Herge’s Adventures of Tintin: From Leeds Beckett to Cumbria University... and beyond...
I am a lifelong fan of Tintin – that ginger-quiffed, always-young, intrepid reporter who travelled the world, righted wrongs, battled dictators, foiled corrupt government plots, and made me want to do the same.
Of course, I couldn’t. After all, I am not Tintin. Or am I? The reason I ask is that his creator, Georges Remi (aka Herge) believed that Tintin was for everyone, and if that was the case, then everyone could be Tintin. Perhaps Tintin is you, too...
I started reading the stories as a kid growing up in the Welsh valleys. Surrounded by coal mines, I saw in Tintin an adventurer who, over the course of 62-pages, could take me to Tibet, the South China Seas, the North Pole, and even to the moon and back. And I loved him. I also loved his companions, the seafaring Captain Haddock, the brilliant Professor Cuthbert Calculus, Thomson and Thompson the inept policemen, and, of course, Snowy, Tintin’s brave best friend and constant companion. The adventures inspired me to do my own travelling, to help the underdog, and helped me understand the values of friendship.
It was with great pleasure that in June 2018, Leeds Beckett University staged a two-day international academic conference all about Tintin. It was fab. Really thought provoking and a stimulating experience! We had terrific guest lecturers delivering their conference papers, and two keynote speakers – Professor Laurence Grove (Glasgow University) and Mr Michael Farr (the world’s leading Tintinologist) – to talk and celebrate about all things Tintin. We had help from the Herge Foundation, the Tintin Shop in London, and even the Belgian Tourist Information Board chipped in with support. I wish you had been there, too.
To help support the event, we had an Exhibition – kindly agreed by Professor Simon Morris, Director of Research in Leeds Beckett’s School of Art, Architecture and Design – and this was a potted history of Tintin and his creator, Herge. With the fine help of post-graduate student, Zara Worth, the exhibition looked splendid.
It was with a great surprise, then, to find that the Exhibition had upped sticks and moved to Cumbria University for three months. This is great news – it means that our links with Cumbria University are cemented even further, and that more people can get to read and study about Tintin. Perhaps Tintin will return to Leeds Beckett one day – if it does, I shall let you know!
The Exhibition is an overview of Tintin, with some elements looking at the other work of Herge. People have asked “Why study Tintin?” It is a good question to ask. For me, Tintin is as important a literary creation of the 20th Century as Sherlock Holmes was to the 19th Century and Harry Potter is to the 21st. The stories are not simple adventures. They create worlds of mystery, danger, intrigue, thrills, spills, car chases, mistaken identities, and all that kind of stuff. But at their heart they are about friendship, about doing the right thing, about being kind. But there is even more to them than this. They deal with themes of masculinity, politics, science, war… and, of course, these are only a few reasons as to why they should be studied. The language used, the artwork itself, their influences on popular culture and much more are all there to be seen and studied. This is why Tintin is so important and relevant to today as it has ever been.
So what next for Tintin and his journey to the City of the Golden Owls and beyond to Cumbria? Well, who knows as far as the Exhibition is concerned. Perhaps it will come back to Leeds Beckett have another run within the School of Art, Architecture & Design exhibition space. But in the meantime you do have a chance to read some of the Conference papers – the prestigious European Comic Art Journal have agreed to donate one of their issues over to a celebration of Tintin and the Conference, which will be out sometime in late-2019... which is just in time to celebrate Tintin’s 90th birthday!
But our research work at Leeds Beckett doesn’t stop there. The Northern Film School prides itself on the films its students and staff make. But we also do other stuff. Tintin is the first in a hopefully long and expanding line of exhibitions, conferences, and other work we have planned. What other stuff, you might ask... Well, if all goes according to plan, and everything gets agreed, Leeds Beckett University will host an exhibition about Gender in Contemporary Horror Films, TV and Other Media as a tie in event for a publication co-authored by Professor Robert Shail, Dr Sam Holland and I through Emerald Publishers. And... we may even programme a conference about The Mighty Jason Statham, British film superstar, as Prof Rob Shail and I act as editors for a new book, out soon from Manchester University Press called Crank it up! Jason Statham – Star! which examines the cultural phenomenon of this terrific British actor. In the immortal words of one of his characters, Chev Chelios... “Chicken and broccoli!”
So – I hope that you have enjoyed this blog-thing. I don’t know if you’d be able to get to Cumbria University to see the Exhibition, but if you don’t, why not go back and take another look – or even a first-time one – at the brilliance of Herge and his wonderful creation Tintin. After all, Tintin could be you. I do know one thing is for certain...
Tintin c’est moi!
Steve is Reader in Film at Northern Film School. He loves science fiction, horror, Doctor Who, Status Quo, Tintin, Jason Statham, James Bond, Viz Magazine, Music Hall, and The Carry On Films.