Tintin Vs Asterix: Why Spielberg Chose The Wrong Comic Book Hero

Tintin's racist, anti-Semitic and has a penchant for killing animals, what was Spielberg thinking? Here's why he should have chosen Asterix for his movie.
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Tintin's racist, anti-Semitic and has a penchant for killing animals, what was Spielberg thinking? Here's why he should have chosen Asterix for his movie.

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Oh Steven, you’ve gone and lost your mojo, haven’t you?  First you totally screwed up with that last Indy film.  I mean; the fridge in the nuclear blast?  The aliens??  (And it’s probably best if we don’t talk about Shia Le Beouf swinging through trees…)

Then there’s Terra Nova, the most expensive TV series ever.  Yeah, the dinosaurs are cool, but the people?  I’d happily stand by and watch any of the Shannon family get eaten alive.

Now there’s Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn, not universally panned but not well liked either.  Even fans of the spunk-quiffed hack don’t really like it, but then they’ve always been a serious bunch and they, like you, chose the wrong comic book character.  You both should have gone for Asterix instead, you know why?  He’s just far more fun.

I say comic book, but that’s a disservice to both; I believe the accepted term for Franco-Belgium comics is bande dessineé (literally drawn strips) and when it comes to comics you can’t get more Frano-Belgium than Asterix and Tintin.

Tintin was first created by Georges Prosper Remi, better known as Hergé, for the conservative Catholic newspaper Le XXe Siècle in 1929.  Asterix was born 30 years later, a co-creation between writer René Goscinny and artist Albert Uderzo, who continued writing the stories following his partner’s death in 1977.

In the decades since, like Coke or Pepsi, Marvel or DC, City or United people tend to have grown up favouring one, often with profound dislike for the other.  When asked even non-fanatics will be able to explain which is their favourite and why.  You’ve gone for Tintin, but for me Asterix wins hands down.

I avidly collected all the books as a kid and I admit I dabbled with Tintin occasionally.  Sure the stories looked good, but there just wasn’t the same joie de vivre as was on offer in Asterix.

To me, Tintin books are like an attractive, immaculately turned out woman whom you realise after a few minutes’ conversation is, while clearly intelligent, actually a little dull.  She doesn’t drink.  She doesn’t laugh.

Asterix on the other hand is a different kind of date, attractive in another kind of way.  This lady also knows how to dress but in her own style.  She’s devil-may-care and always has a smile on her face yet her anarchic personality belies wit and deep intelligence; her conversation is to die for and every so often she takes a swig of ‘magic potion’.

If you’re still not convinced that Asterix nixes Tintin, think on this: The Frenchman has his own theme park, the Belgian doesn’t.

What’s more, talk to the Tintin-lady for any real length of time and you realise that not only is she a little bit dull but, well, she’s a little bit racist too…

Hergé’s original depiction of the native Congolese in Tintin in the Congo has caused controversy for years and recently over here in the United Kingdom the Commission for Racial Equality even tried to get the book banned (it’s no longer available in kids’ sections).

In the same book Tintin kills several antelope, stones a buffalo and tops it all off by blowing up a rhinoceros using dynamite.  You just wouldn’t have to put up with that kind of shit on a date with Asterix-lady.

OK, Tintin in the Congo could be put down to the attitudes of the time, but along side the racism and the decidedly lax attitude to animal welfare there’s also anti-Semitism.  The worst example of which was the depiction of Jews in The Shooting Star which Hergé wrote for the pro-Nazi Le Soir newspaper in occupied Belgium in 1941.  After the war he was accused of being a collaborator to which his defence was he was just doing his job or, to put it another way, he was simply following orders.

To be blunt this was not work that wasn’t openly anti-Nazi (a position I’m sure many were forced to take for their own safety) it was work that was both virulently anti-Semitic and produced for a pro-Nazi newspaper.  In later years Hergé admitted that at the time he thought democracy had been a disappointment and that a “new order” was the way forward.

Surely this isn’t news to you, Steven?  It’s astonishing that you of all people are happy to stand by and watch the total airbrushing from history of this aspect of Tintin’s past.

However, gloss over the racism and propaganda, which has been edited out of modern editions of the titles and Tintin fans argue that Hergé crafted a more visually satisfying body of work.  I get that the lingne claire style he developed has some aesthetic value but it’s simplistic when compared to the visually brighter and busier look of the Asterix books which are bursting with subtle sight gags.

The dialogue in Asterix is also far richer, thanks to Goscinny’s subtle and genuinely funny scripts (though translators Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge must get a nod for their work on the English editions).  In fact, such is the quality of Goscinny’s writing that his other works Lucky Luke and Iznougod, are both superior to Tintin, despite being little known in the UK.

“Oh, but Tintin’s travelled the world,” his acolytes will tell you.  Yes, to made-up places like Syldavia and San Theodoros.  OK, he went to Egypt, but it was Obelix who destroyed part of the Sphinx’s nose and who gave the British tea?  Asterix, By Toutatis!

If you’re still not convinced that Asterix nixes Tintin, think on this: The Frenchman has his own theme park, the Belgian doesn’t.  That tells you all you need to know.

I’m sure, if they’ve actually read this far, the Tintin fans out there won’t be too happy with what I’ve written, but d’ya know what?  Give me a big nose and some wild boar because I’m changing my name to Icouldntgiveafux.

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