Plotting Tintin’s next move

2014-06-18 00:00

BRUSSELS — After sending Tintin to Hollywood and building a private museum to the glory of his creator Hergé, the couple overseeing the boy hero’s legacy are plotting their next move.

“Our work is to educate people, inform people,” said Nick Rodwell, who married Hergé’s widow Fanny Vlamynck about a decade ago.

“We’re creating a Tintin brand that lies somewhere between graphic novel and contemporary art,” Rodwell added in a rare interview inside the Louvain-la-Neuve museum that he and Vlamynck built five years ago.

“If I die tomorrow I’ll know the work has found its right place.”

Designed by Pritzker prize-winning architect Christian de Portzamparc, and opened in the leafy new university town of Louvain-la-Neuve, some 20 kilometres outside Brussels, the museum has about 80 000 visitors a year.

“Schools, foreigners from across the world, Tintinophiles and Tintinologists,” Rodwell said of the visitors.

“It was a huge investment but it’s given us credibility,” he said of the 15-million-euro project. “Museums don’t make money but we break even.”

The museum is largely dedicated to Hergé’s artistic skill, with a restaurant and quality memento shop — more art-house for adults than comic-strip fantasy for children, a vision that seems to be paying off.

As Tintin’s fame spreads, Hergé’s original drawings are selling like hot cakes at auction. A double-page ink by the Belgian artist from 1937 was going for 2,1 million euros in Paris late last month.

But with the museum housing a mere 10% of his legacy, the couple are hoping to organise temporary shows elsewhere, notably at the Cheverny castle in France’s Loire valley, which inspired the Moulinsart castle in the original work.

The fame of the intrepid boy reporter with the quiff, a children’s bedside classic in much of Europe, spread when Steven Spielberg directed the Hollywood blockbuster The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, in 2011. The film was co-produced with Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson.

It was “gigantic, the best promotion possible” for Tintin, Rodwell said.

Jackson is planning a sequel, he said, but is currently tied up with The Hobbit until 2017 and “has asked for time”.

Should he fail to release a new Tintin movie within five or seven years of the last one, “we will recover the rights”.

Hergé, whose real name was Georges Remi, and was one of Belgium’s most beloved sons, died childless in 1983 at the age of 75, leaving his estate to Vlamynck, a colouring artist 28 years his junior.

She has so far stuck steadfastly to Hergé’s wishes not to hand over the boy hero to another, but Rodwell said the couple need to plan for January 1, 2054, when the copyright will become public domain.

“We must release a new album in 2053, either to extend the copyright, as was the case with Mickey Mouse, or to open up the right path for those who want to continue Tintin’s adventures,” he said.

— Sapa-AFP

• THE Adventures of Tintin, a series of comic albums created by Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi, who wrote under the pen name Hergé, is one of the most popular European comics of the 20th century.

By the time of the centenary since Hergé’s birth, in 2007, Tintin had been published in more than 70 languages, with sales of more than 200 million copies.

• The series first appeared in French on January 10, 1929, in Le Petit Vingtième, a youth supplement to the Belgian newspaper Le Vingtième Siècle.

The success of the series saw the serialised strips published in Belgium’s leading newspaper, Le Soir, and spun into a successful Tintin magazine. In 1950, Hergé created Studios Hergé, which produced the canonical series of 24 Tintin albums.

The Adventures of Tintin have been adapted for radio, television, theatre and film.

• Characters include the hero Tintin, a young Belgian reporter, who is aided by his faithful fox terrier dog Snowy; brash and cynical Captain Haddock; highly intelligent but hearing-impaired Professor Calculus; incompetent detectives Thomson and Thompson; and the opera diva Bianca Castafiore.

— Wikipedia.

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