Hergé Draws Tintin in Vintage Footage (and What Explains the Character’s Enduring Appeal)

“Tintin addicts are a mixed bunch,” writes New York­er crit­ic Antho­ny Lane, pro­fil­ing the beloved plus fours-clad, quiff-topped adven­tur­er and there­by reveal­ing him­self as one of the afflict­ed. “Steven Spiel­berg and Peter Jack­son [have] a three-pic­ture deal to bring Tintin to the big screen. I once heard Hugh Grant declare on a radio pro­gram that if he could take only one book to a desert island it would be King Ottokar’s Scep­tre (1939). [ … ] Gen­er­al de Gaulle declared that Tintin was his only inter­na­tion­al rival — he was envi­ous, per­haps, not just of Tintin’s fame but of the defi­ant­ly pos­i­tive atti­tude that he came to rep­re­sent.” Despite com­ing from Amer­i­ca, one of the few coun­tries nev­er to have tak­en whole­heart­ed­ly to the char­ac­ter, I too have read and re-read the 23 full-length com­ic books (or as we call them nowa­days, graph­ic nov­els) in which he stars, and I too envy his qual­i­ties, espe­cial­ly the use­ful amor­phous­ness of his iden­ti­ty: nei­ther man nor boy; nei­ther tra­di­tion­al nor mod­ern; pre­sum­ably Bel­gian, though for prac­ti­cal pur­pos­es state­less and apo­lit­i­cal; osten­si­bly a reporter, but no appar­ent need ever to file a sto­ry.

The late Har­ry Thomp­son sure­ly ranks as a top Tintin addict. A radio and tele­vi­sion pro­duc­er, com­e­dy writer, nov­el­ist, and cre­ator of Have I Got News for You, he also great­ly advanced the wide­spread avo­ca­tion of Eng­lish-lan­guage Tinti­nol­o­gy with his book Tintin: Hergé and his Cre­ation, pub­lished in 1991. Three years lat­er, he would star in this episode of Lon­don Week­end Tele­vi­sion’s doc­u­men­tary series Open­ing Shot on Tintin and his cre­ator (part one at the top, click for two and three). His analy­sis swift­ly assures any adult read­er just how and why they should go about pick­ing up and appre­ci­at­ing the tru­ly painstak­ing crafts­man­ship of these comics they so rel­ished in their youth. The broad­cast also fea­tures com­men­tary from Tintin’s Eng­lish trans­la­tors and, through archival footage, from Georges “Hergé” Remi him­self (seen draw­ing Tintin just above, and his com­pan­ion Cap­tain Had­dock below). Final­ly, we hear from more typ­i­cal Tintin read­ers in man-on-the-street inter­views — or rather, pre­co­cious-British-child-in-the-book­store inter­views: “My favorite char­ac­ter is Snowy, because he says real­ly rude things.” “My favorite book is Tintin in Amer­i­ca, because I like red Indi­ans.” How many of these kids, near­ly two decades on, can have resist­ed the siren song of Tinti­nol­o­gy them­selves?

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Inscrutable Imag­i­na­tion of the Late Com­ic Artist Mœbius

Vis­it the World of Lit­tle Nemo Artist Win­sor McCay: Three Clas­sic Ani­ma­tions and a Google Doo­dle

The Con­fes­sions of Robert Crumb: A Por­trait Script­ed by the Under­ground Comics Leg­end Him­self (1987)

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­lesA Los Ange­les PrimerFol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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