Thursday 24 October 2013

New Tintin in 2052. No, Not the Peter Jackson Movie.

Tintin's final appearance in the unfinished Tintin and Alph-Art.

All my Tintinophile life I've been thinking that there was never going to be any new Tintin album. Ever. And I was okay with that. How couldn't I be? I was born two years after Hergé's death, and there was never a doubt in my mind that The Adventures of Tintin were over for good.
So I never asked myself: do I want another Tintin album?
That changed this past Monday, when a Nick Rodwell (head of Moulinsart, the society which owns all Tintin rights) interview was published in Le Monde and Le Soir. In that interview, for the first time ever, Nick Rodwell evokes the possibility of a new Tintin album. In 2052.

Do I want it? How could I not want a new Tintin story, being the huge Tintin fan that I am? I always want more Tintin. More Tintin is good, right? Despite Hergé's wish that there shouldn't be any new comic book featuring the Belgian reporter after his death, I can't help but want more.
So why am I not excited by this news? Why a new Tintin story in 2052? Why this announcement now? Those are three different questions, and each one of them deserves a specific answer.

1) Why a new authorized Tintin story in 2052
One thing in particular took me off guard, as it did for fellow Tintinophiles who I've had discussions on the matter with: it seems strange for Nick Rodwell and Fanny (Hergé's widow) to allow a new, non-Hergé written, Tintin story. Just the idea is mind-blowing for anyone who has some knowledge of the way Hergé's beneficiaries are dealing with the legacy (more on it here).
Why would they even do that? Nick Rodwell claims that it is purely to protect and promote the work Hergé created, before Tintin enters public domain. In 2053. Just one year later. But is an authorized Tintin story in 2052 going to prevent people writing Tintin stories of their own in 2053? Somehow I don't think so. Moulinsart is probably just hoping everyone will focus on the authorized 2052 story, and will not pay attention to any that might follow in 2053.
What the interview reveals is that, despite what you may believe at first glance, this 2052 authorized story may not actually be a comic book. The interview also features Benoît Mouchart, the new editorial manager of Casterman (the publisher of Tintin albums in French language since 1934); and it looks like even Nick Rodwell and Benoît Mouchart aren't sure what should happen in 2052. Nick Rodwell wants a new album or a movie. The Casterman manager would like to see a novel, or a Captain Haddock spin-off.

Nick Rodwell
2) Why this announcement now
Frankly, I'm confused. This is all so hypothetical. 2052? The 39-years-from-now 2052, is that the same one we're talking about? Because that certainly seems like a long way out. A lot of things can happen in 39 years. By the way, has the writer of this 2052 Tintin story been born yet? Maybe not. What will be the focus of the story? No one knows, I'm guessing. Not even the head of Moulinsart. Will someone be up to the task in the early 2050s, when it's time to write the first original authorized Tintin material in over 70 years? Will it be good enough to be released? What if it's terrible? Would Casterman still publish a bad Tintin comic-book? Oh! Will Casterman still exist in 2052?
So I ask again: why? The 2052 news can't be the reason why Nick Rodwell agreed to this interview. Otherwise, I would imagine he would have came more prepared on the subject.
No, there must be something else. And that something else is indeed mentioned in the interview: after years of growing tensions between Casterman and Moulinsart, it seems that the two of them are making up: Casterman will become a sponsor for the less-than-perfect Hergé Museum starting next year; a new book about The Cigars of the Pharaoh, co-published by the two companies, will be released next year; there's even talk of a possible Jo, Zette & Jocko (Hergé's other adventure comic-book series) movie in the works.

The Hergé Museum.

The 2052 part was probably not supposed to come up in the interview. Indeed, when you look at the official press release (in French), there is no mention of the 2052 scoop.
By the way, why not wait for Tintin's 85th birthday to announce something like that? That's in less than three months (10th January) and would have been a perfect date to announce a Moulinsart/Casterman reconciliation.
I believed for a brief moment that this weird timing was all about the new Asterix album (Asterix and the Picts, the first one not drawn or written by Albert Uderzo) being published this week. But no. That could not be it. That would have been too ingenious, coming from from Moulinsart. Not wise, just ingenious.
I fear the real answer is very simple: Moulinsart doesn't know how to communicate, and Nick Rodwell shouldn't have spilled the beans on the borderline-insane 2052 plan.

3) Why I am not excited
This is another ridiculous move from Moulinsart, complete with a very badly handled announcement. This isn't that surprising, considering who we're dealing with, but it still hurts my little Tintinophile's heart.
The Moulinsart/Casterman agreement isn't bad news. I will even say it's a positive thing. But because the 2052 bomb was thrown out in the interview, all people will get from it was that there could be a new authorized Tintin book in about 40 years (just look: I've written a whole editorial about it). This is a perfect example of bad communication.
Take notes, people. Observe what Moulinsart is doing. And do just the opposite. You should be perfectly fine.
Weirdly, this messy announcement has taught me something about myself: Yes, I want new Tintin stories. Even if a new Tintin book will probably never reach the brilliance of Hergé's work, I'm not against it. It could be fun to watch these beloved characters go on original adventures (as long as they respect the source material). It can be different - I would go as far as saying that it must be different. It would be a new beginning for Tintin. A reboot, if you like. Just like Batman is rebooted every five years. Or how Sherlock Holmes is re-imagined every now and then.
To me, that's what the Steven Spielberg film was: a new take on the world created by Hergé.

Tintin creator Hergé.

Sadly, the 2052 story doesn't say 'reboot' to me. It's so hypothetical, so cynical, so weird that it doesn't feel real, nor justified. Just one year before it falls into public domain; who does that? It adds to my frustration that I may not even be alive by the time this proposed album/movie/novel (what the heck, maybe it could be a breakfast cereal commercial?) is finally released.
In the end, this announcement is probably nothing more than an announcement. Nothing is set in stone. Anything could happen, but it's highly probable nothing will.
Give me something real, Moulinsart; something fresh, and I'll be interested. Like I'm interested right now in the upcoming Peter Jackson movie (which by the way, is sounding less and less likely to happen - via /Film).
Tintin is forever Hergé's creation (just like Sherlock Holmes is forever linked to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle). I don't think anyone who'll come after him can reach the quality of the comic books he gave us. Yet, for me, a new Tintin album could be exciting. Just not the way it was sold to us.
If someone ever comes up with a good idea for a Tintin album, why not? As long as the new person makes it is own, and doesn't try to copy the master. Otherwise, in my mind, he would miserably fail. But you can't schedule a new story. Comic book is a form of Art, it's not Science. You can't publish a Tintin album because you want to protect a trademark. That's not what Tintin should become, and that's why I'm not excited.

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