· Posted: 10 Jan 2009 22:01
The same syndrome can be seen with Spirou. When trying to build a universal "hero" with the most possible qualities and zero flaws, you tend to build a hero with little dimension or personality, and he gets eaten away by the secondary characters that you are free to flesh out with flaws and personality (Franquin disliked Spirou a bit for the lack of creative freedom that such a flawless character gives : no mistakes, no anger bursts, no impertinence, etc). There's a western series by Tibet and Duchateau, called "Chick Bill", where the very clean hero has become completely secondary to his supporting characters, the hot-tempered Dog Bull and the mentally challenged Kid Ordinn (yet the albums are still called "the adventures of chick bill"). People relate and get attached easier to flawed and "real" characters, after the possible bait of a perfect -but much too abstract- one. Especially as the readers grow up, cease to believe in heroism, and learn to distrust purity.
There's a reason why there's more comics about donald duck than mickey mouse, why holmes is a drug-addicted sociopath, and why star wars is boring without han solo. Colorfoul > white. Memorable Tintin quotes seldom came from Tintin himself - as well as memorable actions : Wolff's sacrifice, or Haddock's attempted suicide in Tibet (when his weight was about to pull Tintin down with him) impress me much more than "normal tintin heroics", precisely because they come from flawed characters, and don't stem from a simple perfection premise. They're heroic acts from people instead of heroic acts from an abstract ideal of a person.
So, to sum up : in my opinion, Tintin works well just because, around him, the world is extremely colourful - Tintin is merely the measure of it, the neutral "prototype metre", the auguste clown). In other words, the success of Tintin comes from his world, not himself, even though he plays a huge role in putting this world in perspective. Even more so towards the end, where Tintin's world ceases to be black and white, and thus Tintin painfully ceases to fit in it (the grey vs grey and the betrayal aspects of the Picaros plot - remember how Tintin can't believe Pablo's treason). Tintin ceases to be a part of the story going on around him. He's just there as a spectator, or a metric scale. His last active role needed him to travel to Tibet, far from people, to a world where he can face an abstract simplicity similar to the badguys/goodguys universe of his youth. That is, like in his past (and the naively imagined Congo, America, etc), far from the real world and the human ambiguities that an older Herge doesn't manage to ignore or masquerade anymore.
So yes, I think that as Herge grew older, he and his universe evolved towards more complexity and maturity, while the too "pure" Tintin character couldn't. Hence a possible shift of attention and identification, from Tintin to his environment.
Or maybe I'm reading too much into that. :/