The Reporter And His Creator – Tintin And Herge

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“Billions of blue blistering barnacles!”

Every single one of us is familiar with the picture of a captain – clad in blue and black with a small anchor imprint on his sweater, who more often than not sports a respectable hat of a naval officer and a pipe in his hand, a lover of Loch Lomond and one of Tintin’s most trustworthy allies, the character of Captain Archibald Haddock is a mass-favourite.

Belgian cartoonist Georges Prosper Remi, more popularly known by his pseudonym, Hergé, was the creator of Tintin, Captain Haddock, Professor Cuthbert Calculus, the two detectives – Thompson, ”with a P” and Thomson, ”without a P, as in Venezuela”, the Milanese nightingale Bianca Castafiore, the sombre General Alcazar and the fantastic archvillains Rastapopoulos and General Tapioca. Other equally famous characters who Hergé penned included that of the fraternal twins – Jo and Zette, and their pet monkey, Jocko. The literary series of The Adventures of Tintin and The Adventures of Jo, Zette and Jocko individually form milestones in the genre of comic art. Pioneering the style of ligne claire, ie., ‘clear line’, Hergé presented all his characters set against an otherwise naturalistic backdrop.

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What sets Hergé’s works apart from most other contemporary comics was the depth and complicated plots, presented in a transparent sheet in simple language. Geopolitics too form a vital part of the comics, stirring intrigue and curiosity to the same extent among readers. Anti-Americanism, European dominance, wonder and obscure mysticity of the East (as seen in ‘Blue Lotus’ or even in ‘Tintin in Tibet’).

Spanning over a large expanse of 24 published Tintin comic books, Herge covered contemporary topics of the developing world and its various nations and cultures. Only one of his 24 works was published posthumously and it too went on to become a massive success. In order of publication, the Tintin comics are as follows :  Tintin in the Land of the Soviets , Tintin in the Congo , Tintin in America , Cigars of the Pharaoh , The Blue Lotus , The Broken Ear , The Black Island , King Ottokar’s Sceptre , The Crab with the Golden Claws , The Shooting Star , The Secret of the Unicorn , Red Rackham’s Treasure , The Seven Crystal Balls , Prisoners of the Sun , Land of Black Gold , Destination Moon ,Explorers on the Moon , The Calculus Affair , The Red Sea Sharks , Tintin in Tibet , The Castafiore Emerald , Flight 714 , Tintin and the Picaros, and Tintin and Alph-Art.

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The remarkability with which Herge simplified sophistication of both Oriental and Western cultures for his readers to grasp, the ability with which he was successfully able to predict world events in his works (Tintin travelled to the moon much before Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin did; Tintin found water on the moon, which was confirmed by studies in 2009) continues to baffle his readers and critics alike. As a tribute to him, an asteroid in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter has been named ‘Herge’, after him. In ‘Prisoners of the Sun’, the Inca are shown to be a race that is absolutely devoid of foreign influences and it has a rich culture and treasury alike, unaware of modern scientific knowledge and an eclipse seems to strike fear in their hearts. Herge is said to have represented the original fear and wrath that the Incas held against the Spaniards who conquered their lands, in the work. Exposing the villains on American soil, the gangsters and their mobs, based closely on Al Capone and his ties, Herge went on to describe corruption and deceit in ‘Tintin in America’ through the character of Bobby Smiles. Based on the horrifying event of Japan’s invasion of China, ‘The Blue Lotus’, apart from being a Tintin-favourite, is a detailed analysis of the effects of the event. The rise of Nazi tension and World War II is closely explained in ‘King Ottokar’s Sceptre’, through the characters of Bordurian officials, thereby making the Syldavians – the Jews. ‘The Black Island’ went on to reveal the settlements of the Allies behind its colourful pictures. Introducing the masses’ favourite – Captain Haddock, a drunk (a rare picture in books for children) but able captain of a Portuguese vessel in ‘The Crab with the Golden Claws’, it exposed drug trafficking across the globe. Taking Tintin on a sci-fi adventure with a group of scientists to the polar region in order to experiment a mass from outer space that had landed in the ocean, ‘The Shooting Star’ is my personal favourite. Written during the Cold War, ‘The Calculus’ Affair’ is a work of political intrigue in which Professor Calculus is kidnapped by the enemy forces, and later rescued by Tintin and the Captain, which involves the Professor having built an ultrasonic weapon to defeat the enemies – which the Professor goes on to destroy in the end. A revolutionary work – ‘Tintin and the Picaros’, goes on to deliver the message that violence and bloodshed may be avoided in a revolution against a tyrant. It has satiric overtones and emphasizes on peace. His posthumously published work – ‘Tintin and the Alph Art’ had only been completed in a draft form of sketches, upto a point where Tintin is shown to be turned into a living statue.

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Tintin and his adventures, accompanies by Snowy, Captain Haddock and Professor Calculus, are a legacy to children’s comics. Herge’s contribution to the art of comic writing, vibrant with rich colours and grey undertones, remains unparalleled even after three decades since his demise.

Reader. Fangirl. Pure-blood. Speaks Parseltongue and Quenya.