I came across this book in the library’s electronic catalog while looking for Tintin books for my son to read. I have never cared much for reading biographies (and I was more than a little dismayed when my high school guidance counselor suggested biographer as a good career choice for me), but the title intrigued me. In what sense was Hergé, who created the character, Tintin’s son?
I also wondered what made the Tintin books so popular in the Europe but much less so here in the U.S. Where they part of a larger cultural difference? There are plenty of popular comic books in the U.S., but they are actually periodicals, not books. The Adventures of Tintin, and other popular series such as Asterix, are published as books. I also saw the periodical-type comic book when I was in Europe, but I have trouble thinking of examples of U.S. equivalents of Tintin or Asterix.
There were other questions I wondered about as well. Where did Hergé get some of the names of his characters? I read recently that the name Tintin refers to the character’s prominent tuft of hair. But what about Professor Calculus? Why in the world is he named Tournesol, which means sunflower, in French? And where did Hergé dream up some of the outlandish adventures in which Tintin finds himself?
Hergé, Son of Tintin didn’t give me any answers regarding the differences between comics in Europe and the U.S., or much about the characters’ names, but I did learn a lot about where the ideas for the adventures came from. What had struck me as extraordinarily imaginative and highly unlikely adventures were in fact generally based on current events at the time they were written. As most of them were written before I was born, naturally I had no reason to connect them to real-world events. But for Hergé, basing comics on current news was a way to get children interested in what was going on in the world.