Shadman Muhtasim Chowdhury
The young Belgian reporter famed for his exotic adventures exposing skullduggery across the world, turned 90 on 10 January. In the era of fake news and misinformation, Tintin is still going strong at 90. Growing up with pop-culture figures like those of Asterix, Zelda and others for me it was always Tintin which I preferred over the others.
Designed and created by Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi, better known as Hergé, Tintin 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. His exploits were an instant success and Tintin went on to appear in 24 graphic novels, all drawn by Hergé is his distinctive “clear line” style, before the creator concluded the series in 1976.
I was fortunate enough to read the original issue of ‘Tintin in the Land of the Soviets’ in Belgium. Published in 10 January, 1929 the graphic novel shows the reporter on a trip to the Soviet Union to report to report on the Bolshevik way of life that was gaining popularity with the conclusion of World War I and the Russian Civil War. By the end of the Great War, Europe was done with Kings and Monarchs. Now they needed a new style of life.
Shadowed by the NKVD secret police and denounced as a “dirty little bourgeois” before he evens enters USSR, Tintin comes to grip with the fact that the political hierarchy is fooling in the words of the Belgian reporter, “the poor idiots who still believe in a Red Paradise”. They are literally starving their own people and have created fake industries to dupe visiting British Marxists into conveying Soviet propaganda abroad. After witnessing rigged elections, favouritism at the breadlines and a grain export conspiracy, Tintin and Snowy narrowly escape a Red Army firing squad, only to wander into a hideout where Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin have stored their exploits and treasures. Having exposed the October Revolution as a grand scam, the pair returns home to a hero’s welcome.
Compared to some of Hergé’s finest pieces, the work is a relatively crude piece of anti-Communist propaganda that suited the purposes of his employer, Abbe Norbert Wallez, an ardent fascist and admirer of Benito Mussolini. Hergé’s association with Le Vingtieme Siecle, during the collaborationist period under Nazi occupation, is among the more regrettable aspects of his legacy.
Having said that, the story was a product of its particular historical moment that served both as a propaganda for the Nazis and also as a source of entertainment for the citizens under the occupational forces. Though Hergé was not forgiven easily for his association with the Nazis and the fascists with serving prison time, his post-war novels like ‘Tintin in America’, ‘The Secret of The Unicorn’, ‘Red Rackham’s Treasure’, ‘Land of Black Gold’ and ‘Tintin in Tibet’ are some of his most extraordinary piece of works. Till this day the aura of Tintin has not diminished yet. At the age of 90, the young journalist is still hard and full of vigor, ready to right the wrongs of the world along with his faithful wire fox terrier Snowy.
The writer is a budding journo with a passion for creative mischief