The BackShop Journal

A Gallery of Thoughts on Arts, Culture and Orthodox Christian Spirituality

Hergé, the Celebrated Creator of Tintin

It has been 35 years since the death of one of the greatest and most influential comic strip artists, Georges Prosper Remi (1907-1983), better known as Hergé. He is the creator of perhaps the most popular graphic novels of the 20th century, The Adventures of Tintin. Remi's nickname is derived from his initials (R.G.)

Born to a lower middle-class family in Brussels, Hergé began his career by contributing illustrations to Scouting magazines. He developed his first comic series, The Adventures of Totor, in 1926. Working for the conservative Catholic newspaper Le Vingtième Siècle, he created The Adventures of Tintin in 1929 on the advice of the editor. Revolving around the actions of boy reporter Tintin and his dog Snowy (Milou in French), the first three stories -Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, Tintin in Congo, and Tintin in America - were designed as conservative propaganda for children. After considerable success, the stories were published in book form, with Hergé continuing the series in the newspaper. At the same time, he developed two other comic strips for children, Quick & Flupke and Jo, Zette and Jocko, but these two creations never reached the popularity of Tintin.

After the Allied liberation of Belgium in 1944, Le Soir - the newspaper he transferred to after Le Vingtième Siècle was closed by the Nazis, was shut down. Its staff, including Hergé, were accused of having been collaborators. Even though no charges were brought against the artist, in the following years he was often called a traitor. In 1946 he established Tintin magazine, and continued to work on the series.

Hergé's works have been widely acclaimed for their clarity of drawing and meticulous, well-researched plots. They have been the source of a wide range of adaptations, in theatre, radio, television, cinema, and computer gaming. Tintin remains a strong influence on the comic book medium, particularly in Europe to this date. As a tribute to the artist's life and work, Hergé Мuseum was established in Louvain-la-Neuve in 2009.

Apart from the simple yet skillful stroke, Tintin's distinction comes from the elaborate cultural context of the stories. Whether Tintin visits China, Tibet, the Amazon, the Andes, or an imaginary Eastern European country, all depictions in the story, including names, faces, attire, appearance of buildings and historical detail come as a result of a careful and comprehensive investigation. Young readers can, therefore, learn a lot about geography, history and culture of the place chosen as the setting for the story. 

Another characteristic of the acclaimed comic strip are the scrupulously designed plots, with numerous breath-taking escapades, which showcase the courage and resilience of its main protagonist. Although many francophone comics have reached the popularity of Tintin sinceits sheer artistic value has probably not been eclipsed to this date.

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