Hergé (real name Georges Remi) (1907-1983) was a Belgian comic strip cartoonist who became internationally famous as the creator of Tintin
. He is one of the most influential graphic artists in the world, especially in Europe. Hergé singlehandedly created both the Belgian Comics
and Franco-Belgian Comics
scene, not to mention his influence on European comics. Hergé's comics are renowned for their captivating story telling, meticulous background research, Scenery Porn
drawing style, well paced Slapstick
, satirical depth
, mastery in cliff hangers at the end of each page
and colorful characters. His books have been translated across the globe and are popular in places you wouldn't even believe: Africa, Peru, China, India,... No other European comic artist has managed to reach such a worldwide audience, except for René Goscinny
and Albert Uderzo
) and Morris (Lucky Luke
). And in that regard only Astérix
has reached a similar internationally intellectual and commercial success.Celebrity fans
of his work include Steven Spielberg
, Peter Jackson
, Andy Warhol
, Roy Lichtenstein
, Harold Macmillan
and even Charles De Gaulle
Works by him that have their own page on TV Tropes:
- Adam Westing: While "Tintin" is realistic, adult and has a Incorruptible Pure Pureness protagonist, "Quick and Flupke" is a surreal and anarchic children's comic strip that frequently breaks the fourth wall and features two young hoodlums who create havoc wherever they go. The contrast between these two series couldn't be any bigger.
- Adaptation Overdosed: Tintin has been adapted to several media, from film over television series to musicals and so on. "Tintin" has even become a Stock Parody in itself (see also Referenced By: Tintin)
- Alter Ego Acting: In his early years Tintin was more or less Hergé's alter ego. The youngster had many adventures and world travels that Hergé would have loved to have enjoyed himself. He himself only started travelling across the globe during his later senior years, when he was rich enough to afford it. As Hergé got older he felt more sympathy towards Captain Haddock. Whenever something unpleasant happened to him in Real Life (annoying salesmen, workers who had to fix a broken staircase in his home but always kept him waiting, opera performances,...) he let it happen to Haddock too.
- Amusing Injuries: Slapstick is a staple of his work.
- Anyone Can Die: Death is always permanent in Hergé's work. Good and bad characters die accidentally, commit suicide, are murdered, or are killed off in sometimes comedic ways. Even Quick and Flupke end up in Heaven in one gag for mishandling explosives.
- Art Evolution: Hergé's earliest black and white drawings were simple and primitive and not the Scenery Porn we would see in his later stories.
- Author Appeal: Hergé disliked opera, because his parents forced him to listen to his aunt singing arias. This explains why Bianca Castafiore's singing causes everybody to flee in fright.
- Author Existence Failure: Hergés comic strips died along with his creator.
- Author Tract: In Quick And Flupke he once helped Flupke out by erasing the top half of a no parking sign, so he wouldn't get a ticket.
- Bilingual Bonus:
- Hergé spoke French, but his mother and his grandmother were Flemish people from the Brussels borough the Marols/the Marollen. Therefore he often gave characters names that were lifted from the Marols dialect or let natives speak a language that was in fact a thinly disguised version of Flemish spoken in Brussels.
- The Chinese signs, billboards and ideograms in The Blue Lotus are authentic and were written by Hergé's friend Chang Chong Ren. Many of them are in fact controversial because they contain secret messages, like for instance Boycot Japanese products!, Abolish unfair treaties and Down with Imperialism.
- The Arabic on the cover of Tintin and the Black Gold is also authentic.
- Brats with Slingshots:
- But Not Too Foreign: Hergés work is a particularly interesting example. Despite making his comics as universal as possible so that any local Belgian "couleur locale" remains hidden there's still a very specific Belgianness that runs through his entire work. Characters speak in Brussels dialects or have names that are derived from Belgian popular culture (General Stassanow in "The Scepter of Ottocar" has a name based on the Belgian milk brand "Stassano"). Some backgrounds are also clearly based in Brussels, Hergés home town (the Royal Palace of king Ottokar in "The Scepter of Ottocar" is actually the Belgian royal palace). Quick and Flupke in particular takes place entirely in Brussels and Flupke's name is clearly Flemish.
- Black Bead Eyes: All his characters have this type of eyes.
- Cliffhanger: Hergés work was published in newspapers and magazines and thus he often used cliffhangers in the final panel to create tension. It's one of the trademarks he is most praised and admired for.
- Cool Old Guy: In old age Hergé did keep up with the times. He collected modern art and admired several painters and sculptors of his own century. He praised comic strip innovators like Andre Franquin and Moebius and enjoyed listening to The Beatles, Pink Floyd and even subversive chansonniers like Jacques Brel and Georges Brassens.
- Creator Backlash: Hergé started quite a few comic strips that he grew tired of after only a few albums. The Furry Fandom comic "Leo and Lea Visit the Lapinos" wasn't really his thing and he axed it off after only one story. He created Jo Zette And Jocko because his Catholic editors wanted him to make a comic strip centered around a normal Nuclear Family, but Hergé felt limited by the fact that the children couldn't travel anywhere without their parents coming along with them.
- Hergé even resented "Tintin" in the later years of his life. Most of the art work was done by his assistants and even then his production slowed down increasingly.
- Creator Breakdown: During the early 1950s Hergé felt enormous pressure from working for the "Tintin" magazine and his extramarital affair with his secretary. Even though he had confessed the affair to his wife he still felt very guilty about it and couldn't bring himself to divorce her until much, much later. Apart from that he also felt disillusioned by his treatment and that of many of his colleagues who were convicted of being Nazi collaborators. Halfway the "Prisoners of the Sun", "Land of Black Gold" and "Explorers On The Moon" stories he simply dropped everything and took a vacation without informing anybody. He eventually returned and finished them, but remained restless and plagued by nightmares for several years. Eventually a psychiatrist advised him to quit the comic book industry altogether, but Hergé decided to create an entire story based on his recurring nightmares of white snow, "Tintin in Tibet", that eventually rid him off his anxieties. Still he spent the remaining twenty years of his life with traveling and only made three more official "Tintin" stories in the process.
- Creator Cameo: He was quite fond of making cameos in his own comics, and later the cartoon series. Full list here.
- Hergé shows up in a very heartwarming cameo in the very beginning of the Spielberg/Jackson film, as well. As the film opens, Tintin is in a flea market getting a caricature of his face drawn (in the style of the comic, naturally), and when we get a glimpse of the artist, it's Hergé! He remarks that Tintin's face is very familiar, and wonders if he has drawn him before?
- Darker and Edgier: From "The Blue Lotus" onward "Tintin" started Growing the Beard and adressing political and social themes full of Hidden Depths that really elevate the comic strip beyond being a mere children's strip. The stories became grounded in reality with some more fantastical, but still plausible elements here and there (The Abominable Snowman, ball lightning, aliens, ...). In later "Tintin" stories Hergé also moved away from Black and White Morality and introduced characters that were not easy to define as being either good or bad. Even the familiar cast members suddenly had out of character moments.
- Dark and Troubled Past:
- It's a mystery who Hergé's maternal grandfather was? Some biographers have suggested that it was Belgian king Leopold II, who was known for being an adulterer and conceiving some illegitimate children. Hergés family nevertheless always remained very secretive about it.
- Tintin biographer Benoît Peeters has also suggested that Hergé might have been sexually abused as a child by a maternal uncle.
- Hergé's far right connections among his colleagues during the 1930s and 1940s could also count as such.
- Early Installment Weirdness:
- Hergés earliest comic strips were still comics without text balloons as was most common in Europe in the 1920s. Inspired by American comic strips he started using text balloons, being one of the first to do so in Europe. The concept was so new that some European newspapers in the 1930s still published "Tintin" stories with the text beneath the images.
- The first three "Tintin" stories all lack documentation and a strong, coherent plot. In several early stories Thompson and Thomson even try to arrest Tintin!
- Executive Meddling: Hergé occasionally encountered this.
- The travel destinations of "Tintin in the Land of the Soviets" and "Tintin in the Congo" were under commission of his Catholic newspaper editor to educate young readers. Hergé never wanted Tintin to visit Russia, nor Congo at all.
- Under pressure of British publishers Hergé was asked to update the fashions and backgrounds in "The Black Island" because they no longer reflected modern Great Britain. They also asked him to change a large chunk of the plot of "Tintin in the Land of the Black Gold" to remove all references to the British colonials in Palestina and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that was already brewing in 1940, but too political to sustain after World War Two was over. Surprisingly enough Hergé agreed and made the necessary changes.
- Hergé was also forced to change several Afro-American or black characters in "Tintin in America" and "The Crab With The Golden Claws" into white people under pressure of American publishers.
- Several Tintin stories Hergé made during World War Two are very escapist adventure stories in exotic locations and don't reference the war at all. Understandingly so, because the country was occupied and Hergé couldn't afford to anger the Nazis.
- In "Explorers on the Moon" engineer Frank Wolff commits suicide by leaving the rocket and throw himself into outer space. His Catholic publishers felt this was way too horrible for a pitiful character like Wolff to end his life and forced Hergé to make Wolff add "only a miracle can save me" in his suicide note, so that the possibility that he would survive could be left open to the imagination of the reader. Hergé felt this was nonsense, but did it anyway to end their complaints.
- Follow the Leader: It's difficult to find European comic strip authors who have never read Tintin in their lives and aren't in one way or another influenced by his work.
- Funny Animal: Hergé drew one story in this fashion named "Leo and Lea Visit The Lapinas", in which an antropomorphic bear couple fights against Native American rabbits.
- George Lucas Altered Version: Hergé redrew many of his old albums from the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s in a better looking and more detailed style, updated to appeal to modern audiences. He also cut out certain scenes and small details that didn't help the plot forward. These originals are still available, but only in a special album series.
- Incorruptible Pure Pureness: Tintin. Professor Calculus should count too as he refuses to shake hands with a representative of general Tapioca in Tintin and the Picaros, because of his evil regime.
- Jo and Zette in Jo, Zette and Jocko.
- Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Al Capone is the one Real Life person to be named and identified directly by name in Hergés work. Numerous other real people appear as The Nameless cameos or are alluded to under a different name.
- Man Child:
- Tintin, who has a Vague Age causing him to appear as either an old teenager or a young man in his twenties or early thirties.
- Agent 15 in Quick and Flupke, who sometimes joins in with Quick and Flupke's childlike activities.
- The Maharadjah in Jo Zette And Jocko.
- Missing Episode:
- Some Quick and Flupke gags were never republished because the boys dressed up like Mussolini and Hitler. Back in the 1930s this was innocent fun, but after World War Two... not as such!
- "Tintin in the Land of the Soviets" and "Tintin and the Alpha Art" are considered Non Canon and were never colorized or redrawn.
- The original version of "Tintin In The Land of The Black Gold" from 1940 was never finished and has never been republished again. Halfway a Cliff Hanger scene were Tintin is tied up in the desert during a sand storm the Nazis occupied Belgium and Hergé's newspaper "Le Petit Vingtième" was cancelled. When Hergé started working again for "Le Soir" during the occupation he simply started new stories and only took up "Tintin and the Black Gold" until after the war. Yet even then he changed much of the plot.
- Mistaken for Racist: Hergé's work is still subject to controversy. Critics accuse him of using out-dated National Stereotypes and racial stereotypes in his work. It really didn't help that two of Hergé's colleagues at his newspaper office were Norbert Wallez- an ultraconservative and antisemitic priest who admired Benito Mussolini so much that he kept a signed photograph of him on his desk- and Léon Degrelle- who would later found the main Belgian fascist party "Rex", which collaborated with the Nazis. During the Nazi occupation Hergé worked for another newspaper, "Le Soir", which also collaborated with the occupiers. After the war Hergé escaped conviction simply because the prosecutor "didn't wanted to make himself look ridiculous." Despite this Dark and Troubled Past Hergé's best friend was a Chinese student named Chang Chong Ren who encouraged him to do more research before drawing his stories. Hergé and Chang lost contact for almost five decades before finally reuniting in old age. The mutual friendship and respect for both men was so huge that in The Blue Lotus Tintin considers a young Chinese boy called Tchang Tchong Yen to be his best friend and also searches for him in "Tintin in Tibet". Hergé also never joined the Rex Party, nor misused his work for this ideology. In fact: Tintin has many friends of different nationalities and race and several stories are in favor of multiculturalism. "The Blue Lotus" took a stance in defense of China during the Japanese occupation of the country in the 1930s. "The Sceptre of Ottocar" has Tintin confronting Bordurian militaries lead by a certain general named Müsstler. Some Quick and Flupke gags from the 1930s poked fun at Hitler and Mussolini. "Cokes in Stock" criticizes modern slavery of black Africans and "The Castafiore Emerald" has Tintin and Haddock debunking prejudices about the Roma people.
- Name and Name: Thompson and Thomson, Tintin and Snowy, Tintin and Haddock, Quick And Flupke.
- Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant: So notorious that we've devoted a whole page to it: Nightmare Fuel: Tintin.
- Nightmare Sequence: Hergé is notorious for his surreal nightmare sequences, both in Tintin and Quick and Flupke.
- No Antagonist: At least three Tintin stories have no actual antagonist: "Red Rackham's Treasure", "Tintin in Tibet" and "The Castafiore Emerald".
- Old Shame: Some old Tintin stories, especially "Tintin in the Land of the Soviets" and "Tintin in Congo" were created under influence of Hergé's magazine publisher, an ultraconservative priest named Norbert Wallez, who wanted Hergé to provide his young readers with educational propaganda warning the youth of the dangers of Soviet communism and praising Belgian colonialism in Congo. Hergé drew this very controversial stories without any documentation at all. He later dismissed these stories as being outdated and naïve.
- Parental Bonus: Hergés work is admired by adults just as much as children. Apart from Walt Disney it's difficult to think of any cartoonist/comic strip artist whose life and work has been analyzed and discussed more often.
- Police Are Useless: Thompson and Thomson in Tintin and Agent 15 in Quick and Flupke are both incredibly incompetent fools.
- Punny Name: Some characters.
- Real Dreams Are Weirder: Hergé is one of the few creators who showed dreams as surreal and creepy as they are in real life.
- Ripped from the Headlines:
- Several storylines in "Tintin" were directly inspired by events that took place at the time of publication, such as the Japanese occupation of China in the 1930s, the Gran Chaco War and the Cold War.
- "Quick And Flupke" gags also referenced Hitler and Mussolini during the 1930s, but these jokes were removed after the war.
- The Rival: Hergé felt threatened by the post-war success of Astérix, though he did give Asterix a cameo during the festivities in San Theodoros in Tintin and the Picaros. René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo returned the nod by giving Thompson and Thomson a cameo in Asterix in Belgium.
- Satire: Hergé often included satirical elements in his stories, spoofing international politics.
- Scout Out: Hergé always looked back on his scouting years as the happiest years of his otherwise dreary boring childhood. Many of his life long ideals were shaped by the principles of scouting. He wasn't the only Belgian comic strip artist with fond memories of scouting: Willy Vandersteen (Suske en Wiske), Mitacq, Francois Walthéry (Natacha) and Peyo (The Smurfs) shared similar experiences.
- Scenery Porn: The art work in his comics.
- Sherlock Homage: Tintin shares many similarities with Holmes by being an intelligent Chaste Hero and Badass Book Worm solving crimes, while Captain Haddock is somewhat of a Watsonian sidekick. Hergé was a Sherlock Holmes fan too.
- Shown Their Work: Hergé is famous for his meticulous research and documentation from "The Blue Lotus" onwards. He read several books about subjects needed for his stories and consulted experts in the field. The art work too was drawn with uppermost attention to detail. Everything needed to be technically and anatomically correct.
- Slapstick: Very prominent in his stories.
- Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Some stories have Tintin showing faith in the goodness of every human being. Other stories have scenes that are far more cynical. In "Tintin And The Broken Ear" a weapon salesman sells guns and artillery to two dictators battling each other. In "Tintin And The Picaros" Tintin helps his old friend Alcazar back in power, yet for the poor population nothing changes for the better. Also, Jo, Zette and Jocko is very idealistic, while Quick And Flupke is more cynical.
- Spiritual Successor: Edgar P Jacobs' and Bob De Moor's work come close. Unsurprisingly, since they both worked for Hergé for many years. The drawing style of Joost Swarte and Theo Van den Boogaard is also similar.
- Straw Character: Entire debates have been held to find out whether Hergé was right wing or left wing in his work? No conclusive answer has been reached.
- Talking Animal: Snowy is often seen talking in himself. Tintin doesn't seem to be able to understand what his dog says, though!
- The parrots in "Red Rackham's Treasure" and "The Castafiore Emerald".
- Unintentional Period Piece: Hergé's work covers many events and social changes of the 20th century, including Soviet Russia, the 1920s gangster wars in Chicago, the Chinese-Japanese conflict of the 1930s, the 1930s Gran Chaco War in South America, the Cold War, space travel,...
- Write Who You Know:
- Hergé based Tintin's famous quif on his brother Paul.
- Tintin's dog Snowy ("Milou" in the original language) was named after a girlfriend of Hergé.
- Hergés twin brothers used to walk around dressed in bowler hats and canes, much like Thompson and Thomson did.
- Hergé was forced to listen to his aunt singing opera arias in the presence of his parents. Out of this irritation grew the annoying opera singer Bianca Castafiore.
- Tchang Tchong Yen was based on Hergé's real life Chinese friend Chang Chong Ren.