Herge

An exclusive extract from Herge: The Man Who Created Tintin by Pierre Assouline.

Chapter 12: The End of a Life, the Culmination of His Work 1973-1983

From then on, Hergé did not want to hear about film options. His position was expressed in a letter he wrote to a young reader unhappy after having seen the animated Temple of the Sun: “I don’t like Captain Haddock in the film. He doesn’t have the same voice as in the book.”

This remained Hergé’s stance in 1983 when he received one of those offers that, seemingly, could not be refused. At thirty-six, Steven Spielberg already had an impressive filmography—Duel, The Sugarland Express, Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, 1941, and ET had all been international successes with record-breaking attendance and receipts. Despite his reservations, Hergé was impressed enough to give Spielberg’s proposal serious consideration and be flattered by the project.

Negotiations went on for months. Spielberg was European only in his passion for François Truffaut. About everything else he remained completely American. The contracts went back and forth between Los Angeles and Brussels and between their respective lawyers. Hergé was anxious lest Spielberg would Americanize his story too much and lose the spirit of his books. These fears were premature, because it was not at this point a question of the script nor of adaptation but only about business.

As Spielberg was to be both producer and director of the film, Hergé conceded more and more at the commercial level to give the project the best chance of succeeding at the artistic level. Making less was less important than making sure Tintin came out triumphant. Alain Baran, his private secretary, and Eric Osterweil, his lawyer in Brussels, did everything possible so that the Americans, represented by Kathleen Kennedy, would advance the project.

Spielberg’s demands were draconian. He wanted total control of the merchandising of the film, thus of the characters created by Hergé; he wanted to keep for himself the rights from the comic strips and any television series derived from them; and he wanted sole artistic and commercial control of the whole project. Hergé agreed.

At the moment of signing the contract for a thirty-month option, Hergé’s advisors realized that the Americans had added a new clause, stipulating that in case the screenplay ordered by Steven Spielberg from his collaborators was satisfactory, he, Spielberg, reserved the right to assign the making of the film to someone else. For Hergé such an eventuality was unacceptable. He had made all the financial concessions because Spielberg himself would be in charge of the film. It had been difficult enough for him to accept the fact that Tintin, Snowy, and Haddock would appear on hundreds of millions of objects, articles of clothing, and gadgets without Hergé’s receiving any benefit. But it was unthinkable that he would consent to allowing anyone else to make the film. Both parties went their separate ways. However, the business would not be a total loss.

Herge: The Man Who Created Tintin by Pierre Assouline is a brand new biography being launched this week in the UK and in the USA in a couple of week’s times. Published by Oxford University Press. It is available on Amazon.co.uk and on Amazon.com.

Text (c) Pierre Assouline and used with permission.
Tintin is a registered trademark of Moulinsart, who are not associated with this book or this blog.

Herge

An exclusive extract from Herge: The Man Who Created Tintin by Pierre Assouline.

Chapter 9: Toward Fulfillment, 1950-1958

Some felt that Hergé had reached his peak with The Red Sea Sharks. Here was the culmination of his golden age, which had started more than twenty-two years earlier with The Blue Lotus. As always, Germaine’s influence could be felt throughout the book; she was with him his wife during good and bad times over three decades. Her mark on the work is less in the technical details than in the moral dimension of the story. She was upright, rigorous, and demanding about all things, traits largely inherited from her long work with Father Wallez. This encouraged perfectionism in her husband, pushing him toward the heroic and his Boy Scout instincts, which had always remained a part of him. Her impact on his behavior seems less profound, as he would always be the first to concede.

His readiness to acknowledge his indebtedness to Germain may have been sincere, but it was also colored by guilt. In 1952, between two interims of crisis resulting from his depressive state, the Hergé couple went through a terrible year. Speeding along the highway at the wheel of his Lancia, Georges Remi had a serious accident. He emerged unscathed, but Germaine was left with a limp for the rest of her life. In addition, their friend Father Wallez succumbed to cancer. Toward the end, to help him recover from the effects of his imprisonment, the Remis took him into their home for three months. Georges, who stayed by his bedside as he lay dying, attended his funeral in his native village, one of only a few people present. He felt that he had lost a father.

In 1957 Hergé had turned fifty. To his readers, especially those of The Red Sea Sharks, he would always remain the same. However, he had changed, and he went through another serious crisis of conscience, which threw him into paroxysms of depression. Few outside of his very close friends and colleagues at the Studios were aware of it. It was there, where he least expected it, that the roof fell in.

In June 1956, Fanny Vlamynck, a lovely young woman of twenty-one, was hired as a colorist. After a trial period she was assigned regular duties. She had expected to meet a serious old man and instead discovered a mature man, reserved but warm. She admired him instinctively, the man more than the artist. Like everyone else, she had read Tintin though had never been a devotee of comic books. They seemed to understand one another, and at the usual afternoon tea, when the little group at the Studios came together to relax and laugh, their glances crossed.

Five months after she had been hired, just before the weekend preceding All-Saints’ Day, they found themselves alone in the elevator at the Hergé Studios. They kissed between the fifth floor and the lobby. On leaving her in front of the door at 194 avenue Louise, Hergé was no longer the same man. From now on there would be a before and an after in his life, and, consequently, in his work.

Herge: The Man Who Created Tintin by Pierre Assouline is a brand new biography being launched this week in the UK and in the USA in a couple of week’s times. Published by Oxford University Press. It is available on Amazon.co.uk and on Amazon.com.

Text (c) Pierre Assouline and used with permission.
Tintin is a registered trademark of Moulinsart, who are not associated with this book or this blog.

Herge

An exclusive extract from Herge: The Man Who Created Tintin by Pierre Assouline.

Chapter 7 The Plight of the Inciviques, 1944-1946

The day Brussels regained its liberty, Hergé lost his. On Sunday, September 3, 1944, while Lieutenant General Adair’s Armored Division of the Welsh Guards drove the Germans from the city, Hergé was arrested in his home at 17 avenue Delleur in Boistfort.

The self-appointed representatives of the law were not after Hergé but a certain Georges Remi, and from the evidence it seemed that the relationship between the two was unsuspected. Hergé didn’t know whether he should be glad about this. The celebrations taking place throughout the capital only made it more confusing. The moment the First Belgian Brigade under Colonel Piron entered the city, no one knew who was doing what or by what authority. There were several days of tension and confusion.

After accusation followed denunciation, which was the same thing as during the Occupation but without the instigation of a foreign power. This was a matter among Belgians. The British soldiers often couldn’t hide their disgust at witnessing this settling of old scores.

The members of the Resistance who showed up at Hergé’s home had read the last issue of L’Insoumis (The Undefeated), a bulletin of information for fighting enemy Belgians. It contained a sheet called “Gallery of Traitors” subtitled “From the Lair of The Ersatz-Soir, and it provided photographs, names, addresses, curriculum vitae. For anyone hesitant about administering justice, there was a brief note of encouragement: “Dear readers, look at these faces! Vice is written on these faces. All commentary is unnecessary; these people’s crimes are known. The punishment that we will exact from them is merciless.”

Of the forty journalists denounced, Hergé is the only one listed twice. The first listing, as “Hergé,” includes his photo, address, and some biographical details: “According to our information was a Rexist, but could not confirm.” The second listing, “Georges Remi,” had no photograph but this commentary: “Impossible to obtain any information on this individual. Everything indicates that he must be closely watched.” They had not made the connection between the two. Georges Remi would be arrested four times: by State Security, by the Judiciary Police, by the Belgian National Movement, and by the Front for Independence. Each time he was set free.

Herge: The Man Who Created Tintin by Pierre Assouline is a brand new biography being launched this week in the UK and in the USA in a couple of week’s times. Published by Oxford University Press. It is available on Amazon.co.uk and on Amazon.com.

Text (c) Pierre Assouline and used with permission.
Tintin is a registered trademark of Moulinsart, who are not associated with this book or this blog.

Herge

An exclusive extract from Herge: The Man Who Created Tintin by Pierre Assouline.

Chapter 6: The Golden Age, 1940-1944

To Hergé, the king was the personification of Belgian resistance, and it was in that light he understood the speech given by Léopold III the day after the surrender. The war was over, the Germans occupied the country; horrible as it was, the situation could not last forever. In other words, let’s be practical and adapt while waiting for better times. “That was why,” Hergé said later in an interview, “I had no scruples about working with a newspaper such as Le Soir.”

This spirit of compromise also marked the first step on the path to passive collaboration. From the start Hergé had wanted to stay in print under the Occupation. The crisis of conscience that had led some of his colleagues to “break their pens,” so to speak, was alien to him. “I worked, period; that’s all. Just like a miner works, or a streetcar ticket taker, or a baker. While everyone found it normal that a mechanic made trains run, they thought that people of the press were supposedly traitors.” He objected to the very idea that writers and journalists should be more responsible. His attitude revealed denial, which in turn masked an unstated emotion. During the Occupation, a number of friends from his youth had attained positions of power in the press. From Hergé’s perspective, there was no reason he should deprive himself of working with them. Politically there was no great gap between them and him. The Germans had to leave someday. Le Vingtième Siècle was shut down for good. Remi waited four months before the Occupation Authority would lift the sequestration and he get at the money the paper owed him and settle his taxes. Fortunately for him, Casterman was late in settling its accounts and advanced him 10,000 francs (current equivalent, $3,300).

There were now three categories of newspapers: those that continued to publish under their own initiative (a total of eleven); those that appeared for the first time (nine); and those labeled “stolen” because they had been confiscated and published against the will of their owners or board of directors (thirteen).

By the end of summer 1940, Hergé had come to an agreement with the Flemish press of Belgium, Het Algemeen Nieuws, for exclusive rights to “Quick and Flupke,” and with Het Laatste Nieuws (a stolen paper) for exclusive rights to Tintin. Against the advice of Casterman, he chose to publish a volume of “Quick and Flupke” rather than Popol and Virginia in the Country of the Lapinos, which involved arms dealers—“innocuous in normal times,” as he put it, “but these days could cause us problems if not the outright refusal of permission to publish.” Hergé also approached Le Nouveau Journal, a new daily of questionable merit that was launched in October 1940 with the team from the weekly Cassandre. It was under the direction of Paul Colin, a collaborator, whom Hergé described as “a first rate man, very sympathetic.”

The Belgian press under the German Occupation was in a paradoxical position: it was read, but not believed. Although the papers were too servile to have any credibility, people nevertheless bought them and devoured every line. Despite the logistical problems of printing and distribution, newspapers had roughly the same circulation as before the war. The hardships of life transformed people into avid readers. They consumed everything, books or pamphlets, yet without surrendering judgment. The majority listened to the BBC, which reestablished the balance, corrected errors of point of view, and removed any doubts about the origin of specific information. A great mistake of the occupiers was not to have confiscated all radio sets, as they had in the Netherlands.

Herge: The Man Who Created Tintin by Pierre Assouline is a brand new biography being launched this week in the UK and in the USA in a couple of week’s times. Published by Oxford University Press. It is available on Amazon.co.uk and on Amazon.com.

Text (c) Pierre Assouline and used with permission.
Tintin is a registered trademark of Moulinsart, who are not associated with this book or this blog.

Herge

An exclusive extract from Herge: The Man Who Created Tintin by Pierre Assouline.

Chapter 3: The Many Births of Tintin, 1929-1934

Hergé came to comic illustration the year that silent films began to speak. In 1930, Charlie Chaplin had just screened City Lights, unanimously acclaimed as his masterpiece. Hergé had obviously been among his admirers. His “The Lovable Mr. Mops,” eight comic strips drawn for the Bon Marché Department Store in Brussels, were entirely conceived around gags dealing with romance and flirtation. The main character is a short mustachioed man, wearing a derby hat a size too small, a shabby jacket, pants abnormally short, and sometimes carrying a cane. He is touchingly awkward and luckless. The resemblance goes beyond coincidence.

For Walt Disney it was also a decisive year. Unlike Otto Messmer, the creator of “Felix the Cat,” in a partnership with Pat Sullivan, who took care of the business, Disney was both creator and entrepreneur. His third animated film starring Mickey Mouse, Steamboat Willie, was a success. But it was only the beginning. His new series of musical shorts, Silly Symphonies, would be received with popular enthusiasm and would have influence worldwide, ranging from the works of Hergé to those of Osamu Tesuka, the precursor of Japanese mangas.

In France, illustrated adventures would have an enormous impact on the press. Messmer’s Felix the Cat and Disney’s Mickey Mouse would be serialized in numerous newspapers. At the same time, three new publications for young readers made their appearance: Benjamin, edited by Jean Nohain; Rick and Rack, created by the publisher Fayard; and Coeurs Vaillants (Brave Hearts), launched by L’Union des Oeuvres. In 1930, Father Courtois, the editor of Coeurs Vaillants, traveled to Brussels to win the exclusive serial rights to Tintin in France.

In October, Coeurs Vaillants started publishing “Tintin in the Land of the Soviets.” The motto of this paper, whose roots were ecclesiastic, pleased Hergé: “For Brave Hearts Nothing Is Impossible.” However, there was an immediate conflict between the editors and Hergé, who would never tolerate anyone touching his illustrations. To better explain the action, the editors added a narrative caption beneath his drawings, a throwback to the old “Bécassine” format. Hergé protested vigorously, but the editors turned a deaf ear. The publication would prove decisive for the international career of Hergé.

Herge: The Man Who Created Tintin by Pierre Assouline is a brand new biography being launched this week in the UK and in the USA in a couple of week’s times. Published by Oxford University Press. It is available on Amazon.co.uk and on Amazon.com.

Text (c) Pierre Assouline and used with permission.
Tintin is a registered trademark of Moulinsart, who are not associated with this book or this blog.

Herge

Next week we will be running exclusive extracts from Herge: The Man Who Created Tintin which is being published on Thursday. I’ve spent the weekend doing little else but read the book in preparation for an interview I will be doing with the author Pierre Assouline next week. The book is full of interesting insights into Georges Herge Remi’s personality and life. To give you a flavour of the book here are some snippets from the extracts appearing next week.

Monday: The Many Births of Tintin

… there was an immediate conflict between the editors and Hergé, who would never tolerate anyone touching his illustrations.

Tuesday: Herge and the Nazis

… Hergé said later in an interview, “I had no scruples about working with a newspaper such as Le Soir.”

Wednesday: Herge the Collaborator?

Georges Remi would be arrested four times: by State Security, by the Judiciary Police, by the Belgian National Movement, and by the Front for Independence. Each time he was set free.

Thursday: Herge & Fanny – The First Kiss

In 1952, between two interims of crisis resulting from his depressive state, the Hergé couple went through a terrible year.

Friday: When Herge Met Spielberg

Spielberg’s demands were draconian. He wanted total control of the merchandising of the film, thus of the characters created by Hergé; he wanted to keep for himself the rights from the comic strips and any television series derived from them;

Herge: The Man Who Created Tintin is available on Amazon.co.uk and on Amazon.com. UK publication is on Thursday 29th October and the US release is a couple of weeks later.

Tintin is a registered trademark of Moulinsart, who are not associated the book or this blog.

Herge

I came across this picture of an interesting moment in Belgium history, the abdication of King Leopold III of Belgium.

leopoldiiibaudouin-abdication.jpg

It comes from the highly recommended Iconic Photos blog:

On July 16, 1951, King Leopold III of Belgium renounced the throne of Belgium, the throne he hadn’t occupied since the end of the WWII. Following the liberation of Belgium, the king was unable to return to Belgium due to a political controversy surrounding his actions during the conflict; many accused him of having betrayed the Allies by a premature surrender, and of collaborating with the Nazis.

King Leopold’s actions at the start of the war had a huge impact on Herge’s attitude to the occupation and lead to him being accused of collaboration. TintinMovie.org will have more details of this part in Herge’s life next Tuesday and Wednesday in extracts from Herge,: The Man who Created Tintin (American Edition) dealing with the war and its aftermath.

When considering Herge’s actions during the war, the historical context must always be considered. It is too easy to criticize him now given what we know of the Nazi regime but at the time, the situation was far from clear. The King had surrendered but did not flea the country. Instead he met with Hitler and tried to assert his position as monarch. Against such events, is it surprising that a young, pro-monarchy, cartoonist decided that there was no crime in working for German controlled newspapers?

Source: Leopold III abdicates

Herge

Next week sees the publication of Herge: The Man Who Created Tintin. This promises to be one of the most detailed examination’s of Georges Remi life available in English. TintinMovie.org will be running exclusive extracts from the book all week.

On Monday we examine the innocence of Herge’s early life and the many inspirations behind Tintin. Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s extracts focus on Herge’s relationship with the Nazis and the accusations of collaboration. The very personal story of Georges and Fanny, his second wife, is explored on Thursday and on Friday the story of the how plans for the first Spielberg / Tintin film fell apart.

The book promises to be an in-depth study of Herge. Author Pierre Assouline has had privileged access to personal papers and studies how the creator’s work and life intertwined. He does not shy away from such controversial matters as Hergé’s support for Belgian imperialism in the Congo or his relationship with the Nazis during the occupation of Belgium.

My review copy has yet to arrive but the extracts are fascinating and I cannot wait to read the book. We will be running a competition in a couple of weeks time where you can win you’re own copy. More details soon.

Herge: The Man Who Created Tintin is available on Amazon.co.uk and on Amazon.com. UK publication is on Thursday 29th October and the US release is a couple of weeks later.

Tintin is a registered trademark of Moulinsart, who are not associated the book or this blog.

Herge, Prisoners of the Sun, The Seven Crystal Balls

The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum has released its entire collection of airline posters online. It features some 700 posters from the early days of flying including many from the 1920s and 1930s. Not only are many of them beautiful works of art but these are the posters that Herge would of seen as he started work on Tintin.

aeropostaleSmall.jpg

Aircraft play a significant role in many of Tintin’s adventure and flying was a very glamorous activity up until the 1950s. In these days of budget airlines and three hour check-in queues, it is very easy to forget just how enthralling the idea of flying was to Herge’s generation.

One of the problems I had in creating the Travels of a Boy Reporter map was working out how Tintin and Captain Haddock travelled from Belgium to Peru in between The Seven Crystal Balls and Prisoners of the Sun. At the end of book one we see them boarding a flying boat and at the start of Prisoners, they are in Peru. I hunted the web and aircraft forums for information on flying boat routes from Europe to South America but I could not find any. Consequently, I guessed at a route involving flying down to the Cape of Africa and across the South Pacific.


ImpAirlinesSmall.jpg

Now, thanks to the Smithsonian, I can update the map with a correct route. The poster above shows routes for Imperial Airlines (the main flying boat operator) in the late thirties and there is a route from Europe via the west coast of Africa to South America. This map also shows a similar route as does this airmail route map. These are the maps Herge would of seen as he planned Tintin’s adventures so I can confidently update my map.