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Last Updated: Friday, 9 January, 2004, 15:27 GMT
Boy reporter still a global hero

By Stephen Dowling
BBC News Online entertainment staff

Tintin (© Hergé/MI-2003-4)
Tintin travelled the globe for a good story
As cartoon boy reporter Tintin turns 75, BBC News Online looks at the enduring appeal of the comic book correspondent.

In the days before John Simpson and Rageh Omar, Tintin was the quintessential foreign correspondent, boldly going wherever his paper deemed to send him, accompanied always by his faithful terrier Snowy but very rarely by a typewriter or a notebook.

But Tintin more often than not became part of the story rather than simply reporting it. During his many adventures he foiled international drug rings, stopped a fascist plot, and even journeyed to the moon.

In the 75 years since Herge's creation first graced the pages of Brussels' Le XXme Siecle newspaper on 10 January 1929, Tintin has become a global success. More than 200 million books have been sold, translated into more than 50 languages.

Complex stories

His anniversary is being marked by events such as a forthcoming exhibition at the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, looking at the reporter's adventures at sea. It runs from 31 March to 5 September.

But why has a cub reporter from the days of the Great Depression and steam trains endured?

Author and journalist Michael Farr, who wrote the reference book Tintin: The Complete Companion, believes the answer lies in the complexity of the stories.

Tintin (© Hergé/MI-2003-4)
Not just a hack - he could pilot experimental submarines too
"That's why he has got to the ripe old age of 75," he told BBC News Online.

"He bridges all ages because he appeals to all ages. If you are a child you are attracted to all the action and adventure. If you're an adult, there are all the issues that crop up, such as drug trafficking, which often features," he says.

"He is known all over world. He is read by Japanese children and Indian children, quite apart from all the European countries where he started out."

Mr Farr also said that despite his Belgian roots, there was nothing to mark Tintin as Belgian - he roamed the world as a kind of international citizen, often in the company of the cantankerous seafarer Captain Haddock and the detectives Thomson and Thompson.

Mr Farr also said it was Herge's unswerving accuracy that also played a part. Every car he drew was an actual model, as were planes, guns and trucks.

'Modest' man

"Herge would have liked to have been a journalist," Mr Farr says. "He was a real stickler for detail. All the details and background he really laboured over."

Mr Farr said there were few Tintin books that did not still resonate. As a journalist for news agency Reuters he had travelled to many of the locales Herge set his adventures in - and even met the Tintin creator in 1978, five years before his death.

Early Tintin drawing (© National Maritime Museum, London)
The earliest picture of Tintin was printed on 4 January 1929
"It was a wonderful meeting. He was very modest. He preferred to ask you questions, rather than answer them. He was very difficult to interview."

He said Herge had risen above accusations of racism and supporting fascism (the former because of his depiction of Africans in Tintin in Congo, the latter because the strip was printed in a German-controlled paper in Nazi-occupied Belgium).

"I worked in Africa, and the most popular Tintin book in Francophile Africa was Tintin in Congo." He said the book's depiction of big-game hunting were more offensive than the attitudes to Africans, which Herge admitted were coloured by colonial attitudes of the time.

Mr Farr says he believes the books - which still sell around three million copies a year - will continue to draw in new fans.

The only thing Mr Farr cannot recommend is Tintin's work ethic; in all his many adventures, he is only ever seen filing an article once (the first story, Tintin in the Land of the Soviets).

His editors must be very forgiving.

Tintin celebrates 75th birthday
09 Jan 04  |  Entertainment
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22 Nov 02  |  Entertainment
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22 May 02  |  Entertainment
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14 Feb 01  |  Entertainment

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