Tintin 70th birthday shock: Herge stole him from Jules Verne

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The Independent Online
BILLIONS OF bilious blistering barnacles! The idea for the most famous trio in cartoondom - Tintin, Snowy and Captain Haddock - was stolen by Herge from Jules Verne.

Ten thousand thundering typhoons! Herge was lazy and a poor draughtsman. Large parts of the best-loved later Tintin stories were sketched, and even conceived, by other people.

Lily-livered bandicoots! A close colleague says that Herge once confessed - echoing the feelings of Tintinophobes everywhere - "I hate Tintin".

The 70th anniversary of the perpetual boy reporter this month has precipitated a minor avalanche of Herge criticism, analysis, back-biting and reminiscences in Belgium and France, proving, as Le Monde pointed out, that cartoon books are an art form like any other.

Perhaps the most fascinating work - a labour of love say the Belgian authors, not a put-down - is a 160-page book tracing the similiarities between the Tintin stories and some of the lesser-known novels of Jules Verne.

Herge (1907-1983), real name Georges Remi, admitted taking ideas from other writers but always denied any connection with Verne. Asked on one occasion which authors he had enjoyed as a boy, he gave a list and then said: "And Jules Verne? Jules Verne nothing."

Jean-Paul Tomasi and Michel Deligne (Tintin chez Jules Verne, Lefrancq) prove otherwise. Not only are the boy reporter, plucky dog and itinerant ship's captain taken from Verne's Mysterious Island, but the detective duo (Dupont et Dupond in the French version; Thompson and Thomson in the English) come straight from another Verne tale. Even many of the drawings in the 22 Tintin books bear a resemblance to illustrations in the collected works of Verne published in 1906 under the title Voyages Extraordinaires.

At the same time, one of Herge's closest collaborators, Jacques Martin, director of the Herge Studio in Brussels in the 1950s, has given a startlingly iconoclastic interview to the French arts magazine, Bo Doi. Apart from confirming the Belgian author's far-right wing sympathies, Martin says that Herge played a smaller and smaller part in conceiving and drawing the Tintin books.

"As time went on, Herge worked less and less and, by the end, he just did a few minor corrections," Martin said. Even when Herge did draw, it was often slapdash and inaccurate. "He drew Belgian firemen in Scotland. Anything went. We had to re-draw everthing ... which persuaded him to draw less and less."

"By the end, he did a few sketches ... but the final drawings, that was 70 per cent me. Herge was good at brain-storming other people's ideas. He wasn't so good at finding the original concept. In the final years, he corrected the nose or the mouth of the characters and that was about all."

Mr Martin, who went on to become an admired cartoon book author in his own right, said Herge came to regard his most famous creation - 170 million copies sold in 51 languages - as a dead-weight around his neck. "He said to me one day when he was depressed: `Tintin, I hate him'."

Herge's first work involving Tintin and Snowy - Haddock came later - was Tintin in the Soviet Union, serialised in a Belgian magazine in January 1929. The strip was crude by later standards and was repudiated by Herge, who refused to have it re-published in his lifetime. It is reissued this month as part of the 70th birthday celebrations.

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