Georges Prosper Rémy, better known to millions of Tintin fans as Hergé, was born on May 22, 1907 in Belgium. His nickname is the French pronunciation of his initials, last name first, RG (air jay). In Europe, comic books, or bandes dessinées, BD (bay day) for short, are serious business. They are read by as many, or more, adults as children. The twenty-four volume series started in 1929 and ended with his death in 1983 at the age of 76. Hergé had no formal art training but was an inveterate doodler, as his school books attest. He was aso an avid Scout, and the Tintin adventures show the influence of that ethos; in fact, his first drawings were published in a Belgian Scouting magazine.
As a reporter for the youth section of a Catholic newspaper, Hergé had the opportunity to design a new comic strip. Tintin used the new American innovation of speech bubbles – a first in Europe. The series followed the adventures of a cub reporter and his fox terrier, Milou. Other characters were added over the years, including Captain Haddock and Professor Tournesol (the French word for a sun flower). When the paper he worked for subsequently was taken over by the Nazi’s in occupied Belgium, Hergé had to step carefully in his themes to avoid trouble with the censors – no more current events. Nonetheless, he was accused of collaborating and some of his characters from that time are distinctly anti-Semitic. It must be said that other Hergé works were clearly anti-fascist, so it’s hard to make any sort of a case for Hergé’s politics based on his comics. He was arrested by four different groups after the war, but exonerated for collaboration each time. Post-occupation, Tintin was published in its own magazine, rather than in a newspaper. Over 200 million Tintin books have been sold worldwide. Hergé is the ninth most often translated French author and he’s even had an asteroid belt named after him.
Today’s expression, les plus grandes aventures sont intérieures (lay ploo grahnz ahvontoor sohn antareEoor) is a Hergé quotation. It means “the greatest adventures are interior.” Tintin’s adventures may have gone to the moon and back, but he did it all from Belgium. That’s certainly a rich interior life.