Saturday, August 7, 2010

Tintin et Milou

The first time I laid eyes on the intrepid moon-faced reporter Tintin and his sagacious dog Snowy was in elementary school about 1959 when I delighted in finding a copy of the Methuen book Red Rackham's Treasure in the school library.

Tintin et Milou first appeared in the 11th issue of Le Petit Vingtiéme, the weekly children’s supplement to the Belgian daily newspaper Le Viengtiéme Siècle on 10 January 1929. In 1951 the strip was serialized in the British comic weekly Eagle, followed by Methuen’s English-language versions of the albums, beginning with The Black Island in 1958. Translation was by Leslie-Lonsdale Cooper and Michael Turner.

Tintin, Milou, and European Humanism’ was written 3 October 1957 for The Listener, and is a welcome counterpoint to scurrilous attacks on Hergé on the internet and in print. Tintin and Asterix the Gaul were in trouble in England as early as October 1983, when librarians received complaints of racism and sexism in both titles. Tintin was considered the worst offender. This brought forth a letter to the Times which said “Mr. Dunn admits that the children who frequent the library would be sorry to see the books banned: on the available evidence, so would anyone with any sense or sense of humour.”

I never met Georges Remi. I didn't miss anything, wrote Pierre Assouline in the introduction to his recent biography, Hergé: the Man Who Created Tintin, Oxford University Press, 2011. Actually he missed quite a lot. Assouline knows or cares nothing about comics so he ignores them almost all together. His biography is like reading about a cipher. Hergé could be a banker, a baker, or a bureaucrat, rather than one of the most famous and influential comic creators who ever lived.

I would recommend another biography in English instead: Benoît Peeters Hergé, Son of Tintin, the John Hopkins University Press, 2012. Peeters knew Hergé personally, interviewed him, and does not dissasociate the man from his work. Nor does he shy away from the more contentious aspects of wartime collaboration.

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