To say Tintin inspired me to become a journalist would be an overstatement. He was, after all, merely a cartoon character who lived inside the covers of my favourite books at the local public library. As a child, I checked out those volumes again and again.
But it probably was Tintin who established the notion in a young, impressionable mind that some people were, by vocation, reporters. Tintin was such a person, even though, throughout his “graphic novel” existence, he never filed a story, content to criss-cross the globe solving mysteries and pursuing crooks, accompanied by the colourful cast of characters that were his friends. Illustrator Georges Remi, who adopted the pen name Hergé (the French pronunciation of his initials, reversed) had me in his spell.
It hasn’t yet made many waves in North America, but in Europe, anticipation of Steven Spielberg’s 3D treatment of the young reporter’s adventures is already arcing upward. The Spielberg project is in post-production, slated for release in the fall of 2011. It stars Jamie Bell as Tintin, Andy Serkis as Captain Haddock and Daniel Craig as Red Rackham. Given that Spielberg’s first Tintin film follows the plot of The Secret of the Unicorn, speculation is already rampant about a sequel, which would naturally be Red Rackham’s Treasure.
Born in Brussels in 1907, Remi’s first drawings appeared in a scouting magazine when he was only 14. Six years later, he’d been hired by the daily newspaper Le Vingtième siècle to be editor-in-chief of Le Petit vingtième, its children’s supplement. The Tintin series was launched in 1929.
Remi managed to spin nearly two dozen tales of intrigue and adventure featuring Tintin, his mostly incompetent allies and a notorious collection of villains, before the illustrator’s death on March 3, 1983. As remarkable as the stories, however, were Herge’s illustrations. At a time when newspapers were just beginning to grasp the reader appeal of the funnies, Tintin’s creator took the art to new levels. Scenes were rendered in great detail compared to the work of his contemporaries; foreign landscapes, besides being vividly appealing, were topographically correct. The plots, too, were fairly complex: spies, arms merchants, smugglers, capitalists and communists, thieves, traitors and assassins abounded, always to be exposed by our hero and his pals.
Today, Hergé’s legacy is carefully guarded by his estate and its conservators in Belgium, who operate the official website. A small band of Tintin enthusiasts worldwide collects trivia and monitors developments, including the international team of bloggers, programmers and moderators at Tintinologist.org, among them Simon Doyle (@tintinologist on Twitter), and British webmaster Chris Tregenza (@TintinMovie on Twitter), who runs TintinMovie.org. An Hergé museum in Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium, opened earlier this year.
Below, a short clip in which Hergé draws his famous hero and dog Snowy.