I've very recently had the pleasure of reading Thompson's book and I found myself quite fond of it only a few chapters in, it's certainly an easy and enjoyable read Hergé and his life running parallel to that of Tintin's success.
I cannot judge the literature's legitimacy on whether accounts are true (be they embellished) or false (be they inaccurate or handily omitted) though. I've only read this and Farr's Complete Companion in terms of Tintin literature. Thompson didn't get access to the archives or work with the Foundation but, as said above, it works on the advantage that Thompson didn't need to please anyone or stick to a set agenda. His opinions are very matter-of-fact but always respectful, never crude and never grossly speculative on who Hergé 'really was'. Hergé himself is quite the enigmatic figure though not in a negative way. He was just a modest human being with talents and flaws who experienced many traumas between the 1920s and 1980s. He never comes across as arrogant, self-centered or willfully ignorant.
One subject I appreciated being discussed, which I need to rattle on about for a while, is the female characters issue. Thompson only talks about it for a page and and a half (p.107 to p.109) but I found the content worth considering when thinking about the series. It's easy to believe Hergé was a sexist/misogynist for lacking female characters in The Adventures of Tintin and the Numa Sadoul quote from his 1989 book fuels that fire. But what Thompson suggests is that Hergé had no ulterior motive for not including more recurring female characters. It was due to morality and masculine notions of social gentility instilled from a religious upbringing, not out-and-out chauvinism, and he later compares Hergé to Frank Richards in the way of treating women with respect and courtesy. Belgian society was completely different in the 1930s to the 2010s and it's important to consider that context. Not to excuse it by any means but to accept that was life then.
Admittedly when you're a female fan, it's easy to feel saddled with the melodramatic narcissist diva Bianca Castafiore as your main representation (ignoring Mrs Finch and Irma). You just assume that's how Hergé felt about your gender. Over time I've grown not to care so much and to accept it is what it is but upon reading the above, I don't feel Hergé intended to be malicious over that decision and was trying to be considerate. He didn't find ridiculing women as funny as ridiculing men. Bianca, for all her foibles, is just an opera singer caricature carried from his real life dislikes (along with Wagg-like insurance salesmen) whom happens to be female. And she's unique in heavily averting slapstick shtick ridicule, instead being is
the ridiculer. Watching her make the lads squirm when she sings, be strong willed in the face of dictatorship and pull off the most gaudy fashion pieces is now a delight. I respect her far more now than I did when I started getting into the series 10 years ago and lovingly embrace her.
Moving on, another thing I like about the book is the dedicated chapter to Hergé's frustrations with Raymond Leblanc and his limited creative input towards the Belvision adaptations and the live action films. In fact, the whole Belvision episode comes across as an unfortunate exploitative farce for all involved. And I'd love to learn more about the film/television adaptations generally. But the way Thompson wrote about the 1972 Lake of Sharks film made me giggle, with every plot element followed by "no explanation why" in brackets (p.247).
And it's nice to get a different perspective on a well known individual that doesn't involve an extreme "prodigal saint" to "evil incarnate plus acute over-analysis" scale with no "complex human being with good and bad aspects" in between. That unfortunately plagues Walt Disney's biographies, for example, and how he's constantly interpreted in pop culture with often little consideration to societal context. And, come to think about it, the sexism/racism/political accusations are surprisingly similar to what Hergé encountered. The insinuations are thankfully less brutal towards Hergé than they are to Walt but you can still see how Hergé had a very hard time shaking off the various stigma and was haunted. It would be interesting to compare Walt and Hergé further but that's for a totally different discussion.
The first complaint I have about the book is, whilst it touches on Quick and Flupke as well as Jo, Zette and Jocko, it doesn't go into more detail about their origins and varying levels of success. The book's focus is, obviously, on Hergé's complex relationship with The Adventures of Tintin so I can't really grumble. I would still like to see more attention given to those series and other lesser known works so perhaps I need to look elsewhere. Although funnily enough, the central library in my town features more of their stories than they do of Tintin! So I've no excuse to not properly read them again.
The second complaint is that Harry Thompson names Captain Haddock's nationality, which we know is a fervent topic
here but gives no substantial evidence. Thompson refers to the Captain as "an English sailor" (p.127) and says "there was already a Briton with the [Aurora
] party in the shape of Haddock" (p.139) in The Shooting Star chapter. He does also say the same of Captain Chester and Allan but we're all more concerned with old salt Archibald's nationality than anyone else's.
Those quibbles aside, I'd recommend Thompson's book to fellow Tintin fans (with a pinch of salt).
Though, having just read the above messages after finishing my library copy within 4 hours of borrowing it, I'm now anxious about this one disappearing in the near future! Maybe I'll lovingly hold this one hostage for a bit.