We might as well get this one out of the way. With the upcoming movie, it is likely that new fans will want to learn more about Hergé’s world famous creation, Tintin. If they dig deep enough, the curious will discover some not so pleasant things. In the early stages of his career Hergé hadn’t really fleshed out the Tintin character and his adventures were fairly infantile. The audience was mostly young kids so the stories didn’t need to be anything profound or intricate. During Hergé’s first forays into the Tintin storyline, the world was in the midst of profound change. Europe was between two world wars, Bolshevism was rising, and colonialism was dying. Hergé’s first story (published in a Belgian children’s newspaper supplement in 1929), Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, was essentially a right-wing, anti-Communist propaganda piece directed at children. We’re not reviewing it here, but essentially the boy reporter, Tintin, travels to the USSR (the “Union of Soviet Socialist Republics” for you kids that don’t bother with geography or history — and if that doesn’t ring any bells either, go back to school and pay attention) to discover what the comradenicks up to are [can't end a sentence in a preposition, right?]. Apparently, nothing good – the Bolsheviks are stealing food and killing the opposition. The book was probably successful in its time and locality but apparently in the subsequent Tintin canon, it didn’t really fit so it hasn’t been published regularly or in color. Besides Tintin and Alph-Art, this is the only other Tintin book we haven’t read (and we’ve read the others plenty, so our reviews will be thorough and well-researched … maybe).
Anyway, the next year, Hergé was commissioned to write/draw another piece. Tintin in the Congo was published in book form in 1931. It is the most controversial and most certainly the worst Tintin adventure (unless Soviets is the bottom of the barrel — we wouldn’t know since we haven’t bothered to read it). Congo is ill-researched, racist, horribly irresponsible, outrageously stupid, and … believe it or not, boring. Hergé’s publisher, a right-wing imperialist dog named Norbert Wallez, wanted to paint a glamorous picture of Belgian colonial success and benevolence in the Congo. It’s important to note that the 23-year-young Hergé was probably very heavily influenced by the philosophies of Wallez and therefore wasn’t really fully aware of how awful and dangerous his commissioned work was. Hergé actually apologized for it later in life. Wallez, by the way, no surprise, was an Anti-Semite and fascist.
Hergé isn’t completely off the hook for this atrocity, though. Most of his books have some level of racism, even in the form of a patronizing “Big White Brother” kind of thing. Hergé actually had the audacity to redraw and color Congo in 1946. Redoing his early books was something he did often but clearly he hadn’t yet divorced himself from the misguided travesty by the end of WWII.
OK, having said all of this, you can obviously tell by other posts and resources on this blog that we are actually huge fans of Tintin’s adventures – especially the middle ones. They are brilliantly ingenious (Hergé takes them to the moon a decade before Armstrong touches down — and he’s pretty accurate on a lot of stuff), and can be enjoyed by all ages. Hergé’s “clear line” artwork is incredibly inventive and has heavily influenced comic book artists over the years.
We are, however, currently talking about Tintin in the Congo so we will complete this post with more details. As we noted, Hergé knew very little about the Congo and according to Wikipedia he did no significant research (and the research he did do was heavily biased towards the opinions of Catholic missionaries that had served in the Congo … see? … Big Brother …). And it isn’t just colonial jingoism. Animal rights groups probably have field days when they come across this book. It’s one thing to portray a safari as a grand adventure for adults (although, really? … give the “adventurers” pool sticks and push them out into the savanna, then we’ll be impressed), but to write and illustrate a children’s book with the indiscriminate and passionless killing of living creatures is just mind-boggling. But sport hunters have no souls, so there you are.
And, yes. We’re ready for this: “But Comics A-Go-Go!, those were different times. Putting your 21st century sensibilities into a historical context that is very different than your world means you’re judging someone unfairly, and [blah, blah, blah.]” So, the excuse therefore is ignorance? And, perhaps, should we say, a lack of education? Maybe some social immaturity? Huh. So … the early 20th century European was really a savage too. Just a well-dressed one (except man-culottes really aren’t “the bomb”).
So, if you’re feeling like you want to be outraged, give Tintin in the Congo, a whirl. Sorry, we don’t have the English-language version and we’re not about to buy it, bless our souls. Hopefully the captions on the following page will help you out. If you read Spanish, we’ve also posted the entire comic for your pleasure or disgust.
Onward to the ridiculousness!
UPDATE: We just found out that the pickle dicks over at Chimpmania linked to the image above. Their shit is exactly the opposite of what we’re writing about in our posts. We love Tintin and we’re sad that Hergé wrote and drew some racist garbage. So, Chimpania, you can take your white (or whatever anti-black color) power stink pile and shove it back up from whence it came.