Tintin in the land of Israel

Fans can get reacquainted with the comic-book hero during 1-day convention at Cartoon and Comic Museum in Holon.

CARTOONIST MICHEL KICHKA’S interpretation of an older Tintin (photo credit: Michel Kichka)
CARTOONIST MICHEL KICHKA’S interpretation of an older Tintin
(photo credit: Michel Kichka)
China, Egypt, Tibet, Peru and the moon – these are but a few of Tintin’s most memorable destinations as he has traveled the world, facing danger and intrigue with his trusty white terrier, Snowy. Today, the eternally fresh-faced Belgian journalist can add one more stop to his never-ending explorations: Israel.
The Cartoon and Comic Museum in Holon, in conjunction with the Belgian Embassy, is holding a tribute to Tintin, “From Herge to Spielberg.” Michel Kichka, an illustrator and cartoonist who made aliya from Belgium in 1974, will moderate the day-long event. Kichka, also a lecturer in visual arts at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, hopes that the ceremony, like the movie released by Spielberg in 2011, will bring Tintin back into the consciousness of today’s youth.
The main focus of the various sessions will be on Georges Remi, Tintin’s creator. Remi, a comics artist and illustrator commonly known by his pen name, Herge, introduced the character of Tintin, a teenaged Belgian journalist with a penchant for adventure, in 1929. Herge, who had from a young age taken to comics and illustration, brought readers of all ages to every corner of the world.
Over the years, admirers have met Tintin in many forms. First, in Herge’s serial comic strip in Belgium’s Le Petit Vingtième, which were soon after published as adventure books. The publication was shut down following the Nazi occupation of Belgium, incidentally interrupting what was Tintin’s adventure into then British Mandate Palestine, in The Land of Black Gold.
The story, which featured Tintin’s run-in with members of the Irgun after docking in Haifa, was eventually changed once the State of Israel was declared, and has since taken place in the fictional Arab country of Khemed.
It was during the Nazi Occupation that Herge began drawing his famous character for Le Soir, Belgium’s most popular French-language daily newspaper, which after the occupation was known to be closely associated with the Nazi regime. Though Tintin’s adventures took a turn away from current events, the comic was not without controversy.
Published in 1941, The Shooting Star featured Tintin in a race against American explorers to find a meteorite that has fallen to earth. At one point, the comic focuses on two men dressed in distinctly Jewish garb, discussing the end of the world. One of the men, who are both drawn with something of an evil appearance, states that at least when the world ends, he will no longer owe money to his creditors. Subsequent publications of The Shooting Star have been altered to omit these two characters, but their existence has led critics to accuse Herge of anti-Semitism.
Israelis may be most familiar with Tintin’s television persona in The Adventures of Tin Tin, which enjoyed immense popularity as it ran in syndication in the early 1990s. Now, fans have the chance to become reacquainted with Tin Tin and his creator thanks to one of their own – Kichka.
KICHKA SEES the discussion of Herge’s work as a forum on the state of the world at large, particularly through the lens of political correctness. A syndicate editorial cartoonist for publications such as France’s Le Monde, Kichka’s illustrations do not shy away from hot button issues, such as the Arab Spring and European politics. He is also a member of Cartooning for Peace, which Kichka says are for cartoonists from all over the world.
“The idea is to respect other religions, but not to be politically correct, not to just be provocative,” he says.
Kichka, the son of Holocaust survivors, recently published an autobiographical graphic novel, based on not only his story he says, but the story of his entire generation – children who grew up with their parents’ silence about the Holocaust. The novel has been well-received in France, Belgium and Switzerland.
“There is humor,” Kichka notes. “It’s very different, very emotional. I thought about it a long time, what to say and how to say it.” He hopes that it will be published this year in Hebrew.
The ceremony will feature two Belgian experts on Herge, a panel of wellknown Israeli comic artists, including Kichka himself, and a screening of S p i e l b e r g ’ s recent film, The Adventures of Tintin. One of the invited speakers, Daniel Covrer, an expert on Herge and an arts reporter for Le Soir, will speak about one the most controversial episodes in Tintin’s history – Tintin in the Congo.
In the Congo, Tintin faces wild animals, the local African population, and diamond smugglers after being sent on assignment to report on the political situation. The comic was well-received when published in 1931, but eventually faced criticism for its depiction of animal cruelty and big game hunting, and most recently, for its depiction of the local Congolese people.
Since 2007, numerous public complaints have been leveled against the comic for its portrayal of African characters as patronizing and racist. As a result, many book stores chose to move that particular comic out of the children’s section and into the adult graphic novel section, with a warning about its contents.
These moves have drawn mixed reactions, including from Kichka.
“You can’t come 80 years after the comic was written and complain about what was then,” Kichka says. “You have to know how to read a book. You are not born a tolerant person, you need to receive an education in it.”
Kichka, who organized a more formal celebration of the 100th anniversary of Herge’s birth in 2007, hopes that today’s events, which are free, will draw artists, students, and anyone who might be interested in the story behind the fictional young Belgian reporter whose travels around the world introduced readers to new places and cultures.
In addition to the two Belgian speakers, five Israeli artists will also speak. Chanan Kaminski will address Tintin in film, Jacques Fima will speak about his episode in Palestine and Uri Fink will discuss his work translating the comics into Hebrew. Shay Charka’s talk will be on Herge’s legacy, and Kichka will discuss the “Hijacking of Herge.” There will also be a screening of a documentary on Tintin, and finally, the screening of his newest movie.
‘From Herge to Spielberg’ runs today at the Holon Mediatechque from 1- 8 p.m. The event is open to the public. Admission is free. Visit www.cartoon.org.il to reserve a ticket for the film screening, and to get more details on the conference.