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Talk: Benoît Peeters - "Hergé and the Creation of Tintin", 15/10/2018, Lancaster U.K.

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#11 · Posted: 8 Nov 2018 14:03
So what's the big fuss about some drawings?

Depends on what you are drawing. If it was short humorous stories like "Quick & Flupke" or more routine adventures like "Jo & Zette" it may not have been so bad, but "Tintin" had more of a following and had reflected contemporary issues, like in "Soviets" (the Bolsheviks' rule of Russia), "Blue Lotus" (the foreign occupation of China), "Broken Ear" (the Chaco War over oil) and "Ottokar's Sceptre" (the theft of the sceptre being part of an invasion plot similar to the Austrian Anschluss).

Herge may have avoided being overtly political during the war, but some of the humour in wartime "Tintin" was questionable:

One of the mistakes that has not been mentioned here has been the depiction of Jews in "Shooting Star". The original newspaper strip included a scene in which two Jews, Isaac and Salomon, see Tintin being harassed by Philippulus the Prophet. Isaac looks forward to the end of the world since he will be spared paying off his creditors!

The banker who finances the rival expedition to the meteorite and engages in potentially fatale acts of sabotage is seen as the stereotype of the greedy Jewish businessman. In the original strip he is based in New York - one of the Jews who, some would say, would be affecting American government policy. Also, the rivalry between the European and American expeditions was depicted at a time when America had joined the war and was expected to take part in the eventual liberation of Continental Europe, so some of the more insightful readers could have resented this kind of storyline.

You could balance this with the pre-war "Ottokar's Sceptre" which denounces Nazi policies of expansion but that could be saying that Herge was an artist who "went with the times".

It is hard to tell what Herge could have done otherwise during the war. I don't know if he could have drawn "Tintin" for some other more obscure paper or if he could have switched to another job altogether. It's all down to hindsight.

his apparent lack of public support for Van Melkebeke

He may not have made a public statement of support, but he did help Van Melkebeke financially out of his own pocket while the latter was in hiding from the authorities.

The charges against Van Melkebeke were pretty serious since they included newspaper articles in which he likened resistance fighters to "terrorists" and if Herge had spoken up on his behalf then he himself could have gotten into serious trouble. This was at a time when there was still a lot of tension in the air following the Liberation. Being denounced as a German collaborator could result in you being attacked by a mob, murdered or even executed - in some places even without trial!

I have read of collaborators being massacred all over France after the Liberation. People could be attacked for being "collaborators" simply on the say-so of a neighbour. Just being called a "collaborator" was enough to be murdered or socially ostracised for the rest of your life whether there was any truth in the claim or not.

Herge had himself come close to being prosecuted after the war and was even arrested several times. Publisher Raymond Leblanc, a resistance hero, had helped clear him of collaboration - in return for setting up "Tintin magazine" - but it had been very difficult and when Herge asked him to do the same for Van Melkebeke, Leblanc refused.

When the occupant came he fled along with the others only returning on his Kings, on whom he was very keen, demand. The same King ordered his people to remain calm and resume their occupations.

And after the war, the same King, Leopold III, was forced to abdicate because of his perceived failure to stand up to the Germans.

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