Tintin au Tibet
Tintin was born, figuratively speaking, on January 10, 1929 when Georges Remi’s comic strip hero appeared in a children’s supplement of the Belgian newspaper, Le XXe Siecle. The strip has survived various political regimes, a world war, changing consumer tastes and accusations of racial stereotyping and colonialism.
The youthful Belgian reporter is still going strong. Movie, TV, radio and theatrical adaptations, exhibitions and books about Hergé – Remi’s pen-name – keep the cult of Tintin alive. It has been translated into dozens of languages and featured a series of characters that have become iconic in popular culture – for instance, there are few more famous fictional dogs than Snowy, or Milou as he is known to French readers. Tintin’s fame can also be measured by the good number of parodies that abound.
Remi (1907–1983) introduced Tintin in Tintin in the Land of the Soviets and didn’t mince his artwork. The hero took on the evil Bolsheviks – the political villains of the day – whose leaders were portrayed as greedy and uncaring.
The plots used fictional countries and extensively researched real locations. Rip-roaring adventures contained political themes. In 1939, Hergé produced King Ottokar’s Sceptre where Tintin battled Fascists in the made-up country of Borduria.
The study of Tintin is, of course, known as Tintinology. There are various books looking at Hergé’s work and the influence of his comic strip heroes. We recommend Tintin: The Complete Companion by Michael Farr as the ideal Tintin textbook.
The criticism of Tintin revolves around too much violence, racial stereotyping of non-Europeans and colonialism. Hergé’s stereotypical imagery of Africans in Tintin in the Congo is undeniable. The colonialist themes were a simple reflection of pre-World War II Europe.
Tintin did not appear in English until 1951 when the Eagle comic ran the strip. It was Methuen and Golden Books who realized that Tintin had potential in a book format for English speakers.
Some young readers grew up and became collectors. The most expensive Tintin ever sold by AbeBooks was a copy of Le Crab aux Pinces D’Or (The Crab with the Golden Claws where Captain Haddock is introduced) from 1941 for $1,950. A 1963 hardback copy of Le Bijoux De La Castafiore (The Castafiore Emerald, a 1963 experimental story with a much slower plot) signed by Hergé sold for $1,245. Of course, the most expensive Tintins offered for sale on AbeBooks are the early French editions.