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Last Updated: Friday, 16 December 2005, 16:58 GMT
Faces of the week
Faces of the week

Our regular look at some of the faces which have made the news this week. Above are Tintin (main picture), with Mona Lisa, "Tookie" Williams, Anita Roddick and Ashley Jensen.

Compiled by BBC News Profiles Unit's Andrew Walker


Tintin in Tibet, a stage version of the well-loved tale of the cub reporter and his faithful dog, has just opened in London. But just what is the secret behind the phenomenon that is Tintin?

We all know that nothing in life is certain, except death and taxes. But play that favourite parlour game, Name 10 Famous Belgians, and it is almost certain that, besides Hercule Poirot, Kim Clijsters and Jacques Brel, there will appear the name Hergé.

Since his first outing in January 1929, Hergé's most renowned creation, the wide-eyed and bequiffed Tintin, has proved a worldwide success. To date, more than 200 million copies of his adventures have been sold, in 58 languages.

Spin-offs include a series of television cartoons, a BBC radio series and a wide range of merchandise, including model cars, rockets and even crockery.

Additionally, the film director Steven Spielberg, who acquired the rights to make a live-action version of the books in 1982, is said to be looking to bring Tintin to the big screen sometime soon.

Georges Remi, aka Hergé
And the stage version of Tintin in Tibet, the 20th of Hergé's 23 graphic novels, published in 1960, is currently packing 'em in at London's Young Vic, a fast-paced alternative to the traditional British Christmas pantomime.

Tintin and his friends, including his canine companion Snowy, the tipsy Captain Haddock, incompetent detectives Thomson and Thompson and mad scientist, Professor Calculus, continue to delight readers of all ages and cultures.

Hergé, real name Georges Remi, had an eventful life. Born in 1907, he had no formal artistic training, yet became a graphic artist upon leaving school, producing Tintin's adventures from 1929 right up to his death in 1983.

The earliest Tintin books were criticised for dealing in racist stereotypes and celebrating European colonialism.

For instance, Tintin in the Congo, which appeared in the early 1930s, features a scene in which its eponymous hero lectures a group of Congolese schoolchildren.

"My dear friends," he says, "today I am going to talk to you about your country: Belgium."

In later editions, Tintin is seen giving a lesson in arithmetic.

Classic style

Hergé acknowledged these criticisms and, from the mid-1930s, the Tintin books took on a different, humanistic, feel.

During World War II, Hergé remained in occupied Belgium, where he continued to produce a Tintin comic strip for the Brussels newspaper, Le Soir.

Even though his work was resolutely non-political, Hergé had to defend himself against what today seem unfounded post-war accusations of collaboration with the Nazis.

In 1946, with the help of a prominent member of the Belgian resistance, he launched Tintin magazine. It was an instant hit and re-established its creator as one of the world's leading graphic artists.

But what is it about Tintin that has made it such a universal success?

First, its mixture of fantasy, adventure and peril created an archetype for the genre which continues to exert a huge influence, most notably in Europe, to this day.

Second, the ligne claire - clear line - drawing style, pioneered by Hergé, has become an established classic.

Steven Spielberg
Tintin fan Steven Spielberg plans to bring his hero to the big screen
By making all the lines in a drawing the same thickness, he emphasises a certain strength and clarity which, when added to the highly-detailed backgrounds and bright colours, conjures up an instantly recognisable whole.

As Hergé put it, "I consider my stories as movies. No narration, no descriptions, emphasis is given to images."

Finally, Tintin's apparently neutral manner - which has often been criticised as being bland - acts as a perfect foil for the pomposity, foolishness and evil which surrounds him.

In this respect, Tintin is an Everyman character, carried along by events, rather than being a protagonist.

Tintin in Tibet - which Hergé called "a hymn to friendship" - was the result of a series of nightmares featuring icy whiteness which he had when his first marriage was failing during the late 1950s.

Central to this book is the theme of loyalty, one which Hergé emphasised throughout his career.

And it is his fans' loyalty - to a 76-year-old perpetual youth who despite being a journalist, last filed a story in 1929 - which has kept Tintin at the top for so long, as Europe's answer to Mickey Mouse.

"Blistering barnacles!" as Captain Haddock would no doubt say.

The Mona Lisa: "Happy"

Researchers at the University of Amsterdam have revealed that Leonardo's masterpiece, the Mona Lisa, is smiling... because she is happy. In a light-hearted experiment, the scientists scanned a reproduction of the painting and subjected it to "emotion recognition" software, developed in collaboration with the University of Illinois. Results show that she was 83% happy, 9% disgusted, 6% fearful and 2% percent angry. She was less than 1% neutral, and not at all surprised.

Executed: Stanley "Tookie" Williams

Despite a high-profile international campaign, Los Angeles gang leader turned peace campaigner, Stanley "Tookie" Williams was executed by lethal injection in San Quentin prison. Williams, 51, who had been found guilty of four murders, went to the death chamber after California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger refused him clemency. One of Williams' star supporters, the rapper Snoop Dogg, said: "Hopefully, we have brought enough light to his story that others can be inspired to change their ways."

Giving away a fortune: Anita Roddick

The founder of Body Shop, Dame Anita Roddick, has said that she plans to give her entire £51m fortune to good causes. The 63-year-old entrepreneur and guru of ethical beauty products is to sell her 18% holding in the company she founded with husband Gordon in 1976. "The worst thing is greed, the accumulation of money," she says. "I don't know why people who are extraordinarily wealthy are not more generous... I don't want to die rich."

Ashley Jensen: Award

Ashley Jensen, who co-stars in Ricky Gervais's latest television series, Extras, picked up two gongs at the British Comedy Awards. She was named Best Television Comedy Actress, beating off Green Wing's Tamsin Greig and Catherine Tate. Besides this, Jensen also walked away with the Best Comedy Newcomer award. The Scottish actress, who plays Maggie in the show, told the star-studded audience: "I'm a wee bit speechless and anyone who knows me knows that's an accomplishment."

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