29 April 2009

Tintin (Part One)

Tintin, Haddock And Snowy

Tintin Superstar!
The 80th Anniversary of Hergé's
Adventures of Tintin
by Donny Jacobs
Billions of blistering blue barnacles! Can it be true? Tintin and Snowy are eighty years old! Yet, in that irritating way comic strip characters have of aging imperceptibly, Tintin still looks barely nineteen. Lord only knows how old Snowy is in dog years by now!

Somewhere in Classic Comic Strip Land, there’s big doings at Marlinspike Hall, the mansion Tintin shares with his friends Captain Haddock and Professor Calculus. Greeting his party guests at the door, Tintin is resplendent in tuxedo and pink cummerbund, his famous hair quiff freshly pomaded. The opera diva, Bianca Castafiore, has already arrived; she's the center of attention as she begins yet another ear-splitting rendition of "The Jewel Song" from Faust. Off in a far corner of the ballroom, the Captain is cringing at the sound of her voice, with hands clapped firmly over his ears.

The Professor is circulating among the invited guests, talking up his latest invention(and as usual, misunderstanding every word that's said to him in reply). Joylon Wagg is working the crowd, too, predictably using the birthday bash as a venue for hawking his latest batch of insurance policies. Topping their tuxedos with the trademark bowler hats they're famous for, the Thom(p)sons look awfully smart heading up the security detail. Of course, looks can deceive, especially when you’re looking at the most inept police detectives ever. The guys are keeping a sharp eye out for party crashers . . . but gosh, isn't that Tintin's arch-enemy Rastapopoulos who just slipped past them?

Over by the punchbowl, we find the Emir Ben Kalish and his entourage. Nobody noticed when Abdullah, the Emir's devil of a son, spiked the punch with something dreadful. Dinner is beginning, so they may not find out until dessert! The lavish meal, served by Marlinspike’s kitchen staff, includes foods from all the varioius lands the Belgian boy hero has visited. Tintin's friend Chang is seated in a place of honor at the banquet table. Beside him we find Snowy, who's happily gnawing on a steak bone.

If only the man who started it all could be here, too. Tintin is the creation of the late Georges Remi, who signed his work with the pen name Hergé. Born in Brussels, Belgium, in 1907, Remi displayed a talent for drawing soldiers as a child. This led directly to commercial art career. As a young adult, he was hired to work as a copy artist for a Catholic newspaper, Le Vingtième Siècle(The Twentieth Century). In the 1910s and 20s, news photography wasn't as prevalent as it is today; articles and features were often accompanied by illustrations. Newspaper comic strips were still in their infancy, having made their debut with Hearst publications' The Yellow Kid at the turn of the century. However, their popularity was growing fast, and their simple narrative structure appealed to Remi.

After a false start or two in the mid-1920s, he finally got the chance to draw a strip of his own. The editor of Le Vingtième Siècle commissioned him to create and provide content for a children's supplement. Georges Remi thought he had just the right feature in mind: It would be based on a character named Totor that he'd drawn for a Boy Scout publication. On 10 January 1929, the moon-faced boy hero and his snow-white terrier made their first appearance on the pages of the quaintly titled Petit Vingtième. Little did Remi suspect they’d still be monopolizing his time 54 years later!

In appearance, Tintin was modeled after Remi's younger brother, Paul. His adventurer persona was reportedly based on Albert Londres, a famous French foreign correspondent; another celebrated journalist, Robert Sexé, may also have provided inspiration. An emancipated minor(Remi never volunteered any information about his parentage), Tintin had an urbane demeanor that conveyed a maturity well beyond his years. In groups of adults, he was at least an intellectual equal; more often than not, he was the guiding influence. In his early adventures, Remi described Tintin as a reporter for Le Petit Vingtième. He evolved into an amateur globetrotting detective, forever stumbling into diabolical plots and world-domination schemes. There would be hordes of malevolent conspirators over the years: Gangsters, secret agents, corrupt government officials, and greedy businessmen of various nationalities.

In order to deal effectively with such ruffians, Remi gifted his Belgian boy hero with a dazzling array of skills. Though barely fifteen upon his début, he's already an expert (but often careless) driver. Over time, we learn that Tintin can pilot an airplane, helicopter or miniature submarine, and steer a motorcycle, speedboat, or locomotive engine. The Quiffed One is a more-than competent swimmer, mountain climber, saddleback rider and deep-sea diver. In several adventures, Tintin demonstrates skill as a radio engineer. Like an Eagle Scout extraordinaire, he's highly proficient with monkey wrenches, screwdrivers, carving knives and any number of hand tools. In a fight for his life, he acquits himself admirably against multiple adversaries using fists, telephone receivers, lead pipes, or whatever he can lay hands on in a pinch.

Tintin is also a skilled dog trainer; his pet and constant companion Snowy (an exceptionally intelligent terrier given to ironic asides, which Hergé conveyed with thought balloons) understands all of his verbal commands. Amazingly, in the 1934 adventure titled Cigars Of The Pharaoh, the Quiffed One deciphers the language of elephants and learns to converse with them. The boy is obviously a Mensa candidate! His great intellect doesn't always translate into good sense, though. Tintin is foolhardy, often barging headlong into dangerous situations. That said, he's absolutely fearless, risking his life for others at the drop of a hat.

Tintin's early adventures were typical slapstick-laden romps of the period, hardly notable except for their exotic locales, the ethnic costumes Tintin wore, and the author’s occasional injection of political commentary(i.e. Bolshevik exploitation of poor Russians in the first story). This changed in 1936 when Remi produced The Blue Lotus. With this thriller set in China, Remi began crafting more compelling narratives, and also began striving to depict world culture and politics with heightened accuracy. From that point forward, a readership other than children started taking notice of The Adventures Of Tintin.

People were also taking notice of the distinctive drawing style Remi had developed, a style which featured strong, clear lines and little use of shadow. French critics later dubbed it l'art ligne claire, by which time it was becoming influential in both European and American art circles. Notable artists like Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol adapted the technique for some of their projects. Numerous assistants would help Remi perfect it over the years; the most prominent were Jacques Martin, Edgar Pierre Jacobs, Roger Leloup and Bob de Moor.

After three serialized adventures, Georges Remi began to feel a bit bored. It was apparent to him that Tintin and Snowy couldn't carry the strip by themselves; they needed a supporting cast. Remi chose to make these new characters inherently flawed, which proved to be a stroke of genius. That quirky cast of friends and enemies, accumulated over half a century, transformed the Tintin strip into a cultural phenomenon.

The players came to include Thompson and Thomson, best described as Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Dee reborn as police detectives, twin bunglers whose clueless methods hinder more than help Tintin's investigations; Cuthbert Calculus, a brilliant but almost totally deaf scientist; Bianca Castafiore, an internationally famous opera star who seems to know only one aria; General Ramón Zarate Alcazar, a two-bit South American despot; Joylon Wagg, a crass insurance salesman; Abdullah, a demon child Palestinian prince, and his doting daddy, the Emir Ben Kalish; Roberto Rastapopulous, a pompous criminal mastermind; and the most important of addition of all, Captain Archibald Haddock, an alcoholic seaman with a perpetual mouthful of impossibly clean expletives.

Originally a pathetic character, Haddock quickly evolved into Tintin's comrade in peril and one of the most complex characters in the history of comics. It was an international cast of archetypes whom Remi delighted in depicting as weak, vain, stupid and petty. Using these misfits as a cracked mirror image of the world, he effectively satirized humanity and completely changed the tone of the strip.

Tintin was far from a typical children's comic; it had a European sophistication that you'd never have found in a comparable American feature. For one thing, it could be quite violent! Aside from the painful pratfalls that Remi was fond of depicting, he had Tintin survive dozens of plane, train and car crashes, sometimes just barely. When it came to near-death traps, Dick Tracy had nothing on the Belgian boy hero! He was shot, blown up in explosions, half-drowned and bludgeoned on the head countless times. Tintin's adversaries didn’t get off easy, either: Sometimes they died disturbingly, like the man devoured by crocodiles in Tintin In The Congo and the criminal stowaway shot through the heart at the climax of Explorers On The Moon. Suicide was sometimes depicted. So was cruelty to animals (poor Snowy was often the victim) and children.

Language could also be unexpectedly harsh. While Tintin's trademark exclamation was the benign "Crumbs!" and the bark of Captain Haddock’s multisyllabic swearing was far worse than its bite, the occasional strong epithet did slip out. A Bolshevik yells "damnitski!" during a chase scene in Tintin in the Land of The Soviets, and a cameraman exclaims "dammit!" during a blackout sequence in The Castafiore Emerald. These utterances may sound mild today, but such talk was unheard of in stateside children's literature of the period. Georges Remi probably would've pushed the swear word envelope even further if he could have: In the climax to Flight 714 To Sydney, he implies that the Quiffed One can cuss like a pro when sufficiently provoked. However, it's still a children's feature, so he can't reveal exactly what Tintin said!

When it comes to the strip's not-necessarily-suitable-for-children content, though, strong violence and language pale in comparison to strong drink! Wine, whisky and beer are partaken to an alarming degree in The Adventures of Tintin; indeed, in the very first tale we find the boy hero nursing a champagne hangover! If that weren’t scandalous enough, Snowy also gets drunk on the first of many occasions. So Georges Remi unquestionably kept adult vices in his storyteller’s arsenal; he wouldn’t hesitate to center stories around mature subjects like narco-trafficking or slave trading, and he wasn't beyond injecting sexual subtexts into his stories, either. More about that topic a little later on . . .

Until the late 1940s, Tintin's adventures would be serialized in newspapers like Belgium's Petit Vingtième and France's Le Soir(The Evening News). Initially rendered in black-and-white, they proved popular enough for compiling in bound volumes. Typically, these compilations would hit the market within a year of the serialization. During the Second World War, when color comics had become standard, Georges Remi decided to redraw his early strips and convert them to color. These book-length color revisions are the versions that later became famous around the world. Only the first serial, Tintin in the Land Of The Soviets, was left in its original monochrome state.

What follows are synopses of all twenty-three Tintin graphic novels, complete with their original French titles and initial dates of publication. A warning to the narrow-minded: These synopses don't shy away from homoerotic themes! Many Tintin fans adamantly deny the existence of such content, but the evidence is there on the printed page. It’s not there capriciously, either; these Gay subtexts were clearly used in the service of character development. Rest assured they'll be discussed in that context, and not exploited for shock value. International intrigue, slapstick, angst, satire, science fiction, exciting locales, and the possibility of same-gender love . . . Georges Remi loaded his amazingly progressive adventure strip with all this and more. For details, read on!

"Tintin Superstar" continues with Part Two.

22 April 2009

Tintin (Part Two)

Tintin, Haddock And Snowy

Tintin Superstar!
The 80th Anniversay of Hergé's
Adventures of Tintin
by Donny Jacobs

Tintin In The Land Of The Soviets
(Tintin au Pays des Soviets)
first published in 1929
The Quiffed One's first adventure has a decidedly anti-Communist bent. Set in post-revolution Russia, it pits him against Bolsheviks. Hergé's execution of story and art is raw and rollicking in the manner of early comic strips.

Tintin In The Congo
(Tintin au Congo)
first published in 1930, revised in color in 1946
A wholly farcical adventure in which Tintin and Snowy hunt big game on the African continent. Rightfully criticized for offensive depictions of Black people and the casual slaughter of animals, this book is hard to find nowadays except as an import.

Tintin In America
(Tintin en Amérique)
first published in 1931, revised in color in 1945
Tintin travels to the United States to do battle with the kings of gangland, including Al Capone! A highly implausible but action-packed story, Tintin In America has dated badly because of its embarrassing Native American stereotypes. While not yet an official part of the cast, the Thom(p)sons make a cameo appearance in the opening panels.

Cigars Of The Pharaoh
(Les Cigares du Pharaoh)
first published in 1932, revised in color in 1945
Tintin and Snowy chase drug smugglers in a wild Egyptian adventure that formally introduces both Tintin's hapless allies The Thom(p)sons and his criminal millionaire arch-enemy Rastapopoulos. The first in a series of bizarre dream sequences centering around phallic symbols also appears.

The Blue Lotus
(Le Lotus Bleu)
first published in 1934, revised in color in 1946
Continuing the drug-runner story from Cigars Of The Pharaoh, Hergé takes Tintin, Snowy and The Thom(p)sons to China. There they become involved in fact-based political turmoil between the Chinese and Japanese. Tintin's friend Chang is introduced in this adventure. Tears flow when the two are forced to part company, signaling a strong attachment that, for Tintin at least, will grow stronger.

The Broken Ear
(L'Oreille Cassée)
first published in 1935, revised in color in 1947
A museum theft takes Tintin to South America, where he nearly meets death by firing squad. Oil profiteering also figures into an adventure that introduces a new recurring character, archetypical military dictator General Alcazar. A raging drunk depiction of Tintin underscores the fact that this strip is no longer strictly for children's consumption!

The Black Island
(L'Île Noire)
first published in 1937, revised in color in 1943
Tintin travels to England where he stumbles onto a counterfeiting ring and a new recurring enemy, the villainous Dr. Müller. After being shot, kidnapped and maimed by a trained gorilla, Tintin and Snowy rout the gang.

King Ottokar's Sceptre
(Le Sceptre d'Ottokar)
first published in 1938, revised in color in 1947
Tintin and Snowy accompany a state documents expert on a research mission to the fictional kingdom of Syldavia. They uncover a plot to steal the royal sceptre of Syldavia's monarch, without which the king must abdicate his throne. The sceptre does get stolen, and an international incident results, but all is made right thanks to Tintin's detective skills and some dubious assistance from the ever-bumbling Thom(p)sons. Opera diva Bianca Castafiore makes her début in this story.

The Crab With The Golden Claws
(Le Crabe aux Pinces d'Or)
first published in 1940, revised in color in 1943
This seagoing adventure marked the beginning of serialization in the French newspaper Le Soir(The Evening News). However, it's more important for introducing razor-tongued, booze-loving Captain Haddock, the most important of Tintin's supporting characters. The Quiffed One and his newfound companion cross the Saraha Desert, face danger in Morocco, and share the weirdest phallic-symbol-laden dream sequence yet, all in pursuit of an opium-smuggling gang. The Crab With The Golden Claws formed the basis of the first Tintin animated film, produced in France in 1946.

The Shooting Star
(L'Etoile Mystérieuse)
first published in 1941, revised in color in 1942
Tintin is plagued by more phallic symbol dreams (which this time include a crazed prophet condemning him to Hell) in a story that anticipates the global warming crisis by almost 60 years. A meteor with amazing transformative properties falls to Earth, prompting a scientific expedition aboard Captain Haddock's trawler. The expedition turns into a thrilling race against an evil corporate concern bent on claiming the astral phenomenon for profit. Tintin and Snowy successfully claim the meteor for science, but not before braving much science-fiction inspired peril.

Secret Of The Unicorn
(Le Secret de La Licorne)
first published in 1942, revised in color in 1943
A pickpocket and antique model ships with parchment hidden in their masts involve Tintin, The Thom(p)sons and Captain Haddock in a double mystery. It concerns a rich ancestor of Haddock's and a sprawling estate known as Marlinspike Hall. Much of the action takes place in drunken flashbacks narrated by the Captain.

Red Rackham's Treasure
(Le Trésor de Rackham Le Rouge)
first published in 1943, revised in color in 1944
Ancient parchments in hand, Tintin, Captain Haddock and The Thom(p)sons (both adorable in vintage sailor boy costumes) sail for the West Indies in search of buried treasure, hidden away long ago by Haddock's ancestor. They are aided in their quest by a brilliant but hard-of-hearing scientist named Professor Calculus, who designs a magnificent shark-shaped submarine for Tintin to explore the ocean floor in. The treasure hunt ends on land back at Marlinspike Hall, which is revealed as the Haddock family's ancestral home. At the climax of this adventure, Calculus purchases the Hall as both a residence for the Captain and a base for his own scientific research. With the lovable scientist's introduction, Hergé completes his roster of main characters in the Tintin saga.

"Tintin Superstar" continues with Part Two.

21 April 2009

Tintin (Part Three)

Tintin, Haddock And Snowy

Tintin Superstar!
The 80th Anniversary of Hergé's
Adventures of Tintin
by Donny Jacobs

The Seven Crystal Balls
(Les Sept Boules de Cristal)
originally published in 1943, revised in color in 1946
With the end of World War II came the closing down of France's Le Soir newspaper. As a result, this story of a mystery illness afflicting the members of an Andean expedition was interrupted for several years while Hergé sought out a new publisher. Professor Calculus is kidnapped (not for the last time) and Tintin, Snowy and Haddock set off for Peru to rescue him. General Alcazar (deposed and now working in Europe as a knife-thrower) and a brunette Bianca Castafiore make cameo appearances.

Prisoners Of The Sun
(Le Temple du Soleil)
originally published in 1946
This continuation of The Seven Crystal Balls was the first Tintin story to be serialized in the character's own magazine, and published in color only. Tintin, Snowy and Haddock find Professor Calculus prisoner inside an ancient Inca temple, and the whole main cast faces execution by burning at the stake. A boy guide named Zorrino, a cavern hidden behind a waterfall, priceless Incan treasures, and a solar eclipse figure into this most colorful of all Tintin adventures. It includes a phallic symbol dream sequence with sharp double entendre that's almost too suggestive to believe! Prisoners Of The Sun, the basis for a 1969 Belgian animated film called Temple Of The Sun, is also notable for Captain Haddock's hilarious encounters with Peruvian llamas; these are some of the best comedy scenes Hergé ever conceived.

Land Of Black Gold
(Tintin au Pays de L'Or Noir)
originally published in 1948
Begun in 1939 as a serialized strip for Le Petit Vingtième, this story was abandoned when Germany annexed Belgium; Hergé feared its political content would bring reprisal from the new Nazi régime. After the war, he revised and colorized the tale for publication in Tintin Magazine. Land Of Black Gold takes the Belgian boy hero and The Thom(p)sons to Palestine, where they pursue fuel supply saboteurs led by Dr. Müller. They also meet the Emir Ben Kalish and his impish son, Prince Abdullah. Abdullah is a brat supreme who quickly becomes Hergé's greatest slapstick vehicle, but for good measure, the author also afflicts The Thom(p)sons with an outrageous recurring malady in this adventure. Captain Haddock appears late in the narrative to rescue Tintin; his strong but unarticulated feelings for the young man are a subtle subtext of the story.

Destination Moon
(Objéctif Lune)
originally published in 1950
Hergé anticipates space flight and sends Tintin, Snowy, Haddock and The Thom(p)sons on an exciting voyage to the moon. Professor Calculus heads the expedition and designs a gear-looking checkerboard rocket for the trip. The gadgetry-filled story has a nail-biter of a cliffhanger ending whose resolution fans had to wait two years for. In the opening sequence, it's made known that Tintin and Snowy have now taken up residence at Marlinspike Hall with their friends Haddock and Calculus.

Explorers On The Moon
(On A Marché sur La Lune)
originally published in 1952
Captain Haddock executes a drunken spacewalk, and a romantic ballet in zero gravity sheds new light on the Thom(p)sons' relationship. Meanwhile, Tintin makes history as the first man to set foot on the Moon. This is a superb story filled with fantasy, danger, sabotage, suicide, repentance, heroism and tenderness as well as the usual slapstick touches. Explorers On The Moon was easily Hergé's best Tintin strip to date.

The Calculus Affair
(L'Affaire Tournesol)
originally published in 1956
Tintin, Snowy and Haddock once again fly to Professor Calculus's rescue when he's kidnapped by Bordurian agents eager to steal his latest invention. Insufferable insurance salesman Joylon Wagg and comic relief character Cutts The Butcher make their début in this story. Bianca Castafiore also appears in a brief but pivotal sequence that anticipates Hergé using her more prominently in future adventures.

The Red Sea Sharks
(Coke en Stock)
originally published in 1958
Tintin, Snowy and Haddock return to Palestine to aid the Emir Ben Kalish, who has been overthrown. Along the way, they tangle with modern slave traders allied to the evil Dr. Müller, encounter La Castafiore partying with a disguised Rastapopoulos on his yacht, and find a new ally in Piotr Skut, a fighter pilot who almost guns them down. Meanwhile back at Marlinspike Hall, Prince Abdullah has cruel fun with Professor Calculus and the housekeeping staff; the Emir has shipped his prankster son off to Haddock's home to keep him out of harm's way. Unfortunately (or fortunately, if you enjoy Three Stooges-style humor), nobody can keep Abdullah's victims out of harm's way!

Tintin In Tibet
(Tintin au Tibet)
originally published in 1960
Peril crossing the Tibetan mountains takes a backseat to a three-way unrequited love story in this, Hergé's most daring and sophisticated Tintin tale. The (again, unrequited) love triangle involves Tintin, Haddock, and Tintin's long-absent friend Chang. In addition, the fearsome Abominable Snowman of legend plays a peripheral (and perhaps metaphorical) role. Yet another dream sequence loaded with phallic symbols hints at Haddock's hidden feelings for Tintin, but a climactic accident which nearly costs him his life reveals a loving bond between them that is mutual, if unexpressed. With its provocative subtext and unmistakeable poignancy, Tintin In Tibet raised the strip to the level of serious literature; when you consider the time it was published, the story seems more amazing each time you read it. The author camouflaged the homoerotic nuances so successfully, most Tintin fans still don't recognize their meaning.

The Castafiore Emerald
(Les Bijoux de La Castafiore)
originally published in 1963
Bianca Castafiore finally takes center stage in a comedic adventure about a romance that never was and a jewel robbery that never happened. Professor Calculus's crush on La Castafiore is revealed in this story, which takes place almost entirely at Marlinspike Hall. Gypsies, capricious birds, French tabloid reporters, a TV crew, and Joylon Wagg's smarmy comment that he was "almost fooled" about Captain Haddock's affectional preference (blink, and you'll miss the insinuation) adorn this charming diversion from the strip's usual derring-do. This is also the story where Captain Haddock dreams of attending an opera performance in the nude, surrounded by hundreds of angry parrots! The use of bird beaks as phallic symbols alone proved that, by the early '60s, Hergé was getting more "out there" all the time.

Flight 714 To Sydney
(Vol 714 pour Sydney)
originally published in 1968
Beginning and ending in an airport(the flight referenced in the title never actually occurs), this bizarre story involves UFOs, mental telepathy and a Rastapopoulous plot to control the mind of a Howard Hughes-inspired billionaire recluse. Tintin, Haddock, Snowy and Piotr Skut escape from a diabolical island trap with help from outer space aliens! After the adventure has concluded, only Snowy can recall what happened. Hergé's satirical pen takes deadly aim at the ruling classes in the exchange between Rastapopoulous and the eccentric billionaire.

Tintin and The Picaros
(Tintin et Les Picaros)
originally published in 1976
This was the final completed adventure. An old enemy lures Tintin back to South America by imprisoning Bianca Castafiore and condemning to death her new security detail, the Thom(p)sons. Oddly enough, it's Haddock and Calculus who are champing at the bit for action instead of the Quiffed One, who initially shows little concern for his friends' misfortune. In the story's riotous climax, Tintin, Snowy and Haddock rescue the Thom(p)sons in the nick of time and simultaneously help General Alcazar foment a peaceful revolution disguised in Mardi Gras costumes. Further livening up the proceedings is La Castafiore in grand diva mode, and a new female character, the General's domineering wife Peggy. Growing ever more daring in his old age, Hergé definitively "outs" the Thom(p)sons as a Gay couple (you heard it here!), and Professor Calculus invents an antidote for alcoholism, much to Captain Haddock's disdain. Where the strip would have gone in light of these developments is anybody's guess.

The final Tintin story was to be called L'Alph-Art, and would have had the European modern art scene as its backdrop. It was aborted by Hergé's death in March of 1983. Preserved in rough draft form, the unfinished strip was published three years later; devoid of color and Hergé's trademark ligne claire drawing style, it's strictly for Tintin completists. As a wrap-up to the series, Tintin and The Picaros seems far more fitting; its celebration and liberation themes, along with the reunion of old friends, sound an appropriate note to end on.

If L'Alph-Art isn't an essential addition to the Tintin narrative, the same is doubly true of certain ill-conceived productions that have hit the market since Georges Remi’s death. The bootleg comic Tintin In Thailand is deliberately obscene and disgraceful. The “legitimate” text novel Tintin In Love takes liberties with Remi’s characters that are equally objectionable. These books aren't legitimate additions to the Tintin saga, but shameful attempts to sexualize the Belgian boy hero in ways his creator didn’t intend. Let's hope Stephen Spielberg's forthcoming Tintin movie, slated for release in 2011, will steer clear of explicit sexuality. The emphasis should be kept on the strip's trademark action and slapstick elements.

Spielberg's interest reflects the high level of popularity The Adventures Of Tintin still enjoy. First translated into English in 1958, by then the Tintin books had already been made available in dozens of languages. The list of countries the Quiffed One has traveled to is dwarfed by the host of countries his strip has become popular in: China, Spain, France, Italy, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Jerusalem, Sweden, Korea, Japan, Greece and various African territories, just to name a few! At last count, over 200 million books had been sold internationally.

Spielberg won't be the first to film Hergé's characters; since the 1940s, they’ve appeared in both animated and live action features. There was also a Canadian TV series produced in both English and French. During his lifetime, Hergé co-wrote two Tintin stage plays: Tintin in India and The Disappearance of Boullock. Stage works are still being commissioned; several years ago, a Tintin musical toured Belgium and France, and last year, a new production was mounted in London.

Since January 2009, birthday celebrations have been going full-force across the globe, but here at the Pop Culture Cantina, they've just begun. Alors, allons-y! Belly up to the bar and raise a glass of Captain Haddock's favorite whisky, Loch Lomond. Let’s toast the past, present and future of Tintin, Belgium's most celebrated international export.

Regardless of whether you consider the boy hero an icon of commercial art, children's literature or Gay history, no matter if you live in Europe, Africa, Asia or the United States, the pleasure you derive from reading a vintage Tintin adventure will always be the same. It's nearly impossible to get people of diverse backgrounds and opinions to agree on anything anymore, but every now and then, a point of universal agreement is found. The indisputable coolness of Tintin and Snowy is one of those points. Or as Snowy would say: Wooah!

All Tintin images are copyright © Hergé/Moulinsart S.A. The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the copyright owner.

Visit the http://www.shoptintin.com/ website for groovy Tintin merchandise! Buy the Adventures of Tintin Collector's Gift Set of hardcover books at http://www.amazon.com/.