Tintin at 90 is as ir­re­sistible as ever

The world has be­come more com­plex since the in­trepid boy re­porter took it upon him­self to get to the bot­tom of the story

DNA Sunday (Mumbai) - - W RLD -

The in­ter­na­tional comic book sen­sa­tion, Tintin, turned 90 three days ago but the boy re­porter re­fuses to grow up. Nei­ther does his dog, Snowy. After all, fight­ing crime across the globe is no mean task, that too if you have a tem­per­a­men­tal Cap­tain Had­dock as your chief as­sis­tant and de­tec­tives Thom­son and Thomp­son for law en­force­ment. There are many marvellous things about Tintin, not least his trade­mark quiff that man­aged to stay in place dur­ing the many dar­ing ad­ven­tures. It was a marker of the boy’s un­flap­pa­bil­ity, not a hair out of place, so to speak, in the face of death.

Tintin was born in Janury 1929 in the mag­a­zine Le Petit Vingtième, the chil­dren’s sec­tion of a Brus­sels news­pa­per. The first se­ries set him in the land of the Sovi­ets and was so strongly anti-Com­mu­nist that when it was pub­lished in book form, it was re­stricted to a sin­gle edi­tion. At the time his cre­ator Ge­orges Pros­per Remi, pop­u­lar as Hergé, was work­ing for the right-wing pa­per Le XXeme siecle, which was run by Nor­bert Wallez, a Catholic priest and lead­ing Right-wing fig­ure who is said to have ad­mired Mus­solini, the Fas­cist dic­ta­tor of Italy.

Any­way, along the course, Tintin evolved along with his cre­ator Hergé who later showed many lib­eral traits. Through 24 comic al­bums, Tintin trav­elled to Rus­sia, Amer­ica, Africa, North Pole, Ara­bia, In­done­sia, India, Nepal, and Ti­bet, and once even landed on the moon in 1954, 15 years be­fore Neil Arm­strong showed up. Talk of the flight of imag­i­na­tion!

Cu­ri­ously, Hergé wasn’t much of a trav­eller, and his lack of ex­po­sure to di­verse cul­tures and sen­si­bil­i­ties of­ten forced him to play on stereo­types. Take for in­stance, Tintin in the Congo, that is in­fa­mous for its racist de­pic­tions. In the Land of Black Gold, when Tintin trav­els to Saudi Ara­bia, at a faux Emi­rates city, where all the men are in tur­bans, they’re all in the desert, they’re re­ally quick to get an­gry. De­spite such crit­i­cisms, Tintin’s pop­u­lar­ity grew by leaps and bounds. Some star­tling facts about the comic books will give an idea of their pop­u­lar­ity: By the 1960s, Hergé was an ex­tremely suc­cess­ful au­thor, and Tintin a global suc­cess. Since 1929, more than 230 mil­lion copies have been sold. The Tintin ad­ven­tures have been trans­lated in more than 70 lan­guages. Not just Tintin and Had­dock, Hergé also pop­u­lated the comic se­ries with other lov­able char­ac­ters like Pro­fes­sor Cal­cu­lus and the opera singer Bianca Castafiore, the “Mi­lanese Nightin­gale”.

De­spite the ob­vi­ous flaws in some ex­pli­ca­ble way, Tintin ap­pealed to both the young and the old. Tintin lived in a sup­pos­edly com­plex uni­verse, and Hergé’s treat­ment man­aged to el­e­vate the se­ries from geo­graph­i­cal and cul­tural con­straints.

Tintin and Alph-Art pub­lished in 1986 was the last book in the se­ries. Hergé had died in 1983 and the post­hu­mous pub­li­ca­tion presents the sto­ry­line and sketches of an in­ter­rupted tale. It show­cases Hergé’s su­perb tal­ent for graph­ics and nar­ra­tive.

Tintin needs to come back now more than ever to slay the vil­lain called Fake News.

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