The nickname 'Hergé' (pronounce it Air-j-hey) comes from his initial. His real name was Georges Remi, so his initial were GR. When you inverse them, you get RG, pronounced Hergé in french (remember that french pronounces the letter "G" like a "J").

Rémi "Hergé" Georges drew the Tintin comic, about a young reporter-adventurer in an indeterminate European country who solves mysteries and explores exotic locales, which was collected in more than 40 books.

He was born in Brussels in 1907. Even as a child, he was scribbling textless comics at the bottoms of his school notebooks -- a nameless Belgian hero battling the occupying German army during World War I, Scout troops getting lost on hikes and stumbling into lost worlds, and so on. This propensity cost him academically: Hergé was a mediocre student until he got to parochial school as a teenager where, ironically, he excelled academically but got rotten grade in art class.

After he graduated, Hergé started selling drawings here and there, to the Boy Scouts for their publications, to his old school for books it published, and so on. He got a job at a newspaper, the Twentieth Century (in fact, "Le vingtième"), in the subscriptions department.

When he was 19, with his parents' blessing, he went to art school at Collège St-Luc.

It's safe to say Belgian art schools in the 1920s weren't teaching their pupils to draw comics. He learned about sculpting, art history, perspective, and all that. It wasn't for another two years, when he went back to work at the newspaper, that he started drawing cartoons again, amidst his other jack-of-all-trades work as a typesetter, layout worker and photographer.

His first cartoon series was something called "Quick et Flupke," about two little rascals in Brussels who wreaked humorous havoc on their neighbourhood. This was decently received but didn't really capture anyone's imagination -- including, apparently Hergé's.


After stumbling upon a batch of American newspapers, with their radically different cartooning form -- Europeans liked one-frame, single-gag comics with the dialogue in captions, while North Americans were into the strip format -- Hergé invented a young explorer for the weekly children's publication (Le petit vingtième) the newspaper had put him in charge of. Tintin was first in comic-book style, less than a full story in one issue, much more than a four-panel strip. It replaced "Quick et Flupke" and apparently nobody complained.

The first adventure was Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, which was wildly popular among the Twentieth Century's readers and, once all the serial booklets had been published, was bought by a separate printer for sale as a collection.

Tintin became something of a social phenomenon: when he got back from an adventure, there'd be a publicity stunt involving an actor riding triumphantly into the Brussels train station, accompanied by his dog Snowy. He'd give a speech, and people would come to hear it. Hergé was a fairly bourgeois artist in a colonial power, and took a certain view of the world, but he wasn't making this stuff up out of his head: a lot of the stories he drew would be unacceptably racist and patronizing today, but they were based on some genuine research, which gave them the ring of truth of Hergé's readers.

The young reporter went on fictional trips to the Congo, to America, to the Pyramids, to ever-greater acclaim.

Hergé married his editor's secretary, Germaine, in 1929. Over the next several years, he published The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Shooting Star (in which Tintin and his chums explore a giant fanciful meteorite that crashes into the ocean), The Secret of the Unicorn, Red Rackham's Treasure, and The Seven Crystal Balls.

World War II interfered with the publishing schedule in several ways: Hergé himself was mobilized as a reserve lieutenant during Belgium's brief fight against German invasion, and even after liberation the shortage of paper forced the Tintin books to get smaller and, eventually be published in pure strip form, one a day in the Le Soir newspaper. Hergé later said this taught him a real lesson in narrative, having to cram a satisfying amount of backstory and new events into four simple frames. He was briefly accused of collaborating with the Germans and banned from publishing Tintin, but the charges fell apart and the comic came back in 1946.


In 1950, Hergé founded his own art studio, attracting students and fellow artists. He turned over some of the drawing of Tintin, then published as a weekly, to some of them, but retained iron control over the storylines. In his spare time, he took up abstract art, travelled all over the world, separated from his wife and took up with fellow artist Fanny Vlamych.

By 1979, there were 40 Tintin books. Hergé was celebrated in Europe and America -- Walt Disney gave him a "Mickey" award for contribution to cartoons; the Belgian government appointed him to the Order of the Crown; Brussels put up a statue of Tintin and Snowy.

In 1980, Hergé's health started to deteriorate: he suffered from weakness, exhaustion and anemia, but it was almost a year before he was diagnosed with leukemia. He died March 3, 1983 in Brussels.

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