Monday, January 20, 2014

Tintin, 85 years young

The popular cartoon hero Tintin turned 85 on January 10, 2014. The first Tintin cartoon appeared on January 10, 1929. Created by a Belgian cartoonist named Georges Remi (1907-1983), who was well known by his pen name Hergé, Tintin’s adventures entertain millions of readers even now. There are enough adults who still say that they love Tintin comics. Tintin stories were known for their beautiful drawings and exciting, well researched stories.

Hergé created the character for the Le Petit Vingtième, the children’s section of the Le XXe Siècle (20th century) magazine. The first stories usually followed political themes. His first two stories, “Tintin in the Land of the Soviets” (1929-1930) and “Tintin in the Congo (1930-31) were not well researched. The story on the Soviet Union was meant to be a scathing criticism of the Soviet government. Hergé, who was in his early 20s, gathered information on Congo from the missionaries who were there. Recently, some African countries criticized the book on Congo for looking down on the African people.

TinTin-Stockel Metro Station, Brussels. William Murphy, The Fotopedia

However, with time, Tintin stories became much better researched and nicely drawn. His first nine stories first appeared in black and white. Hergé later published them in color. However, he never published the first story on the Soviet Union in color, perhaps he knew that the story was not up to the standards of his later work.

In 1940, Germany occupied Belgium. The newspaper for which Hergé worked was closed by the Germans. He moved to a new newspaper, Le Soire (The Evening) and avoided dealing with political topics. Even after the war ended, he remained there, until resigning in 1949. In 1950, he established a company Studio Hergé. This increased his independence and simultaneously, the popularity of the stories (which were already quite popular) went up considerably. Just after he formed this company, he sent Tintin to moon, nearly 20 years before Neil Armstrong actually landed on Moon.

Hergé used many current topics in his stories. Chinese invasion of Manchuria in 1931, Gran Chaco War between Bolivia and Paraguay in the 1930s and early days of petroleum discoveries in Arabia are some topics he tackled, directly or indirectly. He also criticizes dictatorships which were ruling much of Europe during the 1930s.

Hergé finished 23 Tintin adventures in his life time. He abandoned one story and had written another story halfway when he died on March 3, 1983. This last story, Tintin and Alph-Art was published in the uncompleted version posthumously. Later, several other artists published finished versions as they saw it.

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