When the slightly abridged version of The Adventures of Herge' appeared in Drawn & Quarterly Volume 4 a decade ago, I remember being knocked out by the story. The episodic nature of the vignettes about the creator of Tintin really did work as a flowing, kinetic adventure story of sorts. The handsome hardback album that D&Q released in 2011 retains most of those thrills, though at 72 pages it feels a little thin to be a book in the American market. From the perspective of a reader who has only the most basic knowledge of Herge's work (I've only read a couple of volumes, unlike the scores of European kids who are steeped in Tintin from a very young age), it's still fascinating to see the authors (Jose-Louis Bocquet & Jean-Luc Fromental) which of several key moments in the cartoonist's life they choose for artist Stanislas Barthelemy to illustrate.
In many respects, the very first anecdote (from 1914) holds the key to unlocking the rest of the book. Young Georges Remi is hell on wheels, partly because he's been raised to feel as though he's special. The result is a singular opposition to authority and a certain callousness as to the results of his actions. Remi's talent and strong will draw the attention of those who are in a position to aid him, though it frequently put him in a position of controversy. He was accused of being a collaborationist during World War II because he was allowed to still publish; only his fame and popularity spared him from the firing line, something the authors note wasn't true of all those who suffered at the hands of a kangaroo court. He cheated on his wife and denied close collaborators cover credit. To some degree, the writers suggest that Remi himself didn't hold his work in the highest esteem as true art, longing to hang out with the avant-garde' art crowd and even dabbling in painting himself for awhile.