Tintin’s Influence on Russian Political Scenario
The entertainment world has always taken inspiration from the real world to make things even more believable and relatable to the target audience. For accomplishing such things, more often than not, extensive research has been performed to have the correct information, based on which the characters are formed, the storyline is created; while doing so, many producers and filmmakers have come across some sensitive information about a country’s politics, history, a business entity, a person’s personal life and so on.
Once there was a time when the undesirable truth behind an incident or a supposedly popular entity had been avoided, overlooked for the sake of both safety and making money. People were not ready to receive the truth.
Although time has changed drastically and made films, stories- based on the actual reality of controversial incidents & entities- are making the highest cut in the entertainment business; the trend isn’t much. Of course, exceptions have always been there. One such exceptional creator was Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi aka Herge. He created an iconic character with a blond quiff- a teenage reporter named Tintin. The adventures of Tintin along with his dog Snowy and the irascible Captain Haddock entertained and are still entertaining readers of all ages around the world.
Tintin first appeared on 10 January 1929, in strip form in the pages of Le Petit Vingtieme – a children’s supplement to the right-wing Catholic magazine Le Vingtieme Siecle. It was published in 24 graphic novels, all drawn by Herge is his distinctive “clear line” style, before the series ended in 1976. Readers love Tintin for his plucky spirit and the way he reacts to the chaos and all the wrongs being done around.
Apart from the unique personality traits of the lead characters, the thing that attracts readers the most is Herge’s way of describing Tintin’s own daring-do. As a teen reporter, the character is shown pursuing Holy Grails, Maltese Falcons, and Hitchcockian MacGuffins from Tokyo to the Andes, navigating a world of spies, gangsters, dowagers, and aristocrats.
All the adventures of Tintin were created in a geopolitical landscape. Among all the adventures that Tintin had undertaken along with this companions, the very first appearance i.e. “Tintin in the Land of Soviets” received, perhaps, the highest amount of popularity and was also seen as a passive reflection of the creator’s own point of view regarding many incidents happening in the Soviets in real life during that time. This particular one was introduced in 1930 in black & white print and was not published in the colored format as Herge himself requested as such. In 2017 the first-ever official color version of this story was published.
As much as the adventure was there, each story of Tintin was a delight to every traveler soul. Tintin’s job takes him from one land to another with some specific reports to be covered by the young reporter; however, the whole reporting task is hardly seen there and the journey becomes all about a totally different issue.
He was sent to the USSR to cover the Bolshevik way of life out there. He took a train to travel there and every travel enthusiast knows how mesmerizing this train ride can be. The interesting point to be made here is that this was the first & last time the young reporter was actually seen doing some reporting work.
Tintin was followed by the secret police before he started for the Soviets. He was also denounced as a “dirty little bourgeois” before his arrival. But he was quick enough to realize that the political hierarchy is fooling “the poor idiots who still believe in a Red Paradise” – they are keeping the people starving and have created an industry of bogus factories to dupe visiting British Marxists into disseminating Soviet gospel abroad.
Tintin got to witness the fixed elections, favoritism at the breadlines, and a grain export conspiracy while his stay in the USSR. After getting to know about all these classified controversial facts, he, along with his dog, narrowly escaped a Red Army firing squad, only to wander into a hideout where Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin have “collected together wealth stolen from the people”. The duo was welcomed home as heroes after having exposed the October Revolution as a grand scam.
Although it gained the series of Tintin’s adventures immense popularity worldwide, it’s not exactly considered Herge’s best piece of work. Many of the ones working in the creative industry know that the result of their work isn’t always the actual intention behind their effort and is more of their boss’.
A similar thing happened here too with Herge. He had to produce this piece of the story to satisfy his boss- Abbe Norbert Wallez, a fascist and admirer of Benito Mussolini. But the impact it created on people’s minds regarding the existing politics happening in the Soviets were left forever. And, being a part of Le Vingtieme Siecle, particularly as a result of its collaborationist period under Nazi occupation, turned out to be the biggest red flag in Herge’s entire career.
Although, the story was nothing more than a work of fiction, the way the conspiracies were portrayed felt more real than they actually were in real life. Moreover, it was published at a very historical moment. Various anti-Soviet and other similar political activities were being taken place in the international arena during that time.
And the magazine i.e. Le Vingtieme Siecle brilliantly capitalized on the very scope of suspicion against the USSR in its attempt of promoting ‘Tintin in the Land of the Soviets’. It even published fabricated threatening letters from the Kremlin ordering its serialization be stopped. Adding to that, a 15-year-old lookalike of Tintin, Lucien Pepperman’s, was hired to pose as a reporter at Gare du Nord railway station in Brussels.
There was a lack of finesse or subtlety in the finished work in the published ‘Tintin in the Land of Soviets’. But it not only managed to capture hearts all over the world but also turned out to be a brilliant piece of literacy for mere storytelling and characterization.
“The land of hunger and tyranny painted by Herge was uncannily accurate, even though he had never been there.”
- The Economist, 1999
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