The Adventures of Herg‚

By MICHAEL FARR

The Adventures of Herg‚ is a follow-up volume to Michael Farr’s Tintin: The Complete Companion (2001). The revelatory first book laid bare the genesis of a globally beloved comic-book hero, the boy reporter called Tintin, created by the Belgian artist known as Herg‚ (born Georges Remi); the current project seeks to unwrap the artist himself. But success is more problematical for Farr’s second trip to the Herg‚ well, for a number of reasons. First, anyone expecting a complete, linear biography of Herg‚ is doomed to disappointment. Instead, these are isolated essays based on “seven key aspects” of Herg‚’s life, such as “A Passion for Art” and “Be Prepared: A Lifelong Boy Scout.” This scattershot approach results in a diffuse repetitiveness (we hear more than once that Tintin’s moon landing preceded Neil Armstrong’s) and occasional confusion of well-known facts and recondite references. But the main hurdles to a truly deep and satisfying portrait of Herg‚ are the subject’s own reclusiveness and his work-bound, largely unadventurous life. Farr — granted access to many papers and Herg‚ acquaintances — does his best to penetrate the barriers the artist erected. Herg‚ had only two real “adventures” in his life: the fallout surrounding his seeming collaboration with the Nazis during WWII and his interrupted friendship with a Chinese artist named Chang Chong-chen. Farr covers both of these issues in good depth, and the latter becomes the emotional high point of Herg‚’s life story. But aside from these two “crises,” the artist, like so many creators, lived an outwardly bland life defined by his dreams. And it’s hard to turn those interior moments into a rousing chronicle. Nonetheless, with its slew of intriguing photos and raw artwork, this book still offers at least a teasing glimpse into the life of one of the 20th century’s most talented comics creators.
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