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Le Petit Vingtième: 90th Birthday, 01/11/2018

#1 · Posted: 2 Nov 2018 19:23
Note: In case you missed it yesterday, I posted a piece on our Facebook page, to mark the 90th anniversary of the launch of Le Petit Vingtième, the newspaper supplement which would, in a few short weeks, launch the adventures of our favourite boy reporter. I will re-post it below, but be sure to sign up for our Facebook and Twitter feeds, just to keep abreast of all that is going on!

90 years ago today, the first in a new series of children's supplements was published by Brussels newspaper Le Vingtième Siècle. Entitled Le Petit Vingtième, it's chief contributor, editor, designer, art director and chief-cook-and-bottle-washer was a young man, who, having been engaged as an (unsuccessful) photographer, had caught the attention of the publisher Norbert Wallez - Georges Remi, better known as Hergé.

Lacking polish, and lacklustre in layout and design, it shows the lack of resources and budget available to the young editor, who obviously struggled to fill eight pages; if it's remarkable at all, the first issue stands out for just how un-entertaining a children's supplement could be.

The tone is one of stuffy moralizing and dry education: a mixture of stories in the form of parables, punctuated by self-improvement features on the importance of cleaning one's teeth, "motivational" slogans ("More than riches, look for and value the nobility of the heart"; "Observe the rules of hygiene for you and for others"; "Know Belgium and be proud - it is illustrious, it is beautiful") and pieces on the production of rice. And so it plods on: the civic architecture of Brussels; the benefits of modern lighting on eyesight; stone axes; a page of hoary old humourless "gag" cartoons culled from papers and magazines from around the globe; and an entire back page on Scouting (playing to his strengths here, Hergé being a keen scout, is probably at his most enthusiastic (not saying much, the bar isn't high), and does at least add a flourish with a decorative band showing Scouts in silhouette.

This last points us back to the centre spread of the supplement, which features what would in later years be his chief domain - a comic strip. Unfortunately you would have had to be an especially gifted psychic to divine that from the evidence of the story on offer here.

Les extraordinare aventures de Flup, Nénesse, Poussette et Cochonnet has almost nothing to commend it, being an all-but-impossible to enjoy fiasco, being about three children, an inflatable rubber pig, and their accidental trip to an appallingly stereotyped Africa, peopled by barbaric cannibals and benevolent Belgian missionaries.

Written by "Smettini", a pseudonym for a sports-writer on the main paper called De Smet, and drawn with little or no care by Hergé, it's an awful piece of work, which only seems to have held the artist's attention in so far as it helped to fill two of his pages.

Thankfully it lasted only ten weeks, at which point Hergé was able to include a new strip in its place, entirely of his own creation, and with it introduce the world to Tintin.

The birth of Le Petit Vingtème was inauspicious, but it did lead to greater things. The one foreshadowing of what was to come later, and the one saving grace of Flup, Nénesse, et. al, is the incidental inclusion of a small white dog, with more than a hint of fox terrier about him...

Could it be...?
#2 · Posted: 3 Nov 2018 05:45
Quite interesting! I do not know whether it would be appropriate, but happy birthday Le Petit Vingtième!
#3 · Posted: 5 Nov 2018 20:12
Happy Birthday le Petit XXème and 'hip hip hurra' for what was to come. On another note "Les extraordinare aventures de Flup, Nénesse, Poussette et Cochonnet" weren't that bad.
It was 1918, it was intended for small children...
#4 · Posted: 6 Nov 2018 10:12
It was 1918, it was intended for small children...

It was 1928, and small children definitely deserve better than an inflatable rubber pig and wildly stereotyped Africans, whatever the date!
Smettini was no story teller, and Hergé's work on Totor and Le Sifflet from the same period are better, and more indicative of the direction he would take with Soviets and his later work.

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