Herge: The difficult past of Tintin's creator

First aired on The Current (12/21/11)

For decades, the whimsical adventures of orange-haired teenage adventurer Tintin and his dog Snowy have brought joy to millions of children. Hollywood director Steven Spielberg has now taken the beloved comics to the big screen and introduced Tintin to a new generation.  But it may surprise some to know that series creator Georges Remi, better known as Hergé, had a dark past.

The Belgian writer and illustrator created his iconic character in 1929 and the comic began appearing in Le Petit Vingtième newspaper. 

"It was a game, it was just fun for me to tell a story, but I didn't know from week to week what would happen to my hero," Remi once said during an interview.

Tintin quickly grew into a popular figure. But the German occupation of Belgium during the Second World War led to controversy in Hergé's career and life. The Nazi authorities shut down Le Petit Vingtième and appropriated the mainstream Francophone newspaper Le Soir.

Hergé was invited to continuing publishing Tintin comics in Le Soir. Although many writers and journalists of the time refused to produce for the German-controlled media, Hergé had no problem with this, as he saw Tintin as apolitical, biographer Pierre Assouline told CBC's The Current recently.

"He has never been what we call a collaborator," said Assouline. "Hergé was never militant, never involved in any political movement, rightist or leftist."

Following the war, Hergé would find himself fending off accusations that he was a Nazi collaborator and was arrested several times and interrogated during the post-occupation period. The Allies also shut down Le Soir, forcing Tintin into exile.

Hergé's hero would rise again, however, this time in his own comic magazine after a publisher stepped in to provide financial backing and public support against the collaborator rumours.

But despite getting Tintin back into print, Hergé would continue to experience tumult in his professional and personal lives. Find out more in the audio clip below.

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Herge: The Man Who Created Tintin

by Pierre Assouline (Author), Charles Ruas (Translator)

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From the publisher:

"One of the most beloved characters in all of comics, Tintin won an enormous international following. Translated into dozens of languages, Tintin's adventures have sold millions of copies, and Steven Spielberg is presently adapting the stories for the big screen. Yet, despite Tintin's enduring popularity, Americans know almost nothing about his gifted creator, Georges Remi -- better known as Hergé. Offering a captivating portrait of a man who revolutionized the art of comics, this is the first full biography of Hergé available for an English-speaking audience."

Read more at Oxford University Press.