Tintin, the world’s most famous boy reporter, turns 90 this year, and he’s going as strong as ever, having even attracted the attention of Steven Spielberg. Tintin, also known in Belgium as Kuifje on account of his trademark quiff, was born in Janury 1929 in the magazine Le Petit Vingtième, the children’s section of a Brussels newspaper. His first adventures, by cartoonist Georges Rémi, known as Hergé, were an immediate success, though times have changed, an some of those early stories would raise eyebrows today. The first series set him in the Land of the Soviets, and was so strongly anti-Communist that when it was published in book form, it was restricted to a single edition.
Later, not only did the adventures become more extended – taking him to Tibet, South America and even the moon (photo) – but so did the cast of characters. They included the unforgettable whisky-loving seaman Captain Haddock, the absent-minded Professor Tournesol and the identical but unrelated detectives Dupond and Dupont.
Those factors, and the move to beautifully-rendered book versions, helped cement the characters’ appeal, although of all of them, Tintin himself is the most anodyne. The books work on several levels, crossing all age barriers. Hergé, who also created the children’s characters Quick and Flupke, was a leading proponent of the “clear line” style of drawing, which lends itself as much to the mini-albums of all the adventures as it does to the magnificent mural decoration of the Stockel metro station.
But it’s the stories, which continue to please children and grown-ups alike, which have ensured the boy reporter’s longevity. And it must have been a fan who, in 2017, paid no less than €110,000 for ink drawings by Hergé intended as a cartoon for the Stockel walls.