At the start of the year I reported on a special celebration of the Tintin comics in France to mark what would have been writer Herge’s 100th birthday. The article indicated that many writers recall spending their youth in the company of Tintin, Snowy, Captain Haddock and the eclectic gang as they traveled the world seeking adventure.

With the upcoming big screen adaptation of Tintin by Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg we report some controversy in respect to publisher Little, Brown’s re-issues of the Tintin Tales. The 1931 title, Tintin in the Congo, has reportedly been pulled from the publishing schedule due to its portrayal of colonial Black Africans. It seems there has been a groundswell of opinion to ban this book from many sources. The BBC reported earlier this year:

The Commission for Racial Equality (CRE) is calling on high street books to pull a Tintin adventure from its shelves over claims it is racist. Complaints about Tintin in the Congo have led to Borders and Waterstones moving it to their adult section.

A spokeswoman said the book contained “words of hideous racial prejudice, where the ‘savage natives’ look like monkeys and talk like imbeciles.” Borders said they are committed to let their “customers make the choice.”

Publishers Weekly also reported on this controversial re-issue:

The book was first published in 1931, then updated and colorized in the 1940s. While this is the first U.S. publication of the newer version, San Francisco-based publisher Last Gasp released a black and white fascimile edition of the original in 2002. Also as part of its centenary celebration of Hergé’s birth, Little, Brown will publish a boxed set containing all 24 Tintin books in November. The set will include all its previously published Tintin books, as well as the final three. Valerie Koehler, owner of Blue Willow Bookshop in Houston, Tex., said she could not decide where she will shelve Congo until she sees the book. But she said the series is not very popular in her store: “We’re not talking about Harry Potter here. By and large, the mom who walks in here who grew up in Houston, she doesn’t know who Tintin is.” Leslie Reiner, owner of Inkwood Books in Tampa Bay, Fla., plans on shelving the book in her store’s graphic novels section. She said Tintin books “haven’t been selling that well, but I anticipate more sales with the fall release.” Barnes & Noble and Borders did not respond to requests for comment.

This pressure has lead Little, Brown to reconsider the re-release of Tintin in the Congo, as reported in Publishers Weekly:

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, which had been planning to publish Tintin in the Congo, a book criticized for its racist, Colonial-era depictions of Africans, has quietly pulled the title from its fall list, PW has learned. The publisher also said it will not include the book in a forthcoming box set of all 24 books in the Tintin series.

Publicist Melanie Chang did not give a reason for the standalone book’s cancellation, but of its omission from the box set she said, “Given the controversy surrounding the Congo title, we felt including it in the box set would eclipse the true intention of the collection, which is to showcase Hergé’s extraordinary art and his remarkable contribution to the graphic arts.”

The republication of classic works of fiction that reflected the attitudes of a less enlightened generation can cause controversy and even confusion. Remember the original title of Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians?
News Reporter

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