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Georges Remi, alias Hergé (1907-1983)


Belgian comic artist, illustrator, the creator of Tintin, whose adventures gained international fame after WW II. Between the years 1930 and 1974 Hergé produced 24 comic books about a young reporter, who wears baggy plus-fours and is accompanied by a brave and faithful fox-terrier, Milou. Hergé's right-wing opinions, starting from Tintin in the Land of the Soviets (1930), colored his earliest works, which he later judged harshly. His easily recognized linear style (or ligne claire) – meticulously studied details, drawn with smooth continuous outlines – has influenced a number of cartoonists of the "Brussels school". Hergé kept his stories in general on a realistic level but often they also had fantastic or supernatural elements.

HADDOCK: Hello there! Slept well?... No more dreams?
TINTIN: Good morning, Captain. No, no more dreams.
TINTIN:No dreams, but not much sleep, either. I was haunted by that picture of Chang lying in the snow, calling to me for help.
HADDOCK: Rubbish! Dream go by opposites, so they say. Don't think about it. Look, there's a letter for you, from Hong Kong.
TINTIN: Hong Kong?

(in Tintin in Tibet, 1960)

Hergé was born Georges Rémi near Brussels, the son of Alexis Remi and Elisabeth (Dufour) Remi. His father was employed in boy's outfitters and was especially skilled in sketching clothes models. Hergé was educated at the Ixelles primary school (1914-1918) and then at St. Boniface's. At the same time as he entered the Catholic college he changed from the non-religious 'Boy-Scouts of Belgium' to the 'Federation of Catholic Scouts'. Hergé has characterized his childhood as grey and joyless, but later in the character of Tintin, he created a kind of alter ego, his younger self, whose life is colorful and full of action.

Hergé's first picture stories appeared in the magazine Le-Boy Scout in 1922 and two years later he signed his works with the pseudonym Hergé – the name comes from the phonetic rendering of the initials of his name, R.G. After completing his secondary studies, he joined the Catholic newspaper Le XXe Siècle. In Le-Boy Scout he published his first proper series, Totor de la Patrouille des Hannetons (Totor, Patrol leader of the Hannetons). During his military service in the Fist Regiment of Light Infantry he continued drawing, and returned to Le XXe Siècle in 1927. In 1932 Hergé married Germaine Kieckens, who worked as secretary for Father Wallez. The marriage was childless; they divorced officially in 1975. Father Wellez an ultra-Catholic. He admired Hitler and had Mussolini's picture in his office.

Hergé did not have much formal education in graphic arts. For a short time he was enrolled for drawing lessons at Ecole Saint-Luc, but he left the school when he was told to copy a plaster Corinthian capital. Hergé created Tintin and Milou (Snowy in English) in 1928 for Le Petit Vingtième, the weekly supplement of Le XXe Siècle. Tintin was a Catholic reporter, who fought against evils of the world, starting from Communism and atheism. The adventures of Tintin were later reprinted in book form, first in black and white and from The Shooting Star (1942) in color. His first story, Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, was a political satire, partly based on Joseph Douillet's book Moscou sans voiles. Hergé's artwork was still awkward, but there can be seen a great improvement between the first and the last pages of the album. Due to political reasons, the work was not published in Finland until 1986.

Tintin's adventures continued in the wilds of Africa, in Congo, a Belgian colony at that time. Tintin teaches at missionary school, and kills antelopes and an ape, which he also skins. In 1932 Hergé sent Tintin to the capitalistic United States. "Prends garde, Chicago! nous voici!..." says Milou when it jumps from the train. In Chicago Tintin cleans up the streets and is celebrated with a parade. These three first albums form a kind of "spiritual trilogy" in which Tintin shows his cultural superiority over atheistic, primitive, and materialistic opponents.

In the 1930s Hergé also created a new series and produced a number of book and magazine covers. The Adventures of Jo, Zette and Jocko was about a boy, girl and their chimpanzee, and Quick et Flupke was about two Brussels rascals. While working with Le Lotus bleu (1936, The Blue Lotus), his first masterpiece, Hergé met Tchang Tchong-Yen (1907-1998), an art student and poet, who deeply influenced Hergé's view on Chinese culture. After returning to China, Tchang established his fame as one of the most important artists in his country. Hergé and Tchang met again 1981. At that time Hergé had adopted some Buddhist views on life, but Tchang was a devoted Catholic.

From 1930 Hergé and his team was in charge of Le Petit Vingtième. In 1934 he used Quick and Flupke to parody the meeting of Mussolini and Hitler in Venice. Several weeks later the magazine was banned in Germany. When Germany occupied Belgium, Le Petit Vingtième ceased to exist, and Hergé started to work for Le Soir, which had good relationships with the Nazi authorities. In King Ottokar's Sceptre (1939), Hergé joked with a crook called Müstler, but The Crab with the Golden Claws (1941) was a politically neutral work. Fantasy elements dominated The Shooting Star (1942), in which an eccentric old man prophesies the end of the world is coming. After the war, Hergé was arrested four times. He was labelled as a collaborator and blacklisted.

In 1946 the Belgian publisher Raymond Leblanc established the Tintin magazine. Tintin's adventures appeared first in its pages and then in book form. The hectic pace of work at the magazine was a great burden for Hergé. He had a nervous breakdown and escaped to Switzerland for a period. To regain his artistic independence, Hergé opened his own studio in 1950 on Avenue Louise, and started to work with Destination Moon (1953) in the same year. After finishing it, he was completely exhausted. During the break, which lasted 18 months, Hergé went on a camping holiday. He also spent time fishing on Lake Geneva with the exiled King Leopold III. In Explorers on the Moon (1954) one of the characters, Wolff, eventually commits suicide, which was condemned by authorities of the Catholic church.

In the late 1950s Hergé again experienced a personal crisis. He started a liaison with Fanny Vlaminch, whom he married in 1977, and he also began to undergo Jungian psychoanalysis. The color of snow and white paper haunted him – Hergé was advised to conquer his wicked demon of whiteness. From this period originates Tintin in Tibet (1960). Tintin has a telepathic contact with Chang, a young boy, who is in trouble in the Himalayas. With Captain Haddock he flies to Tibet. In the mountains Tintin meets the Yeti, not a typical Jungian archetype. However, in psychoanalytic theories the Self is symbolized often as an animal, representing our instinctive nature. In many myths and fairy tales animals are helpful, and in the story the Yeti protects Chang. Tintin, who has been torn by inner tension, can start his journey back to normal life after saving the boy. In essence, climbing on a mountain refers to self-discovery.

In 1971 Hergé travelled to the United States for the first time – Tintin had been there already nearly 40 years ago. In 1973 he visited China. Hergé's last work was Tintin and the Picaros (1974). He planned a story set in the modern art world but it was never finished. Hergé died on March 3, in 1983, at the Saint-Luc University clinic. The unfinished Tintin adventure Tintin et L'Alph-Art appeared in 1986. Hergé had been an avid collector of modern art and this work was inspired by his interest in the world of painting. At the end of an episode, Tintin is in danger, facing the prospect of being turned into a sculpture. "... I really do not know where this story will lead me," Hergé had said just three months before his death.

Tintin's adventures with his friends have for decades fascinated young and adult readers. Their popularity in Europe can only be compared to that of Asterix. As a hero Tintin himself is rather uncharismatic. He doesn't have much personal life, or a girlfriend, and his home is furnished like a monk's chamber. A Peter Pan -like hero, he stays young forever. Although Tintin is supposed to earn his living as a reporter, he never sits in front of a typewriter. Occasionally he reveals hidden talents - he can fly an airplane, and he can beat a tiger. As against his straight character, Tintin appears to smoke opium in The Blue Lotus... Regular supporting characters include two dim-witted detectives, Dupont and Dupond, whose blunders reveal Hergé's fascination with slapstick humour, the opera singer Bianca Castafiore, the absent-minded and deaf Professor Calculus, and the evil villain Rastapopoulos. Captain Haddock, whose taste for liquor is limitless, is Tintin's best friend, and perhaps also Herge´s mature alter ego. Female characters are often selfish, overbearing, and fat. Over the decades Hergé's heroes did not age, only the world around them followed time.

"You've read this brochure on Syldavia? ... What a country! ... They export mineral water, the poisoners!..." (Captain Haddock in Destination Moon, 1953)

When his early works were reprinted, Hergé often changed their dated or political incorrect details, such as blowing up a rhinoceros and part of the savanna with dynamite in Tintin in the Congo (1931). In The Crab with the Golden Claws a massive black man beats Captain Haddock with a stick, but in the American edition he has been replaced by a white man. In The Shooting Star an evil Jewish banker, Blumenstein, intrigues against Tintin and his associates, who are searching for meteorite. Hergé later changed the name into Bohlwinkel. The Black Island (1938) was largely redrawn in the 1960s by Hergé's chief assistant Bob de Moor. The final Tintin adventure, Tintin and the Picaros, was set in a Latin American country where dictators rise and fall without much real progress. One scene contrasts a modern city center and its glittering buildings with a slum. Two police officers walk in a leisurely fashion along the road, they have mustaches like General Tapioca, the dictator of the country. At the end of the story two policemen patrol the same slum. Only their uniforms have changed and they have beards like guerrillas. And a placard, which earlier had praised "Viva Tapioca" was changed into "Viva Alcazar." In this album Tintin abandoned his plus fours, fashionable in the 1920s, and started to wear jeans. The step toward modernization was not a farewell to Tintin's old-fashioned code of chivalry. In the story he does not help General Alcazar in his coup d'etat for political reasons, but to get Castafiore out of prison.

For further reading: The Art of Herge, Inventor of Tintin: 1907-1937 by Philippe Goddin (2008); Hergé - Chronologie d'une œuvre 1-4 by Philippe Goddin (2000-2004); Tintin: The Complete Companion by Michael Farr (2001); Tintin et moi: entretiens avec Hergé by Numa Sadoul (2000); Hergé, ou: le secret de l'image: essai sur l'univers graphique de Tinti by Pierre Fresnault-Deruelle (1999); Hergé: biografie by Pierre Assouline (1998); Hergé: Tintin le terrible ou l'alphabet des richesses by Alain Bonfand, Jean-Luc Marion (1996); Le monde de Tintin by Pol Vandromme (1994); Une Psychanalyse amusante by Michel David (1994); Hergé by Pierre Ajame (1991); Entretiens avec Hergé by Numa Sadoul (1989); Tintin and the World of Hergé by Benoit Peeters (1989); Hergé - portrait biographique by Thierry Smolderen, Pierre Sterckx (1988); Hergé, 1922-1932: les debuts d'un illustrateur by Benoît Peeters (1987); Hergé by Serge Tisseron (1987); Tintin chez le psychanalyste by Serge Tisseron (1985) ; Les Métamorphoses de Tintin by Jean-Marie Apostolidès (1984); Tintins by Albert Algoud et al. (1984)

Selected works:

  • Tintin au pays des Soviets, 1930 - Tintin in the Land of the Soviets (tr. Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper and Michael Turner, 1989 ) - Tintti Neuvostojen maassa (suom. Heikki ja Soile Kaukoranta, 1986)
  • Tintin au Congo, 1931 - Tintin in the Congo (tr. Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper and Michael Turner, 1991) - Tintti Afrikassa (suom. Heikki ja Soile Kaukoranta, 1978)
  • Tintin en Amérique, 1932 - Tintin in America (tr. Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper and Michael Turner, 1978) - Tintti Amerikassa (suom. Heikki ja soile Kaukoranta, 1978)
  • Les Cigares du pharaon, 1934 - Cigars of the Pharaoh  (tr. Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper and Michael Turner, 1971) - Faaraon sikarit (suom. Jukka Kemppinen, 1972)
  • illustrator: La Légende d'Albert 1er, roi des Belges by Paul Werrie, 1934
  • Le Lotus bleu, 1936 - The Blue Lotus (tr.,  Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper and Michael Turner, 1983) - Sininen lootus (suom. Soile Kaukoranta ja Heikki Kaukoranta, 1972)
  • L'Oreille cassée, 1937 - The Broken Ear (tr.  Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper and Michael Turner, 1975) - Särkynyt korva (suom. Soile Kaukoranta ja Heikki Kaukoranta, 1974)
  • L'Ile Noire, 1938 - The Black Island (tr.  Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper and Michael Turner, 1966) - Mustan saaren salaisuus (suom. Soile Kaukoranta ja Heikki Kaukoranta, 1971)
  • Le Sceptre d'Ottokar, 1939 - King Ottokar's Sceptre (tr. Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper and Michael Turner, 1958) - Tintin seikkailut: Ottokarin valtikka (suom. Aimo Sakari, 1961) / Kuningas Ottokarin valtikka (suom. Soile Kaukoranta ja Heikki Kaukoranta, 1977)
  • Le Crabe aux pinces d'or, 1941 - The Crab with the Golden Claws (tr. Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper and Michael Turner, 1958) - Kultasaksinen rapu (suom. Jukka Kemppinen, 1972)
  • illustrator: Fables by Robert de Vroylande, 1941
  • L'Étoile mystérieuse, 1942 - The Shooting Star (tr. Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper and Michael Turner, 1961) - Tintin seikkailut: Ihmeellinen tähti (suom. Aimo Sakari, 1961) / Salaperäinen tähti (suom. Soile Kaukoranta ja Heikki Kaukoranta, 1977)
  • Le Secret de la Licorne, 1943 - The Secret of the Unicorn (tr. Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper and Michael Turner, 1959) - Tintin seikkailut: "Sarviaisen salaisuus" (suom. Aimo Sakari, 1962) / Yksisarvisen salaisuus (suom. Heikki ja Soile Kaukoranta, 1976)
  • Le Trésor de Racham le Rouge, 1944 - Red Rackham's Treasure (tr. Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper and Michael Turner, 1959) - Tintin seikkailut: Merirosvon aarre (suom. Aimo Sakari, 1962) / Rakham Punaisen aarre (suom. Soile Kaukoranta ja Heikki Kaukoranta, 1976)
  • Les Sept Boules de cristal, 1948 - The Seven Crystal Balls (tr. Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper and Michael Turner, 1962) - Seitsemän kristallipalloa (suom. Jukka Kemppinen, 1971)
  • Le Temple du Soleil, 1949 - Prisoners of the Sun (tr. Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper and Michael Turner, 1962) - Auringon temppeli (suom. Soile Kaukoranta ja Heikki Kaukoranta, 1971)
  • Tintin au pays de l'or noir, 1950 - Land of Black Gold (tr. Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper and Michael Turner, 1972) - Mustan kullan maa (suom. Soile Kaukoranta ja Heikki Kaukoranta, 1973)
  • Objectif Lune, 1953 - Destination Moon (U.K. tr., 1959) - Päämääränä kuu (suom. Soile Kaukoranta ja Heikki Kaukoranta, 1975)
  • On a marché sur la Lune, 1954 - Explorers on the Moon (tr. Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper and Michael Turner, 1959) - Tintti kuun kamaralla (suom. Heikki ja Soile Kaukoranta, 1975)
  • L'Affaire Tournesol, 1956 - The Calculus Affair (tr. Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper and Michael Turner, 1960) - Tuhatkaunon tapaus (suom. Heikki ja Soile Kaukoranta, 1972)
  • Coke en stoke, 1958 - The Red Sea Sharks (tr. Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper and Michael Turner, 1960) - Seikkailu Punaisella merellä (suom. Jukka Kemppinen, 1970)
  • Tintin au Tibet, 1960 - Tintin in Tibet (tr. Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper and Michael Turner, 1962) - Tintti Tiibetissä (suom. Jukka Kemppinen, 1971)
  • Les Bijoux de la Castafiore, 1963 - The Castafiore Emerald (tr. Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper and Michael Turner, 1963) - Castafioren korut (suom. Soile Kaukoranta ja Heikki Kaukoranta, 1974)
  • Tintin et le lac aux requins, 1972 - Tintin and the Lake of Sharks (tr. Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper and Michael Turner, 1990) - Tintti Haijärvellä (suom. Heikki ja Soile Kaukoranta, 1979)
  • Vol 714 pour Sydney, 1969 - Flight 714 (tr. Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper and Michael Turner, 1968) - Lento 714 (suom. Soile Kaukoranta ja Heikki Kaukoranta, 1970)
  • Archives Hergé 1-4, 1973-80
  • Tintin et les Picaros, 1974 - Tintin and the Picaros (tr. Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper and Michael Turner, 1976)  - Tintti ja Picarot (suom. Heikki ja Soile Kaukoranta, 1976)
  • Tintin et L'Alph-Art, 1986 - Tintin and Alph-Art (tr. Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper and Michael Turner, 1990) - Tintti ja aakkostaide: Tintin viimeinen seikkailu (suom. Heikki Kaukoranta, 2008)
  • Correspondance, 1989 (ed. by Edith Allaert et Jacques Bertin)
  • Other works. Quick and Flupke series: Jeux interdits: Quick et Flupke tome 1; Tout Va Bien: Quick et Flupke tome 2; Haute tension: Quick et Flupke tome 3; Toutes voiles dehors: Quick et Flupke tome 4; Chacun son tour: Quick et Flupke tome 5; Pas de Quartier: Quick et Flupke tome 6; Pardon madame: Quick et Flupke tome 7; Vive le Progres: Quick et Flupke tome 8; Catastrophe: Quick et Flupke tome 9; Farces et Attrapes: Quick et Flupke tome 10; Coup de Bluff: Quick et Flupke tome 11; Attachez vos Ceintures: Quick et Flupke tome 12. Les aventures de Jo, Zette et Jocko: Le rayon du mystère; Le "Manitoba" ne repond plus ( 'Manitoba ei vastaa' ); Le testament de M. Pump (Mr. Pump's Legacy; Herra Pumpun testamentti); La Vallee des Cobras (The Valley of the Cobras; Kobralaakso); L'Eruption du Karamako (Karamakon purkaus); Destination New York (Destination New York; Matkalla New Yorkiin). Popol et Virginie: Popol et Virginie au pays des Lapinos
  • Films based on Tintin books: Le crabe aux pinces d'or (1947); Les aventures de Tintin (TV series 1957-59), prod. Belvision, Radio-Télévision Française (RTF); De geheimzinnige ster (1959), prod. Belvision; Het geheim van de Eenhoorn (1959), prod. Belvision; De krab met de gulden scharen (1959), prod. Belvision; De schat van scharlaken rackham (1959), prod. Belvision; Tintin et le mystère de la Toison d'Or (1961); Het geval Zonnebloem (1964), prod. Belvision; Tintin et les oranges bleues (1964), prod. Alliance de Production Cinematographique (APC), Procusa, Rodas P.C.; Tintin et le temple du soleil (1969), prod. Belvision, Dargaud Films, Raymond Leblanc; Tintin et le Lac aux requins (1974); prod. Belvision, Dargaud Films, Raymond Leblanc; Les Aventures de Tintin (TV Series 1991–1992), prod. Ellipse Programme, Nelvana, Fondation Hergé; The Adventures of Tintin (2011), dir. Stephen Spielberg

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