Special Issue: Reimagining Comics - The Translation and Localization of Visual Narratives

Tintin Re-imagined and Re-purposed:

What Happens When Tintin Is Unleashed from Hergé?

By Terry Bradford (University of Leeds, UK)


When Tintin is ‘unleashed’ from Hergé and the tight control of copyright holders Moulinsart – that is, when he becomes the charge of other artists – his image is altered, and his exemplarity is variously manipulated, questioned, and challenged. After a brief survey of what can happen to Tintin when he ventures into media other than bandes dessinées, there will be some discussion of the sub-genre of fake Tintin album covers. Themes and tropes arising therefrom will inform discussion of a selection of ‘alternative’ Tintin albums. Typically described in terms of the political, the pornographic, and ‘art’ détournements, we shall see that there remains great scope for problematizing this wide-ranging corpus. Focusing on three exceptions, this article concludes with discussion of questions regarding the (non-)translation of alternative Tintins.

Keywords: Tintin, Hergé, Moulinsart, bandes-dessinées BD, parody, détournement, non-translation

©inTRAlinea & Terry Bradford (2023).
"Tintin Re-imagined and Re-purposed: What Happens When Tintin Is Unleashed from Hergé?"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: Reimagining Comics - The Translation and Localization of Visual Narratives
Edited by: Michał Borodo
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Stable URL: https://www.intralinea.org/specials/article/2635

If one of the natural tendencies of comics is to give birth to original worlds in fiction, and lend its content the form of mythic narrative, then another tendency of comics is to use derision, caricature, parody – for mockery is also a component of its ‘genius’. (Thierry Groensteen 2012: 120)

1. Tintin: On a Tight Rei(g)n

As a ‘modern myth’ (Apostolidès 2007), Tintin has been re-imagined in a variety of ways and re-purposed to many different ends. At the time of writing, Bedetheque.com[1] lists some 178 entries under the heading of ‘Tintin parodies, pastiches, and pirates’ – which is no mean corpus.[2] Wikipedia splits this corpus into ‘Parodies and satire’ (further divided into the ‘Political’ and the ‘Pornographic’). Likewise, Paul Mountfort (2016: 49) describes them as ‘rang[ing] from the political to the pornographic’. To these ‘genres’, Tom McCarthy (2006: 186) added so-called ‘art’ détournements of Tintin. As he explains: ‘détournement involves the taking over of a sign, image, text or body of work and the re-directing of it to one’s own ends.’ For Alain-Jacques Tornare (see Tornare, Rime, and Good 2013: 25), these works constitute a ‘pulsating prolongation of Hergé’s work [which] contributes – in its own way – to the perpetuation of the myth’. One aim of this article is to describe and examine how the Tintin myth is ‘taken over’ (re-imagined) and ‘re-directed’ (re-purposed).

In view of the sheer scale of the phenomenon at hand, Katherine Kelp-Stebbins (2022: 56) acknowledges that:

A thorough accounting for all of the détournements of Tintin would take volumes beyond even existing collections such as Alain-Jacques Tornare’s Tint’Interdit: Pastiches et Parodies.[3]

In this light, this article will analyse but a small sample of ‘alternative’ Tintins.[4] It seeks to complement but also problematise and deepen Jean Rime’s and Tornare’s surveys of Tintin parodies, whilst chiming with Kelp-Stebbin’s (2022) recent discussion of ‘what happens when comics travel’[5] – that is to say, when they are translated.

Hergé kept Tintin – despite his globe-trotting – on a tight rein. He has no ‘bad habits’; his ‘social image’ is one of ‘integrity, kindness, and edifying morality’ (Rullier-Theuret 2012: 121). To borrow Jackie Horne’s terminology (2016: 21), Hergé’s Tintin is an ‘idealized moral exemplar’. However, when Tintin is ‘unleashed’ – when he becomes the charge of other artists – his image is altered, and his exemplarity is variously manipulated, questioned, and challenged.

After a brief survey of what can happen to Tintin when he ventures into media other than bandes dessinées – namely, stage, screen, canvas[6] – we shall then consider the sub-genre of fake Tintin album covers. Themes and tropes arising therefrom will inform discussion of a selection of alternative Tintin albums.

When the world market for translations of Hergé’s Tintin is so great, it is striking that so few alternative Tintin albums have been translated. Particular attention will be paid to the three albums that stand out as having both French- and English-language versions.[7] Privileging this sample will also allow for brief discussion of the wider non-translation of Tintin unleashed. The sample is exclusively biased towards the Anglophone world, for it is assumed that the picture may well be different if examining the fate of new Tintins in Italy or in the Spanish-speaking world, for example.

In the present study, none of the ‘adaptations’ of Tintin are at all official. Indeed, of the scholarly attention devoted to this phenomenon, a good portion – rooted in the field of law – is interested in questions of aesthetics and originality solely in terms of copyright and legality. Focussing more on what Henry Jenkins calls ‘a bottom-up consumer-driven process’ (Jenkins 2006: 18), let us examine the enduring mass-mediated mythology of Tintin as it has manifested itself under the tight reign of copyright holders Moulinsart through unofficial (new, alternative, illegitimate, and typically illegal) Tintins.

2. Beyond bandes dessinées: Tintin on stage, screen, and canvas

Adapting Tintin for the stage and screen has previously been examined by Marc Larivière (2016) and Chris Carter (2019), respectively. The former is interested in the question of ‘fidelity’ in theatrical adaptations, whereas the latter – examining Stephen Spielberg’s The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn – deals consciously with a ‘stylised version of reality’ as portrayed on the big screen (Carter 2019: 3). Carter – an expert in Animation and the Creative industries – is interested solely in the mechanics of the characters’ ‘believability’. Larivière’s analysis (2016: 112) acknowledges the back story informing such adaptations:

The fact that Tintin’s image is anchored in the cultural memory and that Moulinsart exercises its control over how it is used limits the choices of those who would like to adapt it.

As Larivière concludes, analysis of such ‘faithful’ or ‘believable’ adaptations is reduced to purely technical considerations of re-creation. Such ‘official’ or ‘respectful’ adaptations are thus defined in terms of the founding myth, Tintin’s original image and moral exemplarity.

In charting the ‘commodification’ of Tintin as ‘among the great global transmedia franchises of the early twenty-first century’, Mountfort (2016: 37) notes that the official 1991 television adaptation of Tintin’s adventures – intended for a world market including the US – was characterised by ‘omission bordering on censorship’ (ibid.: 50). It also resorted to:

frequent infantilization, including the erasure of violent and gun-toting content, editing out the use of opium in The Blue Lotus (1934-35), […] and toning down of Captain Haddock’s rampant alcoholism. (Mountfort 2016: 50)

Thus, notwithstanding Larivière’s conclusion, in these official re-creations we see examples of cultural adaptation and omission that localise the product through consideration of target-culture customs and taboos. However, in this transformative process, Tintin’s status as an ‘idealized moral exemplar’ (Horne 2016: 21) is reproduced and even – arguably – enhanced.

2.1. Pinpin and the Mystery of the Blue Oysters

Les Aventures de Pinpin: Pinpin et le mystère des huîtres bleues[8] (2018), a ‘new’ Tintin film, produced by ‘amateurs’ and made freely available via the Internet, offers a contrast to Spielberg’s ‘official’ film.[9] In the makers’ own synopsis, they state that they have ‘tried to stick as well as possible to Hergé’s œuvre’.[10] It is true that the film pays great attention to detail. The dialogue is replete with vocabulary borrowed straight from Hergé’s Tintin.[11] Costumes and locations/décors are in keeping with the albums. And whilst the scenario is completely original, the storyline – with the kidnapping of the Tournesol character, a ride in a light aircraft, the race to expose drug barons – is perfectly Tintinesque.

Even so, the characters’ names are playfully altered (Haddock becomes Cradock[12], Tournesol becomes Tournedisque[13], etc.). This absurd aspect is amplified by the fact that Snowy (here, ‘Milouz’) is a stuffed toy, giving the whole affair a slightly tongue-in-cheek feel. Another significant difference lies in the portrayal of certain female characters. Bianca ‘Castafion’[14] and Irma are noticeably younger and more conventionally attractive than their BD counterparts. Conversely, ‘Michka’ – recalling ‘Nouchka’, the meek little girl from Le Lac aux requins (Tintin and the Lake of Sharks) – is a conventionally attractive young woman with a strong character.[15]

Another way in which the official Tintin universe is disrupted or détourné – not so much re-created as subverted or parodied – is through anachronistic intertextual referencing: in his cliché-ridden South-American accent, Parazar announces ‘Y’aime quand un plan se déroule sans accroc’ (‘I love it when a plan comes together’), in a comic reference to 1980s US TV series The A-Team (39:54-40:05). The self-reflexive inclusion of a Hergé character – with awful blond wig and painfully cliché Belgian accent – serves a similar function of disruption.

2.2. Teesside Tintin

As a further example of what can become of Tintin when he is re-imagined or re-purposed without the consent or collaboration of Moulinsart, let us consider Teesside Tintin. Described as ‘the foul mouthed dubbed version of Tin Tin (sic)’,[16] Teesside Tintin – which started as a ‘joke amongst friends’[17] – is a creative détournement of clips taken from the Tintin cartoons adapted for television.[18] To illustrate something of the form and content of this Tintin, Episode 38 is a short sequence lifted from Tintin and the Broken Ear. [19] The clip lasts 3 minutes 51 seconds and is provided with new dialogue. Tintin’s discourse – endowed with a Teesside accent and peppered with expletives – reveals that he is ‘on the fuckin’ dole’ (unemployed). The shopping list that he nonchalantly recites mid-car-chase includes: ‘microwave kebabs, a couple of those crispy pancakes, […] some catfood for Snowy, […] fuckin’ mint Poppits, […] some fuckin’ Domestos fer ma bedpan, […] some Aramis.’ He wants the latter (aftershave) – he says – because he is ‘going to pull, over Cleveland, tonight, like’.[20]

In this way, Tintin is domesticated and détourné beyond recognition: he is localised to a very high degree. Utterly transformed in terms of social status, class, habits, and proclivities, he becomes a vehicle for exploring stereotypes of a particular region in the UK. Humour – clearly the driving force behind this work – variously derives from the breaking of taboos (through swearing and references to bodily functions and sex, all of which is amplified in coming out of the usually innocent mouth of the mythic Tintin), its being rooted in the mundane (through the Rabelaisian shopping list), and – among other aspects – the perverse logic of buying catfood for a dog.

2.3. Tintin in the commercial art world

Two contemporary artists stand out as having made of Tintin something of their schtick: Danish artist Ole Ahlberg[21] and French artist Xavier Marabout[22]. If they have attracted the attention of scholars at all, it is almost exclusively in the field of law – owing precisely to their détournement of the Tintin universe – as both artists have fought Moulinsart in court.

A succinct report of a French court case (which saw Moulinsart sue Marabout for copyright infringement) sheds some light on these Art-World Tintins:

The characters (for instance Tintin) are painted in unfamiliar situations. […] The humorous effect is constituted by the incongruity of the situation.[23]

Incidentally, Larivière (2016: 25) cites the case of Ahlberg – and Moulinsart’s pursual thereof through courts in Belgium – to make a point about ‘freedom of expression’:

[T]hose Tintinophiles and other fans who would like greater freedom in the use of Tintin’s image believe – quite rightly – that Moulinsart’s protectionist policy is putting a brake on the cultural existence of Tintin’s image.

In their open and continued rejection of Moulinsart’s ‘protectionism’, Ahlberg and Marabout contribute more to a critique – or ‘perversion’ (Kelp-Stebbins 2022: 56) – of the Tintin myth than to its ‘perpetuation’.

Ahlberg’s work stages ‘Tintin and his acolytes in settings derived from the universe of Magritte, or in situations of a sexual nature’ (Brasseur 2015: 27). Styled as ‘Pop Art’, it combines and confronts different artistic traditions – Dutch realism, Surrealism, and Hergé’s ligne claire style – and stages Tintin (innocent, boyish, cartoon) as he is faced with female sexuality (in a more realistic style, albeit often in a BDSM/fetishistic setting).

In a similar vein, Marabout’s work has placed ‘the boy adventurer in romantic encounters’; his ‘dreamy artworks imagine Tintin into the landscape of Edward Hopper’ (Flood 2021). Marabout has explained his imagining of ‘a romantic life for Tintin’ in these terms: ‘Because frankly, the universe of Hergé is terribly virile and women are completely absent’ (Flood 2021). In Taxi pour noctambules (2014), for example, Marabout portrays Tintin at the bar of Hopper’s Nighthawks (1942)[24] – of which there are tens and tens of parodies[25] – with a stereotypical blonde bombshell. Hopper’s barman has been replaced by a cowgirl. The bar itself – renamed ‘Tom Hawake’s Bar’ – references Hergé’s Tintin in America.

Unfamiliar (or uncanny), distancing (or alienating), incongruous, whether received as humorous or scandalous, Marabout’s Tintin ‘mashup’ – like Ahlberg’s – is situated in a conversation about art, where different artistic universes clash. Both artists re-purpose Tintin to explore age-old themes of sexuality and eroticism. And their work serves as a reflection on Hergé’s Tintin, the myth of the superchild (Apostolidès 2007), in an adult world.

3. Fake album covers – a sub-genre

Let us now discuss the phenomenon – so prolific as to constitute a sub-genre – of fake album covers featuring Tintin and/or the Tintin universe. An extensive repository for this exceptional corpus can be found online. As long ago as 2013, Dave Ahl had ‘collected more than 1,000 Tintin covers – real, pastiche, parody, imitation, fake, and pirate’.[26] Overlapping this, 333 such fake covers have been collated by John C. Stringer and published in two volumes (styled as ‘Collector’s Editions’). Whether these fake covers – dazzling in their variety – were created for ‘millions of adoring fans across the world’ (Stringer 2019: 25), and/or for purposes of a more ironic, satirical, or subversive nature, is open to some debate.

The corpus itself displays myriad tropes. He is appropriated and localised (e.g. Tintin in Dublin), sexualised (e.g. Tintin à Hollywood portrays Tintin as another icon, Marilyn Monroe), or used as a vehicle for contemporary social comment (e.g. Hipster Tintin). Cultural references abound (e.g. in Voyage à Londres we see Tintin and friends at the iconic Abbey Road crossing à la Beatles) in a world of intertexts (e.g. Astérix Meets Tintin and Tintin en Amérique II – visually evoking the film Easy Rider). Elsewhere, taboos are broken (e.g. On a chié sur la lune[27]). The phenomenon of fake Tintin covers seems to be born of what Jenkins (2006: 3) calls ‘grassroots appropriation’ or ‘consumers’ active participation’ and the creation or production of such fake covers seems to be for fun – or to make a point – rather than profit.

Variations on a particular theme can be discerned in considering pastiches of Hergé’s colour cover for Tintin au Congo (Tintin in the Congo). Ahl’s collection is currently home to some 28 such ‘fakes’. In two of them, the iconic yellow Model T Ford of the original is replaced by a Renault Kangoo. In one – drawn in a style different to that of Hergé – the cartoon Kangoo is green. In the second, a photographic image of said brand of car appears photo-shopped onto Hergé’s original artwork. The pun in these covers (Tintin in a Kangoo) in tandem with the new images it inspires – albeit varying in technique – could be their solitary point.[28] In many cases, the matter of Tintin artwork seems to serve merely as a handy iconography chosen because it is so generally recognised, and not because the artists have anything particular to say about Tintin.

In one fake cover by Gordon Zola (Train-Train au Congo), the focus is more overtly polemical (and critical of the Tintin world). In discussing this, Stringer (2019: 27) hints at its political dimension: ‘Tintin’s automobile is crushed by the elephant and the other original cover animals are about-face as acts of disrespect.’ Tornare (see Tornare, Rime, and Good 2013: 35) describes it more overtly as Zola’s denunciation of the album’s ‘odious racism’ and ‘slaughter’ of animals.

Other fake Congo covers tackle French/Belgian domestic politics (Sarko au Congo – referring to President Sarkozy), another deals with a refugee crisis (Le Congo chez Tintin), and another references controversial French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala (Dieudo en Israël). It is noteworthy that Tintin is not, here, an end but a means. As a visual lingua franca – and mythical model of virtue – he is unleashed as a means of social commentary. His image is used to critique real-world agents by association, be that mocking their alleged innocence, naivety, or racism.

4. Fake albums[29]

4.1. Tintin and Politics

Many new Tintin adventures foreground the political. Tornare (see Tornare, Rime, and Good 2013: 32) notes that Tintin has been ‘seized upon – despite himself – from the far right to the far left, to defend all sorts of ideological causes throughout the world’.[30] In Les Harpes de Greenmore (Pirotte 1986), Tintin travels to 1980s Ireland and ends up helping the IRA. Tintin en Irak (Youssouf 2003) gives a critical account of events leading to the Iraq war.[31] Breaking Free (Daniels 1989) – exceptional in being written in English – portrays Tintin in Thatcher’s Britain. The latter is also exceptional in that Daniels has eschewed the more common ‘adaptive’ practice of cutting and pasting Hergé’s original images.

In Tintin en Irak, Tornare explains (see Tornare, Rime, and Good 2013: 33), the artist Youssouf ‘recycles’ and ‘re-organises’ artwork from Hergé’s original albums – primarily Tintin et les Picaros (1976).[32] Some of the original text remains intact, but it has – for the most part – been re-written by the new author. Generally, Hergé’s original artwork has not been modified. Just occasionally, however, the artwork is altered in view of the context – on page 44, for example, we see two representations of the Iraqi flag. More crudely, on page 49, photographic images of Hitler’s head are pasted as the head of a parrot.

Les Harpes de Greenmore is also a ‘cut-up’. In this case, Tintin is ‘requisitioned to promote the reunification of Ireland’ (see Tornare, Rime, and Good 2013: 32). Tornare (ibid.: 32-33) is decidedly critical in his assessment of its style:

Graphically, there is much clumsiness; technically, this comic from 1986 has visibly been created – for the most part – using scissors, glue, and photocopying very much of the era.[33]

Production quality aside, much of the artwork is original and pays creditworthy attention to local detail. One character, Terry, resembles Irish politician Gerry Adams (pages 22-23). Many of the scenes on pages 18-19 are – to my mind – strikingly reminiscent of (iconic) news/press footage of the ‘troubles’ from the 1970s/1980s.

In the originally composed panels of pages 51-52, Tintin and Haddock are treated to a veritable catalogue of songs associated with Irish Republicanism.[34] Through this, and the use of Hergean plot features (the kidnapping of Tournesol is at the hands of the British government, not the IRA; Tintin’s meeting with Tchang is re-purposed to portray the bullying of a Catholic paperboy – page 13) and form (following Hergé’s standard 62-page format), the album succeeds in its proclaimed desire to distinguish it from ‘other pastiches in which our heroes were very poorly treated – if not ridiculed’ (back cover). In other words, Tintin in Ireland is re-purposed ‘in character’ but for an ideology that Hergé may or may not have endorsed.

In Breaking Free, the artwork is original, even if – as Jesse Cohn (2007: 10) explains – ‘Daniels steals not only a few particular images, but an entire graphic vocabulary.’ Like Hergé’s Tintin, Daniels’ Tintin is a fighter – his dole is cut because he has hit his boss (1989: 7); he attacks staff and customers at a wine bar (ibid.: 26-27); he punches a policeman (ibid.: 91). Later in the story, he commits arson (ibid.: 120-21). Daniels’ Tintin – re-purposed as a leftist moral exemplar – is far removed from Hergé’s.

In the opening page, we learn that Daniels’ Tintin has been ‘kicked off that J.T.S. scheme thing…’ (1989: 7). This situates Tintin amidst a contemporary political reality – Thatcher’s Britain[35] – and allows us to infer that Tintin is British, unemployed, and aged 18 or over.[36] In this, he is utterly appropriated. Gone is his status as ‘moral exemplar’ à la Hergé. Daniel’s Tintin appears intended as a more realistic, ‘sympathetically engaging character’ (Horne 2016: 21), presumably for a mature audience. In line with this, Snowy is conspicuous by his absence – perhaps because a talking dog is at odds with Daniels’ ‘realistic’ project.

Rejecting the standard format and 62-page form of Hergé’s stories, Breaking Free is organised into four chapters. Equally innovative is the fact that the story is followed by an afterword in two parts. The first is a discussion of revolution, and the second is a practical guide to active participation therein. The album also features a dedication on page 3: ‘This book is dedicated to all those fighting against capitalism.’ Together these peritexts provide a clear idea of the function and intended audience of this re-imagining of Tintin.

For Gabriel Coxhead (2007): ‘The story is entertaining enough, if rather didactic, charting Tintin's evolution from disaffected, shoplifting youth to revolutionary leader.’ This is a useful summary of the story, not least because it underlines what it might have in common with a classic Bildungsroman. Its power to entertain surely depends on the viewpoint of the reader, as Zoheb Mashiur’s (2021) assessment might indicate: ‘For the cynical reader unconvinced by socialism, it can be dry and maudlin. It was not written for the cynical reader.’ But the didacticism of the book is less questionable. Nonetheless, echoing Robert Tressell’s The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists (1914), Daniels’ comic-book might be seen as ‘a literary effort, an attempt to deal imaginatively with working-class lives and to treat the subject of socialism, as a means to eradicating poverty, incidentally’ (Bell 1995: 44).

Significantly, Daniels’ re-purposing of Tintin arguably constitutes a critique of Hergé’s Tintin. Mashiur (2021) writes:

Daniels’ Tintin is no cipher or audience surrogate character. He’s not fighting for the perpetuation of a status quo, or inserting himself into the business of hapless foreigners; Daniels’ Tintin is protecting his own people at home and trying to carve out a better world for them.

Where Hergé’s Tintin travels but evolves very little and where his politics are infamously nebulous, Daniels’ Tintin’s story is one of home-grown self-discovery and political enlightenment (in overtly socialist-anarchist terms). In its treatment of the politics of the everyday (including challenging sexism and homophobia) – in contrast with the international politics of Tintin en Irak and Les Harpes de GreenmoreBreaking Free also drives home the idea that sex and sexuality are themselves political issues.

4.2. Tintin and the Pornographic?

Rime (see Tornare, Rime, and Good 2013: 13) has described the first so-called pornographic Tintin – Tintin en Suisse (Filip Denis / Efdé 1976) – as ‘an irreverent, if not obscene, parody’. Whilst critical of the quality of this album’s plot and drawing style, he notes its own ‘quasi-mythic’ status in ‘the world of parodies of Hergé’ (see Tornare, Rime, and Good 2013: 14). Certainly irreverent – in its portrayal of Tintin as a scruffy, foul-mouthed, work-shy waster – Tintin en Suisse is not, however, solely or one-dimensionally ‘obscene’.

Critically, when it comes to sex, Tintin seems unmoved (Efdé 1976: 21-22) by Emilie, the naked Black woman in whose bed he sleeps.[37] Despite the love hearts indicating Tintin’s emotional response on first meeting her, he spends his time listening to the radio and sunbathing. In a long sequence covering their time together, Roxy Music’s song Prairie Rose – first sung by Emilie on page 18 – emanates from Tintin’s radio. Over the course of two pages, we infer that the song is being listened to the world over[38], and that Tintin is the only listener enjoying it (ibid.: 22-24).[39] At the end of this sequence, Emilie exclaims: ‘I’m sick and tired of this little moron … and what’s more, regarding thingy, he’s somewhat missing the point! …’ (ibid.: 24) The sudden return of her lover – in the following frame – spurs Tintin to leave, without so much as a ‘goodbye’.

Whilst this Tintin appears as disinterested in sex as Hergé’s Tintin, the ‘pornography’ of this album lies more in the representation of Castafiore and Haddock (ibid.: 8-10). In Morocco, ‘Miss Bianca’ is an erotic dancer.[40] At her invitation, a visibly excited Haddock – complete with anchor-tattooed erection – takes Castafiore from behind, using a lubricant of ‘macaronis à la milanaise’ (ibid.: 10). Following this, an image of banknotes under the clock on the mantelpiece (ibid.: 10) would suggest that Castafiore is a prostitute.

A shaggy-dog story – Tintin does not even travel to Switzerland[41] – with only a handful of scenes of a sexual nature, Tintin en Suisse appears motivated by desires other than to titillate.[42] In smoking cannabis (ibid.: 7) and opium (ibid.: 32), masturbating (ibid.: 9), sponging money from Captain Haddock (ibid.: 7) or from his own parents (ibid.: 25)[43], and finally drowning in a drugged-up state (ibid.: 46), Tintin is at once de-idealized, humanised, and made mortal.

Tintin en Thaïlande (Bud E. Weyzer 1999) has been described as ‘a lewd tale of Tintin touring sleazy bars in Bangkok’ (Osborn 2001: 16). Lewd it may be, but – as with Tintin en Suisse – there is, in fact, little by way of sexually graphic content in this tale. Tintin is once more portrayed as asexual. Again, the narrative has aims other than merely to titillate.

Unlike Tintin en Suisse, Tintin en Thaïlande has a plot. In this new adventure, Tintin has a notional mission to complete:

It’s a metafictional exercise with Tintin and chums aware they’ve not had an adventure in some while, and so running out of money. Publication of a new book about an exotic trip will fill the coffers again, and the opportunity arises when the wife of pesky salesman Jolyon Wagg turns up wanting to hire Tintin and Captain Haddock to locate her husband, who’s absconded to Thailand. With Professor Calculus in tow, they’re spied on by someone representing the copyright interests of Herge’s company.[44]

The story is an overtly critical statement aimed at Moulinsart. At once anticipating and mocking legal action from Moulinsart, it can be read as a joyful – whilst provocative – assertion of artistic freedom.

The first hint of salaciousness comes on page 5 in the form of a crude comment made by Haddock. It is not until page 10 that Tintin, Haddock, and Tournesol enter their first ‘sleazy bar’. Only on page 19 do we first see signs of sexual activity.[45] Other than this, there is very little representation of sex. Indeed, one Internet commentator has made the point that Tintin in Thailand is scarcely ‘pornographic’ at all:

There are only a few frames containing sex (Milou and the cat, the Yéti and Tchang, Nestor and Madame Lampion), and they’re far from the traditional framing and details associated with porn.[46]

Nonetheless, it is fair to suggest that the representation of women is designed for the male gaze. And any intended humour deriving from Lampion/Wagg’s seduction at the hands of two different ‘kathoeys’ (commonly described as ‘lady-boys’) seems very dated and laddish.

Beyond sex, the album re-contextualises the Tintin ‘family’ in a contemporary Belgium. It at once reclaims Tintin as a specifically Belgian icon and restores the belgitude of which he was stripped by Hergé in order to make him – and the franchise – more ‘universal’[47] and globally marketable. Lampion/Wagg is described as the ‘vampire from Anderlecht’ (Bud E. Weyzer 1999: 2); a Thai bar is compared to the Brussels red-light district of rue d’Aarschot (ibid.: 10); reference is made to Belgian TV show ‘Place Royale’ (ibid.: 42); Nestor mentions the 90s serial killer, the ‘Butcher of Mons’ (ibid.: 51). References to Belgian cuisine include rabbit cooked in Stella Artois (ibid.: 36) and ‘filet américain’ (ibid.: 43). And references to Jacques Brel songs abound: from ‘tram 33’ (a reference to Madeleine, ibid.: 42) to Orly (ibid.: 50), and the Moulinsart spy (André Dupneu) takes his name from A jeûn (ibid.: 54).

The album is also replete with references to Thai culture. Characters travel in a ‘silor’ (explained to be a ‘collective taxi’, ibid.: 21-2) and by ‘samlor’ (explained to be a cycle rickshaw, ibid.: 39). Tournesol eats tom yum kai (explained to be a spicy chicken soup, ibid.: 28), while the cat eats pla muk yang (explained to be dried squid, ibid.: 56). A crash nearly occurs because the car is being driven on the right (it is explained that traffic drives on the left in Thailand, ibid.: 32). Lampion/Wagg asks his guests to remove their footwear on entering his home (ibid.: 33), and Haddock is aware that the year in Thailand – following the Buddhist calendar – is 2542 (ibid.: 46). Ironically, such attention to detail is characteristically associated with Hergé’s methodology.

Local ethno-geographical references are also authentic: Tintin and co. arrive at Bangkok’s Don Mueang airport (ibid.: 7), reference is made to the red-light districts of Patpong (ibid.: 9) and Santitham (ibid.: 55), Tintin recognises Akha and Lisu peoples at a market (ibid.: 30), Lampion/Wagg mentions the long-neck women of the Kayan people (ibid.: 32), Tintin admires the sunset at Doi Suthep (ibid.: 37), and – in Chiang Mai – mention is made of Montfort College (a private school, ibid.: 41) and the prison on Ratchawithi Road (ibid.: 52).

Where Hergé was content to use ‘squiggly lines’ to represent Arabic script (Kelp-Stebbins 2022: 50), however, the Thai characters often ‘speak’ in authentic Thai script. Genuine translations are provided in the form of notes on the respective pages.[48] Other notes explain incidents in the original Tintin adventures and refer the reader to Hergé’s original albums, thus situating Tintin in Thailand in a coherent Tintin universe for aficionados. Less reverently, the cat bemoans living in the chateau since 1956 – a note confirms that the cat made its first appearance in a Tintin album in that year (Bud E. Weyzer 1999: 56), thus gently mocking the stasis of the Tintin universe, whilst betraying encyclopædic knowledge of Hergé’s Tintin.

On page 45, Tintin laments that Manara (an Italian creator of erotic comics) was not around at the time of the ‘patrouille des hannetons’ (Hergé’s vehicle for Totor, a pre-pubescent avatar of Tintin). Such meta- and inter-textual referencing continues when Tchang/Try insults Tintin by calling him ‘Bécassine’ (ibid.: 40),[49] and Haddock states that Tintinologists will be amazed to learn that Tournesol has no hearing problems when drunk (ibid.: 49-50). Such references to Hergé’s work and allusions to other bandes dessinées – for example, mention of a ‘magic potion’ evokes Astérix (ibid.: 50) – are playfully, but critically, aimed at a cognoscenti.

All in all, there is much more to Tintin in Thailand than pornography. It deploys Hergean themes, such as travel, fakes and forgery; and it uses Hergean techniques, such as paying attention to local detail, and playing with inter-/meta-textuality. In so doing, it pays back-handed homage to Hergé. In sexualising the Tintin universe, however, it willingly and more openly challenges the moral myth of Tintin. And in its staging of copyright issues, it takes a committed stance in opposition to the reign of Moulinsart.

In contrast, there is nothing of the homage to Hergé in the work of Jan Bucquoy. He published La Vie sexuelle de Tintin in 2018, in what presents as a deluxe edition (Editions Dolle Mol)[50] of previous incarnations of his creation.[51] (Whilst spanning decades, Tintin’s sex life is but one strand of a theme of Bucquoy’s project as an artist.[52]) Bucquoy explains his project on the back cover of his Tintin album:

Imagining a sex life for the adults of this world has only one aim: to make them human and therefore to dethrone them. […] The sex life of Tintin is obviously a rejection of the rules of ‘bourgeois’ entertainment. It shows that the powerful are laughing at us, that humans – like dogs – are one big family, and that sex is not vulgar.

Sexualising Tintin, for Bucquoy, is thus a conscious political statement. It is noteworthy that the deluxe album is not exhaustive: it excludes the second and third ‘episodes’ previously published in Bédé X. That aside, it includes copies of newspaper articles and other writings covering legal cases that sought to ban it. These attributes would seem to confirm that Bucquoy’s aim goes well beyond gratifying his readers. He roots the text in a legal and political context.

The cover of the 2018 edition is a parody of Hergé’s L’Etoile mystérieuse (The Shooting Star), in which the mushroom of the original is transformed into a giant phallus. Of the 27 panels that make up the story, 21 contain graphic content of a sexual nature. In this short space, Tintin is sexually harassed and seduced by Castafiore and repeatedly appalled by his own parents’ sex life; Nestor and Pinson enjoy BDSM; Haddock is fellated by Tournesol; and the Dupondt enjoy sex with each other. In the latter sequence, it transpires that Dupond is in fact a woman in disguise. Mid-sex, Dupont exclaims: ‘Ah! This is bloody brilliant!... Fans would be amazed, if only they knew!...’[53] (Bucquoy 2018: 13). In a pointed comment regarding the head of the Association of Friends of Hergé, Dupond replies: ‘Oh! Yes! Imagine the look on the face of Stéphane Steeman!’[54] (ibid.: 13)

As for Tintin himself, in a supreme heresy, he is depicted buggering Snowy (ibid.: 9 and 34). In the final scene, having put on a girl’s clothes and successfully fought off the advances of Rastapopoulos (here a pædophile), we see Tintin before Anoushka – a sexualised version of Nouchka (see above) – who is supine, naked, smiling. As in the work of Ahlberg and Marabout, Tintin appears startled and confused when faced by the female sex.

4.3. Tintin and the Crossover: Tintin Versus Batman

Neither overtly political nor interested in matters sexual, Tintin contre Batman (1995) stands out as a ‘crossover’ fiction. This can be defined – simply – as art ‘based on the combination of two or more imaginary worlds’ (Samutina 2016: 436). Up to now, this particular alternative Tintin has attracted very little attention from academics, which – I feel – is an oversight, as the following discussion seeks to highlight.

The back cover of the translation states that Tintin Versus Batman is ‘an unlicensed 28-page parody published in France by a notorious fan artist’. It goes on to explain that ‘it is written in a satirical style, purposefully reminiscent of Hergé’s earlier works’. In the opening scene – referencing Tintin’s first visit to America under the watchful eye of Hergé – we learn that Tintin is returning to report on the Batman phenomenon. He retains his job as reporter, but his constant swearing distinguishes him from Hergé’s Tintin. As does his behaviour: he defeats one adversary with a well-aimed kick ‘below the belt’ (Hergi and Bournazel 1995: 7) and obscenely insults Batgirl before shooting her dead (ibid.: 20).

Noting the album’s ‘clear underground sensibility’, one astute Internet commentator – prompted by a sticker on the back of the taxi (ibid.: 5) – observes that the driver portrayed on pages 5-8 is ‘Tanino Liberatore’s RanXerox’.[55] In this crossover fiction, this character – himself ‘a crossover between a human and a machine’ (Comberiati 2019: 165) – ferries a copy of Tintin to a parody of the world of Batman. In so doing, the intertextual RanXerox points to themes of purity (aesthetic and racial) and reproduction (he is a cyborg: part man, part photocopier). Other intertexts – by way of homage to Hergé – include Bianca Castafiore (ibid.: 8), Quick and Flupke (ibid.: 13), Lampion/Wagg (ibid.: 21), and the Dupondt (ibid.: 22). Less rationally, Tintin kills a mini version of another icon of popular culture, Godzilla – Batman’s pet ‘prehistoric dinosaur’ (ibid.: 19).

Regarding form, the story seems to implode. Part one – 22 pages in length – ends with Tintin and Batman at loggerheads. Inexplicably, Part two begins with the immediate and implausible reconciliation of the two ‘heroes’. It then resolves in a mere 6 pages, giving the structure no symmetry or logic. In the event, Batman runs Snowy over and kills him; Tintin insults Batman in these terms by way of conclusion:

Bastard super-heroes, you come to our homes, you invade our bandes dessinées and you murder our pets! May you be damned for ever (sic)! I hate you! Sob…

Despite its peritextual claims and nods by way of homage to Hergé, the representation of this Tintin is at odds with Hergé’s paragon of virtue. Similarly, the structure and style of this Tintin owe little to the original. Nonetheless, it has something to say. It is a conscious part of a conversation between Franco-Belgian bandes dessinées and US comics, embracing wider European and Japanese ‘comics’ cultures. Intertextual, metatextual, and self-consciously ‘fan art’, it also illustrates Natalia Samutina’s more far-reaching point that:

fan fiction readers and writers today are not only the inhabitants of fictional worlds and interactive media environments, but the active transformers of their borders and the concerned co-builders of virtual civilizations and imaginary lives. (Samutina 2016: 435)

It may not seem to aspire to what Samutina (2016) calls ‘fan fiction as world-building’ – on any grand scale – but it is original, creative, and engaged in critical conversations about art.

5. On the translations

To the best of my knowledge, if we temporarily leave the Nitnit Trilogy of US artist Charles Burns to one side, only three ‘unofficial’ Tintins have been translated between English and French. Breaking Free (1989) was eventually published in French as Vive la Révolution! in 2007.[56] Of the proliferation of alternative Tintins in French, only two have thus far been published in English translation: Tintin in Thailand and Tintin Versus Batman.[57] It is worthy of note that only the latter provides a name for the translator – and that is a pseudonym: ‘Lusiphur (DCP)’. This – and the lack of publication details – perhaps derives from their underground or illegal nature.

I have been able to find just a single comment on the quality of translation in these three instances. It pertains to Tintin in Thailand, and it is quite disparaging:

The final damnation is delivered by the translation, which appears to have been carried out in Thailand and is resolutely literal. Jokes that might have made sense in another language are just non sequiturs, and there are several racist epithets.[58] (Plowright)

To build on this solitary assessment, let us now analyse more closely strategies and tools deployed in the translations.

Vive la Révolution! reads convincingly as idiomatic French. This can be seen in the rendering of the title itself: the descriptive ‘breaking free’ is modulated to become an interjection expressing desire (Long live the revolution), in keeping with the album’s themes and message. It also effectively re-packages the story to give it the same function as the original text – logically, where the source text provides names and contact details of socialist-anarchist groups in the UK, the target text provides details of like-minded groups in France and Belgium.

Where Tintin en Thaïlande took pains to restore the Tintin universe’s original belgitude, the translation partially strips this away. For example, the reference to Anderlecht (page 2) is omitted. This is perhaps in line with the translation strategy of domestication or localisation, in which aspects of Franco-Belgian culture are replaced with British ‘equivalents’. For example, ‘France-Loisir’ becomes ‘Sun Magazine’ (page 1); references to 90s French TV presenter Patrick Sébastien and the gameshow ‘Tournez Manège!’ are subsumed into ‘the radio quiz show “What’s My Line?”’ (page 3); ‘le guide du croutard’ (humorously referencing Le Guide du routard, a well-known French travel guide series) becomes ‘the looney planet’ (page 9), cleverly evoking The Lonely Planet travel guides. Some in-jokes are handled well – ‘Moulinzouave’ (corrupting ‘Moulinsart’) is cleverly rendered as ‘Marlinsprick’ (corrupting the standard English translation of ‘Marlinspike’). Others, however, are completely missed. For example, the translator seems unaware that ‘Tryphon’ is the first name of Professor Tournesol (known in English as Cuthbert Calculus).

For its part, Tintin Versus Batman also deals creatively with cultural issues. For example, Milou’s sarcastic reference to ‘Pif le chien’[59] (page 12) is adapted to ‘Snoopy’. Incidentally, the lettering is a lot tidier in the translation than in the original. The decision to use a US-friendly script – eminently readable, recognisable, and consistent – is an improvement on the original. Furthermore, where the source text is riddled with mistakes of grammar and spelling, the translation avoids these and is consequently a lot more convincing as a text.[60]

This brief overview provides some insight into just a few aspects of the rare extant translations of Tintin pirates. Their scarcity may derive from the fear of ‘confiscation or sequestration, inflicting serious financial losses’ (Špirk 2014: 151) – as seen in the case of Tintin en Thaïlande – or litigation – as seen in numerous cases involving artists and Moulinsart. This fear may well cause many translators to self-censor, that is, to avoid translating a ‘fake’ Tintin that is known to come with these risks. Equally, the anonymous or pseudonymous nature of the few translations that do exist can possibly be seen – in part – as a consequence of this reality, which in turn may have a bearing on the perceived range in quality. And this is perhaps to be expected if it is undertaken by fans or amateurs, as opposed to trained or experienced literary translators.

6. Conclusion

In the world of Tintin détourné, the only ‘holy cows’ are exclamations à la Batman – nothing is sacred. When Tintin is unleashed from Hergé, he travels across media, his language (register, accent) changes, his identity and habits are transformed, he has ‘new’ adventures (sometimes accentuating the sexual undertones of ‘aventures’ in French). Transcending different media, he often undergoes a process of localisation or domestication, he serves a project of inter-textuality, and he is re-deployed in the name of contemporary socio-/geo-political commentary or propaganda and in debates about art.

As exemplar of a certain morality – and even of what Frederik Byrn Køhlert (2017: 19) has called the ‘sanitized and quaintly old-fashioned cultural object of the comic book’ – Tintin (as icon, myth, and brand) has proven to be attractive material for challenging taboos and questioning authority. Tintin has been weaponised by some in an assertion of artistic freedom. Through ‘grassroots appropriation’, he is used as much as a lingua franca for the purpose of entertainment as he is re-purposed to challenge law and authority, legality and authorship. In this context, Moulinsart’s protectionism seems only to serve as a red rag to a bull. Unfortunately for defenders of official Tintin, artwork and translations that are banned can re-surface repeatedly and remain available in pirate form via the Internet. Increasingly, moreover, anyone so inclined can produce their own artwork, have it translated, and share it – whether for profit or not – with a global audience.[61]

Critically, the world of alternative Tintin – especially those works dating back to the 1970s, 80s and 90s – is fraught with problems. In the realm of politics, is it wise to requisition a reputedly right-wing character for a left-wing cause? More than this, is it wise to co-opt Hergé’s ligne claire style – what Kelp-Stebbins (2022: 57) calls ‘Tintin’s visual imperialism’ – in ideological struggles that are anti-imperialist in design? The project of sexualising Tintin is similarly fraught. The potential humour in thrusting Tintin et compagnie into sexual situations risks being undone by the failure to address – or simply avoid – the racist caricaturing of Black people or women from Asia, for example. And what of the male gaze?

As far as previous alternative Tintin analysis is concerned, we can suggest – based on the brief survey provided in this article – that the rough categories of the political, the pornographic, and ‘art’ should not be viewed as mutually excluding. Bucquoy’s La Vie sexuelle de Tintin, for example, arguably belongs to all three of those categories. At the very least, I hope that discussion and analysis of the wide-ranging material in this article more than hints at how it defies such reductive classification.

Kelp-Stebbins’ (2022: 57-66) detailed discussion of ‘art’ détournements – adding to McCarthy’s (2006: 186) brief discussion of the work of Alex Hamilton and Jochen Gerner – illustrates that the alternative Tintin corpus is indeed multi-faceted, evolving, and increasingly interested in formal aspects of (trans-)creation (See also: Baetens and Frey 2016: 98-112; 2017). For Kelp-Stebbins (2022: 25), Burns, US creator of the Nitnit Trilogy (2010-14):

represents a postmodern engagement with Tintin that undoes the authority of Tintin’s worldview while also amplifying the alienation of Tintin’s formal and material properties.

In finding a market – in translation – in the francophone world, Burns’ Nitnit/Tintin holds up a mirror to Europe and fuels continued critical debate regarding US comics and Franco-Belgian bandes dessinées.

One factor that will influence the phenomena of new alternative Tintins and their translation in the future is Tintin’s cultural relevance, which in turn dictates the extent of any potential market or interest. Statistically, even Tintin’s popularity in the francophone world is eclipsed by that of Harry Potter in the realms of online parody, fanfiction, and fansubbing (See: Zarin 2017 and Tosenberger 2008). This could be a sign that Tintin’s ‘mysterious’ star is fading. In this vein, Jan Baetens and Hugo Frey (2016: 102) have speculated – in the wake of ‘an emergent anti-Tintin myth’ – on the impending ‘disappearance’ of the Tintin figure, ‘at least as a living positive social myth’. If that happens, it is hard to envisage why anyone would continue to create and translate new Tintins, or to look back and remedy ‘blind spots’ by translating – or even re-translating – ‘new’ Tintins from the twentieth century. On the other hand, that work may well be continued by fans, who – like Snowy – will probably remain faithful to the last.


Primary Sources - Selective Chronological Bibliography

1976: Tintin en Suisse [Tintin in Switzerland], Efdé (Filip Denis) / Charles Callico, Editions Sombrero.

1986: Les Harpes de Greenmore [The Harps of Greenmore], Pirotte.

1989: Breaking Free, J. Daniels, Attack International.

1992/2018: La Vie Sexuelle de Tintin [The Sex Life of Tintin], Jan Bucquoy.

1995: Tintin contre Batman [Tintin versus Batman], Hergi / Jean-François Bournazel, Editions L’Œil du Pirate.

1999: Tintin en Thaïlande [Tintin in Thailand], Bud E. Weyzer (Baudoin de Duve), Editions Farang.

2003: Tintin en Irak [Tintin in Iraq], Youssouf, Tintinparodies.

2007: Vive la Révolution, J. Daniels [Translation], Nancy: Editions Pour en finir avec le capitalisme, 2nd Ed. Nancy: Le Nouveau Complot Anarchiste (2010).

Secondary Sources

Anon. [n.d.] ‘Comics History: Vaillant/Pif (1945-1992, 2004-2009)’ [Available at: https://www.lambiek.net/magazines/vaillant.htm]

Anon. [n.d.] ‘Only in France’ [Available at: comicbookinvest.com/2015/04/12/only-in-france/]

Anon. [n.d.] ‘The Adventures of Lanceval’ (Review), The Adventures of Tintin Fanon Wiki [Available at: https://tintinfanon.fandom.com/wiki/The_Adventures_of_Lanceval]

Anon. [n.d.] ‘Tintin dans la luxure! De 18 à 77 ans’ [Available at: http://www.naufrageur.com/1tintinxx.htm]

Anon. [n.d.] ‘Tintin – Pastiches, parodies, et pirates’ [Available at: https://www.bedetheque.com/serie-3149-BD-Tintin-Pastiches-parodies-pirates.html]

Anon. (2007) ‘Teesside Tin Tin’, 11 January [Available at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/tees/content/articles/2007/01/10/boro_tintin_feature.shtml]

Apostolidès, Jean-Marie (2007) ‘Hergé and the Myth of the Superchild’, Yale French Studies 111: 45–57.

Baetens, Jan and Hugo Frey (2016) ‘Modernizing Tintin: From Myth to New Stylizations’ in The Comics of Hergé: when the Lines are not so Clear, Joe Sutliff Sanders (ed.), Jackson, MS, online edn, Mississippi Scholarship Online (18 Jan. 2018): 98–112.

Baetens, Jan and Hugo Frey (2017) ‘“Layouting” for the plot: Charles Burns and the clear line revisited’, Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics 8, no. 2: 193–202.

Bell, David (1995) Ardent Propaganda: Miner's Novels and Class Conflict, 1929-1939. Diss. Umeå universitet.

The Bird & Bird IP Team (2022) ‘Round-up of national copyright decisions 2021’, Journal of Intellectual Property Law & Practice 17, no. 3: 244.

Brasseur, Guillaume (2015) L’exception parodique en matière de bande dessinée licencieuse – Quand Bob et Bobette, Tintin et Lucky Luke se découvrent, Mémoire, Faculté de droit et de criminologie, Université Catholique de Louvain.

Comberiati, Daniele (2019) ‘Dystopic worlds and the fear of multiculturalism’ in Italian Science Fiction: The Other in Literature and Film, Simone Brioni and Daniele Comberiati (eds), Cham, Springer: 163–82.

Carter, Chris (2019) ‘Hyper-realism in the Adventures of Tintin’, International Journal of Computer Graphics and Animation (IJCGA) 9, no. 4: 1–12.

Cohn, Jesse (2007) ‘Breaking the Frame: Anarchist Comics and Visual Culture’, Belphégor: Littérature Populaire et Culture Médiatique 6, no. 2: 1–27.

Coxhead, Gabriel (2007) ‘Tintin’s New Adventures’, The Guardian, 7 May. [Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2007/may/07/booksforchildrenandteenagers.features11]

Flood, Alison (2021) ‘Tintin heirs lose legal battle over artist's Edward Hopper mashups’, The Guardian, 12 May.

Forsdick, Charles (2005) ‘Exoticisng the Domestique: Bécassine, Brittany and the Beauty of the Dead’ in The Francophone Bande Dessinée, Charles Forsdick, Laurence Grove, Libbie McQuillan (eds), Amsterdam, Rodopi: 23-37.

Groensteen, Thierry (2012) ‘The Current State of French Comics Theory’, Scandinavian Journal of Comic Art (SJOCA) 1, no. 1: 111–22.

Horne, Jackie C. (2016) History and the Construction of the Child in Early British Children's Literature, London, Routledge.

Jenkins, Henry (2006) Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, New York, New York University Press.

Kelp-Stebbins, Katherine (2022) How Comics Travel: Publication, Translation, Radical Literacies, Columbus, The Ohio State University Press.

Køhlert, Frederik Byrn (2017) ‘Comics, Form, and Anarchy’, SubStance 46, no. 2 (issue 143): 11–32.

Larivière, Marc (2016) Tintin au théâtre, des aventures en adaptation, Thèse, Département de théâtre, Faculté des arts, Université d’Ottawa.

Levin, Gail (2021) ‘Edward Hopper’s Loneliness’, Social Research: An International Quarterly, 88:3, 747-770, London, Johns Hopkins University Press.

Lourie, Julia (1996) ‘Employment and Training Schemes for the Unemployed’, Research Paper 96/66, House of Commons Library, 21 May.

Mashiur, Zoheb (2021) ‘An Anarchist Re-telling of Tintin’, The Daily Star, 6 May. [Available at: https://www.thedailystar.net/book-reviews/news/anarchist-retelling-tintin-2089161]

McCarthy, Tom (2006) Tintin and the Secret of Literature, Granta.

Mountfort, Paul (2016) ‘Tintin as Spectacle: the Backstory of a Popular Franchise and Late Capital’, Journal of Asia-Pacific Pop Culture 1, no. 1: 37–56.

Osborn, Andrew (2001) ‘Forgers send Tintin to sleazy bars of Bangkok’, The Guardian, 16, 14 February.

Pasamonik, Didier (2003) ‘Tintin en Irak: Moulinsart piraté!’ [Available at: https://www.actuabd.com/Tintin-en-Irak-Moulinsart-pirate]

Plowright, Frank (n.d.) The Adventures of Tintin: Breaking Free (Review) [Available at: https://theslingsandarrows.com/the-adventures-of-tintin-breaking-free/]

Plowright, Frank (n.d.) Tintin in Thailand (Review) [Available at: https://theslingsandarrows.com/tintin-in-thailand/]

Rifflet, Philippe (2021) ‘Vous avez aimé les aventures de Tintin, vous allez adorer Pinpin et Milouz nés près de Lyon’, actuLyon, 3 January [Available at: https://actu.fr/auvergne-rhone-alpes/lyon_69123/vous-avez-aime-les-aventures-de-tintin-vous-allez-adorer-pinpin-et-milouz-nes-a-pres-de-lyon_38468362.html]

Rullier-Theuret, Françoise (2012) ‘Pastiches d’aujourd’hui : des batailles d’écriture’, Revue d’Histoire Littéraire de La France 112, no. 1: 119–32.

Samutina, Natalia (2016) ‘Fan fiction as world-building: transformative reception in crossover writing’, Continuum 30, no. 4: 433–50.

Špirk, Jaroslav (2014) Censorship, Indirect Translations and Non-translation: The (Fateful) Adventures of Czech Literature in 20th-century Portugal, Newcastle upon Tyne, Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Stringer, John Charles  (2019) Le Pastiche Tintin, 111 ‘Lost’ Tintins, Vol.1: Les Non-Aventures de Tintin, John C. Stringer.

Tornare, Alain-Jacques, Jean Rime and Martin Good (2013) Tintin à Fribourg – Dits et Interdits, Fribourg, Bibliothèque Cantonale et Universitaire.

Tosenberger, Catherine (2008) ‘Homosexuality at the Online Hogwarts: Harry Potter Slash Fanfiction’, Children's Literature 36: 185–207.

Tressell, Robert (1914) The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists, London, Grant Richards.

Wasseige, Alain de and Jan Bucquoy (2009) Jan Bucquoy Illustrated 1968-2009: from the Year of Eroticism to the Year of the Rat, Belgium: 100 titres.

Zarin, Babak (2017) ‘In the Restricted Section: Harry Potter and the Unauthorized Sagas’, Elon Law Review 9, no. 2: 459–87.


[1] This French-language website styles itself as follows: ‘The reference tool for collectors of BDs.’ Online for 25 years now, it is an excellent resource, encyclopædic and up-to-date.

[2] Elsewhere, Tornare (see Tornare, Rime, and Good 2013: 26) reckons that ‘the world of the alternative Tintin includes several hundreds of documents: albums, short stories, single pages, posters, advertisements, fake covers, and cartoons’.

[3] These words echo those of McCarthy (2006: 186): ‘Hergé’s work has been “détourned” so many times that a thorough survey of this would take up a whole book itself.’

[4] This study neglects the substantial work of Emmanuel Excoffier (Exem) – for reasons of space – on a technicality: his ten albums in the ‘Lanceval’ series portray Zinzin, ‘Tintin’s evil twin brother’. For an introduction to this series, see: https://tintinfanon.fandom.com/wiki/The_Adventures_of_Lanceval.

[5] Kelp-Stebbins’ opening chapter – ‘The Adventures of Three Readers in the World of Tintin' – is a useful introduction in English to the phenomenon of Tintin détourné.

[6] The present chapter excludes purely literary re-imaginings of Tintin – such as Frederic Tuten’s published novel Tintin in the New World, the 26 ‘Saint-Tin’ novels written by various authors and published between 2008 and 2021, or any online fanfiction (such as the 178 pieces currently available via https://archiveofourown.org/tags/Tintin%20(Comics)/works).

[7] These are: ‘Breaking Free’ (J. Daniels 1989), ‘Tintin en Thaïlande’ (Bud E. Weyzer 1999), and ‘Tintin contre Bat-Man’ (‘Hergi’ 1995).

[8] Translation: ‘The Adventures of Pinpin: Pinpin and the Mystery of the Blue Oysters.’

[9] For an appraisal of this ‘amateur’ film, see Philippe Rifflet (2021).

[11] Tintin is called a ‘freluquet’, ‘gredin’ is used constantly as an insult, and Cradock – at one point – exclaims, ‘Nom d’un loup-garou à la graisse de renoncule!’

[12] For what presents as a loving mise-en-scène of the Tintin universe, it is perhaps odd that this alternative patronym should be based on the French slang term ‘crado’, meaning ‘dirty’ or ‘sleazy’.

[13] Professor Tournesol’s name translates literally as ‘sunflower’. Here, he absurdly becomes – in literal translation – Professor Record-player.

[14] The original Italian suffix – fiore, signifying ‘flower’ – is replaced by the earthier French slang term ‘fion’, signifying ‘bum’/’ass’.

[15] In her first scene (45:04-46:28), in which she, Pinpin, Cradock, and General Parazar are being held at gunpoint by a border guard, Michka rolls her eyes – in mockery of machismo and her male colleagues’ inaction – and hands her bag to Parazar before knocking the guard out cold.

[18] See: The Adventures of Tintin, dir. Peter Bernasconi & Peter Hudecki (France: Ellipse-Nelvana, 1991).

[19] The ‘series’ ran to some 57 clips or episodes. Thanks to the Internet, the work extended beyond a tight circle of friends and continues to be available and popular globally via YouTube.

[20] The closest French-language ‘equivalent’ that I have been able to find is ‘Nanard et le branleur compulsif’. See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBaSHrKCyZQ.

[22] Examples of Marabout’s Hergé – Hopper Strip Art (from 2013-17) – can be found at his own website: http://www.art-marabout.com/herge-hopper/.

[23] See The Bird & Bird IP Team (2022: 244).

[24] Less well-known, Catalan artist Estève Fort had the idea of portraying Tintin in Hopper’s bar in 1992.

[25] Levin (2021: 766): ‘The space of Hopper’s café has been repopulated by many cultural icons, some real, some imaginary: Santa and his reindeer, the Simpsons, Disney ducks, and pop stars, including Marilyn Monroe, Humphrey Bogart, Elvis Presley, and James Dean, as well as political celebrities from Donald Trump to Bernie Sanders in his mittens.’

[27] On a marché sur la lune – lit. ‘We have walked on the moon’ – is known as Explorers on the Moon in the anglophone world. This scatological corruption translates literally as ‘We have taken a shit on the moon’.

[28] Other punning titles include Tintin au Bongo (Tintin on the Bongo) and Tintin est la Vénus de Milou (Tintin is the Venus de Milou).

[29] The length of fake Tintin stories varies. Some are told in a few pages, whereas others follow Hergé’s standard 62-page album format.

[30] On the cover of Le Jour Viendra – a seven-page ‘story’ produced for the Front national – Tintin appears to be giving a Nazi salute, while Haddock holds a white-supremacist flag.

[31] For a short critique of this ‘pirate’, see Didier Pasamonik (2003).

[32] This re-organisation can be somewhat confusing. Tintin seems to play the roles of six different characters in Tintin en Irak: as Tornare (see Tornare, Rime, and Good 2013: 33) has observed, Tintin is an opponent of the Iraqi regime (in 1991), an adviser to George W. Bush (in 2002), but also a French human shield (in 2003). In addition, he is – as himself – a reporter for TVM (Youssouf 2003: 7), a UN observer/inspector (ibid.: 12). Bizarrely, he also incarnates French politician Dominique de Villepin in Africa (ibid.: 32). Apart from in the latter role, Tintin is true to his Hergean image: he shows compassion for the people of Iraq (ibid.: 30), he resists anti-semitism as ‘intolerable’ – ‘whether on the part of an extreme-right supporter or that of a pro-Palestine supporter’ (ibid.: 49), and he articulates the fear – implicit in Tintin et les Picaros – that the fall of one dictatorship may herald only some new system of oppression (ibid.: 60).

[33] This assessment is worth reviewing, not least because the pirate Tintin praised by Tornare – namely, L’Énigme du 3e message – uses many of the same excerpts, and manipulates them similarly, as Les Harpes de Greenmore. For example, the layout of the opening page of Les Harpes de Greenmore resembles almost exactly parts of pages 8 and 9 in L’Énigme du 3e message.

[34] The songs are: ‘Erin Go Bragh’, ‘Henry Joy’, ‘My Green Valleys’, ‘Oró, Sé Do Bheatha 'Bhaile’, ‘Who Fears to Speak of Easter Week?’, ‘James Connolly’, ‘3rd West Cork Brigade’, ‘Four Green Fields’, ‘The Men Behind the Wire’, ‘Little Armalite’, ‘On the Blanket’, ‘Ten Brave Irishmen’, ‘Say Hello to the Provos’, ‘A Soldier’s Song’.

[35] Football graffiti (Daniels 1989: 7) and a reference to Hampstead (ibid.: 26) situate the story more precisely in London.

[36] From Lourie (1996: 57): ‘Job Training Scheme (JTS) - ran from July 1985 to September 1988 when it was replaced by Employment Training. The scheme provided training for unemployed people, mainly through off-the-job courses at Skill-centres and further education colleges. The courses lasted from 3 to 12 months and trainees received an allowance of £38 a week if single or £62.70 if they had an adult dependant. Trainees had to be 18 or over and to have been away from full-time education for at least two years.’

[37] Emilie’s naked black body is glorified in a full-page portrait (ibid.: 20). It is erotic in form and design – with attention to ample breasts, erect nipples, shaved pubic hair, and the cliché of skin glistening with droplets of water. In contrast, her face and hair are as offensively caricatural and racist as Hergé’s portrayal of black people in Tintin in the Congo.

[38] This might be interpreted as knowing recognition of growing globalisation and mass-media, hinting at meta-textual and transmedia themes of reproduction and distribution.

[39] With some humour, this identification with British pop culture modernises Tintin – as it eclipses Castafiore’s pet aria from Faust – whilst underlining his singularity.

[40] As part of her act, Castafiore puts Haddock’s pipe into her vagina before popping it back in his mouth.

[41] On the opening page, Tintin is seen staggering home after an all-night drinking session. It is tempting, in this light, to read the album’s title as a gag – the idiomatic expression ‘boire en suisse’ [to drink as a Swiss] means ‘to drink alone’.

[42] Moreover, can we imagine that one intended function of this text is to arouse the reader? If not, it is difficult to justify classifying it as pornography, known in France as ‘literature read with one hand’.

[43] The fact that Tintin is portrayed as having parents itself radically restores sex to his world. In the event, Tintin is seen to be a mummy’s boy. Whilst restoring Tintin’s Belgian roots, his father – whose language reveals him to be from Brussels – immediately ‘disinherits’ Tintin (Efdé 1976: 25).

[44] Review by Frank Plowright – see: http://theslingsandarrows.com/tintin-in-thailand/.

[45] Tournesol asks a prostitute to put a condom on him before – he says – ‘we move on to the Siamese wheel barrow’. In the next panel, a reclining Captain Haddock appears to be receiving oral sex from another prostitute.

[47] For a timely discussion and problematisation of the so-called ‘universality’ of Tintin, see Kelp-Stebbins (2022: 9-12).

[48] This was kindly verified by Professor of Thai Studies at the University of Leeds, Martin Seeger.

[49] Whilst crudely questioning Tintin’s sexuality, this hints at the notion that Tintin himself was a copy, of sorts, of another ‘cartoon’ character. Charles Forsdick (2005: 23): ‘A popular conception of Bécassine – seasoned traveller, adventurer seeming to thrive on regular crises – is that she is Tintin in drag, with a coiffe instead of a quiff.’

[50] Bucquoy’s La Vie sexuelle de Tintin is priced at 50 euros. Given the ‘eye-watering price tags’ of Tintin merchandise (Mountfort 2016: 50-51), this itself perhaps constitutes a parody of the pricing – and fetishistic commodification – of Tintin paraphernalia.

[51] Tornare (see Tornare, Rime, and Good 2013: 37) explains: ‘La Vie sexuelle de Tintin is best known in the form of a special edition (no 1) of the Bédé X.’ Bédé X was an erotic BD popular in the 1980s and 90s.

[52] In other works, he has explored the sex life of Astérix (a 1993 BD), Lucky Luke (another 1993 BD), and the Belgians (an autobiographical film released in 1994). For Bucquoy’s account of his engagement with bandes dessinées, see Wasseige and Bucquoy (2009).

[53] Original: ‘Ah!... C’est vraiment super cool!... Les fans seraient stonnés s’ils connaissaient ça.’

[54] Original: ‘Oh! Oui! La tronche à Stéphane Steeman!’

[56] This – and the much speedier translation of Burns’ Nitnit Trilogy into French – demonstrates the demand in the francophone world for alternative Tintins in translation. We might view this as unsurprising, given that Tintin’s original language – and that of his original fanbase – is French.

[57] Proportionally, the low demand for alternative Tintins in translation into English calls solely for speculation.

[58] This is a problematic assessment, on a number of levels… The implication that quality is poor because it was translated in Thailand is potentially offensive. Without reference to the source text, the reviewer can only hypothesise about ‘sense’ – indeed, the non sequitur is a Hergean tool that is reprised here for the purposes of humour (as it is repeatedly deployed – in the source text – owing to the Professor’s deafness). As ‘racist epithets’ are present in the source text, the presence of target-text ‘equivalents’ is unsurprising. It is true, however, and problematic that the translation is arguably even more offensive than the original in its vocabulary choice.

[59] Pif le chien was the comic creation – in post-war France – of José Carbrero Arnal. See: https://www.lambiek.net/magazines/vaillant.htm.

[60] In the original, the pages are in correct numerical order but the panels on pages 17 and 18 have been mixed up. It is possible that this was a deliberate ‘mistake’, by way of a prank. Nonetheless, the translator has elected – understandably – to ‘correct’ this.

[61] A final, but very contemporary, example of fan or grassroots appropriation of Tintin: In his ongoing blog devoted to imagining Tintin characters in Star Wars (in his own ‘Star Wars vs Tintin’ mash-up) Belgian artist Fred Giet (aka Gilderic) has added the character ‘Haddock Kenobi’. See: https://gilderic.com/2022/07/02/haddock-kenobi-star-wars-vs-tintin/.

About the author(s)

Terry Bradford teaches in the French Department and with the Centre for Translation Studies at the University of Leeds, GB. Having worked as a jobbing translator on the side since 2001, he has – in recent years – begun focusing on literary translation (as well as the translation of song and bande-dessinées).

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©inTRAlinea & Terry Bradford (2023).
"Tintin Re-imagined and Re-purposed: What Happens When Tintin Is Unleashed from Hergé?"
inTRAlinea Special Issue: Reimagining Comics - The Translation and Localization of Visual Narratives
Edited by: Michał Borodo
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Stable URL: https://www.intralinea.org/specials/article/2635

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