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New Graphic Novel: “Georges and Tchang - A Love Story”

#1 · Posted: 29 Mar 2013 22:01
In a separate discussion about Tintin's relationship with Haddock, our esteemed member Gayboy suggested:

Let's assume Herge and the real Tchang had relations

Well, guess what, Gayboy, that is an assumption that comic artist Laurent Colonnier has also considered and actually uses as a basis for his comic book: "Georges & Tchang – Une histoire d’amour au XXe siècle" (French for "Georges & Tchang – A Story of Love in the 20th Century")!

This is a (highly) fictionalised account of the relationship between Georges Rémi (aka Hergé) and Tchang Tchong-Jen (or Zhang Chongren as it is romanized today), presenting them as having a gay relationship, along with references to espionage and propaganda and the conflict between Fascism and Communism in the 1930s.

Here is an English-language website about the book.

Real-Life Background for those not familiar with the life of Hergé
In 1934 Hergé had announced that Tintin would be going to China for his next adventure. Father Gosset, chaplain to the Chinese students at Louvain University, wrote to him to suggest that he do some research into life in China as it really was rather than the clichéd view of the world that he had depicted in "America" with its gangsters, cowboys and Indians or "Cigars" with an India of fakirs and maharajahs. Gosset introduced him to Tchang Tchong-Jen, a student at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels.

The two men got on well. Tchang supplied much of the Chinese writing that featured in the book and told Hergé a lot about Chinese culture, history and drawing techniques. He also gave a detailed description of life in 1930s China, which included the occupation of eastern territories by the Japanese, British and Americans and other Western powers, such as Shanghai's International Settlement where much of the action is depicted. The result was "The Blue Lotus", a major landmark in the development of "The Adventures of Tintin". From now on Hergé would research his subjects thoroughly.

Laurent Colonnier's Depiction
Colonnier was inspired to come up with this story when watching an old TV interview first broadcast in 1973 in which Hergé described "Tintin in Tibet" as "une histoire d'amour... d'amitié" ("a story about love... friendship").

Colonnier proceeded to research the background of this relationship and came up with this comic book which not only describes them as a lot more friendly than most Tintinologists assume, but also implies a Comintern plot by which Tchang's room-mate, Tong, a committed Communist, manipulates him into getting Hergé to write an anti-Imperialist propaganda piece as part of the Communist cause. Much of the book's atmosphere is based on the conflict between Fascism (German and Japanese) and Communism (Soviet and Chinese).

Tong Dizhou was a leading biologist who was the first man to clone a fish in 1963. He was an important academic in the post-war People's Republic of China. Tchang's daughter does apparently mention that he was a friend of Tong Dizhou in a biography she wrote of her father. Some have suggested that Hergé being used in this way may have some basis in fact, but it is all at best speculation.

"Blue Lotus" is very critical of the Japanese and Western occupation of China and some of the Chinese writing in it (written by the original Tchang) does mention things like "Down with Imperialism!" and "Boycott Japanese Goods!".

This book also includes Hergé's first wife Germaine, who apparently takes a very jealous attitude to her husband's friendship with the Chinaman. There is even a scene of the three of them at the seaside in which Hergé is staring at Tchang and practically ignoring Germaine who is seated next to him.

Here is a scene from the book in a review at the bodoi.info website - quite charming and moving.

The book includes, of course, many references to the Tintin universe. There is, for example, a scene inspired by "Crystal Balls" in which Hergé and Tchang are at a port and Tchang, wearing a fancy captain's hat, throws an old tin box into the sea only to inadvertently hit the head of a fisherman. He and Hergé quickly flee and hide. It also depicts them in an opium den in Anvers (as opposed to Shanghai in "Lotus").

Colonnier had a lot of trouble finding a publisher for this book - for obvious reasons - but it eventually came out late last year. So far I have not found any reactions from either Hergé's actual relatives or estate, including Moulinsart and his second wife Fanny. I imagine that if they are outraged then they are keeping a dignified silence - or letting the lawyers prepare their case first!

Leading Tintinologist and Hergé biographer, Benoît Peeters appears to have enjoyed it, even complimenting Colonnier on his research, but stresses that the whole thing is fiction and a homage.

Here's something for the Cameos list:

In "The Blue Lotus", page 33, panel 2, there is a young Chinaman dressed in a suit and tie sitting next to Snowy in the cinema. Colonnier suggests that this was the adult Tchang Tchong-Jen, as opposed to the boy Tchang Tchong-Jen who plays a more important part later in the book. (ref. Colonnier interviewed by the French magazine "L'Express".)
#2 · Posted: 30 Mar 2013 22:30
This just sounds too weird and a stretch for what point?

Granted it is fiction and published as some sort of humour but I think they've overstepped the mark here..

Stick to the real life fact!

Loved the graphic novel 'The Adventures of Herge' though!

(PS - mct16 whilst I'm conflicting with this actual book, you posted a commendable review... well done!)
#3 · Posted: 31 Mar 2013 05:15
I must say mct16, I am really impressed and honored that you would make such a post.
Even if all of this is speculation. I hope the story will be translated into English because I have little to no command of the French language. Your review was outstanding and I've seen this actually in some other articles but not really commented on.

So let's say all of this is true just for argument sake... who in their right mind back during that time would come out of the closet? People got killed in the 80s and early 90s for just being gay; take Matthew Shephard, may he rest in peace poor boy. Herge and Tchang would never have told anyone and would have hidden it. Fortunately times and attitudes are changing. Most gay men in that time were married for many reasons to protect their secrets; and, many taking it to their graves with only their secret lovers or a most trusted friend knowing.

Of course some people can't bear the idea that something like this could be true.

As for the fictional relationship of Tintin and Haddock (or Chang) this would be one of the reasons why there is so much slash out there for these characters. I know some people on this forum don't like me for my views or myself period; and, I could care less. I think the video of Herge meeting with Tchang again after so many years was life imitating art. I could see the look on Tchang's face as he was overcome with emotion in Herge's embrace. Again, it's speculation but as a person who sees a different angle of life, there are some things that you just pick up on that does not require any words. Until one walks a mile in another's shoes, it is very hard to understand what kind of thoughts or feelings that person may be having.

Thanks mct16 I appreciate it!

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