I imagine some Tintin purists will take a dim view of elements from “The Crab with the Golden Claws” being blended with “The Secret of the Unicorn” and “Red Rackham’s Treasure”, which are essentially the same story, but doing so is probably the best way to introduce Captain Haddock, one of the central characters in the Tintin books, into the film.
Here’s one film I’m looking forward too, and I’m hoping there’s an opportunity to see a preview screening, not just because I’d have to come into Sydney over the year end break, but chiefly because I’d rather not wait until 26 December, the day the movie opens in Australia, to see it.
Danish actor Palle Huld, who claimed he was the inspiration for iconic comic book character Tintin, the 15 year old journalist and adventurer created by Belgian comic writer Hergé – pen name of Georges Remi – died about two weeks ago, aged 98.
Given Hergé – who died in 1983 – was relatively cagey as to the origins of Tintin in this regard, it may never be known for sure whether Huld, or rather Robert Sexe, a French journalist, whose travels to Russia, Africa, and America, mirrored the exploits of Tintin in the first three books of the series, gave rise to the boy reporter.
More than a decade ago, Huld’s claims to be Tintin’s inspiration were at least partially undermined by the writer and researcher Jean-Paul Schulz who concluded that Tintin was based on the real life French journalist Robert Sexe. Sexe was a Great War correspondent and like Tintin, a motorcycle fan, who never stopped exploring. He not only looked and dressed like Tintin, but his best friend was called Milhoux, which is the phonetic translation of Tintin’s faithful dog, Milou – called Snowy in English. Moscow was Sexe’s first foreign reporting destination in 1926. Three years later Hergé published his first Tintin book, Tintin Au Pays des Soviets. The chronology of Sexe’s subsequent foreign trips to the Congo in 1930 and America in 1931 corresponds exactly with the chronology of the first three Tintin volumes.
Tintinologists – those expert in all matters Tintin – however also believe Hergé’s younger brother Paul Remi, whose hairstyle was similar to Tintin’s quiff, or a student called Charles, one of Hergé’s classmates, could also have played a part in inspiring the comic book hero.
I found that being Tintin is not very easy. His habit of donning “traditional” costume to blend in to places that he visits might have worked for him but for me, certainly in Scotland, it nearly led to me getting a kicking on several occasions. Even the “money shot” of me apeing the cover of the book by taking a boat out to the castle was doomed as the engine broke down, leaving me adrift. Tintin, being the good Boy Scout he was, could have probably fixed it. I couldn’t.
This sense of being outside of time, which Hergé worked so hard to create, is one of the deep springs of Tintin’s popularity. Children, who have a similar sense of existing outside of normal adult time, identify with it. For them, as for Tintin, what matters are the attachments and attractions that surround them here and now. And though I no longer think like that, Hergé’s work is so skilful that when I read Tintin today, I slip back into his timeless world. Apostolidès and Assouline try valiantly to pull back the curtain and show us the ropes and pulleys of Hergé’s magic act. But I am not sure that we want this. Tintin is too good a trick to spoil with explanations.
The film is based on three Tintin stories, The Secret of the Unicorn, Red Rackham’s Treasure, and – interestingly – The Crab with the Golden Claws, which, while having no direct connection to the first two titles, does introduce Captain Haddock, and a baddie or two, to the series.
The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn, the first in a proposed trilogy, will feature the voice of Billy Elliot star Jamie Bell as the intrepid Belgian journalist, with regular Jackson collaborator Andy Serkis as the salty Captain Haddock.
Now to be fair, Tintin was a fixture in parts of the Anglo-Saxon world. I live in Canada, I first read the comic strip in my public library, and I played the piano. Even so, Tintin’s massive European popularity has, like The Adventures of Asterix, Rupert Bear, Beano, and Oor Wullie, still not made its way across the pond. Maybe that’s not a bad thing; if nothing else, American readers will be able to start fresh and ignore off-the-wall rumors about the strip, such as Tintin being gay.
I’ve never bought into this “Tintin is gay” talk by the way.
Sure there’s some talk of him keeping very little female company (and sorry I don’t think there was the remotest likelihood that he was getting it on with diva Bianca Castafiore), rather I’ll go with the theory he was a discrete serial monogamist who was too busy typing his newspaper stories to ever call any of his girlfriends from the night before on the day after.
Incidentally, the “discrete serial monogamist” theory is something I just cobbled together now.