using aspects of a novel by Gaston Leroux.12 A colonial metanarrative of disease, invasion and retaliation structures the books, while cleverly it also remains deniable. However, despite the switch, the texts strongly echo ideological perspectives of the colonial era so aptly described by Laura Otis when she astutely dissected the double standards of that time, 'Medical and cultural thinking combined to present aggression as defense; to depict the invaded as the invaders.'13
So, despite Hergé's efforts, one cannot hide the fact that Les 7 Boules de cristal is part of a powerful tradition of popular fictional anxiety regarding imperial retro-invasion, which runs predominantly through English novelists such as Bram Stoker, H. G. Wells and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, John Buchan and 'Sapper', but which is also found in some Francophone imperial literature such as Driant's dramatically entitled L'Invasion noire.14 Indeed, there is much textual evidence in Hergé's work to suggest his knowledge and use of the English tradition in these books. Clearly, Hergé borrowed from and reworked this long-standing reserve of imperialist myth making which we can infer he was familiar with and admired. Of notable similarity is the shared linkage of the Gothic and the colonial invasion which is adopted in much of Les 7 Boules de cristal and which was central to the English tradition.15 For example, Professor Bergamotte's villa is a dark green-painted provincial fortress, complete with wall creeper, and on the night when he is finally attacked by the Inca terrorist the place is surrounded by dark supernatural omens. Hergé also uses the now de rigueur thunder storm, the gruesome drawing of the Mummy of Rascar Capac and even a thunderbolt which enters Bergamotte's salon, none of which would be out of place in a Victorian penny dreadful. Indeed, these themes are even more directly echoed in an earlier scene from the book, which alludes to the presence of Dracula himself. This allusion to English literature is also supported when Hergé lets Captain Haddock liken Tintin to Sherlock Holmes.
The comparable narratives of Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker, and John Buchan have been read by literary scholars as being a product of Victorian fears of imperial decline.16 This linkage does not, however, seem so plausible in the case of Hergé as it does for the original Gothic Invasion novels. While Les 7 Boules de cristal is a pessimistic account of the homeland, Tintin's reinvasion of Peru is bright and triumphalist. Therefore it may be argued that Hergé's perspective comes closer to the comparable but different Francophone models of anxiety about Empire. This French paradigm does not so much fear decline of empire so much as question the original theoretical basis on which expansion is first founded. To paraphrase, French imperial theory and practice of the late 19th century included a strong right-wing critique of the Third Republic's expansion in North Africa and the Far East. Writers and political activists associated with the royalist, extreme right-wing tradition continued to be critical of the republican state and all its activities. Moreover, they felt that any external expansion should not be conducted before national reconstruction at home had won back the 'lost territories' of Alsace-Lorraine. Likewise, theoreticians of Empire, figures like Marshal Lyautey, were suspicious of the republican empire's wish to assimilate foreign lands directly into the French state and its culture. An awareness of racial and cultural differences among different communities, so central to royalist nationalism, favoured a more associationist model of empire building. Others, occupying the protofascist extreme Right, for example, the militant nationalist Paul Déroulède, rejected empire altogether on the grounds that it would lead to national dissolution, just at a time when France needed to be strong so as to confront European rivals (Britain and Germany) or internal threats (the republicans, the Protestants, the freemasons and the Jews).17
The themes of Les 7 Boules de cristal reflect this anxiety about the founding principles of empire, at least as much as it echoes Victorian 'declinology'. Indeed, this position is consistent with the Belgian right-wing's proximity to the French royalist tradition.18 Hergé's depictions of the ethnographers are far from always being flattering and one can see an element of scapegoating the ethnographers for contracting the disease in the first place. Thereby, through another typical discourse on illness, blaming the patients for their sickness, there is a latent critique of the ethnographer's aims and ambitions in exploring the extra-European world. In this reading, they, rather than the Peruvians, are in some way responsible for bringing disorder and disease to metropolitan Europe. Les 7 Boules de cristal offers the reader the following parable: the mixing of cultures and therefore peoples is dangerous and unwelcome and that implicitly mono-ethnic, monocultural societies are stronger, being less susceptible to the importation of alien diseases. This subtext is not derived from an awakening of knowledge about the horrific aspects of the colonial project, or the fear of its sudden collapse, but is instead plausibly founded on an a priori rejection of colonialism on racist grounds. This discourse is more akin to what Pierre AndréTaguieff identified as racist nationalism's 'mixophobia', and its counterpoint, the celebration of the monocultural.19
The precise depiction of the illness in the books hints at this aspect. Hergé's use of a bio-terrorist attack, and therefore a targeting of the disease, is instructive. Unlike plagues, cholera, or other uncontrollable germs which pay no heed to ethnicity or cultural values, the crystal ball device means that it is only those that have transgressed cultures in the name of science that are afflicted. Thus, the crystal balls always reach their targets and a collateral infection does not take place. So, while a penetration of metropolitan Europe does take place, it is presented as being a highly controlled punishment of those who have broken the taboos of mixophobia. The important aspect of this fictional contagion is that it is contained. Contained on grounds similar to French right-wing anti-colonialism which first despised the idea of Empire and foresaw the issue of race mixing, which the late Victorians only worried about at the height of their nation's global power.
Apart from the uncannily controlled nature of the illness/terror attacks, there is a strong sense of foreboding that echoes and supports the theme of anti-culture mixing. Here, the role played by Captain Haddock in this adventure is of importance. Haddock, a working-class merchant sailor has, in a prior adventure with Tintin, inherited a large aristocratic family estate. However, throughout Les 7 Boules de cristal his new ennoblement is shown to be awkwardly worn and therefore socially untenable. It can be argued that Haddock's social unease, his failure to successfully move from merchant seaman to aristocratic gentleman, echoes the perceived transgression of the Hardmuth-Sanders mission. It implicitly communicates a similar message, albeit in class terms and through comedy. The rhetoric of the text suggest that just as social positions are best left and not subject to disorder, so too are outside cultures and peoples best left in their rightful place: 'outside' metropolitan Europe. The twin stories of transgression, social class and colonial space, mirror and re-enforce each other. While Haddock's social unease acts as a comic subplot, it also indirectly supports the implicit theme that the ethnographers were mistaken to visit 'foreign lands' and are punishable for their motives. Hergé's implicit social conservatism regarding class mobility blurs with the greater anxiety of external penetration from the 'colonial Other', via the misguided ethnographic mission.
Aside from the racist anti-colonialism, paradoxically Hergé's story can also be read as something of a cautionary tale, cast against colonial exploitation per se, in a more ambiguous, liberal, way than has been suggested thus far. As Edward Said underlined in his Culture and Imperialism, the confused synthesis of differing stances towards imperialism in a single volume was not unusual. Thus, Said argues that much late colonial literature included an awareness of the futility of the project and a greater awareness of the colonial periphery. For example, Said sees this aspect as being a function of the theme of disease in Thomas Mann's Death in Venice. He explains:
the plague that infects Europe is Asiatic in origin; the combination of dread and promise, of degeneration and desire, so effectively rendered in Aschenbach's psychology is Mann's way of suggesting, I believe, that Europe, its art, mind, monuments, is no longer invulnerable, no longer able to ignore its overseas domains.20
Hergé is not to be confused with Thomas Mann, of course, but one can note a comparable uncertainty on the theme of colonialism/disease as it is announced in the pages of Les 7 Boules de cristal. For example, a predictive conversation on the first page of the album signals the possibility of this interpretation. A casual encounter between Tintin and an unnamed travelling companion on a train leads to the latter claiming that it was wrong for the Sanders-Hardmuth expedition to plunder South American culture. The anonymous pipe-smoking traveller tells Tintin—and the reader—that Sanders-Hardmuth will probably be punished, as had been the case with the curse of 'Tout-Ankh-Amon'. The conversation is important because it introduces the subject of the expedition and prepares the reader for the possibility that they will be in danger. More didactically, in the mouth of the pipe-smoking traveller, it also includes a strong statement against the West's cultural colonialism embodied in ethnographic exploitation which takes no account of indigenous cultural practices. Thus, Tintin's travelling companion adds: 'Ça finira mal toute cette histoire … que dirons-nous si les Égyptiens ou les Peruviens venaient chez nous, ouvrir les tombeau de nos rois?'21 The words of the man on the train are a sharp warning against the arrogance of European power. Less charitably, and moving somewhat away from Saidian uncertainty, they can also be taken as more circumstantial evidence of the racist anticolonial side of Hergé's narrative.
An element from the conclusion to the plot, found in the final pages of Le Temple du soleil, underscores the anticolonial point at another critical juncture. When Tintin and friends are leaving the Inca temple they are shown a secret vault that contains that society's treasures. The leader of the Incas reports that these jewels had been hidden from the Spanish invaders and that their imperial mission to Peru had failed. The implication is that wave upon wave of European intervention in Peru had not damaged Inca civilisation and that implicitly imperialism was a failed concept. Hergé's inclusion of this view in the final pages of the book begins to problematise the rest of the story. Its inclusion is suggestive of a self-awareness of the errors of colonial exploration, but might equally lend further support to my thesis that the narrative operates around a racially inspired anti-colonialism.
Certainly, whether one wishes to follow Said and detect internal ambiguities in the text, or to associate this element as further echoes of racist anti-colonialism, the books are all the more persuasive and subtle because of their artistic style. Hergé's ligne claire drawing is intricate and detailed, providing very distinctive images that can be easily interpreted and held in the mind. This lends the work a far higher degree of quality than typical racist cartoons but which might also draw on similar myths of superiority, or fears of strangers and their communicable diseases. Hergé also knew that his younger readers would need light relief from the Gothic tone contained in these books and thus further constantly offers comedy, satire, mini-subplots and so on, as Hergé's cast of associated characters engage in pratfalls or brief comic routines. Similarly, as is often noted of better examples of children's fiction, there is much to entertain the adult reader. The key scene from the clinic described above is also not without black humour. First, the drawing of the clinic is itself highly stylised so as to remind the reader that we are not dealing with an unbearable reality. There is also a sarcastic element at play. To paraphrase, on Tintin's arrival at the hospital he is informed that the best medical minds in Brussels have come to witness the fits and contortions of the suffering explorers. The doctor who reports this to Tintin is clearly excited and even proud that his ward is hosting such esteemed visitors. Ironically, the Sanders-Hardmuth expedition have contributed to scientific knowledge, not in the shape of their discovery of the Mummy of Rascar Capac, but because of their own suffering. The scientific establishment is happy with their mission, for in some ways the physical ailment of the ethnographers is more fascinating than the exotic objects they have gathered, or the scholarly papers they have presented. For Hergé, the sick ethnographers now represent their own exhibition. The 'outsider's illness' has potentially become a new facet of the metropole's resources and future knowledge base.
To conclude, Les 7 Boules de cristal and Le Temple du soleil are palimpsest texts from which more than one meaning can be extracted. There is an anticolonial side to Hergé, but this is perhaps even more problematic than simple procolonial paternalism, linked as it is to far right-wing mixophobia. The books offer a vision of colonial anxiety which sits squarely between the influence of the Victorian imperial Gothic and the French hard-right rejection of race mixing.
Finally, it is common to conclude arguments such as those that I have pursued in this article with a note to the effect that the authors who have been reread were products of their time and place and that therefore one should not judge them based on contemporary values. It goes without saying that I agree, but I am also not entirely comfortable. Tintin continues to be marketed as a global icon and treated with nostalgia. An operatic interpretation of Le Temple du soleil is currently in production and touring between Brussels, Paris and Geneva.22 There are ambitions that it be translated and brought to London's West End and New York's Broadway. Similarly, rumours frequently suggest that Steven Spielberg is to make a live-action film based on Hergé's characters. So, Tintin is still part of our time and our place. Therefore, the most charitable final words that I can offer are that Hergé's masking features, the name switches, the potential for ironic anti-colonialism, and the charming artwork, probably protect these two books from full recuperation by contemporary racists. On the other hand, Hergé's reworkings of colonial fantasies of biological invasion and mixophobia make them equally hard for more informed liberal readers to gain much satisfaction from anything other than the meticulous drawing style. That remains a far more paradoxical achievement than most Tintinophile scholars, journalists or others are willing to acknowledge.
Notes and References
I would like to thank the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine Library, London, for the use of their collection in the preparation of this article; Professor Christopher Flood for his insightful comments on an earlier draft of the article; and Benjamin Noys, Stéfan Moriamé and Barbara Rassi for our frequent conversations on European and African history and the problems associated with reading Tintin today.
1. For example, see among others: VANDROMME, P., Le Monde de Tintin (Gallimard, 1959); PEETERS, B., Tintin et le monde d'Hergé (France-Loisir, 1988); ASSOULINE, P., Hergé (Gallimard-Folio, édition corrigée, 1998); SERRÈS, M., Hergé, mon ami (Moulinsart, 2000); BONFAND, A. and MARION, J.-L., Hergé: Tintin le Terrible ou l'alphabet des richesses (Hachette, 1996); TISSERON, S., Tintin chez le psychanalyste (Aubier, 1985); FARR, M., Tintin: The Complete Companion (John Murray, 2001).
2. ASSOULINE, Hergé, pp. 236-330. See also the similar discussion in ORY, P., 'Tintin au pays de l'ordre noir', L'Histoire 18 (1979), pp. 83-4.
3. DEGRELLE, L., Histoire de la guerre scolaire (Éditions de Rex, 1932).
4. Maxime Benoît-Jeannin, Le Mythe Hergé (Éditions Golias, 2001). The latter publication offers a very critical reading of Hergé's career. Most factual points had been covered earlier in the aforementioned article by Pascal Ory. For a detailed, less polemical account of Hergé's war, see PEETERS, B., 'Hergé's Trial without End', Rethinking History: The Journal of Theory and Practice, Special Issue: 'History in the Graphic Novel', 6, 3 (2002), pp. 261-73; the former is a reworked and translated part of the biography by PEETERS, Hergé: Fils du Tintin (Flammarion, 2002).
5. The chequered history of the publication of the two comics in question means that there are several versions of the text: an original beginning of Les 7 Boules de cristal published in 1944 under Nazi control; a post-Liberation newsprint continuation of the story and eventually two postwar book versions. The texts I have used for this article are recent republications of the first album editions, the publishing details of which are HERGÉ, Les 7 Boules de cristal (Casterman, 1948 [reproduced unamended 2001]); HERGÉ, Le Temple du soleil (Casterman, 1949 ).
6. PEETERS, Tintin et le monde d'Hergé, p. 83.
7. JACOBS, E. P., Les Mémoires de Blake et Mortimer (Gallimard, 1981), p. 76.
8. See for example JACOBS, E. P., Le Secret de l'Espadon (Éditions Blake et Mortimer, 1997 ).
9. LOFFICIER, J.-M. and LOFFICIER, R., Tintin. The Pocket Essential (Pocket Essentials, 2002), p. 89. The animation of the original albums was made in 1969, directed by Eddie Lateste and broadcast by Belvision.
10. SONTAG, S., Illness as Metaphor/AIDS and its Metaphors (Penguin, 1991), pp. 82-3.
11. BILLIG, M., 'The Extreme Right: Continuities in Anti-Semitic Conspiracy Theory in Post-War Europe', in R. EATWELL (ed.), The Nature of the Right (Pinter, 1989), pp. 146-67. The question of rhetorical substitutability of victims is discussed in pp. 151-3.
12. Tintin scholar Frédéric Sournois has suggested that part of Le Temple du soleil resembles the novel, LEROUX, G., L'Épouse du soleil, translated as The Bride of the Sun (Hodder and Stoughton, 1916). For this thesis on the intertextual nature of the book, see SOURNOIS, F., Dossier Tintin: Sources, Versions, Thèmes, Structures (Jacques Antoine, 1987), p. 206. Leroux is of course better known in Britain as the creator of Phantom of the Opera. For what it is worth, these literary references are themselves often linked to the role played by E. P. Jacobs in the production of these albums. Furthermore, Benoît Mouchart has suggested that both artists were inspired by a third figure, Jacques Van Melkebeke. For this interpretation, see MOUCHART, B., À l'ombre de la ligne claire: Jacques Van Melkebeke le clandestin de la BD (Vertige Graphic, 2002), pp. 114-16.
13. OTIS, L., Membranes: Metaphors of Invasion in Nineteenth-Century Literature, Science, and Politics (The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999), p. 5.
14. DRIANT, E., L'Invasion noire (1894) is the classic example of French retro-colonisation fiction. Indeed, it continues to be praised by extreme right-wing intellectuals. See, for example, MABIRE, J., 'La bibliothèque impériale', Enquĉte sur l'histoire 8 (1993), p. 69. Mabire is a well-known activist and writer associated with Jean-Marie Le Pen's extreme right-wing movement the Front national. The best known contemporary French version of a colonial retro-invasion narrative remains RASPAIL, J., Le Camp des saints, or, in English translation, The Camp of the Saints (Charles Scribner and Sons, 1975). This novel does not merit comparison with Hergé's far more influential presentation of similar themes. For a more detailed discussion of Émile Driant's fiction, see the excellent essay by DINE, P., 'The French Colonial Empire in Juvenile Fiction: From Jules Verne to Tintin', Historical Reflections/Réflexions historiques, 23, 2 (1997), pp. 177-203.
15. See BRANTLINGER, P., Rule of Darkness: British Literature and Imperialism, 1830–1914 (Cornell University Press, 1988), pp. 235-6; ARATA, S. D., 'The Occidental Tourist: Dracula and the Anxiety of Reverse Colonization', Victorian Studies, 33 (1990), pp. 621-45.
16. Ibid., pp. 622-3.
17. For wider discussion of French paradigms of imperialism, see GIRARDET, R., L'Idée coloniale en France (La Table Ronde, 1972); C. FLOOD and H. FREY, 'Defending the Empire in Retrospect: The Discourse of the Extreme Right', in CHAFER, T. and SACKUR, A. (eds), Promoting the Colonial Idea: Propaganda and Visions of Empire in France (Palgrave, 2002), pp. 195-210.
18. Hergé's first patron, Abbey Wallez, is described by Pierre Assouline as being akin to a French integral nationalist and being influenced by that tradition's leading theorist, Charles Maurras. See ASSOULINE, Hergé, p. 45. However, it should be noted that sometime earlier in collaboration with Wallez's newspaper, Hergé had published the more openly paternalist, procolonial, Tintin au Congo (Casterman, 1930). The strong possibility is that Hergé and Wallez shared a confused synthesis of racist reluctance and national pride regarding Empire building. Moreover, on the specific point of race mixing, Hergé allegedly stated as recently as 1982 that if he had had a daughter he would have not wished her to marry a 'foreigner'. Cited in ROMON, P., 'Tintin: l'histoire interdite', L'Evénement, 740 (1999), p. 78. Readers wish ing to further research Hergé's earlier work on the Congo are advised to begin with the aforementioned essay by Philip Dine, or, for an alternative but complimentary approach, see also ROSE-HUNT, N., 'Tintin and the Interruptions of Congolese Comics', in P. S. LANDAU and D. KASPIN (eds), Images and Empires (University of California Press, 2002), pp. 90-123.
19. TAGUIEFF, P., Sur la Nouvelle Droite (Descartes, 1994), p. 98.
20. SAID, E., Culture and Imperialism (Chatto and Windus, 1993), p. 228.
21. HERGÉ, Les 7 Boules de cristal, p. 1.
22. For an array of further recent popular discussions of Tintin and Hergé that gloss over the politically problematic nature of the œuvre, see: Géo, 'Tintin: Grand Voyageur du siècle' (Hors Série, 2000); Science et Vie. Édition spéciale: Tintin chez les savants (2002) and Télérama (Hors Série): Tintin L'Aventure continue (2002).
Hunt, Nancy Rose. "Tintin and the Interruptions of Congolese Comics." In Images and Empires: Visuality in Colonial and Postcolonial Africa, edited by Paul S. Landau and Deborah D. Kaspin, pp. 90-123. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 2002.
Traces Tintin's impact on the comic books of Congolese artists after the release of Tintin au Congo.
Jussim, Estelle. Review of The Crab with the Golden Claws, King Ottokar's Sceptre, Red Rackham's Treasure, and The Secret of the Unicorn, by Hergé. School Library Journal 21, no. 1 (September 1974): 83.
Offers critical assessments of The Crab with the Golden Claws, King Ottokar's Sceptre, Red Rackham's Treasure, and The Secret of the Unicorn.
Tisseron, Serge. "Family Secrets and Social Memory in Les aventures de Tintin." Yale French Studies, no. 102 (2003): 145-59.
Relates how the recurring theme of family secrets—including some taken from Hergé's personal life—impacted the overall narrative of Les aventures de Tintin.
Additional coverage of Hergé's life and career is contained in the following sources published by Thomson Gale: Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Vol. 55; Children's Literature Review, Vol. 6; Contemporary Authors, Vols. 69-72, 109; Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vol. 31; Literature Resource Center; Something about the Author, Vol. 13; and Something about the Author—Obituary, Vol. 32.