Interview | Tintinoligist Michael Farr

© Hergé/Moulinsart 2011

We here at GCB are pretty exciting about the new Tintin film coming out later this year, which you can see the trailer for HERE. So in preparation for the film’s release, GCB managed to grab a quick chat with tintinoligist and all round Hergé buff Michael Farr about Tintin, Spielberg and the abominable snowman.

GCB | Hi Michael, Have you seen the new Tintin trailer yet?

Michael | Yes I have, I’m actually speaking about it on the BBC tomorrow. Its quite interesting isn’t it, quite exciting and as action packed as you would expect, a lot more to it than any of the snippets we have previously seen. Captain Haddock’s nose has never looked more bulbous!

GCB | Will you be seeing the film in 3D?

Michael | Yes absolutely, I actually spoke to someone on the production team today and they said it would really add something when watching the film. Hopefully the film will also spread Tintin further and introduce him to places where the books are not so widely read.

GCB | Like in America?

Michael | Yes just like in America, you and I know and love Tintin but there are those out there who do not know him so well, so hopefully this film will catch their attention.

GCB | Tintin has never been as popular in America as he is in Europe, why do you think this is?

Michael | Hergé’s work is very much rooted in realism and this is different to American comics, you can’t have people flying around or climbing up buildings like you do in America, although Hergé did say to me himself that he did go a little too far on one occasion.

GCB | Oh really, which book did Hergé see as going too far?

Michael | He felt that looking back Flight 714 went a little too far with the aliens at the end and the flying saucer, although the book is still highly enjoyable up until that point. But who knows Hergé might be prophetic about Aliens, I certainly think he will be about the abominable Snowman.

GCB | That Tintin meets in ‘Tintin in Tibet’?

Yes, I do believe we will find the Abominable Snowman one day and it will look just like it did in Tintin.

GCB | When the Tintin books were first published they contained images of exotic locations that children and young adults might not of otherwise have seen, but with more resources readily available now do you think this can change the way Tintin could be read now by a reader for the first time?

Michael | That’s a very interesting question, I first read Tintin in French when my father was stationed in Paris, this was in 1957, and I remember waiting eagerly for the next Tintin book, for all the adventure and fun. If you felt the need, you could buy the magazine it was printed in weekly at two pages a time, but I always preferred to wait and get the nicely printed book, I only purchased the magazine out of desperation.

Like you say though, children weren’t exposed to all the things they are now so it might have been more exciting back then. The marvellous thing about Tintin is that you can enjoy the books endlessly even as an adult, when I am asked to speak at schools the children I am talking to see things even I haven’t seen! In fact, it was talking to children that guided me to writing another of my books, Tintin and Co.

GCB | This was a collection of characters?

Michael | Yes my first book sold quite a few copies and I was asked if I wanted to write another, the problem was my first book was Tintin, The Complete Companion, there wasn’t much else to write about! I noticed that when I was talking in schools all the children’s questions were about the characters, so I thought why not take a closer look at them. It was inspired by young people wanting to know why Captain Haddock, why Professor Calculus.

GCB | Do you still own your old Tintin books?

Michael | I do yes, and they are very well thumbed. My father was recalled to London in 57/58 when the books first came out in England so I could also read them in English.

GCB | What do you think makes Tintin so well loved across different continents, countries and languages?

Michael | I love the universal appeal of Tintin and what strikes me is how multicultural Tintin can be. There is a misconception that Tintin is all white and middle class, but that really isn’t the case, at book signings I see many people of different backgrounds and nationalities sharing their enjoyment of Hergé’s work. Tintin is also huge in Africa; they love seeing themselves in the book just like we do when Tintin comes to England in The Black Island.

GCB | You mentioned earlier that you met Hergé, what was he like?

Michael | He was delightful and terribly modest, when I first met him he was very young for 71, you would have thought he was 20 years younger. We first had lunch when I was supposed to be interviewing him but it was a disaster, he kept turning around and interviewing me, he hated talking about himself. He didn’t really care for celebrity he was just so terribly modest, he was most interested in other people and other things; he asked me what I thought about Pink Floyd! Can you imagine, how hip can you get at 71.

GCB | So he had a wide range of interests outside writing and comics?

Michael | Certainly yes, he had a passion for the cinema. You see, he lived in Brussels during the First World War and his mother took him to the cinema, it was one of the few forms of entertainment. He was terribly interested and influenced by the early Hitchcock films; you can really see that influence in his work, like in The Black Island. It’s really very good that Stephen Spielberg is directing the new Tintin film since Hergé was also a great admirer of his work.

GCB | I never knew Hergé was a secret Spielberg fan, do you know which Spielberg films he had seen?

Michael | The first Spielberg film he saw was an early one called “Duel” and he was very struck by it, he made a note 3 months before his death saying ‘if one person can bring Tintin to the screen it’s this young American director’ he didn’t actually name Spielberg, but he meant him.

GCB | What are you reading? Do you still read many comics?

Michael | Well I do keep up with many new titles, I often see them when I go to comic conventions, like the one in Barcelona or Copenhagen, and I find that very interesting as a learning process, very exciting. My passion though is for Hergé and he really is an influence on many artists. For me he is the pinnacle, I enjoy seeing how he has influenced both late artists and contemporary artists.

GCB | Do you think there is still an interest for Tintin in new readers?

Michael | Well I went to Brussels after Hergé had only passed away a few months previously, and everyone in the studio was waiting to find out what his will said about the future of Tintin, but I’m not sure if you know that the will said no one could continue producing Tintin past his death, and people were devastated and worried that everyone would forget about Tintin in 5 years time, but look at it now 30 years later we are still talking about Tintin and more and more books are being sold in an increasing number of languages.

Thanks for talking to us today Michael, it’s been a blast.

Egmont Press (who also publish Tintin) will be releasing Michael Farr’s ace ‘Tintin, The Complete Companion’ with loads of cool new stuff in the autumn.  

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