Georges Remi: Hergé, Creator of Tintin

December 28, 2007

    Georges Remi, better known as Hergé, spent his entire life creating art. His best-known work was Tintin, a series of comics and books of stories from around the world. The themes and characters captured readers' hearts and minds. Hergé developed his own style of Ligne Claire drawings (clear line) to produce a cartoon adored around the world.

    Born in Brussels, Belgium in May 1907, Georges Remi was instilled with an artistic spirit. As a child in school during the occupation of Belgium by the Germans, his early schoolbooks were doodled with pictures of the invading soldiers. His artistic education consisted of only a few drawing lessons. According to biblio.com, Georges skill with the pen was essentially self-taught.

   In 1920, Georges was attending high school at the Catholic College Saint Boniface. He joined the school's Boy Scouts organization. The Boy Scouts seemed to inspire the youngster. He created drawings for the Scout's newspaper, Jamais Assez beginning in 1923, and then for the Scouting monthly magazine, Le Boy-Scout beginning in 1924.  (Throughout his long career, Hergé's work would always have the influence of "doing right" in the Boy Scout manner.) In that year, he changed his pen name to Hergé, reversing his initials from GR to RG, as spoken in French. He was 17 years old.

   Hergé produced his first cartoon series in 1925 for the Scout Magazine, entitled "The Adventures of Totor." Employed by the catholic newspaper Le XXe Siecle, he was assigned with creating stories for the children's section, Le Petit Vingtieme. Tintin the comic strip was born. The first story featuring the rooster-haired reporter and his companion dog "Snowy" was "Tintin in the Land of the Soviets", running from January 10, 1920 to May 8, 1930. In 1930, Herge created a second strip of two Brussels "street urchins" called "Quick et Flupke" that ran for many years along with Tintin.

    The Tintin cartoons ran as long term stories, about a year long each, not as gag-a-day comics. After a certain time, each story would reach a conclusion, and Hergé would begin a new series with the young reporter and his dog as the central characters.

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The talented cartoonist had a flair for clear, simple lines, his ligne claire, and wonderful backgrounds. His characters came fully to life, fleshed out over time, so that fans could truly understand and enjoy their personalities. Tintin's adventures took him around the world and, due to the teachings of a Chinese friend of Hergé, Chang Chong-jen, the stories were well-researched and accurate as possible. The stories also had a political flavour, pointing out cruelties and injustices in the world.

    During WWII, Belgium was once again under German invasion. Hergé was forced to change his cartooning methods. Paper was in short supply and so Tintin became a three to four-panel daily comic instead of a two-page weekly series.

   The pace of the strip had to be sped up to keep readers interested, and the themes had to change from olitical objections to fiction. His series during the war years included a treasure hunt, a meteorite trip and trips to Incan lands to remove curses. It was during this time that the soon-to-be-beloved extra characters of Captain Haddock and Cuthbert Calculus were developed.

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Visit the official Tintin site.

   Hergé was accused of sympathizing with Nazi regime after the war, and arrested four times. The newspaper, Le Soir, which was the base for Tintin, was shut down, putting Hergé out of work for two years. Not daunted, in 1946 he and a few friends organized a magazine. Tintin and other comics, including "Blake and Mortimer" by EP Jacobs, were published weekly to the great joy of fans. The magazine sold a huge 100,000 copies a week in Europe. The cartoonist's life was not without personal troubles. Hergé suffered two nervous breakdowns in the late 1940s and early 1950s. To ease the stress, in 1950 Hergé hired assistants for Hergé Studios, to create the backgrounds and detail work of his famous comic. (Bob de Moor would work with Hergé for several decades.) Married in 1932 to Germaine, they divorced in 1977. He remarried in the same year to Fanny, an artist in his studio.

    The Tintin series was, and still is, extremely popular around the world - the only place it was not a top item was in North America. Tintin has been translated into at least 50 languages and has been published as cartoons, graphic novels, movies, television series, and in a variety of merchandise.

    Georges, Remi - Hergé - died on March 3, 1983, from an anemic condition. He was 75 years old. Along with many other cartoons and works, the great Hergé had created 23 complete stories of Tintin, but died before he could finish the 24th story. Left unfinished, the sketches and notes were published as-is under Hergé's title, "Tintin and Alph-Art," in 1986. Georges Remi spent his life creating wonderful works of art and imagination that entertained fans the world over for more than fifty years. Remi's life's work is still considered an inspiring influence on generations of cartoonists.

© Susanna McLeod 2007
TheCartoonists.ca