Tintin is here to Last

The comic hero turns 90 this month. He’s as much of a world icon as Elvis Presley in music and Muhammad Ali in boxing

Shardul Bhardwaj

TINTIN is turning 90  and the world has erupted in celebration.  Elon Musk has admitted that his Space X Starship Hopper was inspired by Destination Moon and the Belgian Embassy has started an initiative to screen Tintin films and cartoons in New Delhi schools. For most children growing up in the 1980s in India, Tintin existed in print, and so it was accessible to a limited urban audience. It was only during the 1990s when Tintin, dubbed in Hindi and Tamil, started being telecast on Doordarshan and other channels that it gained widespread popularity among the children in India.

Through many unforgettable parts like The Calculus Affair, Tintin became irreversibly ingrained in the minds of kids of the 1990s. Tintin, the insatiable reporter, made children travel through the Middle East, Tibet, Congo and the USSR. Along with Snowy the dog and Captain Haddock (a pipe-smoking seafaring merchant captain), Tintin took his young audiences through the dangerous and adventurous realms of the world. In a time and space populated by Famous Five and Nancy Drew, Tintin won the race due to its mass media presentation. Tintin was more palpable and real for kids to aspire to. 

Tintin started out as propaganda from a children’s supplement of the right-wing catholic newspaper in Vienna called Le Vingtieme Siecle in 1929. George Remis, better known as Herge, the creator of Tintin, faced many allegations of collaboration with the Nazis during the war but none of the charges were proven. He went on to establish the Tintin Magazine with Raymond Leblanc in 1946. In 1947, came the first film adaptation of Tintin named The Crab with Golden Claws in Belgian. Eventually Tintin came out in French and then in English and then in Arabic. This was aided by Tintin, the boy reporter travelling through America in Tintin in America (9145), through Middle East in Land of Black Gold and Red Sea Sharks, through Tibet in Tintin in Tibet and the USSR in Tintin in Land of Soviets. 

The previously colonial subjects found Tintin fashionable and a representative of the internationalism that was in vogue in the early 1990s. For Indian audiences, just like the rest of the world, the adventures opened a world of endless possibilities. However, it is intriguing to observe how Tintin was packaged and tailor-made in a manner to cater to the already existing preconceptions of the Middle East and the rest of Asia. 

It was through Adventures of Tintin that children from Middle East, India and America learnt to see beyond their own contexts but obviously from a completely European perspective. Tintin, in all these countries during the 1990s, was more of urban phenomena and so the young audiences could see their own countries in a more titillating fashion than they could in their usual daily lives. The golden era of Tintin has continued much after its creator Herge’s death in 1983. Steven Spielberg in 2011 directed a 3D animated film called the Adventures of Tintin. It reintroduced a whole new generation of young audiences to Tintin. The everlasting of appeal of Tintin has been that with changing time it has moved from comic strips, to serialised cartoon films to feature film adaptations to 3D film. Tintin is one of the most known European cartoon strips and the American film industry has also lapped up its phenomenon.  It would be safe to say that Tintin has only grown in its reach instead of fading into a relic of the pre-internet age like many other popular yesteryear cartoon characters.

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