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Published on January 10th, 2019 | by James Drew

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Happy Birthday Tintin!


Believe it or not, the young reporter famed for his exotic adventures exposing skullduggery across the world, turns 90 this week,
writes Martin Banks.

The character was created by Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi, better known as Herge, and first appeared in strip form in the pages of Le Petit Vingtieme – a children’s supplement to the right-wing Catholic broadsheet Le Vingtieme Siecle – on 10 January 1929.

Le Vingtieme Siecle brilliantly capitalized on the atmosphere of suspicion against the USSR in promoting Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, publishing fabricated threatening letters from the Kremlin ordering its serialization be stopped. They also hired a 15-year-old lookalike, Lucien Peppermans, to pose as a reporter at Gare du Nord railway station in Brussels.

His exploits were an instant success and Tintin went on to appear in 24 graphic novels, all drawn by Herge is his distinctive “clear line” style, before the creator brought the series to a close in 1976.

Recognized the world over for his trademark quiff and wire fox terrier Snowy, Tintin is loved for his plucky spirit and the earnest indignation with which he reacts to the outrages and intrigues he uncovers at the hands of underworld ne’er-do-wells.

Unfolding at a frantic pace, The Adventures of Tintin series also offers an unforgettable supporting cast, from the irascible mariner Captain Haddock to Thomson and Thompson, the hapless duo.

Paul Aleixo, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Sheffield Hallam University, said there are a number of reasons we should celebrate Tintin.

“From a comic book perspective, Tintin had a number of important firsts: Tintin was the first successful comic book series in Belgium and led directly to the beginning of the comic book industry there. In France, meanwhile, Hergé’s style, known as the ligne claire or “clear line” (a very clearly drawn style with little shading) was hugely influential on comic book artists. Hergé was an innovator in terms of using word and thought balloons – as far as current research has found, Hergé pioneered their use in Belgium, he also developed and expanded the use of symbols such as “speed lines” (the little lines that denote movement) in comics to give further meaning to his drawings.

“However, more generally, The Adventures of Tintin are important in an educational sense. I have  previously suggested that comics should be encouraged as reading materials in schools because they are a way of getting children reading more generally. Reading comics also helps the development of visual literacy which is becoming increasingly important in modern society.”

He added: “For these reasons I think it’s really important to encourage children to read Tintin. Tintin has the advantage of being designed for children in the first place – they’ve never been dumbed down and the stories also appeal to many adults. And the storylines themselves encourage a number of positive core values: doing good, supporting the underdog, resisting unfairness and fighting for justice.”

Tintin was officially 90 years old on 10 January and Moulinsart, the company managing the rights of the work of Hergé, have used Tintin’s second adventure, Tintin in Congo for the birthday celebrations.

A news conference in Brussels on Thursday to mark the 90th anniversary was told that the album appeared in colour in its original version, released in 1931. The revised version will be available in digital from 10 January.

This, the briefing at Brussels town hall heard, was the idea of Nick Rodwell, the administrator of Moulinsart (he could not attend the event due to sickness).

Later on Thursday a debate called “Congo Tintin” took place at the town hall with speakers Daniel Couvreur, lawyer Alain Berenboom, Congo cartoonist Barly Baruti.

As part of the celebration the Hergé Museum presented a series of original prints in black and white of Tintin in Congo.

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