How Andy Warhol and Tintin Creator Hergé Mutually Admired and Influenced One Another

Comic-book stories of a boy reporter and his dog (later accompanied by a foulmouthed sea captain) featuring rocketships and submarines, booby-traps and buried treasure, gangsters and abominable snowmen, smugglers and super-weapons, all told with bright colors, clear lines, and practically no girls in sight: no wonder The Adventures of Tintin at first looks tailor-made for rambunctious youngsters. But now, eighty years after Tintin's debut in the children's supplement of a Belgian Catholic newspaper, his ever-growing fan base surely includes more grown-ups than it does kids, and grown-ups prepared to regard his adventures as serious works of modern art at that.

The field of Tintin enthusiasts (in their most dedicated form, "Tintinologists") includes some of the best-known modern artists in history. Roy Lichtenstein, he of the zoomed-in comic-book aesthetic, once made Tintin his subject, and Tintin's creator Hergé, who cultivated a love for modern art from the 1960s onward, hung a suite of Lichtenstein prints in his office. As Andy Warhol once put it, "Hergé has influenced my work in the same way as Walt Disney. For me, Hergé was more than a comic strip artist." And for Hergé, Warhol seems to have been more than a fashionable American painter: in 1979, Hergé commissioned Warhol to paint his portrait, and Warhol came up with a series of four images in a style reminiscent of the one he'd used to paint Jackie Onassis and Marilyn Monroe.




Hergé and Warhol had first met in 1972, when Hergé paid a visit to Warhol's "Factory" in New York — the kind of setting in which one imagines the straight-laced, sixtysomething Belgian setting foot only with difficulty. But the two had more in common as artists than it may seem: both got their start in commercial illustration, and both soon found their careers defined by particular works that exploded into cultural phenomena. (Warhol may also have felt an affinity with Tintin in their shared recognizability by hairstyle alone.) The Independent's John Lichfield writes that Hergé, who had by that point learned to paint a few modern abstract pieces of his own, "asked Warhol, modestly, whether the father of Tintin should also consider himself a 'Pop Artist.' Warhol, although a great fan of Hergé, simply stared back at him and did not reply."

Warhol may not have known what to say forty years ago, but in that time Hergé has unquestionably ascended into the institutional pantheon of Western art: Lichfield's article is a review of a 2006 Hergé retrospective at the Pompidou Centre, and the years since have seen the opening of the Musée Hergé south of Brussels as well as increasingly elaborate exhibitions on Tintin and his creator all around the world. (I myself attended such an exhibition in Seoul, where I live, just last month.) The French artist Jean-Pierre Raynaud expresses a now-common kind of sentiment when he credits Hergé with "a precision of the kind I love in Mondrian" and "the artistic economy that you find in Matisse." Warhol, who probably wouldn't have phrased his appreciation in quite that way, makes a more tonally characteristic response in the clip above when Hergé tells him about Tintin's latter-day switch from his signature plus fours to jeans: "Oh, great!"

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

An Archive of Animations/Cartoons of Ancient Greece & Rome: From the 1920s Through Today

Ancient Greece and Rome have provided fertile hunting grounds for animated subject matter since the very inception of the form.

So what if the results wind up doing little more than frolic in the pastoral setting? Witness 1930’s Playful Pan, above, which can basically be summed up as Silly Symphony in a toga (with a cute bear cub who looks a lot like Mickey Mouse and some flame play that prefigures The Sorcerer’s Apprentice…)

Others are packed with history, mythic narrative, and period details, though be forewarned that not all are as visually appealing as Steve Simons’ Hoplites! Greeks at War, part of the Panoply Vase Animation Project.




Some series, such as the Asterix movies and Aesop and Sona staple of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show from 1959 to 1962have been the gateways through which many history lovers’ curiosity was first roused.

(Russian animator Anatoly Petrov’s erotic shorts for Soyuzmultfilm may rouse other, er, curiosities, and are definitely NSFW.)

And then there are instant classics like 2004’s It's All Greek to Scooby in which “Shaggy's purchase of a mysterious amulet only serves to cause a pestering archaeologist and centaur to chase him.”  (Ye gods…)

Senior Lecturer of Classical and Mediterranean Studies at Vanderbilt, Chiara Sulprizio, has collected all of these and more on her blog, Animated Antiquity.

Beginning with the 2-minute fragment that’s all we have left of Winsor McCay’s 1921 The Centaurs, Sulprizio shares some of her favorite cartoon representations of ancient Greece, Rome, and beyond. Her areas of professional specializationgender and sexuality, Greek comedy, and Roman satireare well suited to her chosen hobby, and her commentary doubles down on historical context to include the history of animation.

The appearance of cartoon stars like Daffy Duck, Tom and Jerry, and Popeye further demonstrates this antique subject matter’s sturdiness. TED-Ed and the BBC may view the genre as an excellent teaching tool, but there’s nothing stopping the animator from shoehorning some fabrications in amongst the buxom nymphs and buff gladiators.

(Raise your hand if your mother ever sacrificed you on the altar to Spinachia, goddess of spinach, in hopes that she might unleash a mushroom cloud of super-atomic power in your puny bicep.)

You’ll find a number of entries featuring the work of Japanese and Russian animators, including Thermae Romae, part of the juggernaut that’s sprung from Mari Yamazaki’s popular graphic novel series and Icarus and the Wise Men from the legendary Fyodor Khitruk, whose retelling of the myth sent a message about freedom from the Soviet Union, circa 1976.

Begin your decade-by-decade explorations of Chiara Sulprizio’s animated antiquities here or suggest that a missing favorite be added to the collection. (We vote for this one!)

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join her in New York City for the next installment of her book-based variety show, Necromancers of the Public Domain, this April. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Moebius Draws Adventurous Ads for Maxwell House Coffee (1989)

What do you do after you’ve helped create one of the “first anti-heroes in Western comics”; pioneered the underground comics industry and heavy metal album covers; won the enduring admiration of Federico Fellini, Stan Lee, and Hayao Miyazaki; and brought your distinctive creative style to the look of sci-fi classics like Blade RunnerAlien, Tron, and The Abyss?

Sit back, have a coffee, and design a series of ads for Maxwell House. Why not? You’re Moebius. You can draw whatever you want. No one’s going to accuse Alejandro Jodorowsky’s partner in the legendary never-made Dune film and The Incal comics of selling out—not when contemporary comic art, science fiction, and fantasy could hardly have existed without him.

“Probably the most important fantasy comic artist of all time,” as Art Futura dubs him, the man originally known by his birth name Jean Giraud began his career as an illustrator for the youth press Fleurus, who were the first in France to publish fellow bande dessinées artist Herge’s Adventures of Tintin. The Maxwell House ads here, drawn in 1989, recall those early days of Franco-Belgian comic art, when adventurers raced around the colonies, braving wild animals and surly natives.




Moebius’ confident hand leaves a signature in the dense patterns of the foliage and slender jawline of the elegant, coffee-sipping damsel, who does not seem remotely in distress, downed plane and curious gorillas notwithstanding. But the settings are just as reminiscent of Tintin’s juvenile conceptions of the Amazon and "darkest Africa," though Moebius leaves out the swashbucklers and ugly native caricatures.

Giraud’s own travels took him through Mexico—where he joined his mother as a teenager and saw for the first time the magnificent Western landscapes he had always dreamed of—and through Algeria, where he worked as an illustrator for the French army magazine while finishing his military service. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he portrayed non-European nations and people with sympathy and respect.

Though he first took the name Moebius in 1974 in order to pursue more fantasy-oriented work after drawing the Western Blueberry for over a decade, some of Giraud's ‘70s comic stories under the name drew upon real events, like the murder of a North African immigrant, Wounded Knee, and the famous speech of Chief Seattle.

The Maxwell House panels keep things light and sweet, so to speak, though where the cream and sugar might be hiding is anyone’s guess. The heroine of the series, named Tatiana, is “a self-possessed and fashionable young woman who happens to find herself alone on a desert jungle island or the like,” as Martin Schneider writes at Dangerous Minds. Unperturbed, she takes more interest in her coffee than the wildness around her.

At Dangerous Minds you’ll find alternate unused images and the ad campaign’s droll captions describing Tatiana taking coffee breaks from some mundane errand or chore. The commentary, though amusing, is hardly necessary. We can imagine dozens of stories embedded in each panel. The ability to create such complex and evocative illustrations, every one a world within a world, has always set Moebius ahead of his peers and many imitators.

via TripWire/Dangerous Minds

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Behold Moebius’ Many Psychedelic Illustrations of Jimi Hendrix

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Behold Moebius’ Many Psychedelic Illustrations of Jimi Hendrix


The 1995 release of posthumous Jimi Hendrix compilation Voodoo Soup has divided fans and critics for over two decades now. But whatever its merits, its cover art should hold an honored place in every Hendrix fan’s collection. Drawn by the legendary cult comic artist Moebius from a photograph of Hendrix eating soup in France, it captures the sound Hendrix was moving toward at the end of his life—his head exploding in flames, or mushroom clouds, or pink psychedelic bronchial tubes, or whatever. The image comes from a larger gatefold, excerpted below, which Moebius drew for the French double LP Are You Experienced/Axis: Bold as Love in 1975.

Journalist Jean-Nöel Coghe was supposedly very upset that he did not even receive mention for taking the original photo, but in the nineties he and Moebius came together again for a project that would do them both credit, a book called Emotions électriques that Coghe wrote of his experiences traveling through France as Hendrix’s guide during the Experience’s first tour of the country in 1967.




Moebius provided the book's illustrations, many of which you can see below, “each of them,” as the publisher's description has it, “imagining Hendrix in a classic Moebius landscape of dreams.”

 

Obviously a huge Hendrix fan, Moebius is in many ways as responsible for the psychedelic space race of the 1970s as the guitarist himself. His work in the French comic magazine Métal hurlantHeavy Metal in the American version—epitomized the sci-fi and fantasy elements that came to dominate heavy rock. His work with Alejandro Jodorowsky on the Chilean visionary filmmaker’s aborted Dune is the stuff of legend.

Moebius had illustrated album covers since the early seventies, mostly those of European artists. But his creations as a magazine and comics illustrator (and film scenarist) have the most enduring appeal for much the same reason as Hendrix’s music. They are both unparalleled masters and natural storytellers whose imagined worlds are so richly detailed and consistently surprising they have birthed entire genres. The two may have crossed paths too late to actually work together, but I like to think Moebius carried on the spirit of Hendrix in a visual form.

It may not be common knowledge that Hendrix hated his album covers, leaving detailed notes about them for his record company, who ignored them. His own choices, one must admit, including a Linda McCartney photo for the cover of Electric Ladyland that makes the band look like they’re on the set of a proto-Sesame Street, do not exactly sell the records’ treasures. But Jimi might have loved Moebius’ interpretations of his headspace, a visual continuation of a prominent strand of Hendrix's imagination. See all of Moebius' Hendrix illustrations here.

 

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Every Spider-Man Movie and TV Show Explained By Kevin Smith

Look, I’ve never been a fan of Kevin Smith’s ooooooov-rah, per se, but I will never criticize his ability to spin a bloody good yarn. He’s funny, engaging, charming, and knows his pop culture. WIRED also knows this, so when on the eve of the (apparently very good) Spider-verse movie, they called on Smith to sit down and run through every Spider-man Movie and TV Show and opinionate all over that mess. (And because Sony’s contract with the Marvel superhero is up, this might be a nice demarcation line.)

I stepped on board the Spidey-train when he appeared as a character on PBS’ The Electric Company, the educational kids show that would screen after Sesame Street. As Smith points out, this Spidey was mute, a red and blue mime who only spoke in thought balloons, some of which others could literally read as they hung above his head.




Around the same time the ‘60s cartoon was also screening, copying the rogue’s gallery of villains well known from the Steve Ditko-Stan Lee comic book. Both this and the Electric Company Spideys had the best theme songs, and they still haven’t been topped. (If you’re a Gen-X’er, you can drop the lyrics on request, anytime).

Now, before this, there had been a few live action attempts to bring the wall-crawler to the big screen but, well, they’re as cheesy and not-good as you might expect, so for the period during the ‘90s, Spider-man stayed an animated concern. The highlight of the ’94-’98 animated series, according to Smith, is the final meta episode, where Spider-man crosses over into “our” reality and meets Stan Lee, while Lee’s wife Joan played Madame Web.

Interestingly, Smith glosses over the three other animated series that have run since then because of the beginning of live-action Spider-man films made with the power and money of the modern blockbuster. (Interesting, I say, because critics are now declaring the new animated film the best of the bunch).

Smith isn’t wild about the first Sam Raimi film in 2002. He questions the decision to cover up emotive actor Willem Dafoe with a Green Goblin mask for the final battle. However, he not only likes the sequel, but calls it “one of the greatest superhero films ever made” because it never loses sight of the man behind the Spidey mask.

He chastises Sony for the needless 2012 reboot, just five years from the final film in the Raimi trilogy. His problem: Garfield’s Spider-man is great, his Peter Parker is not. The opposite is true with McGuire.

Finally, they got it right with Tom Holland’s version in Avengers: Civil War, that mix of geeky student by day, cocky quipster by night. Plus, as Smith points out, they gave him his Queens accent back. (Marvel comics, at least the first couple of years, was always entrenched in a real New York City as background.)

“The real charm of that character...is that he’s covered from head-to-toe,” Kevin says, paraphrasing Stan Lee. “You don’t know who he is or what he is. You don't know if he's a boy, a girl, you don't know what he is, what race, creed, color, anything. So any kid reading that book can see themselves as the character.”

And that leads us to the current film, which Smith can tell you about himself. It follows that universality of the character and explodes it out to a bunch of alternative universe versions of all races, genders, and genus.

“We live in such a golden era (for comic book movies),” Smith declares and even in a world of Marvel burnout, you want to believe him. Maybe the new film is the way forward: more diversity, more fun, more talking animals.

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast and is the producer of KCRW's Curious Coast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

Free: Download 15,000+ Free Golden Age Comics from the Digital Comic Museum

The Digital Comic Museum offers free access to hundreds of pre-1959 comic books, uploaded by users who often offer historical research and commentary alongside high-quality scans.

The site’s moderators and administrators are particularly careful to avoid posting non-public-domain comics (a complicated designation, as described in this forum thread). The resulting archive is devoid of many familiar comic-book characters, like those from Marvel, D.C., or Disney.




On the other hand, because of this restriction, the archive offers an interesting window into the themes of lesser-known comics in the Golden Age—romance, Westerns, combat, crime, supernatural and horror. The covers of the romance comics are great examples of popular art.

Interested in understanding how homefront American culture reflected fighting in World War II and Korea, and the anxieties of the Cold War? The archive is full of titles like "Fighting Yank"  (or "Warfront") that trade on true stories of past combat and present-day engagements. Many, like these “Atomic Attack” books from the early 1950s, have a distinctive Cold War flavor, with science-fictional imaginings of futuristic combat. ("See how the war of 1972 will be fought! The war that YOU, yourself, might have to take part in...")

The museum holds some unexpected and forgotten titles, like the Mad Magazine knock-off “Eh.” Here you can see how looking at a comic that wasn't successful enough to have a lasting legacy (and, therefore, a renewed copyright) can be enlightening in and of itself. What subjects did "Eh" cover that Mad might have avoided?

The DCM asks users to register and log in before downloading comic files. Registration is free, and—for now—there’s no limit on the number of titles you can download. You can enter the archive here.

When you're there, make sure you visit the site's ever-growing collection of those notorious 'Pre-Code' Horror comics of the 50s. Also see the Archives and Collections area where artists of note have been given their own individual spotlight.

Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in March, 2013.

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.

Also consider following Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and sharing intelligent media with your friends. Or sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

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Rebecca Onion is a writer and academic living in Philadelphia. She runs Slate.com’s history blog, The Vault. Follow her on Twitter: @rebeccaonion.

R.I.P. Stan Lee: Take His Free Online Course “The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact On Pop Culture”

"I grew up in an exurb where it took nearly an hour to walk to the nearest shop, to the nearest place to eat, to the library," remembers writer Adam Cadre. "And the steep hills made it an exhausting walk.  That meant that until I turned sixteen, when school was not in session I was stuck at home.  This was often not a good place to be stuck. Stan Lee gave me a place to hang out." Many other former children of exurban America — as well as everywhere else — did much of their growing up there as well, not just in the universe of Marvel Comics but in those of the comics and other forms of culture to which it gave rise or influenced, most of them either directly or indirectly shaped by Lee, who died yesterday at the age of 95.

"His critics would say that for me to thank Stan Lee for creating the Marvel Universe shows that I’ve fallen for his self‐promotion," Cadre continues, "​that it was Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko and his other collaborators who supplied the dynamic, expressive artwork and the epic storylines that made the Marvel Universe so compelling."




Marvel fans will remember that Ditko, co-creator with Lee of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, died this past summer. Kirby, whose countless achievements in comics include co-creating the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, and the Hulk with Lee, passed away in 1994. (Kirby's death, as I recall, was the first I'd ever heard about on the internet.)

Those who take a dimmer view of Lee's career see him as having done little more artistic work than putting dialogue into the speech bubbles. But like no small number of other Marvel Universe habitués, Cadre "didn’t read superhero comics for the fights or the costumes or the trips to Asgard and Attilan. I read them for fantasy that read like reality, for the interplay of wildly different personalities — ​and for the wisecracks." And what made superhero stories the right delivery system for that interplay of personalities and those wisecracks? You'll find the answer in "The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact On Pop Culture," an online course from the Smithsonian, previously featured here on Open Culture and still available to take at your own pace in edX's archives, created and taught in part by Lee himself. You can watch the trailer for the course at the top of the post.

If you take the course, its promotional materials promise, you'll learn the answers to such questions as "Why did superheroes first arise in 1938 and experience what we refer to as their “Golden Age” during World War II?," "How have comic books, published weekly since the mid-1930’s, mirrored a changing American society, reflecting our mores, slang, fads, biases and prejudices?," and "When and how did comic book artwork become accepted as a true American art form as indigenous to this country as jazz?" Whether or not you consider yourself a "true believer," as Lee would have put it, there could be few better ways of honoring an American icon like him than discovering what makes his work in superhero comics — the field to which he dedicated his life, and the one which has taken more than its fair share of derision over the decades — not just a reflection of the culture but a major influence on it as well.

Enroll in "The Rise of Superheroes and Their Impact On Pop Culture" here.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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