|Born||Georges Prosper Remi
22 May 1907
|Died||3 March 1983
|Awards||List of awards|
Georges Prosper Remi (French: [ʁəmi]; 22 May 1907 – 3 March 1983), known by the pen name Hergé ([ɛʁʒe]), was a Belgian cartoonist. He is best known for The Adventures of Tintin, the series of comic albums which are considered one of the most popular European comics of the 20th century. He was also responsible for two other well-known series, Quick & Flupke (1930–40) and Jo, Zette and Jocko (1936–57). His works were executed in his distinct ligne claire drawing style.
Born to a lower middle-class family in Etterbeek, Brussels, Hergé began his career contributing to Scouting magazines, where he developed his first series, The Adventures of Totor, in 1926. Working for the conservative Catholic newspaper Le Vingtième Siècle, at the advice of the editor Norbert Wallez he created the boy reporter Tintin in 1929, who first appeared in Tintin in the Land of the Soviets. Domestically successful, Hergé produced further Adventures of Tintin as well as developing the Quick & Flupke series for Le Vingtième Siècle. Influenced by his friend Zhang Chongren, from 1934 Hergé placed far greater emphasis on conducting background research for his stories, resulting in increased realism. During the German occupation of Belgium, Le Vingtième Siècle was closed but Hergé continued his series in Le Soir, a popular newspaper controlled by the Nazi administration.
After the Allied liberation of Belgium in 1944, Le Soir was shut down and its staff – including Hergé – accused of having been collaborators. An investigation was launched, and while no charges were brought against Hergé, in future years he repeatedly faced accusations of having been a traitor and collaborator. With Raymond Leblanc he established Tintin magazine in 1946, through which he serialised new Adventures of Tintin stories. As the magazine's artistic director, he also oversaw the publication of other successful comics series, such as Edgar P. Jacobs' Blake and Mortimer. In 1950, he established Studios Hergé, to aid him in producing the Adventures of Tintin. In later years he became less prolific, and unsuccessfully attempted to establish himself as an abstract artist.
Hergé's works have been widely acclaimed for their clarity of draughtsmanship and meticulous, well-researched plots, and have been the source of a wide range of adaptations. He remains a strong influence on the comic book medium, particularly in Europe. Widely celebrated in Belgium, a Hergé Museum was established in Louvain-la-Neuve in 2009. His work nevertheless remains controversial, having been criticised for instances of antisemitism and racism.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Rising fame
- 3 Later life
- 4 Bibliography
- 5 Personal life
- 6 Legacy
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
- 9 External links
Georges Prosper Remi was born on 22 May 1907 in his parental home in Etterbeek, Brussels, a central suburb in the capital city of Belgium. His father, the Wallonian Alexis Remi, worked in a candy factory, whilst his mother, the Flemish Elisabeth Dufour, was a homemaker. Married on 18 January 1905, they moved into a house at 25 rue Cranz (now 33 rue Philippe Baucq), where Hergé was born, although a year later they moved to a house at 34 rue de Theux. His primary language was his father's French, but growing up in the bilingual Brussels, he also learned Flemish, developing a Marollien accent from his maternal grandmother. Like most Belgians, his family belonged to the Roman Catholic Church, though were not particularly devout. He later characterised his life in Etterbeek as being dominated by a monochrome gray, considering it extremely boring. Biographer Benoît Peeters suggested that this childhood melancholy might have been exacerbated through being sexually abused by a maternal uncle.
Remi developed a love of cinema, favouring Winsor McCay's Gertie the Dinosaur and the films of Charlie Chaplin, Harry Langdon and Buster Keaton; his later work in the comic strip medium displayed an obvious influence from them in style and content. Although not a keen reader, he enjoyed the novels of British and American authors, such as Huckleberry Finn, Treasure Island, Robinson Crusoe and The Pickwick Papers, as well as the novels of Frenchman Alexandre Dumas. Drawing as a hobby, he sketched out scenes from daily life along the edges of his school books. Some of these illustrations were of German soldiers, because his four years of primary schooling at the Ixelles Municipal School No. 3 coincided with the First World War, during which Brussels was occupied by the German Empire. In 1919, his secondary education began at the secular Place de Londres in Ixelles, but in 1920 he was moved to Saint-Boniface School, an institution controlled by the archbishop where the teachers were Roman Catholic priests. Remi proved a successful student, being awarded prizes for excellence and would ultimately finish his secondary education in July 1925 as the top of his class.
Aged 12, Remi joined the Boy Scout brigade attached to Saint-Boniface School, becoming troop leader of the Squirrel Patrol and earning the name "Curious Fox" (Renard curieux). With the Scouts, he travelled for summer camps in Italy, Switzerland, Austria and Spain, and in the summer of 1923 his troop hiked 200 miles across the Pyrenees. His experiences with Scouting would have a significant influence on the rest of his life, sparking his love of camping and the natural world, and providing him with a moral compass that stressed personal loyalty and keeping one's promise. His Scoutmaster, Rene Weverbergh, encouraged his artistic ability, and published one of Remi's drawings in the newsletter of the Saint-Boniface Scouts, Jamais Assez (Never Enough); his first published work. When Weverbergh became involved in the publication of Boy-Scout, the newsletter of the Federation of Scouts, he published more of Remi's illustrations, the first of which appeared in the fifth issue, from 1922. Remi continued publishing cartoons, drawings and woodcuts in subsequent issues of the newsletter, which was soon renamed Le Boy-Scout Belge (The Belgian Boy Scout). During this time, he experimented with different pseudonyms, using "Jérémie" and "Jérémiades" before settling on "Hergé", the French pronunciation of his reversed initials (R.G.), a name that he first published under in December 1924.
Totor and early career: 1925–28
Alongside his stand-alone illustrations, in July 1926 Hergé began production of a comic strip for Le Boy-Scout Belge, Les Aventures de Totor (The Adventures of Totor), which continued intermittent publication until 1929. Revolving around the adventures of a Boy Scout patrol leader, the comic initially featured written captions underneath the scenes, but Hergé began to experiment with other forms of conveying information, including speech bubbles. Illustrations were also published in Le Blé qui lève (The Wheat That Grows) and other publications of the Catholic Association of Belgian Young People, and Hergé produced a book jacket for Weverbergh's novel, The Soul of the Sea. Being young and inexperienced, still learning his craft, Hergé sought guidance from an older cartoonist, Pierre Ickx, and together they founded the short-lived Atelier de la Fleur de Lys (AFL), an organisation for Christian cartoonists.
After graduating from secondary school in 1925, Hergé enrolled in the École Saint-Luc art school, but finding the teaching boring, he left after one lesson. Hoping for an illustrative job alongside Ickx at Le Vingtième Siècle (The Twentieth Century)—a conservative "Catholic Newspaper of Doctrine and Information"—he found there to be no positions available, instead obtaining a job in the paper's subscriptions department, starting work there in September 1925. Despising the boredom of this position, he enlisted for military service before he was called up, and in August 1926 was assigned to the Dailly barracks at Schaerbeek. Joining the first infantry regiment, he was also bored by his military training, but continued sketching and producing episodes of Totor.
Toward the end of his military service, in August 1927, Hergé met with the editor of Le Vingtième Siècle, the Abbé Norbert Wallez, a vocal fascist who kept a signed photograph of the Italian Fascist leader Benito Mussolini on his desk. Impressed by Hergé's repertoire, Wallez agreed to give him a job as a photographic reporter and cartoonist for the paper, something for which Hergé always remained grateful, coming to view the Abbé as a father figure. Supplemented by commissions for other publications, Hergé illustrated a number of texts for "The Children's Corner" and the literary pages; the illustrations of this period show his interest in woodcuts and the early prototype of his ligne claire style.
Founding Tintin and Quick & Flupke: 1929–32
Beginning a series of newspaper supplements in late 1928, Wallez founded a supplement for children, Le Petit Vingtième (The Little Twentieth), which subsequently appeared in Le Vingtième Siècle every Thursday. Carrying strong Catholic and fascist messages, many of its passages were explicitly anti-semitic. For this new venture, Hergé illustrated L'Extraordinaire Aventures de Flup, Nénesse, Puosette et Cochonet (The Extraordinary Adventures of Flup, Nénesse, Puosette and Cochonet), a comic strip authored by one of the paper's sport columnists, which told the story of two boys, one of their little sisters, and her inflatable rubber pig. Hergé was unsatisfied, and eager to write and draw a comic strip of his own. He was fascinated by new techniques in the medium—such as the systematic use of speech bubbles—found in such American comics as George McManus' Bringing up Father, George Herriman's Krazy Kat and Rudolph Dirks's Katzenjammer Kids, copies of which had been sent to him from Mexico by the paper's reporter Léon Degrelle, stationed there to report on the Cristero War.
Hergé developed a character named Tintin as a Belgian boy reporter who could travel the world with his fox terrier, Snowy—"Milou" in the original French—basing him in large part on his earlier character of Totor and also on his own brother, Paul. Degrelle later falsely claimed that Tintin had been based on him, while he and Hergé fell out when Degrelle used one of his designs without permission; they settled out-of-court. Although Hergé wanted to send his character to the United States, Wallez instead ordered him to set his adventure in the Soviet Union, acting as a work of anti-socialist propaganda for children. The result, Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, began serialisation in Le Petit Vingtième on 10 January 1929, and ran until 8 May 1930. Popular in Francophone Belgium, Wallez organized a publicity stunt at the Gare de Nord station, following which he organized the publication of the story in book form. The popularity of the story led to an increase in sales, and so Wallez granted Hergé two assistants, Eugène Van Nyverseel and Paul "Jam" Jamin.
In January 1930, Hergé introduced Quick & Flupke (Quick et Flupke), a new comic strip about two street kids from Brussels, in the pages of Le Petit Vingtième. At Wallez's direction, in June he began serialisation of the second Tintin adventure, Tintin in the Congo, designed to encourage colonial sentiment towards the Belgian Congo. Authored in a paternalistic style that depicted the Congolese as childlike idiots, in later decades it would be accused of racism, however at the time was un-controversial and popular, with further publicity stunts held to increase sales. For the third adventure, Tintin in America, serialised from September 1931 to October 1932, Hergé finally got to deal with a scenario of his own choice, although used the work to push an anti-capitalist, anti-consumerist agenda in keeping with the paper's ultra-conservative ideology. Although the Adventures of Tintin had been serialised in the French Catholic Cœurs Vaillants ("Brave Hearts") since 1930, he was soon receiving syndication requests from Swiss and Portuguese newspapers too. Though wealthier than most Belgians his age and with increasing success, he remained unfazed, being a "conservative young man" dedicated to his work.
Hergé sought work elsewhere too, creating The Lovable Mr. Mops cartoon for the Bon Marché department store, and The Adventures of Tim the Squirrel Out West for the rival L'Innovation department store. On 20 July 1932, he married Germaine Kieckens, who was Wallez's secretary; although neither of them were entirely happy with the union, they had been encouraged to do so by Wallez, who demanded that all his staff married and who personally carried out the wedding ceremony at the Saint-Roch Church in Laeken. Spending their honeymoon in Vianden, Luxembourg, the couple moved into an apartment in the rue Knapen, Schaerbeek. When Wallez was removed from the paper's editorship following a scandal, Hergé tried to resign, but was encouraged to stay after his monthly salary was increased from 2000 and 3000 francs and his workload was reduced, with Jamin taking responsibility for the day-to-day running of Le Petit Vingtième.
Tintin in the Orient and Jo, Zette & Jocko: 1932–39
In November 1932 Hergé announced that the following month he would send Tintin on an adventure to Asia. Although initially titled The Adventures of Tintin, Reporter, in the Orient, it would later be renamed Cigars of the Pharaoh. A mystery story, the plot began in Egypt before proceeding to Arabia and India, during which the recurring characters of Thomson and Thompson and Rastapopoulos were introduced. Through his friend Charles Lesne, Hergé was hired to produce illustrations for the company Casterman, and in late 1933 they proposed taking over the publication of both The Adventures of Tintin and Quick and Flupke in book form, to which Hergé agreed; the first Casterman book was the collected volume of Cigars. Continuing to subsidise his comic work with commercial advertising, in January 1934 he also founded the "Atelier Hergé" advertising company with two partners, but it was liquidated after six months. From February to August 1934 Hergé serialised Popol Out West in Le Petit Vingtième, a story using animal characters that was a development of the earlier Tim the Squirrel comic.
From August 1934 to October 1935, Le Petit Vingtième serialised Tintin's next adventure, The Blue Lotus, which was set in China and dealt with the recent Japanese invasion of Manchuria. Hergé had been greatly influenced in the production of the work by his friend Zhang Chongren, a Catholic Chinese student studying at Brussels' Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts, whom he had been introduced to in May 1934. Zhang gave him lessons in Taoist philosophy, Chinese art, and Chinese calligraphy, influencing not only his artistic style but also his general outlook on life. As a token of appreciation Hergé added a fictional "Chang Chong-Chen" to The Blue Lotus, a young Chinese boy who meets and befriends Tintin. For The Blue Lotus, Hergé devoted far more attention to accuracy, resulting in a largely realistic portrayal of China. As a result, The Blue Lotus has been widely hailed as "Hergé's first masterpiece" and a benchmark in the series' development. Casterman published it in book form, also insisting that Hergé include colour plates in both the volume and in reprints of America and Cigars. In 1936, they also began production of Tintin merchandise, something Hergé supported, having ideas of an entire shop devoted to The Adventures of Tintin, something that would come to fruition 50 years later. Nevertheless, while his serialised comics proved lucrative, the collected volumes sold less well, something Hergé blamed on Casterman, urging them to do more to market his books.
Hergé's next Tintin story, The Broken Ear (1935–37), was the first for which the plot synopsis had been outlined from the start, being a detective story that took Tintin to South America. It introduced the character of General Alcazar, and also saw Hergé introduce the first fictional countries into the series, San Theodoros and Nuevo Rico, two republics based largely on Bolivia and Paraguay. The violent elements within The Broken Ear upset the publishers of Cœurs Vaillants, who asked Hergé to create a more child-appropriate story for them. The result was The Adventures of Jo, Zette, and Jocko, a series about a young brother and sister and their pet monkey. The series began with The Secret Ray, which was serialised in Cœurs Vaillants and then Le Petit Vingtième, and continued with The Stratoship H-22. Hergé nevertheless disliked the series, commenting that the characters "bored me terribly." Now writing three series simultaneously, Hergé was working every day of the year, and felt stressed.
The next Tintin adventure was The Black Island (1937–38), which saw the character travel to Britain to battle counterfeiters and introduced a new antagonist, the German Dr. Müller. Hergé followed this with King Ottokar's Sceptre (1938–39), in which Tintin saves the fictional Eastern European country of Syldavia from being invaded by its expansionist neighbour, Borduria; the event was an anti-fascist satire of Nazi Germany's expansion into Austria and Czechoslovakia. In May 1939, Hergé moved to a new house in Watermael-Boitsfort, although following the German invasion of Poland, he was conscripted into the Belgian army and temporarily stationed in Herenthout. Demobbed within the month, he returned to Brussels and adopted a more explicit anti-German stance when beginning his next Tintin adventure, Land of Black Gold, which was set in the Middle East and featured Dr. Müller sabotaging oil lines.
During this period, Hergé also contributed to L'Ouest (The West), a newspaper run by his friend Raymond De Becker. L'Ouest urged Belgium to remain neutral in World War II, a stance Hergé supported, creating the Mr Bellum strip to argue this position. Hergé was invited to visit China by Chinese Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek, who had enjoyed The Blue Lotus, although due to the political situation in Europe, this was not possible. He was re-mobilized in December, and stationed in Antwerp, from where he continued to send the Tintin strip to Le Petit Vingtième. However, he fell ill with sinusitis and boils and was declared unfit for military service in May 1940. That same day, Germany invaded Belgium. Le Vingtième Siècle was shut down, part way through the serialisation of Land of Black Gold.
German occupation and Le Soir: 1939–45
As the Belgian army clashed with the invading Germans, Hergé and his wife fled by car to France along with tens of thousands of other Belgians, first staying in Paris and then heading south to Puy-de-Dôme, where they remained for six weeks. On 28 May, Belgian King Leopold III surrendered the country to the German army to prevent further killing; a move that Hergé agreed with. He followed the king's request that all of those Belgians who had fled the country return, arriving back in Brussels on 30 June. There, he found that his house had been occupied as an office for the German army's Propagandastaffel, and also faced financial trouble, as he owed back taxes yet was unable to access his financial reserves. All Belgian publications were now under the control of the German occupying force, who refused Le Petit Vingtième permission to continue publication. Instead, Hergé was offered employment as a cartoonist for Le Pays Réel by its editor, the Rexist Victor Matthys; however, Hergé perceived Le Pays Réel as an explicitly political publication, and thus declined the position.
Instead, he took up a position with Le Soir, Belgian's largest Francophone daily newspaper. Confiscated from its original owners, the German authorities had permitted Le Soir to be re-opened under the directorship of De Doncker, although it remained firmly under Nazi control, supporting the German war effort and espousing anti-Semitism. After joining the Le Soir team on 15 October, Hergé was involved in the creation of a children's supplement, Soir-Jeunesse, aided by Jamin and Jacques Van Melkebeke. He relaunched The Adventures of Tintin with a new story, The Crab with the Golden Claws, in which Tintin pursued drug smugglers in North Africa; the story was a turning point in the series for its introduction of Captain Haddock, who would become a major character in the rest of the Adventures. This story, like the subsequent Adventures of Tintin published in Le Soir, would reject the political themes present in earlier stories, instead remaining firmly neutral. Hergé also included new Quick & Flupke gags in the supplement, as well as illustrations for serialised stories by Edgar Allan Poe and the Brothers Grimm.
In May 1941, a paper shortage led to the Soir-Jeunesse being reduced to four pages, with the length of the Tintin strip being cut by two thirds. Several weeks later the supplement disappeared altogether, with The Crab with the Golden Claws being moved into Le Soir itself, where it became a daily strip. While some Belgians were upset that Hergé was willing to work for a newspaper controlled by the occupying Nazi administration, he was heavily enticed by the size of Le Soir's readership, which reached 600,000. With Van Melkebeke, Hergé put together two Tintin plays. The first, Tintin in the Indies, appeared at Brussels' Theatre des Galeries in April 1941, while the second, Mr Boullock's Disappearance, was performed there in December. From October 1941 to May 1942, Le Soir serialised Hergé's next Tintin adventure, The Shooting Star, followed by publication as a single volume by Casterman. In keeping with Le Soir's editorial standpoint, The Shooting Star espoused an anti-Semitic and anti-American attitude, with the antagonist being a wealthy Jewish American businessman; it would thus prove particularly controversial in the post-war period, although Hergé denied any malicious anti-Semitic intention.
Casterman felt that the black-and-white volumes of The Adventures of Tintin were not selling as well as colour comic books, and thus that the series should be produced in colour. At the same time, Belgium was facing a paper-shortage, with Casterman wishing to cut down the volumes from 120-pages in length to 62. Hergé was initially sceptical, but ultimately agreed to their demands in February 1942. For these new editions, Casterman introduced a four-colour system, although Hergé insisted that colour should remain secondary to line, and that it would not be used for shading. To cope with this additional workload, Hergé approached a friend whom he had met through Van Melkebeke, Edgar P. Jacobs, to aid him as a cartoonist and colourist. Jacobs could only work on the project part time, and so on March 1942 Hergé also employed a woman named Alice Devos to aid him. In July 1942, Hergé then procured an agent, Bernard Thièry, who took 40% of his commissions; their working relationship would be strained. With their assistance, from 1942 to 1947, Hergé adapted most of his previous Adventures of Tintin into 62-page colour versions.
Hergé's next Adventure of Tintin would be The Secret of the Unicorn, serialised in Le Soir from June 1942. He had collaborated closely with Van Melkebeke on this project, who had introduced many elements from the work of Jules Verne into the detective story, in which Tintin and Haddock searched for parchments revealing the location of hidden pirate treasure. The Secret of the Unicorn marked the first half of a story arc that was completed in Red Rackham's Treasure, serialised in Le Soir from February 1943; in this story, Tintin and Haddock search for the pirate's treasure in the Caribbean, with the character of Professor Calculus being introduced to the series. Following Red Rackham's Treasure, Hergé drew illustrations for a serialised story titled Dupont et Dupond, détectives ("Thomson and Thompson, Detectives"), authored by the newspaper's crime editor, Paul Kinnet.
In September 1943, De Becker was removed as editor of Le Soir for stating that although the Nazis were motivated "by undoubted good will, [they were also] extremely out of touch with reality"; although Hergé was close to De Becker, he decided to remain at the newspaper, which came under the editorship of Max Hodeige. In autumn 1943, Hergé had decided that he wanted Jacobs to collaborate with him on The Adventures of Tintin. Although initially hesitant, Jacobs eventually agreed, adopting the paid position in January 1944. Jacobs and Hergé became close collaborators and greatly influenced each other, while together they developed the plot for the next Adventure of Tintin, The Seven Crystal Balls, which began serialisation in Le Soir in December 1943.
Post-war controversy: 1944–46
As the Allied troops liberated Brussels from German occupation, Le Soir ceased publication partway through the serialisation of The Seven Crystal Balls on 2 September 1944. Three days later the entire staff were fired and a new editorial team introduced. Hergé was arrested on 3 September, having been named as a collaborator in a Resistance document known as the "Gallery of Traitors". This would be the first of four incidents in which Hergé was arrested and freed – by the State Security, the Judiciary Police, the Belgian National Movement, and the Front for Independence respectively – during which he spent one night in jail. On 8 September the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) issued a proclamation announcing that "any journalist who had helped produce a newspaper during the occupation was for the time being barred from practising his profession." Blacklisted, Hergé was now unemployed. A newspaper closely associated with the Belgian Resistance, La Patrie, issued a strip titled The Adventures of Tintin in the Land of the Nazis, in which Hergé was lampooned as a collaborator.
The period witnessed widespread recriminations against accused collaborators, with military courts condemning 30,000 on minor charges and 25,000 on more serious charges; of those, 5,500 were sentenced to life imprisonment or capital punishment. A judiciary inquiry into Hergé's case was launched by the deputy public prosecutor, Mr Vinçotte, although in his report he urged lenience, stating that "I am inclined to close the case. I believe it would bring ridicule on the judicial system to go after an inoffensive children's book author and illustrator. On the other hand, Hergé worked for Le Soir during the war, and his illustrations are what made people buy the newspaper." Although unable to work for the press, Hergé continued to re-draw and colour the older Adventures of Tintin for publication in book form by Casterman, completing the second version of Tintin in the Congo and starting on King Ottokar's Sceptre. Throughout his ordeal, Casterman supported him, for which he always remained grateful. With Jacobs, he produced a comic under the pseudonym of "Olav", although no publishers accepted it. Although this period allowed him an escape from the pressure of daily production which had affected most of his working life, he also had family problems to deal with; his brother Paul returned to Brussels from a German prisoner of war camp, although their mother had become highly delusional and was moved to a psychiatric hospital.
In October 1945, Hergé was approached by Raymond Leblanc, a former member of a conservative Resistance group, the National Royalist Movement, and his associates André Sinave and Albert Debaty. The trio were planning on launching a weekly magazine for children, and Leblanc – who had fond childhood memories of Tintin in the Land of the Soviets – thought Hergé would be ideal for it. Hergé agreed, and Leblanc obtained clearance papers for him, allowing him to work. Concerned regarding the judicial investigation into Hergé's wartime affiliations, Leblanc convinced William Ugeux, a leader of the Belgian Resistance who was now in charge of censorship and certificates of good citizenship, to look into the comic creator's file. Ugeux concluded that Hergé had been "a blunderer rather than a traitor" for his work at Le Soir. The decision as to whether Hergé would stand trial belonged to the general auditor of the Military Tribunal, Walter Jean Ganshof van der Meersch. He closed the case on 22 December 1945, declaring that "in regard to the particularly inoffensive character of the drawings published by Remi, bringing him before a war tribunal would be inappropriate and risky".
Now free from threat of prosecution, he continued to support his colleagues at Le Soir who were being charged as collaborators; six of them were sentenced to death, and others to lengthy prison sentences. Among those sentenced to death was Hergé's friend, Jamin, although his sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. In May 1946, Hergé was issued a certificate of good citizenship, which became largely necessary to obtain employment in post-war Belgium. Celebrations were marred by his mother's death in April 1946; she was aged 60. Harry Thompson has described this post-war period as the "greatest upheaval" of Hergé's life. Hergé later described it as "an experience of absolute intolerance. It was horrible, horrible!" He considered the post-war trials of alleged collaborators a great injustice inflicted upon many innocent people, and never forgave Belgian society for the way that he had been treated, although hid this from his public persona.
Establishing Tintin magazine: 1946–
The capital for the project had been put up by its executive director Leblanc (50%), its managing director Georges Lallemand (40%) and its artistic director, Hergé (10%). Hergé assembled a group of associates to aid him, including Van Melkebeke and Jacobs, although also Paul Cuvelier and Jacques Laudy. Van Melkebeke was initially appointed editor-in-chief, although he was arrested for having worked for the collaborationist Le Nouveau journal shortly after, with his involvement in the project thus being kept secret so as to avoid further controversy. Van Melkebeke continued to provide work for the magazine under pseudonyms, although this ceased during his imprisonment from December 1947 to October 1949.
Hergé was assigned to produce a two-page spread each week, and began by concluding The Seven Crystal Balls before embarking on its successor story, Prisoners of the Sun. It was Sinave's idea to name the journal Tintin, believing that this would attract a wide audience, although the Dutch-language edition produced for release in Belgium's Flemish north was titled Kuifje. Adopting the slogan of "The Newspaper for the Young Aged 7 to 77", the magazine also used a logo featuring the Tintin character himself. The magazine would be launched around the same time as a wide variety of rivals, most notably Spirou, famous for serialising the Lucky Luke and Buck Danny comics.
The first issue of Tintin magazine was published on 26 September 1946. Alongside Hergé's Adventures of Tintin, it also included Laudy's The Legend of the Four Aymon Brothers and Jacobs' The Secret of the Swordfish, the first in his new Blake and Mortimer series. The magazine proved an immediate success, with 60,000 copies being sold in three days of its release. Its publication resulted in a massive boost to Hergé's book sales too. In 1947 a Belgian film adaptation of The Crab with the Golden Claws was produced, and believing that cinematic adaptations were a good way to proceed, Hergé contacted Disney Studios in the United States; they declined his offer to adapt The Adventures of Tintin for the silver screen. In May 1947 the artistic collaboration between Hergé and Jacobs ended after an argument. Hergé had been jealous of the immediate success of Jacobs' Blake and Mortimer series, and had turned down Jacobs' request that he be credited as co-creator of the new Adventures of Tintin. That same month, Hergé broke from his manager, Thiery, after discovering that the latter had been siphoning off money for himself.
Many Belgians were highly critical of the magazine due to its connections with Hergé, who was still deemed a collaborator and traitor by many; La Soir and La Cité publicly criticised the decision without referring to him by name while Le Quotidien and Drapeau Rouge specifically singled him out for denunciation. This opposition contributed to a mental breakdown that Hergé experienced in June 1947, which his doctors attributed to him being overworked. Taking a break from producing The Adventures of Tintin, he spent time in a retreat at the Abbey of Notre-Dame-de-Scourmont. After returning to work he suffered a second breakdown, and undertook a second retreat in early 1948, holidaying in a house near to Gland on Lake Geneva, Switzerland. He was accompanied by a young, married woman, with whom he was having an extra-marital affair. Hergé continued facing accusations of collaboration; believing that the children's author Jeanne Cappe was behind many of them, he threatened her with a lawsuit. The accusations had a negative effect on his career, for Leblanc found it difficult finding a publisher willing to produce Tintin magazine in France. He eventually found Le Lombard, who began production of a French edition in October 1948. Unhappy with life in Belgium, Hergé made plans to emigrate to Argentina, a nation that was welcoming many Europeans who had supported the defeated Axis powers. Ultimately, he changed his mind, for reasons that have remained unknown.
In 1949, while working on the new version of Land of Black Gold (the first version had been left unfinished by the outbreak of World War II), Hergé suffered a nervous breakdown and was forced to take an abrupt four-month-long break. He suffered another breakdown in early 1950, while working on Destination Moon.
In order to lighten Hergé's workload Hergé Studios was set up on 6 April 1950. The studio employed several assistants to aid Hergé in the production of The Adventures of Tintin. Foremost among these was artist Bob de Moor, who collaborated with Hergé on the remaining Tintin adventures, filling in details and backgrounds such as the spectacular lunar landscapes in Explorers on the Moon. Supported by his studio, Hergé produced The Calculus Affair between 1954 until 1956 which was followed by The Red Sea Sharks in 1956 to 1957.
By the end of this period his personal life was again in crisis. His marriage with Germaine was breaking apart after twenty-five years; he had fallen in love with Fanny Vlamynck, a young artist who had recently joined the Hergé Studios. In an effort to heal this rift, he and Germaine adopted a child in the late 1940s; but after only a few weeks, having not developed any affection for the boy, he asked Germaine to have him sent back.
Furthermore, he was plagued by recurring nightmares filled with whiteness. He consulted a Swiss psychoanalyst, who advised him to give up working on Tintin. Instead, he finished Tintin in Tibet, started the year before.
Published in Tintin magazine from September 1958 to November 1959, Tintin in Tibet sent Tintin to the Himalayas in search of Chang Chong-Chen, the Chinese boy he had befriended in The Blue Lotus. The adventure allowed Hergé to confront his nightmares by filling the book with austere alpine landscapes, giving the adventure a powerfully spacious setting. The normally rich cast of characters was pared to a minimum—Tintin, Snowy, Captain Haddock, and the Sherpa Tharkey—as the story focused on Tintin's dogged search for Chang. Hergé came to regard this highly personal and emotionally riveting Tintin adventure as his favourite. The completion of the story seemed also to signal an end to his problems: he was no longer troubled by nightmares, divorced Germaine in 1977 (they had separated in 1960), and finally married Fanny Vlamynck on 20 May of the same year.
Art collecting and painting
Hergé had a strong interest in painting and art. Among the old masters, he loved Bosch, Breugel, Holbein and Ingres, whose drawings with pure lines he admired. He was also very interested in contemporary artists, such as Lichtenstein, Warhol and Miro. About Miro, he confided to his art adviser and friend Pierre Sterckx that he felt a shock the first time he saw one of his paintings. Hergé began to acquire artworks in the fifties, mainly paintings by Flemish expressionists. In the early sixties, he attended the Gallerie Carrefour of Marcel Stal and, through his contacts with artists, critics and collectors, he began to buy works by Fontana, Poliakoff and many others. He also widely collected Chinese vases and African art.
In 1962, Hergé decided he wanted to paint. He chose Louis Van Lint, one of the most respected Belgian abstract painters at the time, whose work he liked a lot, to be his private teacher. For a year, Hergé learned under Van Lint's guidance, and 37 paintings emerged, influenced by Van Lint, Miro, Poliakoff, Devan or Klee. Hergé, however, eventually gave up painting, believing that he could not fully express himself through the medium.
The last three complete Tintin adventures were produced at a much-reduced pace: The Castafiore Emerald in 1963, Flight 714 to Sydney in 1968, and Tintin and the Picaros in 1976. However, by this time Tintin had begun to move into other media. From the start of Tintin magazine, Raymond Leblanc had used Tintin for merchandising and advertisements. In 1961 the second Tintin film was made: Tintin and the Golden Fleece, starring Jean-Pierre Talbot as Tintin (an earlier stop motion-animated film was made in 1947 called The Crab with the Golden Claws, but it was screened publicly only once). Several traditionally animated Tintin films were also made during Hergé's lifetime, including three feature films by Belvision Studios including Tintin and the Lake of Sharks (1972).
The financial success of Tintin allowed Hergé to devote more of his time to travel. He travelled widely across Europe, and in 1971 visited America for the first time, meeting some of the Native Americans whose culture had long been a source of fascination for him. In 1973 he visited Taiwan, accepting an invitation offered three decades before by the Kuomintang government, in appreciation of The Blue Lotus. Hergé also managed to resume contact with his old friend Chang Chong-jen, years after Tintin rescued the fictional Chang Chong-Chen in the closing pages of Tintin in Tibet. Chang had been reduced to a street sweeper by the Cultural Revolution, before becoming the head of the Fine Arts Academy in Shanghai during the 1970s. He returned to Europe for a reunion with Hergé in 1981 and settled in Paris where he died in 1998.
Hergé died in Saint-Luc Hospital in Brussels on 3 March 1983, aged 75. He had been severely ill for several years, but the nature of his disease was unclear, possibly leukemia or a form of porphyria. His death was hastened by an HIV infection that he contracted during his weekly blood transfusions. His death received front page coverage in numerous francophone newspapers, including Libération and Le Monde.
He left the twenty-fourth Tintin adventure, Tintin and Alph-Art, unfinished. Following his expressed desire not to have Tintin handled by another artist, it was published posthumously as a set of sketches and notes in 1986. In 1987, Fanny closed the Hergé Studios, replacing it with the Hergé Foundation. In 1988 the Tintin magazine was discontinued.
Only the works marked * have been translated into English
|Totor||1926–30||Hergé's first work, published in Le Boy Scout Belge, about a brave scout.|
|Flup, Nénesse, Poussette and Piglet||1928||Written by a sports reporter, published in Le Petit Vingtième|
|'Le Sifflet' strips||1928–29||7 almost forgotten one-page strips drawn by Hergé for this paper|
|The Adventures of Tintin *||1929–83||24 volumes, one unfinished|
|Quick and Flupke *||1930–40||12 volumes, 11 translated to English|
|early 1930s||A short series Hergé made for his small advertising company Atelier Hergé. Only 4 pages.|
|Fred and Mile||1931|
|The Adventures of Tim the Squirrel out West||1931|
|The Amiable Mr. Mops||1932|
|The Adventures of Tom and Millie||1933||Two stories written.|
|Popol Out West *||1934|
|Jo, Zette and Jocko *||1936–57||5 volumes|
|Thompson and Thomson, Detectives||1943||Written by Paul Kinnet, appeared in Le Soir|
|They Explored the Moon||1969||A short comic charting the moon landings published in Paris Match|
Hergé greatly enjoyed walking in the countryside. Peeters described him as "authoritarian" in dealing with his assistants. Throughout his first marriage he had a number of affairs with other women.
In his early life, Hergé was "close to the traditional right-wing" of Belgian society. According to Harry Thompson, such political ideas were not unusual in middle-class circles in Belgium of the 1920s and early 1930s, where "patriotism, Catholicism, strict morality, discipline and naivety were so inextricably bound together in everyone's lives that right-wing politics were an almost inevitable by-product. It was a world view shared by everyone, distinguished principally by its complete ignorance of the world." When Hergé took responsibility for Le Petit Vingtième, he followed Wallez's instruction and allowed the newspaper to contain explicitly pro-fascist and anti-semitic sentiment. Literary critic Jean-Marie Apostolidès noted that the character of Tintin was a personification of the "New Youth" concept which was promoted by the European far right. Under Wallez's guidance, the early Adventures of Tintin contained explicit political messages for its young readership. Tintin in the Land of the Soviets was a work of anti-socialist propaganda, while Tintin in the Congo was designed to encourage colonialist sentiment toward the Belgian Congo, and Tintin in America was designed as a work of anti-Americanism heavily critical of capitalism, commercialism, and industrialisation.
Michael Farr asserted that Hergé had "an acute political conscience" during his earlier days, as exemplified by his condemnation of racism in the United States evident in Tintin in America. Literary critic Tom McCarthy went further, remarking that Tintin in America represented the emergence of a "left-wing counter tendency" in Hergé's work that rebelled against his right-wing milieu and which was particularly critical of wealthy capitalists and industrialists. This was furthered in The Blue Lotus, in which Hergé rejected his "classically right-wing" ideas to embrace an anti-imperialist stance, and in a contemporary Quick & Flupke strip in which he lampooned the far right leaders of Germany and Italy, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. Although many of his friends and colleagues did so in the mid-1930s, Hergé did not join the far-right Rexist Party, later asserting that he "had always had an aversion to it" and commenting that "to throw my heart and soul into an ideology is the opposite of who I am."
Accusations of racism
Hergé has faced repeated accusations of racism due to his portrayal of various ethnic groups throughout The Adventures of Tintin. According to McCarthy, in Tintin in the Congo Hergé represented the Congolese as "good at heart but backwards and lazy, in need of European mastery." Thompson commented that Hergé had not written the book to be "deliberately racist", arguing that it reflected the average early 20th century Belgian view of the Congolese, one which was more "patronising" than malevolent. Indeed, it provoked no controversy at the time, only coming to be perceived as racist in the latter 20th century. In the following adventure, Tintin in America, Hergé depicted members of the Blackfoot tribe of Native Americans as "gullible, even naive", though it was nevertheless "broadly sympathetic" to their culture and plight, depicting their oppression at the hands of the U.S. army. In The Blue Lotus, he depicted the Japanese as militaristic and buck-toothed, which has also drawn accusations of racism.
Hergé has also been accused of utilising anti-semitic stereotypes. The character of Rastapopoulos has been claimed to be based on anti-semitic stereotypes, despite Hergé's protestations that the character was Italian, and not Jewish.
In contrast to his racial stereotyping, from his early years, Hergé was openly critical of racism. He lambasted the pervasive racism of U.S. society in a prelude comment to Tintin in America published in Le Petit Vingtième on 20 August 1931, and ridiculed racist attitudes toward the Chinese in The Blue Lotus. Peeters asserted that "Hergé was no more racist than the next man", an assessment shared by Farr, who after meeting Hergé in the 1980s commented that "you couldn't have met someone who was more open and less racist". In contrast, President of the International Bande Dessinée Society Laurence Grove opined that Hergé adhered to prevailing societal trends in his work, and that "When it was fashionable to be a Nazi, he was a Nazi. When it was fashionable to be a colonial racist, that's what he was."
Awards and recognition
- 1971: Adamson Awards, Sweden
- 1972: Yellow Kid (de) "una vita per il cartooning" (lifetime award) at the Festival of Lucca
- 1973: Grand Prix Saint Michel of the city of Brussels
- 1999: Included in the Harvey Award Jack Kirby Hall of Fame
- 2003: Included in the Eisner Award Hall of Fame as the Judge's choice
- 2005: Included in the running for The Greatest Belgian in two separate competitions run in Flanders and Wallonia. In the Flemish version he ended on 24th place. In the Walloon version he came 8th.
- 2006: The Dalai Lama bestowed the International Campaign for Tibet's Light of Truth Award upon the character of Tintin.
- 2007: Selected as the main motif for a Belgian commemorative coin with a face value of €20 in honour of his 100th birthday.
According to the UNESCO's Index Translationum, Hergé is the ninth-most-often-translated French-language author, the second-most-often-translated Belgian author after Georges Simenon, and the second-most-often-translated French-language comics author behind René Goscinny. He also had an asteroid, 1652 Hergé, within the main belt, named after him in 1953.
In popular culture
A cartoon version of Hergé makes a number of cameo appearances in Ellipse-Nelvana's The Adventures of Tintin TV cartoon series. An animated version of Hergé also makes a cameo appearance at the start of the 2011 performance capture film, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, directed by Steven Spielberg and produced by Peter Jackson, where he is depicted as a street cartoonist in a drawing a portrait of Tintin at the start of the film.
The Musée Hergé is located in the centre of Louvain-la-Neuve, a city to the south of Brussels. This location was originally chosen for the Museum in 2001. The futuristic building was designed by Pritzker Prize-winning French architect Christian de Portzamparc and cost €15 million to build. On the centenary of the birthday of Hergé on 22 May 2007, the museum's first stone was laid. The museum opened its doors in June 2009.
The idea of a museum dedicated to the work of Hergé can be traced back to the end of the 1970s, when Hergé was still alive. After his death in 1983, Hergé's widow, Fanny, led the efforts, undertaken at first by the Hergé Foundation and then by the new Studios Hergé, to catalogue and choose the artwork and elements that would become part of the Museum's exhibitions.
The Hergé Museum contains eight permanent galleries displaying original artwork by Hergé, and telling the story of his life and career which had not previously been visible to the public. The Museum also houses a temporary exhibition gallery. Although Tintin features prominently in the museum, Hergé's other comic strip characters, such as Jo, Zette and Jocko, and Quick and Flupke, as well as his work as a graphic designer, are also present.
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