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Tintin and Hergé

Tintin and Hergé

The character of Tintin, the courageous boy reporter, was created in 1929 by the Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi (19071983). The castincluding Tintin, his dog Snowy, Captain Haddock, Professor Calculus, and Bianca Castafiore, and othersappeared in a series of twenty-three adventures between 1930 and 1976; the final Tintin album, Tintinet l'Alph-Art (Tintin and Alpha-Art [1990]), was left unfinished at Remi's death and was published in notes form in 1986.

Remi (better known by his nom de plume Hergé, the French pronunciation of his initials in reversed order, "RG") began his career as an illustrator for the conservative, Roman Catholic newspaper Le vingtième siècle (The twentieth century). Hergé's earliest picture stories for children, before embarking on Tintin, took the traditional children's form of densely illustrated texts, whereby another author's prose story would be broken down into short units, and each block of text would be placed under a picture that illustrated or glossed it; the pictures were at best decorative and redundant to the text. After seeing imported newspapers from Mexico, which reprinted the then new American comic strip form (in which text was integrated into the pictures as dialogue), Hergé decided to create a new story, introducing this innovative format to his readers.

The first Tintin story, Tintin au pays des Soviets (Tintin in the Land of the Soviets [1989]), was serialized two pages at a time in the newspaper's children's supplement, Le petit vingtième (The little twentieth), and published in a collected version in 1930. Initially a lone artist, Hergé eventually hired a small team of assistants. After the demise of Le vingtièmesiècle, he moved the initial serialization of his Tintin stories to the children's supplement of the newspaper Le Soir in 1940, and finally in 1946 to the pages of his own Tintin magazine. Unlike American comic book stories for children, which usually comprised either short, stand-alone stories or open-ended serials, Tintin stories were constructed as complete tales, with beginnings, middles, and endings; these stories were then collected and published in a hardcover, or album, format, leading to a complete library of titles that have remained in print, with rare exceptions, since their initial publication.

Tintin in the Land of the Soviets owed a debt to the anticommunist propaganda of the day; Hergé's research was limited to a single anticommunist tract (Joseph Douillet's Moscou sans voiles [1928]), in keeping with the newspaper's agenda. This somewhat xenophobic trend continued in books like Tintin au Congo (1931; Tintin in the Congo [1991]) and Tintin en Amerique (1932; Tintin in America [1978]), which portrayed nonwhite characters in stereotypical fashion. Tintin in the Congo especially suffered from the colonial prejudices of the day, as the Congo was at that time still under Belgian rule.

The fifth volume, Le lotus bleu (1936; The Blue Lotus [1983]), marked a change in Hergé's conception of the stories; instead of simply crafting escapist adventures based solely on common (mis)conceptions, he would base his stories on more careful research and address, at least indirectly, contemporary concerns. For Blue Lotus, Hergé learned about Chinese culture and history from Chang Chong-Chen, a student at Brussels's Académie des Beaux-Arts. The book directly confronts Western misconceptions about China (al-though Hergé's depictions of Chinese characters still often relied on popular visual stereotypes); the political situation of the time, specifically the Sino-Japanese War, is discussed directly, a rarity for children's fiction in Belgium at the time.

As the years passed, the Tintin volumes were occasionally revised and re-imagined, due both to external pressures such as publishing in foreign markets and to Hergé's own developing realization that his books had an effect on their young readers. The versions available today represent Hergé's final revisions.

Tintin has been marketed with all the fervor of Disney's most important characters, with merchandise from children's clothing to fine china. Live-action film versions include Tintin and the Golden Fleece (1961) and Tintin and the Blue Oranges (1964); animated films consist of Prisoners of the Sun (1969) and Tintin and the Land of Sharks (1972), and a series of thirty-minute adaptations was produced in 1990.

Hergé has had a wide influence on cartoonists throughout the world. Traces of his ligne claire ("clear-line") style of drawing, with simple ink outlines, flat and bold color, and realistic background detail can be seen in the works of various European and other cartoonists, both for children and adults.

See also: Children's Literature; Comic Books; Series Books.


Farr, Michael. 2002. Tintin: The Complete Companion. San Francisco, CA: Last Gasp.

Peeters, Benoît. 1992. Tintin and the World of Hergé: An Illustrated History. Boston: Little, Brown.

Gene Kannenberg Jr.

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