Arts & Entertainment | August 18, 2020 8:00 am

Why Is the Far Right Embracing Tintin in France?

Voyaging into the more unpleasant parts of comic book history

Tintin at 90
A man walks by a poster celebrating the 90th anniversary of "The Adventures of Tintin" in Brussels, Belgium.
Xinhua/Zheng Huansong via Getty Images

Over the course of the last few years, the far right has ruined more than a few things that were once enjoyable to a wide range of people. Hawaiian shirts, for one. Indie comics characters, for another. And let’s not forget about ’80s movies about breakdancing, which have also been tarnished by their association with political extremists. Now there’s another unexpected pop culture reference that’s been co-opted by the far right: the intrepid comic-book reporter Tintin, whose first appearance took place over 90 years ago.

At Wired UK, Michele Barbero explored how the fictional reporter became a particular favorite of far-right extremists in France. This has ranged from the far right circulating racist parodies of existing Tintin comics to fascists embracing the character’s earliest appearances, which have not aged well.

Remember that the Tintin books were written and drawn by Belgian artist Hergé, and that 90-odd years ago Belgium still had a colonial empire. And, as Barbero writes, Hergé’s own politics around the time of Tintin‘s creation were highly unpleasant:

Hergé published Tintin in the Belgian right-wing paper Le Vingtième Siècle and was strongly influenced by the outlet’s editor, ultra-conservative abbot Norbert Wallez. He was also close to Léon Degrelle, founder of Belgium’s fascist Rex party and a Nazi sympathiser; Hergé never disavowed the friendship, which continued after the war.

Hergé’s politics became far less noxious as he grew older, and later Tintin books offered a more nuanced and progressive view of the world. Still, the earliest books remain frustrating, both for most fans of Tintin and for those who would prefer that neo-Nazis not appropriate their favorite fictional character.

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