Chasing Tintin: From Brussels to London

One of the world's most beloved cartoon characters, Tintin, reached the moon 19 years before Neil Armstrong, as portrayed in this statue at the CBBD Stripmuseum in Brussels.  In 1969, Hergé sent the famous Belgian cartoon to Armstrong showing Tintin welcoming him to the moon.
One of the world's most beloved cartoon characters, Tintin, reached the moon 19 years before Neil Armstrong, as portrayed in this statue at the CBBD Stripmuseum in Brussels.

The greatest fictional adventurer of the 20th century has returned. Tintin, the spiky-haired hero who starred in 23 cartoon books by Belgian creator Hergé, now has his own movie.

He is also the star of an exhibit at London’s National Maritime Museum in Greenwich and also makes up a large part of the Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée (Belgian Center for the Comic Strip) in Brussels.

Tintin’s adventures were translated in more than 45 languages. While the whimsical adventures of Harry Potter may hold sway today, the roots of modern adventure stories are strongly built in Tintin.

He was created in 1929 by George Rémi (1907-1983), who published under his nom de plume, Hergé, which is the French pronunciation of his initials read backwards.

The Adventures of Tintin At Sea is featured at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England until September 5, 2004. Here Tintin is pictured with his faithful dog, Snowy, who saves the young adventurer’s life on many occasions.

Hergé’s Tintin is a young reporter. And through more than 40 years of comics, the young adventurer battled gangsters, sought buried treasure, explored the wide world and even went to the moon alongside such quirky companions Professor Calculus, Captain Haddock and his faithful dog Milou, whose English name is Snowy, of course.

With indistinct features beyond a spiky crop of orange hair and indefinite age, Tintin is a remarkable everyman hero who stands out, especially in an age that saw the birth of Superman. Hergé’s stories reflect a vivid humanism and a realistic feel.

With his ligne clair (clear line) style he pioneered a new era of drawing in which the image is simplified to its primary components and shadowing is never used. This results in long and seamless drawing lines, making the comic strip easy to read.

The best source of Tintin art is the excellent Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée. While comic strips like Charles M. Schulz’ Peanuts are little more than daily amusements in other countries, Belgium publishes more than 40 million works of comic art annually, and the 40,000 titles kept at the museum are treated with great respect. Cartoons are an art form in Belgium.

There are more than 5,000 original drawings archived in its famous resource center. Larger than life statues of Tintin and friends in their space suits are on display, as well as clever three-dimensional dioramas that add depth to extraordinary drawings.

The heart of the museum is the first floor gallery rightly named and roughly translated as “The Museum of the Imaginary.” The exhibit includes a rotating exhibit of more than 200 original drawings by the superstars of comic art ranging from original Tintin drawings by Hergé to rare drawings of American import The Silver Surfer by Jack Kirby. While most exhibits and cartoons are displayed in French, an English guidebook is available, and the language detracts little from the extraordinary artwork.

Only a two-hour train trip away in London, The Adventures of Tintin At Sea exhibit has just gotten under way at the Maritime Museum in Greenwich. Based around five adventures set largely on or in the ocean, visitors are greeted by wild drawings of Tintin’s shark-shaped submarine, sea pirates and other seafaring elements.

Tintin’s undersea adventures included chasing sunken treasure in a shark-shaped submarine designed by his friend Professor Calculus in Red Rackham’s Treasure, published in 1944.

“It is incredible that Tintin is still so popular around the world more than 25 years after the last complete adventure was published,” said Exhibition Curator Kristian Martin. “He really taps into people’s imaginations and the universal love of adventure. Tintin is an ‘all-round good guy,’ always on the side of good, fighting against all that is evil and defending the weak.

His enigmatic qualities—we know nothing of his age, family or even his full name in the conventional sense—also make him appealing and inspire readers to try to find out more or project their own experiences onto him.”

In addition to dozens of original Hergé drawings including the oldest Tintin illustration, the show includes a portrait of the artist by Andy Warhol and collection items from Foundation Hergé, many of which are on public display for the first time. The exhibit is presented in both English and French. It runs through September 5, 2004.

If You Go

Centre Belge de la Bande Dessinée, Brussels

The National Maritime Museum, Greenwich

Official Tintin Website