My favorite childhood author: Herge

With Steven Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn” hitting the silver screen, it gave me another reason to pick up Herge’s comics once again to re-read for them for the umpteen time.

“You kind of can’t grow up in New Zealand without having Tintin become a really important part of your life,” said Peter Jackson, director for the new Tintin movie in a TIME magazine interview. This was certainly true for my childhood too.

Georges Remi, or more commonly known by his pen name Herge, (left) creator of the Tintin series and also one of Belgian’s most famous comic artists that captured the imagination of readers through ages.

Strictly speaking, Herge is not an author per se but rather a comic writer and illustrator. Yet his absolute brilliance and creativity still warrants his inclusion in my top childhood authors list. I remembered adoring the entire Tintin series for the kick ass adventures where the journalist cum detective would embark on his journey to exotic new places such as Congo, Egypt and even to the moon.

(Side note: Tintin traveled to Southeast Asia, with mention of Singapore and Jakarta in the book “Flight 714 to Sydney.”)

As a child, I had no clue wheresoever he and Snowy, his super cute but fiercely loyal dog, traveled to in most of his books because they are places that do not register on my young mind. But it is precisely this element of novelty that makes these books a total hit with children.

Yet little did my childhood self know that Herge, as most authors of his time, wrote books for children that were inundated with ideas reflecting popular thoughts back then but is deemed unpalatable for today’s taste.

For instance, “Tintin in the Land of the Soviets” contained not only a very obvious slant against the communists but also perpetuated numerous stereotypes.

His perception towards the Russians is best summarized by the comic strip below where the Communist party won their election by literally forcing everyone to vote at point gun:

Drawn in the early 1930s during the height of imperialism and anti-communist sentiments, the Marxists were for Herge the ultimate evil force that pillaged resources from poor peasants whilst glorifying themselves to the outside world.

Another stereotypical image would be towards the Chinese communists, who were viewed as the brother-in-arms of the Russian Marxists. As such, the Russian’s torture chamber was staffed with none other than nasty slit-eyed Chinese-looking people sprouting random Chinese characters:

Such biasness still impacts generations after Herge’s death in 1983, of which the most recent case was by a Congolese man who is currently bringing charges to Casterman, Tintin’s publisher, and Mounlinsart, the company who owns Tintin’s commercial rights. He is requesting for the removal of the book “Tintin in the Congo” from bookshelves citing racism towards Africans as the main reason.

Putting aside the numerous controversies, I was honestly excited when I had the chance to stop by Brussels this summer, where I took the opportunity to visit the Belgian Comic Strip Centre, a museum dedicated to comic strips from Belgium artists.

My greatest regret though is my dismal understanding of the French language, which was the main medium used for most of the signs explanations in the museum that is occasionally peppered with smatterings of few poorly translated English signs.

Despite not fully understanding, it was still exciting to see scenes from Tintin books come alive, such as a rocket from the book “Explorers on the Moon” is strategically placed at the entrance of the building. Moreover, it is also inspirational to view the original comic illustrations, admiring the strokes and shadings that made comic characters burst into life.

So what were some of your childhood memories of Tintin? Share with us in the comment box below!

Ending off this post with the trailer to the upcoming Tintin movie:


2 thoughts on “My favorite childhood author: Herge

  1. I don’t recall reading any of the Tintin books when I was growing up, but I used to love the tv cartoon series. Excellent article, I really didn’t know that Herge was so outspoken against the Soviets and was so politically incorrect in his day.

    I guess what is incorrect now wasn’t back then. It’s the same with the Gollywogs in the Enid Blyton stories.

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