Tintin - Le Temple du Soleil
©Hergé/Moulinsart 2012

Hergé is one of the most important and influential comics creators in history. He singlehandedly launched the Belgian comics industry with his iconic humoristic adventure series 'Tintin' (1929-1983). Together with Morris' 'Lucky Luke' and René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo's 'Astérix' it's one of the best-selling European comics in the world. Even though 'Tintin' only counts 23 available album titles they have been translated in every conceivable language, including dialects. The quiffed reporter in plusfour pants later received his own magazine, Tintin (1946-1992), which became one of the most succesful European comics magazines of all time. Other well known series by the maestro are 'Quick et Flupke' (1930-1940) and 'Jo, Zette et Jocko' (1936-1940). More than any other comic artist, Hergé gave the medium tremendous prestige. Both artwork and stories are at the highest quality level. He developed his own graphic style, the "Ligne Claire" ("Clear Line"), which is even regarded as a genuine artistic movement. The man was a master in crafting suspenseful page-turners where humor is never far away. Storylines range from crime thrillers, exotic treasure hunts, intrigueing mysteries to clever political satire. He was one of the first comics artists to deal with more mature themes and still appeal to all ages. A meticulous perfectionist, Hergé documented himself thoroughly for each story. His work is still regarded as a standard for many artists. Particularly in Europe his stories are so well known that they have become part of readers' collective memory. Together with Walt Disney and Charles M. Schulz he is also one of the most analyzed comics artists in the world. No small feat for a little Belgian.

Hergé was born in 1907 in Etterbeek, as George Prosper Remi. His pseudonym was based on his initials (G.R.) in reverse (R.G.). Remi was the son of an employee in a confectionery factory. He scribbled his school books full and tried studying art at the Saint-Luc School in Brussels, but left after only one lesson. The young man therefore learned drawing by studying other artists. He was influenced by illustrators like René Vincent and classical painters such as Hieronymus Bosch, Pieter Bruegel, Johannes Vermeer, Hokusai and Jean-Dominique Ingres. Yet he was equally fond of more contemporary artists. As an adult he collected art and admired people like Joan Miró, Lucio Fontana, Serge Poliakoff, Constant Permeke, Auguste Herbin and Roy Lichtenstein. In the field of comics he regarded George McManus, Émile-Joseph Pinchon (whose Bécassine has a similar face like Tintin), Benjamin Rabier (who even created a quiffed little boy with the name 'Tintin-Lutin' in 1898), Rudolph Dirks, Winsor McCay and especially Alain Saint-Ogan as his main influences. Later in life he also held André Franquin, Moebius, Robert Crumb and Milo Manara in high regard, artists whose style was vastly different than his. Hergé also devoured classic authors like Alexandre Dumas, Jules Verne, Paul d'Ivoi, Robert Louis Stevenson and Arthur Conan Doyle, but the art form which had the most profound impact on his work was film. Hergé loved slapstick movies by Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd and also incorporated cinematic techniques from watching action-thrillers. He was always a man of his century. Hergé kept a close eye on the latest political, cultural and scientific inventions, which is mirrored in his work. 'Tintin' in particular almost covers the entire 20th century in its scope, with plots directly referring to Soviet Russia, Al Capone, the Chinese-Japanese war, the Gran Chaco War, the Cold War and the space age.

Flup, Nénesse, Poussette and Cochonnet
©Hergé/Moulinsart 2012

Other escapism was provided by the boy scouts movement. Hergé loved being outdoors and away from his boring life in Brussels. Baden-Powell's philosophies provided him with a well-mannered and humanitarian outlook on life. One of the organisation's magazines, Le Boy-Scout Belge, also offered room for his graphic debut in 1922. Four years later he made his first full comic strip, 'Totor, C.D. des Hannetons' (1926), about a young scoutsleader, Totor, who travels to America. Stylistically, the series was a text comic, with the sentences written beneath the images as was common in Europe in those days. Yet already Hergé developed his own graphic style. Since the ink in newspaper prints sometimes overflowed he had to keep his lines thin, bright and clean. He avoided hatches, shadow effects or overly details. Decades later, when he started adding colour he picked out bright colours. Despite being born out of necessity, rather than an artistic choice, Hergé's style would become an entire artistic movement, dubbed the "School of Bruxelles" or the "Ligne Claire" ("Clear Line") - a term invented by Joost Swarte. Numerous artists have imitated it, particularly in Franco-Belgian comics.

original of the first Tintin story, by Hergé 1929
Tintin au Pays des Soviets (Le Petit Vingtième, 10 January 1929)
©Hergé/Moulinsart 2012

In 1925 Hergé joined the right-wing Catholic newspaper Le XXe Siècle. Three years later he was asked to create a youth supplement, which became Le Petit Vingtième. Hergé was both the magazine's chief editor as well as its main illustrator. His first comic for the magazine was 'Flup, Nénesse, Poussette and Cochonnet' (1928-1929), which ran for five months and was written by a certain "Smettini", which was a pseudonym for sports journalist Desmedt. This text comic with speech balloons centered around two young boys, a girl and her inflatable pig. Bland and forgettable, Hergé felt he could write better scripts himself. He experimented with speech balloons in several one-shot gag comics, published in the satirical weekly Le Sifflet. This eventually convinced him to create an unapologetic adventure comic modelled after U.S. newspaper comics and Alain Saint-Ogan's 'Zig et Puce' and therefore with speech balloons.

On 10 January 1929 Tintin made his debut, alongside his faithful fox terrier Milou ('Snowy'). Hergé's boss, the ultraconservative priest Norbert Wallez, asked Hergé to create a story which would expose the "threat" of Communism. Thus 'Tintin au Pays des Soviets' ('Tintin in the Land of the Soviets', 1929-30) had Tintin travel to the Soviet Union to write a critical news report about the country. Halfway the story Tintin receives his iconic quiff while zooming away in his car. The book also marks the only time in the entire franchise where we see "the famous reporter" actually writing reports, yet he has to flee soon afterwards, without taking any copies with him. As the narrative reached its completion in the papers, the idea rose to stage Tintin's return to Brussels in real life as a publicity stunt. An actor and a dog were hired to arrive at the local train station, which was announced in Le Petit Vingtième's pages. Much to everybody's surprise the place was crowded with enthusiastic fans. Hergé was quickly commissioned to write and draw more stories. The publicity stunt at the Brussels North Station was later imitated in 1933 with the Dutch comics character 'Flippie Flink' by Clinge Doorenbos and Louis Raemaekers, whose arrival in the Amsterdam station was also staged with an actor by the editors of the newspaper De Telegraaf. For his next story Hergé initially wanted to send his hero to the USA, but at the request of Wallez Tintin travelled to the Belgian colony Congo. After 'Tintin au Congo' ('Tintin in the Congo', 1930-31) Tintin and Snowy eventually went to America in 'Tintin en Amérique' ('Tintin in America', 1931-32), where Hergé had fun pitting his hero against real-life gangster Al Capone (who was still alive back then) and Native Americans.

Tintin au Congo by Herge
Tintin au Congo
©Hergé/Moulinsart 2012

Despite their historical value none of these three 'Tintin' stories rank as Hergé's best, when read today. He just improvised his stories as he went along and did no real research. This explains why the plots are naïve, chaotic and brimful of offensive stereotypes. Hergé felt particularly ashamed about 'Tintin au Pays des Soviets', a straight-out propaganda story. He never allowed it to be part of the official franchise and only gave it a reprint in 1969 to thwart bootlegs. In 2017 it was republished again, but with the novelty of being colourized. More controversial is 'Tintin au Congo' (named 'Tintin in Africa' in some translations). Apart from its pro-colonial tone it depicts black Africans as primitive and child-like. Nevertheless it still was reprinted and recolorized in 1946 and made available in most countries, even African ones. The English translation only arrived as late as 2005. Some people actually tried to get the book banned, with Congolese student Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo going so far to take the case to court. In 2012 the judge ruled against the decision. Due to this infamy 'Tintin in Congo' has been frequently satirized, among others by Picha's 'Tarzoon: the Shame of the Jungle' (1975), Joann Sfar's 'Le Chat du Rabbin' (2002-2006) and Anton Kannemeyer's 'Pappa in Afrika' (2010). Another example of values dissonance is Tintin's nonchalant game-hunting of various exotic animals. One particular scene, where he blows up a rhinoceros with dynamite, was removed in 1975 at the request of Scandinavian publishers and replaced with a more innocent scene in some foreign translations. As controversial as most of these early stories may appear today they ought to be understood in the context of the era they were created in. Hergé was still in his early twenties and lacked the experience, confidence and ambition to take his work seriously. He merely depicted Russia, Africa and the USA as most Europeans imagined it at the time. Plus: he was still under heavy influence and control of Wallez, who would only be fired in 1933, giving Hergé more freedom to do his own thing.

Cover vor Le Petit VingtièmeCover vor Le Petit Vingtième
Covers for Le Petit Vingtième (30/5/1935 and 19/1/1939)
©Hergé/Moulinsart 2012

The next Tintin story, 'Les Cigares du Pharaon' ('Cigars of the Pharaoh', 1932-1934), was therefore already more recognizable as Hergé's own work. It had a tight, atmospheric plot featuring many elements which are nowadays hallmarks of the series: mystery and suspense, nightmarish scenes and adult subject matter such as drug smuggling. The story also introduced three new cast members: the near-identical bumbling police inspectors Dupond et Dupont (Thompson and Thomson) and Tintin's arch nemesis Roberto Rastapopoulos. However, the actual turning point for the franchise proved to be the sequel: 'Le Lotus Bleu' ('The Blue Lotus', 1934-35). As Hergé prepared the story he met a Chinese college student, Zhang Chongren, who taught him a lot about Chinese culture. Chongren encouraged Hergé to do some research before writing the story. From that moment on Hergé prepared his plots better, read every book about the subjects he needed and improved his graphics. Characters now carried the stories, instead of the locations themselves. 'Le Lotus Bleu' was his first masterpiece in that regard. The entire story is an accurate time capsule of China in the mid-1930s, down to its landscapes, culture and language. Hergé even takes the time to mock stereotypical ideas about the Chinese. The book also attracted attention from adults, as the plot directly referenced the Mukden incident which had led to the ongoing Chinese-Japanese war at the time. Some Japanese diplomats in Brussels even threatened to take the matter to the International Court of Justice in The Hague! Particularly when they found out that Chongren had hid various anti-Japanese messages in the Chinese texts depicted in the comics' backgrounds. In China the reactions were naturally more positive. President Chiang Kai-Shek read the story and invited Hergé over for a visit. Due to circumstances Hergé could only take the offer more than 50 years later, when Kai-Shek was already dead. He was therefore met by his widow. Today 'Le Lotus Bleu' is seen as one of the most quintessential 'Tintin' stories. In 1999 French newspaper Le Monde placed it at nr. 18 in their list of 100 Books of the 20th century. The book was not only one of the few comics to make the list, but also the highest ranked of all! As a tribute to Chongren Hergé has Tintin meet a young Chinese boy, Tchang Tchong-Yen, who becomes his best friend.

The next 'Tintin' stories are all classics and gained the franchise its high quality reputation. 'L'Oreille Cassée' ('The Broken Ear', 1935-37) brings Tintin to a fictional South American country to track down an ancient fetish statue. 'L' Île Noire' ('The Black Island', 1937-38) takes place in England and Scotland, where the reporter uncovers a counterfeiters scheme. In 'Le Sceptre d'Ottokar' ('King Ottokar's Sceptre', 1938-39) Tintin travels to the Balkanesque country Syldavia to help the local king recover his royal sceptre. The story also marked the first appearance of the loud and obnoxious opera diva Bianca Castafiore, whose voice can break glass. A huge part of Tintin's appeal lies in the fact that the character is heroic, but at the same time so vaguely defined. He seems to be a teenager, but could easily be older too. Not hindered by parents or bosses Tintin can effortlessly go on adventure across the entire world. Any reader can easily project himself into his persona and dream along of being free to go anywhere. 'Tintin' also appeals to both children and adults because it deals with mature themes. Everything is rooted in every-day reality, with no physically impossible scenes. Storylines deal with drug trade, space travel, war and politics. In 'L'Oreille Cassée', for instance, an arms dealer is seen selling weapons to both sides of the conflict. The country Borduria in 'L'Affaire Tournesol' (1956) is directly modelled after the Soviet Union. It's also far from a safe world. Characters occasionally die, either by accident, murder or suicide, and regardless whether they are villains or not. Even when more fantastical narratives are followed, like the Yeti in 'Tintin in Tibet' (1960) or extraterrestrial intelligence in 'Vol 714' (1968), it's still done in the most plausible and believable way. Hergé's genius is that he was able to keep rather complicated plots still entertaining through humor and supenseful cliffhangers at the end of each page.

Quick et Flupke by Herge
Quick et Flupke
©Hergé/Moulinsart 2012

While Hergé did most of the illustration work for Le Petit Vingtième alone, he was later joined by colleagues like Jean Vermeire (Jiv), Eugène van Nijverseel (Evany) and Paul Jamin (Jam). On 23 January 1930 he created 'Quick et Flupke' (1930-1941), his second most famous series. The gag comic features the pranks and blunders of two mischievous boys, Quick (the tall one) and Flupke (the shorter one). The kids frequently run into trouble with meddlesome patrolman Agent 15. In spirit the series is comparable to Rudolph Dirks' 'Der Katzenjammer Kids', but with a more distinct Belgian flavour. All episodes distinctively take place in Brussels and even the protagonists' names are dialect variations of the names "Patrick" and "Philip". The series is not only more homely than the globetrotting adventures of 'Tintin': it also provided Hergé with far greater creative freedom. Quick and Flupke could vandalize stuff, trick the strong arm of the law and destroy entire buildings. Some gags border to the surreal, with the kids sometimes dying and ending up in Heaven or Hell. Other punchlines break the fourth wall. In one gag Flupke complains that Hergé keeps drawing him with a scarf, despite the fact that it's summer. In another he beats his creator up for letting him ski against the edge of the page's panel. Other gags are the most politically direct Hergé ever was in comics. One particular 1934 episode featured the kids imitating Hitler and Mussolini, spoofing the dictators' first meeting in Venice that year. After World War II these particular jokes were no longer considered that funny and thus never republished. These old shames aside, 'Quick et Flupke' is still a classic and reprinted to this day. It inspired several other Belgian comics where street children battle imbecilic police officers, such as Eugeen Hermans' 'Filipke en de Rakkers' (1933), Willy Vandersteen's 'De Vrolijke Bengels' (1947) and Bob De Moor and Marc Sleen's 'De Lustige Kapoentjes' (1947).

Jo, Zette et Jocko, by Hergé
Jo, Zette et Jocko - Le "Manitoba" ne répond plus
©Hergé/Moulinsart 2012

Hergé also created other short-lived comics. For the newspaper Mon Avenir he drew one episode of the gag comic 'Fred et Mile' (1931), while the catalogue of the department store Le Bon Marché featured the gag series 'Cet Aimable M. Mops' (1932). Another commercial gag series was 'Dropsy' (1934) - drawn for the confectionerie Antoine - which starred two children, Antoine and Antoinette, and their pet dog and parrot. Right before World War II Hergé also drew 'Mr. Bellum' (1939) which appeared in the December issues of L'Ouest. This gag comic was notable for poking fun at Hitler at a time when the dictator still had to invade Poland. One of the longer comics Hergé created around this time was 'Les Aventures de Tim, l'Écureuil au Far West' (1931), published in the free magazine distributed by the Brussels department store L'Innovation. Originally a text comic, 'Tim' was later rehashed as 'Les Aventures de Tom et Millie' (1933) and published in Pim et Pom, the children's supplement of La Meuse. It was later recycled once more as 'Popol out West' (1934) which appeared in Le Petit Vingtième. All three versions are a funny animal comic about a young couple who move to the Far West, where they fight Native Americans. The comic was no success and Hergé always saw it as a failure because it starred anthropomorphic animals. Even years later, when Tibet showed Hergé a first draft of his western comic 'Chick Bill' drawn with funny animals the maestro rejected it and insisted that Tibet changed the characters into humans, which he eventually did. Still, 'Popol et West' was reprinted and colourized in 1948, an honor few other of his one-shot comics received.

The third best-known and longest-running series by Hergé is 'Jo, Zette et Jocko' (1935-1939), published in the Catholic magazine Coeurs Vaillants. At the request of the conservative editors Hergé made the protagonists a real, traditional family with a father, mother and their two children Jo and his sister Zette. The only unusual aspect about them was their pet: a chimpansee named Jocko. While Hergé made five albums in total about them (the last one in 1956) he disliked the format, because he always had to write their worrying parents into the stories. In the end none of these comics - 'Quick et Flupke' aside - ever gave him the same satisfaction 'Tintin' did. The quiffed reporter could at least do whatever and go wherever he wanted. Readers seemed to agree, because 'Tintin' has always remained Hergé's biggest success.

The Crab with the golden claws by Herge
First meeting between Tintin and Captain Haddock (Le Soir Jeunesse, 9 January 1941)
©Hergé/Moulinsart 2012

In 1940 Hitler occupied Belgium. Both Le Vingtième Siècle as well as Le Petit Vingtième were forced to close down, halfway the story 'Tintin au Pays de l'Or Noir' ('Land of Black Gold'), leaving Tintin half buried in the sand during a desert storm. Hergé found employment in the youth supplement of Le Soir: Le Soir Jeunesse, where Tintin's adventures continued for the rest of the war. Hergé was responsible for most of the paper's content, together with Jacques van Melkebeke and Paul Jamin. Despite the tensions Hergé crafted some of his most beloved stories during this period. 'Le Crabe aux Pinces d'Or' ('The Crab with the Golden Claws', 1940-41) is a classic thriller set in North Africa, where Tintin first met the recurring villain Allan Thompson (in reprints he would be retroactively added to 'Les Cigares du Pharaon' too). In the same story Tintin also meets the alcoholic and frequently cursing Captain Haddock, who'd become his best friend.

'L'Étoile Mystérieuse' ('The Shooting Star', 1941-42) captured much of the world war fears, albeit indirectly through a huge meteor which threatens to destroy the world. The two-parter 'Le Secret de la Licorne' ('The Secret of the Unicorn', 1942-43) and 'Le Trésor de Rackham le Rouge' ('Red Rackham's Treasure', 1943), on the other hand, are a far more escapist and innocent adventure story centering around a hunt for pirate treasure. The storyline also marked the debut of butler Nestor and the genius but stone deaf professor Tournesol (Professor Calculus), as well as Tintin and Haddock's new homebase: Castle Moulinsart (Marlynspike). One of Hergé's colleagues at Le Soir, Jacques van Melkebeke, helped Hergé with some of the plots of the 'Tintin' stories, including two theatrical play adaptations. From 1942 on the duo also rewrote, redrew and colorized older Tintin stories for reprints. From 1944 to 1947 further graphic and narrative assistance came from Edgar Pierre Jacobs, who also co-wrote most of the plots of 'Les 7 Boules du Crystal' ('The Seven Crystal Balls', 1943-46) and 'Le Temple du Soleil' ('Prisoners of the Sun', 1946-48), another two-parter. The books center around the mysterious comas of seven archeologists, the abduction of professor Tournesol and Tintin and Haddock's eventual journey to Peru.

Le Trésor de Rackham le Rouge
Le Trésor de Rackham le Rouge
Typical slapstick with Dupond and Dupont, and the introduction of Professeur Tournesol in Le Soir Jeunesse on 4 and 5 March 1943
©Hergé/Moulinsart 2012

However, after the Liberation Hergé was accused of collaboration. During the war 'Tintin' had been published in Le Soir and Het Laatste Nieuws, two papers under Nazi supervision. One story in particular, 'L'Étoile Mysterieuse', was contested for having an antisemitic undercurrent. Even before the war many of Hergé's colleagues at Le Petit Vingtième were Nazi and Fascist supporters, including Léon Degrelle who was the leader of the Belgian Nazi party REX. In 1944 a small booklet was distributed named 'Galerie des Traitres' ('Gallery of the Traitors'), listing all people involved with Le Soir. Hergé was mentioned too and even ridiculed with a parody comic named 'Tintin au Pays des Nazis' ('Tintin in the Land of the Nazis') by an anonymous artist. Yet contrary to most of his colleagues Hergé was only jailed for one night and then freed again, because the procurator "didn't want to make a fool out of himself." Hergé's war past is still a source for heavy debate today, though it most be said that he never joined REX and didn't use 'Tintin' for propaganda purposes. Some pre-war gags of 'Quick et Flupke' and 'Mr. Bellum' undeniably poke fun at Hitler and Mussolini, while the evil Bordurian army in 'Le Sceptre d'Ottokar' is clearly modelled after the Nazis, down to their uniforms and a character named general Müsstler. Several Tintin stories favor multiculturalism, with 'Le Lotus Bleu' (1936) debunking stereotypes about the Chinese, 'Cokes en Stock' ('The Red Sea Sharks', 1956-58) criticizing modern slavery of black Africans and 'Les Bijoux de Bianca Castafiore' ('The Castafiore Emerald', 1961-62) attacking prejudices about Roma people.

Studio Herge in 1956
Studio Hergé around 1958. From left to right: Bob de Moor, Jo-El Azara, Jacques Martin, Michel Demarets (sitting), Baudouin van den Branden de Reeth, Josette Baujot, Hergé, France Ferrari, Fanny Vlamynck and Alexis Remi (Hergé's father)

Still, Hergé was unable to publish for a while. In 1945 he tried to apply for a job at Spirou, but the publisher Charles Dupuis refused to be associated with a former German collaborator. In hindsight one can only imagine how this might have changed the course of Belgian comics, because in 1946 Hergé was approached by publisher Raymond Leblanc to launch a comics magazine based on Tintin. Leblanc was a decorated wartime resistance hero and could therefore easily give Hergé his certificate of good citizenship back. Thus, in September 1946, the first issue of Tintin magazine became available, with the first episode of the story 'Le Temple du Soleil' inside. Leblanc founded a publishing company, Lombard, to distribute both the magazine as well as albums. The other original artists of Tintin magazine were Edgar Pierre Jacobs ('Blake et Mortimer'), Paul Cuvelier ('Corentin') and Jacques Laudy ('Hassan et Kaddour'). Hergé became creative advisor and held tight control over the magazine's entire content. He assembled more assistants around him, which eventually led to the creation of Studio Hergé (1950). Artists like Guy Dessicy and Franz Jagueneau joined the team, as did the colorists Josette Baujot, France Ferrari and Fanny Vlamynck. The latter would become Hergé's second wife after his divorce from Germaine Kieckens. In 1954, the team was reinforced by Jo-El Azara, Bob de Moor and Jacques Martin, who brought along his own assistants Roger Leloup and Michel Desmarets.

With this team on his side Hergé reworked and republished several of his older albums and series, but also made new ones. He restarted 'Tintin au Pays Noir' ('Land of Black Gold', 1948-50), reworked its pre-war plot and finished it. With the two-parter 'Objectif Lune' ('Destination Moon', 1950-52) and 'On A Marché Sur La Lune' ('Explorers on the Moon', 1952-53) Tintin experienced his most epic adventure yet, going straight to the moon. The story is notable for being a scientificially accurate depiction of space travel years before the actual space age began and a decade and a half before Neil Armstrong actually set foot on the moon. 'L'Affaire Tournesol' ('The Calculus Affair', 1954-56) is a Cold War thriller revolving around professor Tournesol's kidnapping. The story also marked the debut of the final major cast member Seraphin Lampion (Joylon Wagg). This obnoxious jolly neighour would invite himself over to Haddock's castle multiple times, much to the captain's annoyance. 'Coke en Stock' ('The Red Sea Sharks', 1956-58) delved into the theme of modern slave trade.

Mannen op de maan by Herge
The world's second most famous moon landing (1953)
©Hergé/Moulinsart 2012

Tintin quickly rose as Spirou's main rival. Both magazines dominated the Belgian post-war comics industry and attracted artists both from within Belgium as abroad. Tintin had the most classy and dignified reputation of the two. Only artists with a high degree of craftmanship were accepted in its pages. Most comics in Tintin were realistic in both content as well as illustrations and followed Hergé's "clear line" style. Foreign sales rose too. In the 1930s Hergé's works had been published in book form by Le Vingtième Siècle, soon taken over by the Tournay-based publisher Louis Casterman from 1934 onwards. In France 'Tintin' appeared in Coeurs Vaillants, in Switzerland in L'Écho Illustré, in Portugal in O Papagaio and in Flanders in Het Laatste Nieuws. As soon as Tintin magazine was established, it was translated all across Europe.

'Tintin' now conquered the globe, finding millions of fans in unexpected places such as Latin America, Congo, Turkey, Iran, India, China and Australia. Some of them were even celebrities, such as novelist Vikram Seth and film directors Alain Resnais, Satiyajit Ray, Wim Wenders, Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg. French president Charles De Gaulle once claimed that Tintin was his "only international rival". Balthus, Alberto Giacometti, Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein named Hergé a huge influence on their style. An image of Tintin reading a newspaper from 'The Broken Ear' inspired Lichtenstein's painting 'Tintin Reading' (1993). Warhol met Hergé in 1972 and honored him five years later by making a silkscreen painting depicting Hergé's face rather than Tintin's. In 1987 painter Keith Haring illustrated the cover of the homage book 'Nous, Tintin' (1987). Hergé received an Adamson Award (1971) and was inducted in both the Harvey Award (1999) and the Eisner Award (2003) Hall of Fame. The Walt Disney Company granted Hergé a special Mickey statue in 1979. In 2006 the Dalai Lama bestowed Tintin with the International Campaign for Tibet's Light and Truth Award. Since 1953 Hergé also has an asteroid named after him, along with one named after Bianca Castafiore (1950).

Hergé, by Andy Warhol
Hergé, by Andy Warhol

Naturally, various media adaptations couldn't stay behind. Already during World War II a theatrical play was created around the franchise, followed by a 1947 puppet film based on 'The Crab with the Golden Claws'. The Belgian animation company Belvision created an animated TV series (1958-1962) and two animated feature films, 'Le Temple du Soleil' ('Tintin and the Temple of the Sun', 1969) and 'Tintin au Laq du Requins' ('Tintin and the Lake of Sharks', 1972), the latter based on an original script by Greg. Two live-action films, 'Tintin et le Mystère de la Toison d'Or' ('Tintin and the Golden Fleece', 1961) and 'Tintin et Les Oranges Bleues' ('Tintin and the Blue Oranges', 1964) starring sports instructor Jean-Pierre Talbot as Tintin, were also created, as well as a CGI Hollywood production, 'The Adventures of Tintin: the Secret of the Unicorn' (2011) by Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson. By the far the finest audiovisual adaptation is the 1991-1992 animated TV series by Ellipse/Nelvana, fondly remembered for its epic soundtrack by composers Ray Parker, Jim Morgan and Tom Szcesniak. Of all 'Tintin'-based works it arguably does Hergé's overall style the most justice by remaining faithful to both plots and artwork.

Tintin's global success is remarkable for a comic strip from such a tiny country. Yet its international appeal could easily be explained through the fact that the characters have travelled to all corners of the Earth, which are depicted with the greatest attention to geographic authenticity. Hergé also removed all regional aspects from the franchise. And still there is a very distinctive Belgian - or better said Brussels - atmosphere in his comics. Many backgrounds are recognizable as streets in the Belgian capital and/or the Antwerp harbour. Three artificial languages in the series, namely Syldavian, Bordurian and Arumbayan, are basically bastardizations of a local Flemish dialect spoken in the Brussels neighbourhood De Marollen. Hergé's mother and grandmother were Flemish and he remembered many phrases, which he used in the dialogues. Other traces of this dialect can be found in names of locations (Khemed, Wadesdah, ...) and characters (Bab El Ehr, Ezdanitoff, Krollspell, ...). The royal palace in 'Le Sceptre d'Ottokar' is modelled after the Belgian one, while certain museum objects in 'L'Oreille Cassée' can also be found in the Brussels Ethnographic museum. Last but not least, when one translates the Chinese handwriting on the letter Tintin receives in 'Tintin au Tibet' it reads 'Brussels' as his home address. It's no exaggeration that Tintin is arguably the most recognizable Belgian in the world, even though he is just as fictional as that other universal Belgian celebrity: Hercule Poirot. A huge part of Belgian tourism still uses Tintin in its merchandise, with a 1979 statue of Tintin erected in Uccle and a 2005 wall painting in the Stoofstraat/Rue l'Eteuve in Brussels, not far from Manneken Pis. The Belgian Comics Center in Brussels also uses Tintin's quiff in a speech balloon as its official logo. It comes to no surprise that Hergé was the highest ranking comics artist in 'The Greatest Belgian' (2005) election and the only one to make the list of 100 nominees on both language borders. In the Flemish version he came in at the 24th place, in the Walloon version to n° 8. In 1978 he was also knighted as Officer in the Order of Leopold.

Tintin au Tibet, by Hergé
Tintin au Tibet (1959, sequence unpublished in album)
©Hergé/Moulinsart 2012

While Hergé's fame and wealth rose his personal life was less idyllic. His workload and the divorce from his first wife caused a lot of stress and nightmares. At the same time he desperately wanted to meet his friend Chang Chongren again, with whom he had lost touch since 1934. As a form of therapy he created 'Tintin au Tibet' ('Tintin in Tibet', 1958-59), in which Tintin travels to the Himalaya in the hope of finding his friend Tchang from 'Le Lotus Bleu' again. The story is the artist's most personal work. There are few action-packed scenes, no villains and aside from Tintin, Haddock and Milou other cast members play no major parts. With its white landscapes and focus on friendship it's a masterpiece of minimalism and heart-felt emotion. In a case of art imitates life Hergé would meet Chongren again in real life, though only in 1981 in a widely mediatized reunion in Brussels.

'Tintin au Tibet' relieved Hergé from his nightmares but also caused writer's block afterwards. He felt he had reached his artistic high point. New albums only appeared every few years. Some were even interrupted halfway for several months. More time was spent redrawing older albums, with 'L' Île Noir' and 'Tintin au Pays Noir' undergoing the most graphic changes. Hergé also started experimenting with his stories. The boldest example of this is 'Les Bijoux de la Castafiore' (1963), in which Castafiore's jewels are stolen. The entire plot takes place at one and the same location, Moulinsart, and tested how long readers could be kept at the edge of their seat with seemingly banal events. It's therefore a very polarizing story in the series, though admired for its audacity. Hergé also moved away from the naïve idealism of his earlier stories. Characters became less easier to define as 'good' or 'bad', such as the guilt-ridden Frank Wolff ('On a Marché Sur La Lune', 1966-1967) and the vain Lazlo Carreidas ('Vol 714 Pour Sidney', 1966-1967). Even the main cast wasn't safe. In 'Vol 714' ('Flight 714 to Sydney') Rastapopoulos and Allan Thompson are ridiculed to the extent that the reader pities them. In 'Tintin et les Picaros' ('Tintin and the Picaros', 1975-76) Tintin suddenly wears jeans instead of his trademark tan pants, practices yoga and is less keen on travelling anymore. Haddock gets a distaste for alcohol, butler Nestor is caught listening at the door and the ending is remarkably cynical. Readers naturally didn't react well to this trolling. 'Vol 714' still was an action-packed adventure, but 'Tintin et les Picaros' felt as if Hergé was getting tired. Rumors that his assistant Bob De Moor did most of the drawing in the final decades were hard to suppress. Still, when the maestro passed away in 1983 the news made headlines all over the world and sparked enormous grief and tributes.


The famous plaster gag from L'Affaire Tournesol
©Hergé/Moulinsart 2012

For a while it seemed that Bob De Moor would continue the franchise, but before his death Hergé had made clear that the series would die with him. De Moor wasn't even allowed to work out the final unfinished story, 'Tintin et l'Alph-art'. It was in eventually released in its original sketched-out form and naturally inspired several fully worked-out bootleg versions by artists like Ramó Nash, Yves Rodier and Régric. In 2004 more pages of Hergé's work-in-progress turned up, leading to an official updated re-release. 'Quick et Flupke', on the other hand, did see some official new albums. Bob de Moor's son, Johan de Moor - who worked on the 1983 animated TV shorts based on the two boys - was allowed to create some new gags with the duo in Hergé's style. He did this so well that few noticed the difference. The discontinuation of 'Tintin' nevertheless meant death bells for its eponymous magazine, which went bankrupt in 1993. However, contrary to what many expected, the comics series itself remains a global bestseller to this day.

In 1987 Hergé's widow, Fanny Rémi, established the Hergé Foundation, renamed Moulinsart S.A. in 1996. Together with her new husband, Nick Rodwell, the couple gained notoriety for their strict and often controversial copyright claims regarding her late husband's works. For instance, in 2009 when the Hergé Museum opened in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium she unexpectedly told the press that they weren't allowed to take photographs "to prevent unauthorized photographs surfacing on the Internet." Even parodies aren't safe. In the past Hergé's estate has fined spoof albums like Filip Denis' 'Tintin en Suisse' (1976) and even outright banned albums like 'La Vie Sexuelle de Tintin' (1994) by Jan Bucquoy and Baudouin de Duve's 'Tintin in Thailand' (1999). Still, the stream of unauthorized parodies, plagiarism and pastiches is difficult to surpress, particularly in Turkey where numerous pirate stories starring Tintin abound. Apart from the unavoidable porn parodies Tintin is also a favorite subject for political satire, such as 'Kuifje in El Salvador' (1984) and J. Daniels' 'Breaking Free' (1988).

All the controversy and numerous parodies have proved one thing: 'Tintin' and his creator are still as immortal and news worthy as they ever were. Several scenes and album covers from 'Tintin' rank among the most iconic moments in comics history, from the red-and-white moon rocket over Haddock's pirate story to Tintin jumping out of a disconnected train wagon. Countless books, essays, homage albums and documentaries have been dedicated to Hergé and his work. Much has been written about the art, narratives, characters, politics, psychology to the fictional and real-life locations, artificial languages, dream sequences, ships and even Haddock's eccentric swear words! Philippe Goddin counts as the leading expert on Hergé's oeuvre, and served as general secretary of the Fondation Hergé from 1989 to 1999. Among the many books he wrote about the artist and his creations are 'Hergé and Tintin, Reporters' (1987), the biography 'Hergé: lignes de vie' (2007) and most notably the seven-volume retrospective 'Hergé - Chronologie d'une oeuvre' ('Hergé - Chronology of his work', 2000-2011). Benoit Peeters has also written several interesting books about the grandmaster. His biography 'Hergé, Fils de Tintin' was published in 2002, and his book 'Le Monde d'Hergé' (2004) is an excellent effort to put Hergé and his work in context. In perhaps the most fitting tribute, Stanislas, Fromental and Bocquet adapted Hergé's life into a comic book: 'Les Aventures de Hergé' (1991).

Hergé's art and narratives have inspired countless comics artists and even spawned the eponym 'Hergéan'. In Belgium alone he influenced Edgar P. Jacobs, Jijé, Bob De Moor, Johan De Moor, André Franquin, Victor Hubinon, Paul Cuvelier, François Craenhals, Roger Leloup, Maurice Tillieux, Tibet, Pom, Willy Vandersteen, Jef Nys, Marc Sleen, François Schuiten, Hermann, Ever Meulen, Didier Comès and Merho. In France he inspired Jacques Martin, Albert Uderzo, Claire Brétecher, Stanislas, Dupuy & Berberian, Yves Chaland, François Bel, Kent Hutchinson, Ted Benoit, Moebius and Jacques Tardi. Dutch followers can be spotted in the work of J.H. Koeleman, Joost Swarte, Theo Van Den Boogaard, Mark Smeets, Henk Kuijpers, Martin Lodewijk, Dick Briel, Eric Heuvel and Peter Van Dongen. In the USA he counts Gary Panter, Josh Neufeld, Rodolfo Damaggio, Robert Storr, Rick Tulka, Terry Gilliam and Charles Burns among his disciples. In other countries one couldn't forget Cosey, Bernie Mireault, Nora Krug, Josep Maria Madorell, David Sánchez, Themo Lobos, Robert Julien, Daniel Ceppi, Ola Skögang, Clayton Noone and Hugo Pratt either.

Prisoners of the Sun by Hergé
Cover drawing for Tintin issue 3, 1947 ©Hergé/Moulinsart 2012

The Official Tintin website (English, French, Japanese)
Daniel Bellier's site with many scans of historical material (in French)
Kuifje in Lambiek's Stripgeschiedenis (in Dutch)
Kuifje fan club (in Dutch)

Series en boeken door Hergé op voorraad in de Lambiek Webshop:

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