The Adventures of Tintin (French: Les Aventures de Tintin [lez‿avɑ̃tyʁ də tɛ̃tɛ̃]) is a series of 24 bands dessinée albums created by Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi, who wrote under the pen name Hergé. The series was one of the most famous European comics of the 20th century. By 2007, a century after Hergé’s birth in 1907, Tintin had been published in more than 70 languages with sales of more than 200 million copies and adapted for radio and television theatre and film.
The series first appeared in French on 10 January 1929 in Le Petit Vingtième (The Little Twentieth), a youth supplement to the Belgian newspaper Le Vingtième Siècle (The Twentieth Century). The series’ success led to serialised strips published in Belgium’s leading newspaper Le Soir (The Evening) and spun into a successful Tintin magazine. In 1950, Hergé created Studios Hergé, which produced the canonical versions of 11 Tintin albums.
The series is set during a largely realistic 20th century. Tintin’s hero is a courageous young Belgian reporter and adventurer aided by his faithful dog Snowy (Milou in the original French edition). Other allies include the brash and cynical Captain Haddock, the intelligent but hearing-impaired Professor Calculus (French: Professeur Tournesol), incompetent detectives Thomson and Thompson (French: Dupont et Dupond), and the opera diva Bianca Castafiore.
The series has been admired for its clean, expressive drawings in Hergé’s signature ligne claire (“clear line”) style. Its well-researched plots straddle the action-adventure and mystery genres and draw upon themes of politics, history, culture, and technology, offset by moments of slapstick comedy.
Le Vingtième Siècle: 1929–1939
“The idea for the character of Tintin and the sort of adventures that would befall him came to me, I believe, in five minutes, the moment I first sketched the figure of this hero: that is to say, he had not haunted my youth nor even my dreams. Although it’s possible that as a child, I imagined myself as a Tintin”. —Hergé, 15 November 1966.
Georges Prosper Remi, best known under the pen name Hergé, was employed as an illustrator at Le Vingtième Siècle (The Twentieth Century), a staunchly Roman Catholic, conservative Belgian newspaper based in Hergé’s native Brussels. Run by Abbé Norbert Wallez, the paper described itself as a “Catholic Newspaper for Doctrine and Information” and disseminated a far-right, fascist viewpoint. Wallez appointed Hergé editor of a new Thursday youth supplement titled Le Petit Vingtième (“The Little Twentieth”). Propagating Wallez’s sociopolitical views to its young readership, it contained pro-fascist and antisemitic sentiment explicitly. In addition to editing the supplement, Hergé illustrated L’extraordinaire aventure de Flup, Nénesse, Poussette et Cochonnet (The Extraordinary Adventures of Flup, Nénesse, Poussette and Cochonnet), a comic strip authored by a member of the newspaper’s sports staff. Dissatisfied with this, Hergé wanted to write and draw his cartoon strip.
He already had experience creating comic strips. From July 1926, he had written a strip about a Boy Scout patrol leader titled Les Aventures de Totor C.P. des Hannetons (The Adventures of Totor, Scout Leader of the Cockchafers) for the Scouting newspaper Le Boy Scout Belge (The Belgian Boy Scout). He was fascinated by new techniques in the medium, such as the systematic use of speech bubbles—found in such American comics as George McManus’ Bringing up Father, George Herriman’s Krazy Kat, and Rudolph Dirks’s Katzenjammer Kids, copies of which had been sent to him from Mexico by the paper’s reporter Léon Degrelle. Jean-Marc and Randy Lofficier stated that graphically, Totor and Tintin were “virtually identical” except for the Scout uniform, noting many similarities between their respective adventures, particularly in the illustration style, the fast pace of the story, and the use of humour. Totor strongly influenced Tintin, with Hergé describing the latter as like Totor’s younger brother.
Tintin in the Land of the Soviets was serialised in Le Petit Vingtième from January 1929 to May 1930. Popular in Francophone Belgium, Wallez organised a publicity stunt at the Paris Gare du Nord railway station, after which he published the story in book form. The story’s popularity led to sales, so Wallez granted Hergé two assistants. In June, at Wallez’s direction, he began serialising the second story, Tintin in the Congo, designed to encourage colonial sentiment towards the Belgian Congo. Authored in a paternalistic style that depicted the Congolese as childlike idiots, it was accused of racism in later decades. It was uncontroversial and famous, and other publicity stunts were held to increase sales. Although Hergé wanted to send Tintin to the United States, Wallez ordered him to set his adventure in the Soviet Union, acting as antisocialist propaganda for children.
For the third adventure, Tintin in America serialised from September 1931 to October 1932, Hergé finally dealt with a scenario of his own choice and used the work to push an anti-capitalist, anti-consumerist agenda in keeping with the paper’s ultra-conservative ideology. The Adventures of Tintin had been syndicated to a Catholic magazine named Cœurs Vaillant’s (Brave Hearts) since 1930, and Hergé was soon receiving syndication requests from Swiss and Portuguese newspapers, too.
Hergé wrote a string of Adventures of Tintin, sending his character to real locations such as the Belgian Congo, the United States, Egypt, India, Tibet, China, and the United Kingdom. He also sent Tintin to fictional countries of his devising, such as the Latin American republic of San Theodoros, the East European kingdom of Syldavia, or the fascist state of Borduria—whose leader’s name, Müsstler, was a portmanteau of the words Nazi German Fuhrer Adolf Hitler and Italian Fascist Prime Minister Benito Mussolini.
Le Soir: 1940–1945
In May 1940, Nazi Germany invaded Belgium as World War II spread further across Europe. Although Hergé briefly fled to France and considered a self-imposed exile, he ultimately decided to return to his occupied homeland. For political reasons, the Nazi authorities closed Le Vingtième Siècle, leaving Hergé unemployed. In search of employment, he got a job as an illustrator at Belgium’s leading newspaper, Le Soir (The Evening), which was allowed to continue publication under German management. On 17 October 1940, he was made editor of the children’s supplement, Le Soir Jeunesse, in which he set about producing new Tintin adventures. Hergé could no longer politicise The Adventures of Tintin lest the Gestapo arrest him in this new, more repressive political climate of German-occupied Belgium. As Harry Thompson noted, Tintin’s role as a reporter ended, to be replaced by his new role as an explorer.
Le Journal de Tintin: 1946–1983
In September 1944, the Allies entered Brussels, and Hergé’s German employers fled. Le Soir was shut down, and The Adventures of Tintin was put on hold. Then in 1946, Hergé accepted an invitation from Belgian comic publisher Raymond Leblanc and his new publishing company Le Lombard to continue The Adventures of Tintin in the latest Le journal de Tintin (Tintin magazine). Hergé quickly learned that he no longer had the independence he preferred; he was required to produce two coloured pages a week for Leblanc’s magazine, a tall order.
In 1950, Hergé began to poach the better members of the Tintin magazine staff to work in the large house on Avenue Louise that contained the fledgling Studios Hergé. Bob De Moor (who imitated Hergé’s style and did half the work), Guy Dessicy (colourist), and Marcel DeHaye (secretary) were the nucleus. To this, Hergé added Jacques Martin (imitated Hergé’s style), Roger Leloup (detailed, realistic drawings), Eugène Evany (later chief of the Studios), Michel Demaret (letterer), and Baudouin Van Den Branden (secretary). As Harry Thompson observed, the idea was to turn the process of creating The Adventures of Tintin into a “veritable production line, the artwork passing from person to person, everyone knowing their part, like an artistic orchestra with Hergé conducting.” The studios produced eight new Tintin albums for Tintin magazine and coloured and reformatted two old Tintin albums. Studios Hergé continued to release additional publications until Hergé died in 1983. In 1986, a 24th unfinished album was released, the studios were disbanded, and the assets were transferred to the Hergé Foundation.
Tintin and Snowy
Tintin is a young Belgian reporter and adventurer involved in complex cases in which he takes heroic action to save the day. The Adventures may feature Tintin hard at work in investigative journalism, but seldom is he seen turning in a story.
Readers and critics have described Tintin as a well-rounded yet open-ended, intelligent, and creative character, noting that his lack of backstory and neutral personality permits a reflection of the evil, folly, and foolhardiness surrounding him. Nature never compromises his Boy Scout ideals, which represent Hergé’s own. His status allows the reader to assume his position within the story rather than merely following the adventures of a strong protagonist. Tintin’s iconic representation enhances this aspect, with Scott McCloud noting that it “allows readers to mask themselves in character and safely enter a sensually stimulating world.”
Snowy (Milou in Hergé’s original version), a white Wire Fox Terrier dog, is Tintin’s loyal companion. Like Captain Haddock, he is fond of Loch Lomond brand Scotch whisky, and Snowy’s occasional bouts of drinking get him into trouble, as does his only fear: arachnophobia.
Captain Archibald Haddock (Capitaine Haddock in Hergé’s original version) is a Merchant Marine sea captain and Tintin’s best friend. Introduced in The Crab with the Golden Claws, Haddock is initially depicted as a weak and alcoholic character but later evolves to become genuinely heroic and even a socialite after he finds a treasure from his ancestor, Sir Francis Haddock (Chevalier François de Hadoque, in the original version). The hot-tempered Haddock uses a range of colourful insults and curses to express his feelings, such as “billions of bilious blue blistering barnacles” (Mille milliards de Mille sabords de tonnerre de Brest in the original version) or “ten thousand thundering typhoons.” The Captain’s coarse humanity and sarcasm counter to Tintin’s often-implausible heroism; he is always quick with a dry comment whenever the boy reporter seems too idealistic.
Professor Cuthbert Calculus (Professeur Tryphon Tournesol in Hergé’s original version; tournesol is the French word for “sunflower”) is an absent-minded and partially deaf physicist a recurring character alongside Tintin, Snowy, and Captain Haddock. He was introduced in Red Rackham’s Treasure and based partly on Swiss physicist Auguste Piccard.
“Everybody wants to be Tintin: generation after generation. In a world of Rastapopouloses, Tricklers and Carreidases—or, more prosaically, Jolyon Waggs and Bolt-the-builders—Tintin represents an unattainable ideal of goodness, cleanness, authenticity”.—Literary critic Tom McCarthy, 2006.
Hergé’s supporting characters have been cited as far more developed than the central character, each imbued with the strength of character and depth of personality compared with that of the characters of Charles Dickens. Hergé used the supporting characters to create a realistic world to set his protagonists’ adventures. To further the realism and continuity, characters would recur throughout the series. The occupation of Belgium and the restrictions imposed upon Hergé forced him to focus on characterisation to avoid depicting troublesome political situations. As a result, the colourful supporting cast was developed during this period.
Thomson and Thompson (Dupont et Dupond in Hergé’s original version) are two incompetent detectives who look like identical twins, their only discernible difference being the shape of their moustaches. First introduced in Cigars of the Pharaoh, they provide comic relief throughout the series, afflicted with chronic spoonerisms. They are incredibly clumsy, thoroughly incompetent, and usually bent on arresting the wrong character to look good as detectives. They typically wear bowler hats and carry walking sticks except when sent abroad; during those missions, they attempt the national costume of the locality they are visiting but instead dress inconspicuously stereotypical folkloric attire, which makes them stand apart. The detectives were based partly on Hergé’s father, Alexis, and uncle Léon, identical twins who often took walks together, wearing matching bowler hats while carrying matching walking sticks.
Bianca Castafiore is an opera singer of whom Haddock is terrified. She was first introduced in King Ottokar’s Sceptre and appeared wherever the protagonists travelled, her maid Irma and pianist Igor Wagner. Although amiable and strong-willed, she is also comically foolish, whimsical, absent-minded, talkative, and seemingly unaware that her voice is shrill and appallingly loud. Her speciality is the Jewel Song (Ah! Je ris de me voir si belle en ce miroir / Ah! My beauty past compare, these jewels bright I wear) from Gounod’s opera, Faust, which she sings at the slightest provocation, much to Haddock’s dismay. She is often maternal toward Haddock, of whose dislike she remains ignorant. She often confuses words, especially names, with other words that rhyme with them or of which they remind her; “Haddock” is frequently replaced by malapropisms such as “Paddock,” “Stopcock,” or “Hopscotch,” while Nestor, Haddock’s butler, is confused with “Chestor” and “Hector.” Her name means “white and chaste flower,”: a meaning Professor Calculus once referred to when he breeds a white rose and names it for the singer. She was based upon opera divas in general (according to Hergé’s perception), Hergé’s Aunt Ninie (who was known for her “shrill” singing of opera), and, in the post-war comics, Maria Callas.
Other recurring characters include Nestor, the butler, Chang (or Chang-Chong -Chen in full) the loyal Chinese boy, Rastapopoulos the criminal mastermind, Jolyon Wagg the infuriating (to Haddock) insurance salesman, General Alcazar, the South American freedom fighter and President of San Theodoros, Mohammed Ben Kalish Ezab the Arab emir, and Abdullah, his mischievous son, Dr Müller the evil German psychiatrist, Oliveira da Figueira, the friendly Portuguese salesman, Cutts the butcher whose phone number is repeatedly confused with Haddock’s, and Allan the henchman of Rastapopoulos and formerly Haddock’s first mate.
The settings within Tintin have also added depth to the strips. Hergé mixes real and fictional lands into his stories. In King Ottokar’s Sceptre (revisited once more in The Calculus Affair), Hergé creates two fictional countries, Syldavia and Borduria, and invites the reader to tour them in the text through the insertion of a travel brochure into the storyline. Other imaginary lands include Khemed on the Arabian Peninsula and San Theodoros, São Rico, Nuevo Rico in South America, and the kingdom of Gaipajama in India. Apart from these fictitious locations, Tintin also visits real places like Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States, the Soviet Union, Belgian Congo, Peru, India, Egypt, Morocco, Indonesia, Nepal, Tibet, and China. The Sahara Desert, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Moon were other actual locales used.
Hergé’s extensive research began with The Blue Lotus; Hergé said, “it was from that time that I undertook research and interested myself in the people and countries to which I sent Tintin, out of a sense of responsibility to my readers.”
Hergé’s use of research and photographic reference allowed him to build a realised universe for Tintin, going so far as to create fictionalised countries, dressing them with specific political cultures. These were heavily informed by the cultures evident in Hergé’s lifetime. Pierre Skilling has asserted that Hergé saw the monarchy as “the legitimate form of government,” noting that democratic “values seem underrepresented in such a classic Franco-Belgian strip.” Syldavia, in particular, is described in considerable detail, Hergé creating a history, customs, and a language, a Slavic-looking transcript of Marols, a working-class Brussels dialect. He set the country in the Balkans, modelled after Albania by his admission. The government is threatened by neighbouring Borduria, with an attempted annexation appearing in King Ottokar’s Sceptre. This situation parallels the Italian conquest of Albania, Czechoslovakia, and Austria by expansionist Nazi Germany before World War II.
Hergé’s research use would include months of preparation for Tintin’s voyage to the Moon in the two-part storyline spread across Destination Moon and Explorers on the Moon. His research for the storyline was noted in New Scientist: “The considerable research undertaken by Hergé enabled him to come very close to the type of spacesuit that would be used in future Moon exploration, although his portrayal of the type of rocket that was used was a long way off the mark.” The moon rocket is based on the German V-2 rockets.
René Vincent, the Art Deco designer, also affected early Tintin’s adventures: “His influence can be detected at the beginning of the Soviets, where my drawings are designed along a decorative line, like an ‘S.'” In his youth, Hergé admired Benjamin Rabier and suggested that several images within Tintin in the Land of the Soviets reflected this influence, mainly the pictures of animals. Hergé also felt no compunction in admitting that he had stolen the image of round noses from George McManus, feeling they were “so much fun that I used them, without scruples!”
During the extensive research Hergé carried out for The Blue Lotus, he influenced Chinese and Japanese illustrative styles and woodcuts. This is especially noticeable in the seascapes, reminiscent of works by Hokusai and Hiroshige.
Hergé also declared Mark Twain an influence, although this admiration may have led him astray when depicting Incas as not knowing an upcoming solar eclipse in Prisoners of the Sun, an error T. F. Mills attributed to an attempt to portray “Incas in awe of a latter-day ‘Connecticut Yankee.'”
Translation into English
Tintin first appeared in English in the weekly British children’s comic Eagle in 1951 with the story King Ottokar’s Sceptre. It was translated with Casterman, Tintin’s publishers, describing Tintin as “a French boy.” Snowy was called by his French name “Milou.”
Translating Tintin into British English was commissioned in 1958 by Methuen, Hergé’s British publishers. It was a joint operation, headed by Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper and Michael Turner, working closely with Hergé to attain an accurate translation as faithful as possible to the original work. Due in part to a large amount of language-specific wordplay (such as punning) in the series, especially the jokes which played on Professor Calculus’ partial deafness, it was never the intention to translate literally, instead of striving to sculpt a work whose idioms and tricks would be worthy in their own right. Despite the freehand Hergé afforded the two, they worked closely with the original text, asking for regular assistance to understand Hergé’s intentions.
The British translations were also Anglicised to appeal to British customs and values. Milou, for example, was renamed Snowy at the translators’ discretion. Captain Haddock’s Le château de Moulinsart was renamed Marlinspike Hall.
When it came time to translate The Black Island, set in Great Britain, the opportunity was taken to redraw the entire book. Methuen had decided that the book did not portray Great Britain accurately enough and had compiled a list of 131 errors of detail that should be put right, such as ensuring that the British police were unarmed and ensuring scenes of the British countryside were more accurate for discerning British readers. The resulting album is the dramatically updated and redrawn 1966 version that is the most commonly available today. As of the early 21st century, Egmont publishes Tintin books in the United Kingdom and elsewhere.
The Tintin books have had relatively limited popularity in the United States.
The works were first adapted for the American English market by Golden Books, a branch of the Western Publishing Company, in the 1950s. The albums were translated from French into American English, with some artwork panels blanked except for the speech balloons. This was done to remove inappropriate content for children, such as drunkenness and the free mixing of races. The albums were unpopular, and only six were published in mixed order. The edited albums later had their blanked areas redrawn by Hergé to be more acceptable, and they currently appear this way in printed editions worldwide.
From 1966 to 1979, Children’s Digest included monthly instalments of The Adventures of Tintin. These serialisations increased Tintin’s popularity, introducing him to thousands of new readers in the United States.
In cooperation with Little, Brown, and Company, in the 1970s, Atlantic Monthly Press republished albums based on British translations. Alterations were made to vocabulary unknown to an American audience (gaol, tire, saloon, and spanner). As of the early 21st century, Little, Brown, and Company (owned by the Hachette Book Group USA) continue to publish Tintin books in the United States.
Moulinsart’s official Tintin app in Apple’s App Store, launched with the release of the digital version of Tintin in the Congo on 5 June 2015, features brand new English language translations by journalist, writer, and Tintin expert Michael Farr.
Lettering and typography
The English-language Adventures of Tintin books were initially published with handwritten lettering created by cartographer Neil Hyslop. 1958’s The Crab with the Golden Claws was the first to be printed with Hyslop’s lettering. Hyslop was given versions of Hergé’s artwork with blank panels. Hyslop would write his English script on an explicit cellophane-like material to fit the original speech bubble. Occasionally the size of the bubbles would need to be adjusted if the translated text would not fit. In the early 2000s, Tintin’s English publisher Egmont discontinued publishing books featuring Hyslop’s handwritten lettering instead of publishing books with text created with digital fonts. This change was instigated by publisher Casterman and Hergé’s estate manager Moulinsart, who decided to replace localised hand-lettering with a single computerised font for all Tintin titles worldwide.
On 1 June 2006, the Dalai Lama gave the International Campaign for Tibet’s Light of Truth Award to the Hergé Foundation and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The award was in recognition of Hergé’s book Tintin in Tibet, Hergé’s most personal adventure, which the Executive Director of ICT Europe Tsering Jampa noted was “for many … their introduction to the awe-inspiring landscape and culture of Tibet”. In 2001, the Hergé Foundation demanded the recall of the Chinese translation of the work, released with the title Tintin in Chinese Tibet. The result was subsequently published with the correct translation of the title. Accepting on behalf of the Hergé Foundation, Hergé’s widow Fanny Rodwell said: “We never thought that this story of friendship would have a resonance more than 40 years later”.
The study of Tintin, sometimes called “Tintinology,” has become the life work of some literary critics in Belgium, France, and England. Belgian author Philippe Goddin has written Hergé et Tintin reporters: Du Petit Vingtième au Journal Tintin (1986, later republished in English as Hergé and Tintin Reporters: From “Le Petit Vingtième” to “Tintin” Magazine in 1987) and Hergé et Les Bigotudos (1993) amongst other books on the series. In 1983, French author Benoît Peeters released Le Monde d’Hergé, subsequently published in English as Tintin and the World of Hergé in 1988. English reporter Michael Farr has written works such as Tintin, 60 Years of Adventure (1989), Tintin: The Complete Companion (2001), Tintin & Co. (2007), and The Adventures of Hergé (2007), while English television producer Harry Thompson authored Tintin: Hergé and his Creation (1991).
In 1984, Jean-Marie Apostolidès published his study of the Adventures of Tintin from a more “adult” perspective as Les Métamorphoses de Tintin, published in English as The Metamorphoses of Tintin, or Tintin for Adults in 2010. In reviewing Apostolidès’ book, Nathan Perl-Rosenthal of The New Republic thought it was “not for the faint of heart: densely-packed with close textual analysis and laden with psychological jargon.” Following Apostolidès’s work, French psychoanalyst Serge Tisseron examined the series in his books Tintin et Les Secrets de Famille (“Tintin and the Family Secrets”), which was published in 1990, and Tintin et le Secret d’Hergé (“Tintin and Hergé’s Secret”), published in 1993. Literary critics have also examined The Adventures of Tintin, primarily in French-speaking Europe.
The first English-language work of literary criticism devoted to the series was Tintin and the Secret of Literature, written by Tom McCarthy and published in 2006. McCarthy compares Hergé’s work with Aeschylus, Honoré de Balzac, Joseph Conrad, and Henry James, arguing that the series contains the key to understanding literature. McCarthy considered the Adventures of Tintin to be “stupendously rich,” including “a mastery of plot and symbol, theme and subtext,” which, influenced by Tisseron’s psychoanalytical readings of the work, he believed could be deciphered to reveal a series of recurring themes, ranging from bartering to implicit sexual intercourse that Hergé had featured throughout the series. Reviewing the book in The Telegraph, Toby Clements argued that McCarthy’s work and literary criticism of Hergé’s comic strips in the general cut “perilously close” to simply feeding “the appetite of those willing to cross the line between enthusiast and obsessive” in the Tintinological community.
The early Adventures of Tintin naïvely depicted controversial images, which Hergé later described as “a transgression of my youth.” In 1975, he substituted this sequence with the rhino accidentally discharging Tintin’s rifle.
The earliest stories in The Adventures of Tintin have been criticised for displaying racial stereotypes, animal cruelty, colonialism, violence, and even fascist leanings, including ethnocentric, caricatured portrayals of non-Europeans. While the Hergé Foundation has presented such criticism as naïveté and scholars of Hergé, such as Harry Thompson, have said that “Hergé did what the Abbé Wallez told him,” Hergé himself felt that his background made it impossible to avoid prejudice, stating: “I was fed the prejudices of the bourgeois society that surrounded me.”
In Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, the Bolsheviks were presented as villains. Hergé drew on Moscow Unveiled, a work given to him by Wallez and authored by Joseph Douillet, the former Belgian consul in Russia, highly critical of the Soviet regime. However, Hergé contextualised this by noting that in Belgium, a devout Catholic nation at the time, “anything Bolshevik was atheist.” In the story, Bolshevik leaders are motivated by personal greed and a desire to deceive the world. Tintin discovers, buried, “the hideout where Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin have collected together wealth stolen from the people.” In 1999, Tintin’s politics was the subject of a debate in the French parliament; this event prompted the British weekly newspaper The Economist to publish an editorial.
Tintin in the Congo has been criticised for presenting Africans as naïve and primitive. In the original work, Tintin is shown on a blackboard addressing a class of African children: “My dear friends. I will talk to you today about your fatherland: Belgium”. Hergé redrew this in 1946 to show a mathematics lesson. Hergé later admitted the flaws in the original story, excusing it, saying: “I portrayed these Africans according to … this purely paternalistic spirit of the time”. Sue Buswell, the editor of Tintin at Methuen, summarised the perceived problems with the book in 1988 as “all to do with rubbery lips and heaps of dead animals,” although Thompson noted her quote might have been “taken out of context.”
Drawing on André Maurois’ Les Silences du Colonel Bramble, Hergé presents Tintin as a big-game hunter, accidentally killing fifteen antelope instead of the one needed for the evening meal. However, concerns over the number of dead animals led Tintin’s Scandinavian publishers to request changes. A page of Tintin killing a rhinoceros by drilling a hole in its back and inserting a stick of dynamite was deemed excessive; Hergé replaced the page with one in which the rhino accidentally discharges Tintin’s rifle while he sleeps under a tree. In 2007, the UK’s Commission for Racial Equality called for the book to be pulled from shelves after a complaint: “It beggars belief that in this day and age that any shop would think it acceptable to sell and display Tintin in the Congo.” In August 2007, a Congolese student complained in Brussels that the book insulted the Congolese people. Public prosecutors investigated and initiated a criminal case, although the matter was transferred to a civil court. Belgium’s Centre for Equal Opportunities warned against “over-reaction and hyper-political correctness.”
Hergé altered some early albums in subsequent editions, usually at publishers’ demand. For example, in Tintin in America, the objectionable representation of Blacks was changed. The Shooting Star originally had an American villain with the Jewish name “Blumenstein.” This proved controversial, as the character exhibited exaggerated, stereotypically Jewish characteristics. “Blumenstein” was changed to an American with a less ethnically specific name, Mr Bohlwinkel, and subsequently to a South American of a fictional country São Rico. Hergé later discovered that ‘Bohlwinkel’ was also a Jewish name. In recent years, even Tintin’s politics of peace have been investigated.
Adaptations and memorabilia
The Adventures of Tintin has been adapted into various media besides the original comic strip and its collections. Hergé encouraged adaptations and members of his studio work on animated films. After Hergé died in 1983, the Hergé Foundation and Moulinsart, the foundation’s commercial and copyright wing, authorised adaptations and exhibitions.
Television and radio
Two animated television adaptations and one radio adaptation have been made.
Hergé’s Adventures of Tintin (Les aventures de Tintin d’après Hergé) (1957) was the first production of Belvision Studios. Ten of Hergé’s books were adapted, each serialised into five-minute episodes, with 103 episodes produced. The series was directed by Ray Goossens, written by Belgian comic artist Greg, later editor-in-chief of Tintin magazine, and produced by Raymond Leblanc. Most stories in the series varied widely from the original books, often changing whole plots.
The Adventures of Tintin (Les Aventures de Tintin) (1991–92) was the most successful TV series. An adaptation of twenty-one Tintin books as directed by Stéphane Bernasconi was produced by Ellipse (France) and Canadian Nelvana on behalf of the Hergé Foundation. The series adhered closely to the albums to the extent that panels from the original were often transposed directly to the screen. The series aired in over fifty countries and was released on DVD. It aired in the US on HBO.
The Adventures of Tintin (1992–93) radio series was produced by BBC Radio 5. The dramas starred Richard Pearce as Tintin and Andrew Sachs as Snowy. Leo McKern played Captain Haddock in Series One, Lionel Jeffries in Series Two, Professor Calculus was played by Stephen Moore, and Thomson and Thompson were played by Charles Kay.
The Adventures of Tintin were also released as radio dramas on LP and compact cassette recordings in French-language versions in Belgium, France, and Canada, German language versions in Germany, Swedish in Sweden, Danish in Denmark, and Norwegian versions in Norway.
Five feature-length Tintin films were made before Hergé’s death in 1983 and one more in 2011.
The Crab with the Golden Claws (Le crabe aux pinces d’Or) (1947) was the first successful attempt to adapt one of the comics into a feature film. Written and directed by Claude Misonne and João B Michiels, the film was a stop-motion puppet production created by a small Belgian studio.
Tintin and the Golden Fleece (Tintin et le mystère de la Toison d’Or) (1961), the first live-action Tintin film, was adapted not from one of Hergé’s Adventures of Tintin but instead from an original script written by André Barret and Rémo Forlani. Directed by Jean-Jacques Vierne and starring Jean-Pierre Talbot as Tintin and Georges Wilson as Haddock, the plot involves Tintin travelling to Istanbul to collect the Golden Fleece, a ship left to Haddock in the will of his friend, Themistocles Paparanic. While in the city, however, Tintin and Haddock discover that a group of villains also want possession of the ship, believing it would lead them to a hidden treasure.
Tintin and the Blue Oranges (Tintin et les oranges bleues) (1964), the second live-action Tintin film, was released due to the success of the first. Again, based upon an original script, André Barret was directed by Philippe Condroyer and starred Talbot as Tintin and Jean Bouise as Haddock. The plot reveals a new invention, the blue orange, that can grow in the desert and solve world famines, devised by Calculus’ friend, the Spanish Professor Zalamea. An emir whose interests are threatened by the invention of the blue orange proceeds to kidnap both Zalamea and Calculus, and Tintin and Haddock travel to Spain to rescue them.
Tintin and the Temple of the Sun (Tintin et le temple du Soleil) (1969), the first traditional animation Tintin film, was adapted from two of Hergé’s Adventures of Tintin: The Seven Crystal Balls and Prisoners of the Sun. Although the Seven Crystal Balls portion of the story was heavily condensed, the adaptation is faithful. The first full-length, animated film from Raymond Leblanc’s Belvision had recently completed its television series based upon the Tintin stories; it was directed by Eddie Lateste and featured a musical score by the critically acclaimed composer François Rauber.
Tintin and the Lake of Sharks (Tintin et le lac aux requins) (1972), the second traditional animation Tintin film and the last Tintin release for nearly 40 years was based on an original script by Greg and directed by Raymond Leblanc. Belvision’s second feature takes Tintin to Syldavia to outwit his old foe Rastapopoulos. While the look of the film is more affluent, the story is less convincing. The movie was subsequently adapted into a comic album made up of stills.
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (2011) was Steven Spielberg’s motion-capture 3D film based on three Hergé albums: The Crab with the Golden Claws (1941), The Secret of the Unicorn (1943), and Red Rackham’s Treasure (1944). Peter Jackson’s company Weta Digital provided the animation and special effects. The movie received positive reviews and was a box-office success.
Tintin and I (Tintin et Moi) (2003), a documentary film directed by Anders Høgsbro Østergaard and co-produced by companies from Denmark, Belgium, France, and Switzerland, was based on a taped interview with Hergé by Numa Sadoul from 1971. Although the interview was published as a book, Hergé was allowed to edit the work before publishing, and much of the discussion was excised. Years after Hergé’s death, the filmmaker returned to the original tapes and restored Hergé’s often personal, insightful thoughts—and in the process, brought viewers closer to the world of Tintin and Hergé. It was broadcast in the US on the PBS network on 11 July 2006.
Sur Les traces de Tintin (On the trail of Tintin) (2010) was a five-part documentary television series that recaps several albums of the book series by combining comic panels (motionless or otherwise) with live-action imagery, with commentary provided.
Tintin and the Black Island at the Arts Theatre in the West End of London, by the Unicorn Theatre Company, in 1980–81.
Hergé helped create two stage plays, collaborating with humourist Jacques Van Melkebeke. Tintin in the Indies: The Mystery of the Blue Diamond (1941) covers much of the second half of Cigars of the Pharaoh as Tintin attempts to rescue a stolen blue diamond. Mr Boullock’s Disappearance (1941–1942) has Tintin, Snowy, Thomson, and Thompson travel around the world and back to Brussels again to unmask an impostor trying to lay claim to a missing millionaire’s fortune. The plays were performed at the Théâtre Royal des Galeries in Brussels. The scripts of the plays are unfortunately lost.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, two Tintin plays were produced at the Arts Theatre in London’s West End, adapted by Geoffrey Case for the Unicorn Theatre Company. These were Tintin’s Great American Adventure, based on the comic Tintin in America (1976–1977), and Tintin and the Black Island, based on The Black Island (1980–81); this second play later toured.
A musical based on The Seven Crystal Balls and Prisoners of the Sun premièred on 15 September 2001 at the Stadsschouwburg (City Theatre) in Antwerp, Belgium. It was entitled Kuifje – De Zonnetempel (De Musical) (“Tintin – Temple of the Sun (The Musical)”) and was broadcast on Canal Plus before moving on to Charleroi in 2002 as Tintin – Le Temple du Soleil – Le Spectacle Musical.
The Young Vic theatre company in London ran Hergé’s Adventures of Tintin, a musical version of Tintin in Tibet, at the Barbican Arts Centre (2005–2006); the production was directed by Rufus Norris and was adapted by Norris and David Greig. The show was successfully revived at the Playhouse Theatre in London’s West End before touring (2006–2007) to celebrate the centenary of Hergé’s birth in 2007.
Tintin began appearing in video games when Infogrames Entertainment, SA, a French game company, released Tintin’s side scroller on the Moon in 1989. The same company released a platform game titled Tintin in Tibet in 1995 for the Super NES and Mega Drive/Genesis. Another platform game from Infogrames titled Prisoners of the Sun was released for the Super NES, Microsoft Windows, and Game Boy Color the following year. In 2001, Tintin became 3D in Tintin: Destination Adventure, released by Infogrames for Windows and PlayStation. Then in 2011, an action-adventure game called The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, a tie-in to the 2011 movie, was released by Ubisoft in October. In 2020 a match-3 mobile game called Tintin Match was released by 5th Planet games.
Memorabilia and Merchandise
Images from the series have long been licensed for use on merchandise, the success of Tintin magazine helping to create a market for such items. Tintin’s image has been used to sell various products, from alarm clocks to underpants. Countless things related to the character have been available, with some becoming collectors’ items in their own right.
The Hergé Foundation has maintained control of the licenses through Moulinsart, the commercial wing of the foundation. In 2002, Peter Horemans, the then director-general at Moulinsart, noted this control: “We have to be very protective of the property. We don’t take lightly any potential partners. We have to be very selective for him to continue to be as popular as he is; great care needs to be taken off his use”. However, the foundation has been criticised by scholars as “trivialising the work of Hergé by concentrating on the more lucrative merchandising” in the wake of a move in the late 1990s to charge them for using relevant images to illustrate their papers on the series.
Tintin memorabilia and merchandise has allowed a chain of stores based solely on the character to become viable. The first shop was launched in 1984 in Covent Garden, London. Tintin shops have also opened in Bruges and Brussels in Belgium, and Montpellier, France. In 2014, a Tintin shop opened in Taguig, the Philippines, only the second in Southeast Asia. The first Tintin shop in Southeast Asia opened in Singapore in 2010. The British bookstore chain, Ottakar’s, founded in 1987, was named after King Ottokar from the Tintin book King Ottokar’s Sceptre. Their shops stocked a large amount of Tintin merchandise until their takeover by Waterstone in 2006.
Stamps and coins
Tintin’s image has been used on postage stamps on numerous occasions. The first Tintin postage stamp was an eight-franc stamp issued by Belgian Post for the 50th anniversary of the publication of Tintin’s first adventure on 29 September 1979, featuring Tintin and Snowy looking through a magnifying glass at several stamps. In 1999, a nine-stamp block celebrating ten years of the Belgian Comic Strip Center was issued, with the centre stamp a photo of Tintin’s famous moon rocket that dominates the Comic Strip Center’s entry hall. To mark the end of the Belgian Franc and to celebrate the seventieth anniversary of the publication of Tintin in the Congo, two more stamps were issued by the Belgian Post on 31 December 2001: Tintin in a pith helmet and a souvenir sheet with a single stamp in the centre. The stamps were jointly issued in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 2004, Belgian Post celebrated its seventy-fifth anniversary, the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Explorers on the Moon, and the thirty-fifth anniversary of the moon landings with a souvenir sheet of five stamps based upon the Explorers on the Moon adventure. To celebrate the centenary of Hergé’s birth in 2007, Belgian Post issued 25 stamps depicting the album covers of all 24 Adventures of Tintin (in 24 languages) plus Hergé’s portrait in the centre. A souvenir sheet of ten stamps called “Tintin on-screen,” issued 30 August 2011, depicts the Tintin film and television adaptations.
Tintin has also been commemorated by coin several times. In 1995, the Monnaie de Paris (Paris Mint) issued a set of twelve gold medallions, available in a limited edition of 5000. A silver medallion was minted in 2004 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Tintin book Explorers on the Moon, again in a limited run of 10,000. It quickly sold out. In 2004, Belgium minted a limited edition commemorative euro coin featuring Tintin and Snowy celebrating the 75th anniversary of Tintin’s first adventure in January 2004. Although it has a face value of €10, as with other commemorative euro coins, it is legal tender only in the country it was issued—in this case, Belgium. In 2006–2012 France issued the Comic Strip Heroes commemorative coin series featuring famous Franco-Belgian comics, beginning in 2006 with Tintin. It was a set of six different euro coins honouring Hergé: three 1½-euro silver coins featuring Tintin and the Professor, Tintin and Captain Haddock, and Tintin and Chang; a €10 (gold) featuring Tintin; and a €20 (silver) and a €50 (gold) featuring Tintin and Snowy. In 2007, on Hergé’s centenary, Belgium issued its €20 (silver) Hergé/Tintin coin.
Parody and pastiche
During Hergé’s lifetime, parodies of the Adventures of Tintin were produced. One of the earliest appeared in the Belgian newspaper La Patrie after the country’s liberation from Nazi-German occupation in September 1944. Entitled Tintin au pays de nazis (“Tintin in the Land of the Nazis”), the short and crudely drawn strip lampoons Hergé for working for a Nazi-run newspaper during the occupation.
Following Hergé’s death, hundreds more unofficial parodies and pastiches of the Adventures of Tintin were produced, covering various genres. Tom McCarthy divided such works into pornographic, political, and artistic. In several cases, the actual name “Tintin” is replaced by something similar within these books, like Nitnit, Timtim, or Quinquin.
McCarthy’s first group, pornographic parodies, includes 1976’s Tintin en Suisse (“Tintin in Switzerland”) and Jan Bucquoy’s 1992 work La Vie Sexuelle de Tintin (“Tintin’s Sex Life”), featuring Tintin and the other characters engaged in sexual acts. Another example was Tintin in Thailand, where Tintin, Haddock, and Calculus travel to the East Asian country for a sex holiday. The book began circulating in December 1999, but in 2001, Belgian police arrested those responsible and confiscated 650 copies for copyright violation.
Written by the pseudonymous Jack Daniels, Breaking Free (1989) is a revolutionary socialist comic set in Britain during the 1980s. Tintin and his uncle (modelled after Captain Haddock) are working-class Englishmen who turn to socialism to oppose the capitalist policies of the Conservative Party government of Margaret Thatcher. When first published in Britain, it caused an outrage in the mainstream press, with one paper issuing the headline, “Commie nutters turn Tintin into picket yob!” Other parodies have been produced for political reasons. For instance, Tintin in Iraq lampoons the world politics of the early 21st century, with Hergé’s character General Alcazar representing President of the United States George W. Bush.
Other comic creators have created artistic stories like a fan fiction rather than parody. The Swiss artist Exem created the irreverent comic adventures of Zinzin, what The Guardian calls “the most beautifully produced of the pastiches.” Similarly, Canadian cartoonist Yves Rodier has produced some Tintin works, none of which have been authorised by the Hergé Foundation, including a 1986 “completion” of the unfinished Tintin and Alph-art he drew in Hergé’s ligne claire style.
The response to these parodies has been mixed in the Tintinological community. Many despise them, seeing them as an insult to Hergé’s work. Nick Rodwell of the Hergé Foundation took this view, declaring that “none of these copyists count as true fans of Hergé. If they were, they would respect his wishes that no one but him draws Tintin’s adventures.” Others have taken a different attitude, considering such parodies and pastiches as tributes to Hergé, and collecting them has become a “niche speciality.” Where possible, the foundation has taken legal action against those known to be producing such items.
Hergé’s art exhibition at the Centre Georges Pompidou modern art museum in Paris commemorates Hergé’s birth in 2007.
After Hergé died in 1983, his art began to be honoured at exhibitions worldwide, keeping Tintin’s awareness high. The first major Tintin exhibition in London was Tintin: 60 years of adventure, held in 1989 at the Town Hall in Chelsea. This early exhibition displayed many of Hergé’s original sketches and inks and some original gouaches. In 2001, an exhibition entitled Mille Sabords! (“Billions of Blistering Barnacles!”) was shown at the National Navy Museum (Musée national de la Marine) in Paris. In 2002, the Bunkamura Museum of Art in Tokyo staged an exhibition of original Hergé drawings and the submarine and rocket ship invented in the strips by Professor Calculus. In Greenwich, London, the National Maritime Museum hosted the exhibition The Adventures of Tintin at Sea in 2004, focusing on Tintin’s sea exploits and commemorating the 75th anniversary of Tintin’s first publication adventure. 2004 also saw an exhibition in Halles Saint Géry in Brussels titled Tintin et la Ville (“Tintin and the City”) showcasing all cities Tintin had travelled in.
The centenary of Hergé’s birth in 2007 was commemorated at the largest museum for modern art in Europe, the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris, with Hergé, an art exhibition honouring his work. The show, from 20 December 2006 until 19 February 2007, featured 300 Hergé’s boards and original drawings, including all 124 original plates of The Blue Lotus. Laurent le Bon, the exhibit organiser, said: “It was important for the Centre to show the work of Hergé next to that of Matisse or Picasso.” Michael Farr claimed: “Hergé has long been seen as a father figure in the comics world. If he’s now recognised as a modern artist, that’s very important”.
2009 saw the opening of the Hergé Museum (Musée Hergé), designed in contemporary style, in Louvain-la-Neuve, south of Brussels. Visitors follow a sequence of eight permanent exhibit rooms covering the entire range of Hergé’s work, showcasing the world of Tintin and his other creations. In addition, the new museum has already seen many temporary exhibits, including Into Tibet With Tintin.
The Hergé Museum, located in the town of Louvain-la-Neuve, south of Brussels, opened in June 2009, honouring the work of Hergé.
Hergé is recognised as one of the leading cartoonists of the twentieth century. Most notably, Hergé’s ligne claire style has influenced creators of other Franco-Belgian comics. Contributors to Tintin magazine have employed ligne claire, and later artists Jacques Tardi, Yves Chaland, Jason Little, Phil Elliott, Martin Handford, Geof Darrow, Eric Heuvel, Garen Ewing, Joost Swarte, and others have produced works using it.
Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein have claimed Hergé as one of their most important influences on the broader art world. Lichtenstein made paintings based on fragments from Tintin comics, while Warhol used ligne claire and even made a series of pictures with Hergé as the subject. Warhol, who admired Tintin’s “great political and satirical dimensions,” said, “Hergé has influenced my work in the same way as Walt Disney. Hergé was more than a comic strip artist”.
Hergé has been lauded as “creating in art a powerful graphic record of the 20th century’s tortured history” through his work on Tintin. At the same time, Maurice Horn’s World Encyclopedia of Comics declares him to have “spear-headed the post-World War II renaissance of European comic art.” French philosopher Michel Serres noted that the twenty-three completed Tintin albums constituted a “chef-d’oeuvre” (“masterpiece”) to which “the work of no French novelist is comparable in importance or greatness.”
In 1966, Charles de Gaulle said: “Basically, you know, my only international rival is Tintin! We are the little ones who don’t let themselves be fooled by the big ones”.
Tintin has become a symbol of Belgium and was used in various visual responses to the 2016 Brussels bombings.
|Tintin comic albums|
|Album Number||Title||Serialisation||Album (B&W)||Album (colour)||Notes|
|1||Tintin in the Land of the Soviets||1929–1930||1930||2017||Hergé prevented this book’s republication until 1973. It became available in a coloured edition in 2017.|
|2||Tintin in the Congo||1930–1931||1931||1946||Republished in colour and a fixed 62-page format. Book 10 was the first to be initially published in colour.|
|3||Tintin in America||1931–1932||1932||1945|
|4||Cigars of the Pharaoh||1932–1934||1934||1955|
|5||The Blue Lotus||1934–1935||1936||1946|
|6||The Broken Ear||1935–1937||1937||1943|
|7||The Black Island||1937–1938||1938||1943, 1966|
|8||King Ottokar’s Sceptre||1938–1939||1939||1947|
|9||The Crab with the Golden Claws||1940–1941||1941||1943|
|10||The Shooting Star||1941–1942||1942|
|11||The Secret of the Unicorn||1942–1943||1943||Books 11 to 15 set a middle period for Hergé marked by war and changing collaborators.|
|12||Red Rackham’s Treasure||1943||1944|
|13||The Seven Crystal Balls||1943–1946||1948|
|14||Prisoners of the Sun||1946–1948||1949|
|15||Land of Black Gold||1939-1940[k]|
|16||Destination Moon||1950–1952||1953||Books 16 to 23 (and revised editions of books 4, 7 & 15) are creations of Studios Hergé.|
|17||Explorers on the Moon||1952–1953||1954|
|18||The Calculus Affair||1954–1956||1956|
|19||The Red Sea Sharks||1956–1958||1958|
|20||Tintin in Tibet||1958–1959||1960|
|21||The Castafiore Emerald||1961–1962||1963|
|22||Flight 714 to Sydney||1966–1967||1968|
|23||Tintin and the Picaros||1975–1976||1976|
|24||Tintin and Alph-Art||1986||2004||Hergé’s unfinished book was published posthumously.|