::Literate Blather::
Friday, August 11, 2006
5 Questions About: Tintin

(DaRK PaRTY keeps a rumpled copy of Herge’s Land of Black Gold stuffed under our mattress. We recently wrote about Tintin here. So when we discovered a Web site called Tintinologist run by a group called the Cult of Tintin, well, we just had to find out what the hell was going on. So we contacted Irene Mar, the official ringleader of the Web site, the oldest running English language Tintin fan site in the world. Mar is a graduate of the University of Sydney in Australia. When not moderating and contributing to www.tintinologist.org, she works as a Web Developer.)

DaRK PaRTY: You run a Web site called Tintinologist (
www.tintinologist.org). Dedicated to the comic book character Tintin. But before we get into that tell DaRK PaRTY readers how you were first introduced to Tintin. Was it love at first read?

Irene Mar: It was love at first sight: my love affair with Tintin began when I was a school child living in Africa, back in the early 80s. At a garage sale one day, I spotted a copy of “Tintin in Congo”— in the original Dutch. The book was different from all the comic books I had been exposed to, namely pocket-size Japanese manga (comics) and American superhero comics in low quality newsprint; the full color, hardcover Tintin tome was --luxurious! My parents bought me the book. I could not read Dutch, but the pictures alone told the story well enough. I was hooked.

DP: Tintin is often called bland and the BBC once said Tintin is carried along by events rather than a real protagonist. Is this a fair assessment of Herge's cow-licked hero? What's your impression of Tintin's character?

Irene: I think Tintin’s character is as bland or as interesting as one’s imagination makes him. That Herge revealed little about Tintin as a person may or may not be a sign of weakness on his part as a writer (in that he had under-developed his characters) because, whether unwittingly or by design, Tintin’s lack of many defined characteristics has made it possible for his readers to use their imagination to give the cow-licked hero his personality.

Today, more than twenty years after Herge’s death, Tintin fans have not stopped sharing, debating their interpretations of Tintin as a person—his background, his name, his age, his religion, and so on. Had Herge pre-defined everything there was to know about his quiff-haired hero, Tintin might have turned out well-formed, but would he have been as popular, interesting and long-lived? For me, the characters have not been the main attraction of the Tintin series, but more so the art work and the thrilling adventures.

DP: The Tintin adventures are filled with colorful characters. Who is your favorite supporting character and why? Which character do you dislike and why?

Irene: I do not have a particular favorite supporting character, nor do I have a least favorite; each character, however minor, plays his part in adding substance to the stories--it is the overall work that I tend to focus on. Nevertheless, if I must pick a favorite from the supporting cast, I will pick the near-deaf Professor Calculus who reminds me of my late grandfather - another "old-school" scientist who lived in his own world.

As to a least favorite character, at the risk of being stoned by my fellow Tintin fans, I confess that I sometimes find Captain Haddock’s complaining and bumbling a little over the top – only sometimes! Perhaps the real reason for my "occasional" dislike for Haddock is that I see some of my own weaknesses in him.

DP: The last Tintin book was published in 1979 -- before there was any such thing as the Internet. Yet 30 years later, the Tintin books remain popular and you've help create a Web site about all things Tintin. How did you get involved in the site and what kind of people do you find there?

Irene: (The last Tintin album, Tintin and Alph-Art, was published in English, in 1990.) I was invited to co-manage The Cult of Tintin by the then Webmaster, Jesper Juehne, in 1998, along with Morten Christensen. The invitation came after Juehne had heard about my intention to start my own tribute to Herge. He felt it would make more sense to combine our efforts to produce one great Tintin community rather having two good competing communities.

By 2000, we had established ourselves as a major Tintin fan resource and community. But a cease and desist letter from Moulinsart (the owners of Tintin) came, which forced my partners and me to decide to take our project offline for re-development. A year later Juehne and Christensen decided to retire, and so I was handed the baton. It took me another a year to re-design the site to comply with Moulinsart’s strict requirements; it was also during this re-design phase I changed our domain name to avoid potential disputes.

Today I am assisted by a wonderful team of volunteers from Australia, Belgium, Holland, Sweden, and the UK; and Tintin fans outside the team have also been very generous with their time and knowledge. Through my involvement with the site and discussion lists, I have made contacts from all around the world – from Iceland to New Zealand – and from all walks of life; and over the years, some contacts have become good friends.

DP: If you had to choose one Tintin adventure to give to someone who has never read any of the books -- which one would you pick and why?

Irene: My choice would vary depending on the person I am considering giving the gift to, but my usual choice would be either The Calculus Affair or The Blue Lotus.

The Calculus Affair is, in my view, the work that consolidates all of Herge's skills in drawing and in story-telling. My other choice, The Blue Lotus, is commonly regarded Herge’s first masterpiece; and the story being based on actual events has extra educational merit.

Read our interview with Cartoonist Harry Bliss here

Read our interview about candy here

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