The largest exhibit of course was for Hergé’s TinTin comics, which the museum was originally going to be dedicated solely to, before Hergé himself convinced the other stakeholders to expand the museum’s focus to the entire Belgian Comics industry. Several plaques provided quite a good explanation about the appeal of the TinTin character, a red-headed teenager with a tuft of hair that sticks straight up in the air who travels the world as a reporter and adventurer. Very few lines or details are used in drawing TinTin and his face is usually relatively expressionless, allowing him to be a stand-in for the reader. Meanwhile his innumerable costumes and disguises lets him take on any role, nationality or occupation. Accordingly, as the exhibit puts it, Tintin is nobody and everyman at the same time. Tintin’s exploits include chasing thieves and spies, flying a plane, riding a motorcycle and a horse, deep-sea diving, swashbuckling and even traveling to the moon.
Tintin interacts with a slew of other friends and adversaries. His closest companions are his little white dog aptly named Snowy and the volatile seafaring Captain Haddock. Tintin also frequently encounters the absent-minded Professor Calculus, the bumbling police detectives Thompson and Thomson, and the opera singer Bianca Castafiore. Some of his adversaries include the evil Rastapopoulos and Doctor Mueller. A comprehensive chart maps out all the characters and which TinTin comic books they appear in. There were 24 comic albums published between 1929-1976 in 70 different languages with over 200 million copies sold. The stories span many genres with elements of fantasy, mystery, political thrillers, and science fiction, often providing satire and political or cultural commentary.
In addition to the titles that we had seen in the museum exhibits, the souvenir shop in the Belgian Comic Strip Centre contained some interesting books including comics about Karl Marx, Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud and even Weegee, the New York crime photographer of the 1930s and 40s. Tintin books were available in a multitude of languages including ones featuring Chinese characters. There were so many miniatures and figures in the gift shop that we dropped our plans to next visit MOOF, the Museum of Original Figurines.