Saturday, August 22, 2009


I'm not above reading any children's literature, but it's usually only the literature that I enjoyed as a child more than a decade earlier, and it consists solely of my old Tintin books and the Bone cartoon books. Lately I've been reading my Tintin books again. I have them all except for Tintin and Alph-Art, and the original Tintin in the Land of the Soviets.

When I was eleven I first heard that Herge, the creator of Tintin, was affiliated with the Nazis. And he did work for the newspaper Le Soir which was under Nazi rule, and he did believe during that time that the Nazi regime was going to establish world control. I don't think that he was anti-Semitic or fascist, but there are theories supporting those thoughts.
I've noticed for awhile that some of the Tintin books don't exactly portray Arabic people in a positive light. For example in The Red Sea Sharks when the Emir doesn't fully express sympathy for African slave-trading; Tintin says it's horrible, and the Emir responds 'Er...yes...' as if he's implicitly taking some part in it as well. Pretty strange.

And on the subject of African stereotypes...When I went to New York for the first time I visited a comic book shop and was surprised to discover Tintin in the Congo, a book I'd never even heard of before. Yet to this day I haven't read the whole thing because of how stereotypical the book portrayed African people. There's a scene where an African fails at doing something and Tintin responds "I'll show you how a real man does things", and that pretty much turned me off from the rest of the book. Tintin doesn't talk like that.

I know that some Tintin books refute stereotypes though, such as The Blue Lotus which clearly disputes widespread European beliefs about the strange practices of Chinese people, such as women dumping their babies in rivers. But it seems Herge was advised to refute these stereotypes, rather than doing it of his own accord...

And Herge should've given credit to his whole staff and not just put his own name (which is actually a pseudonym) on all the books.

I admired Tintin so much as a kid that I went to the Tintin Store in Montreal with my mom once and bought a Tintin watch and a couple of books. And when I read The Beach by Alex Garland I found his discussions on Tintin pretty cool (he also references the series in The Tesseract with the Karaboudjan and in The Coma with the word puzzle).

And even though I plan on buying the Alph-Art book, I still find the realities behind Tintin a taking larger and larger presence.
That's adulthood.

And no, I don't plan on seeing the movie. Why aren't there more original movies being created rather than remakes of what was popular in the past?


  1. Herge was not 'advised' to include the anti-sterotypical aspects of The Blue Lotus. It was a genuine change of heart.

    Herge became great friends with a chinese student studing in Brussels. It was through this friendship he develop a better awareness of the chinese culture and his commitment to depict foriegn cultures in more positive life.

    This was not always successful (The Red Sea Sharks being an excellent example of failure) but these failures have to be seen in context. Herge grew up in early part of the 1900s. An era when crude racial stereotypes were accepted. Many of these stereotypes were still inuse in the 50s and 60s.

    Despite this background, Herge manage to depicted dozens of cultures in a positive light and many in a way that was far ahead of popular culture of that time.

    There are many failings in Herge's life but what should be rememebered is that he changed. That he learnt from his mistakes and became an ambassador for hope.

  2. Herge was 'advised' to include anti-stereotypical content in the Blue Lotus by a chaplain named Father Gossett who helped Chinese students in the Catholic University of Lueven. He wrote a letter to Herge asking him to take a receptive and understanding eye towards Chinese culture. Gossett also introduced Herge to the Chinese student in Brussels, whose name is Chang Chong-jen. Herge later included him in the series as Chang Chong-Chen.
    Thanks for your message, Chris. I've 'learnt' quite a bit. And I do agree with you, Herge definitely had his positive traits as well.