In fake-news era, intrepid reporter Tintin turns 90

In fake-news era, intrepid reporter Tintin turns 90
As the world grapples with the consequences of fake news, a Belgian icon and timeless hero of many a journalist, Tintin, celebrated his 90th birthday Thursday.

It was on Jan. 10, 1929 when the first of the adventures of the intrepid international reporter were published in Le Petit Vingtieme newspaper supplement in Brussels. Created by Belgian artist Hergé, the adventures of the fictional character — with his customary blue sweater, rolled pants and flipped copper hair — took him and his faithful dog Snowy across the world, building an image of journalists as do-gooders.

A visitor looks at original letters by cartoonist Hergé and an enlarged cartoon of Tintin and his dog Snowy at Paris Pompidou Cultural Centre in 2006.  (JACQUES BRINON / AP)

The comic-book hero serves as reminder of an era when reporters were portrayed as seekers of the truth, holding those in power to account, instead of being depicted as the “enemy of the people,” as U.S. President Donald Trump has called them, accusing them of spreading fake news.

With more than 250 million copies of Tintin comics sold worldwide — in multiple languages — Moulinsart, the exclusive manager of Hergé’s estate, also known as the Hergé Foundation, has decided to mark the 90th birthday of the character with a yearlong celebration, starting with the young journalist’s expedition in the former Belgian colony of Congo.

Moulinsart announced on Thursday that a digital edition of Tintin in the Congo, remastered in colour, will be released via the application Les Aventures de Tintin. The comic is probably one of the most controversial works of Hergé, regularly attacked for racism — including in court — for its depiction of the natives of the Congo, and banned in the libraries of several countries. Coincidentally on Thursday, the Democratic Republic of Congo announced the first win ever by an opposition presidential candidate.

For Moulinsart, it’s pure happenstance — like with the re-release of Tintin’s adventure in the former Soviet Union.

“We started in 2017 with the Soviets, strangely it was the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution; today is the election in Congo and in two years by chance we’ll have Tintin in America,” when Trump is up for reelection, Yves Fevrier, head of digital at Moulinsart, told reporters in Brussels.

Other celebration initiatives include the opening of the first official Tintin store in Shanghai in February, the launch of a collection of Tintin’s model cars in France and Belgium, a commemorative five-euro coin, a series of documentaries and podcasts and a potential sequel to Steven Spielberg’s 2011 3D movie. Incidentally, it took 25 years for Spielberg to convince Moulinsart to film the first one.

Even without new material since 1976, Tintin continues to live on in the collective imagination, and Moulinsart plans to keep the journalist’s image alive, solely based on Hergé’s 24 scenarios.
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