July 12, 2006

Herge & Tintin

I just saw a PBS documentary on WGBH The World ... a biography of Herge, whose real name, I learned today, was Georges Remi. The documentary was interesting although very slow and I gave up watching in the last 20 minutes (its a 1.5 hour documentary!) Anyways... it is interesting that PBS showed a documentary on Herge, who is not very popular in the US, the connections to Warhol etc. (see below) notwithstanding.

Here is a preview about the documentary

Interviews With Reclusive Belgian Cartoonist Herge Reveal Political and Psychological Forces Behind Creation of Legendary Cartoon Hero Tintin

Who was Tintin? Indeed, who was his creator, Herge? Tintin was the determined and resilient hero of a comic book series that took him on thrilling adventures around the world - and on some voyages not quite of this world. Though Tintin is not as well known in the U.S. as in Europe, his distinctive tuft of ginger hair and Herge's no less distinctive drawing style will ring a bell with many Americans. Appearing from 1929 to 1982, the series took Tintin to the planet's most exotic places to confront danger, treachery and political machinations, with an emphasis on the fast-paced visuals of trains, planes, cars, bombs and other new technologies....
A few new insights and trivia from seeing the documentary and reading the wiki entry on Herge....
  • "Herge" is the French pronunciation of "R.G.", the reverse of his initials.
  • Also, though not quite famous in the US, apparently, Herge's influence on American art and pop culture is far-reaching. The documentary also talked about his interactions with Americanpop-culture icon, Andy Warhol..
  • Tintin first appeared in a right-wing Catholic paper
  • Herge's drawing style is called Ligne claire (French for "clear line") - which uses clear strong lines which have the same thickness and importance, rather than being used to emphasize certain objects or be used for shading (for this reason it is sometimes also called the democracy of lines). Additionally, the style often features strong colours and a combination of cartoonish characters against a realistic background. The use of shadows is sparse and all elements of a panel are delineated with clear black lines. The name was coined by Joost Swarte in 1977.
  • First Tintin adventure - Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, appeared in the pages of Le Petit Vingtième on January 10, 1929, and ran until May 8, 1930. Hergé would continue to revise these stories in subsequent editions, including a later conversion to colour.
  • Title of Herge's unfinished Tintin adventure - Tintin and Alph-art
  • The character of Tintin was inspired by Georges' brother Paul Remi, an officer in the Belgian army.
  • In January 1930, Hergé introduced Quick & Flupke (Quick et Flupke), a new comic strip about two street urchins from Brussels, in the pages of Le Petit Vingtième. For many years, Hergé would continue to produce this less well-known series in parallel with his Tintin stories.
  • Later in life, he would express embarrassment over the ill-informed and prejudiced views expressed in these works. For instance, an infamous scene in Tintin in the Congo had Tintin giving a geography lesson to native students in a missionary school. "My dear friends," exclaimed Tintin, "today I am going to talk to you about your country: Belgium!" In a later edition, the scene was changed into an arithmetic lesson.
And of course the documentary also talked about his alliances, thoughts, the politics and pressures he was under, and the effect of Nazi occupation of Belgium on his writings during what was a tumultous time in Europe in the 1930s. Under German occupation, ...

..."he had to leave The Land of the Black Gold unfinished, due to its anti-fascist overtones, launching instead into The Crab with the Golden Claws. During this time, he turned to stories with an escapist flavour: an expedition to a meteorite (The Shooting Star), a treasure hunt (The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham's Treasure), and a quest to undo an ancient Inca curse (The Seven Crystal Balls and Prisoners of the Sun). In these stories, Herge placed more emphasis on characterization than on the plot, and indeed Tintin's most memorable companions, Captain Haddock and Cuthbert Calculus (In French Professeur Tryphon Tournesol), were introduced at this time"

The documentary as well as the wiki entry also have some interesting stories behind his writing The Blue Lotus, which dealt with the sensitive topic of Japanese invasion of China in the late 30s.

I had read earlier about his troubles after the war, when the Allies alleged he was a Nazi sympathizer...
"He was publicly accused of being a Nazi/Rexist sympathizer, a claim which was largely unfounded, as the Tintin adventures published during the war were scrupulously free of politics (the only dubious point occurring in The Shooting Star, which showed a rival scientific expedition flying the Flag of the United States). In fact, the stories published before the war had been unequivocally critical of fascism; most prominently, King Ottokar's Sceptre showed Tintin working to defeat a thinly-veiled allegory of the Anschluss, Nazi Germany's takeover of Austria."
Enuf cut-n-paste from wikipedia ... you can read the details at the links above but I thought I'd highlight some points I found interesting...

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