September 20, 2020

Tintin and Popeye: 1929, the year of two crashes of the comic | Culture

Tintin and Popeye: 1929, the year of two crashes of the comic | Culture


This year plagued by anniversaries in the world of comics-Batman, which reaches octogenarian; Asterix, a 60-year-old youngster or our Antifaz Warrior, who turns 75-begins with the commemoration of the birth of two characters who share age and status as icons of popular culture: the arch-famous Tintín and Popeye. Both were born nine decades ago, in 1929, the year of the crash, which was associated in history at the beginning of the Great Depression and which, however, started with these two foundational milestones of the ninth art as the supreme art of the great evasion.

The creation of Hergé began to be published in the pages of Le Petit Vingtième the 10 of January of 1929. The young and pizpireto reporter of indomitable bangs, inalienable bloomers and faithful fox terrier Snowy He began his adventures with The country of the Soviets, a naive vision of the Soviet Union, very influenced by the anti-communism of the abbe Wallez, director of the publication and declared admirer of Mussolini. A "sin of youth" as the author remarked many times, but which had a brutal success despite the still rough style of the young draftsman, very influenced by the elegant line of fine line artists such as George McManus or Alain Saint-Ogan.

Tintin was born as a natural evolution of the previous character of Hergé, the boy scout Totor, but soaked by the news to follow models of intrepid reporters like Robert Sexé, who had just gone around the world on a motorcycle, or the young Danish Palle Huld, a red-haired 15 year old in baggy pants who had emulated Phileas Fogg, but reducing the journey to only 44 days. Tintin soon became an icon of the Franco-Belgian culture, establishing a graphic and narrative style. Although most of the albums were published before the fifties (the last, unfinished, was published in 1986), the creation of Hergé It completely transcended the comic, adapting to the cinema (with one of the films shot partly in the Valencian Community, Tintin and the mystery of blue oranges), to cartoons and creating a whole culture of merchandising around him, so referential and recognizable as lucrative. Despite the many controversies that always surrounded the character and its creator, in many cases with accusations that forgot the historical context of its production, Tintin became the absolute reference of a whole style of making comics and illustration, that the cartoonist Joost Swarte baptized as a clear line. Although Hergé commented in many interviews that he did not want his creation to survive its creator (as it has happened with most of the classics of the Franco-Belgian comic, from Spirou to Asterix), he guessed that before 2052, the year in which the character would pass To the public domain, the controversial company Moulinsart, manager of Hergé's rights, will not hesitate to relaunch the young reporter, to the joy of many and the horror of others. What there is no doubt is that, 90 years later, Tintin maintains its magic, and its visual narrative dynamics is still an example for new authors.

Cover of the first publication starring Tintin in 1929.
Cover of the first publication starring Tintin in 1929.

Just one week later, on January 17, 1929, the vignettes of the daily strip Thimble Theater, of EC Segar (started 10 years earlier and starring the brothers Castor and Olive Oyl, known in Spain as Rosario), presented a particular and bizarre character: a one-eyed sailor, of eternal pipe and muscular forearms that, before the question of the protagonist on If he was a sailor, he responded sarcastically: "Ja think I'm a cowboy?"(Do you think I'm a cowboy?) The character was so accepted that soon the series was renamed Thimble Theater Starring Popeye, taking over the adventures of the strip and giving almost immediately the jump to the cartoons, from the hand of one of the great geniuses of animation, Max Fleischer, who included him as a character in the episodes of Betty Boop. Again, the sailor monopolized the adventures and became a star claiming his own series, Popeye the Sailor, which lasted for more than 200 episodes. Among the most famous features of Popeye are its incredible strength and its invulnerability, for which many theorists consider him as one of the founders of the superhero genre. Curiously, in the beginning, the powers of the one-eyed sailor had a very different origin: they were born having rubbed the head of the magical hen Bernice But the US government took advantage of the character's success to promote consumption of spinach during the Great Depression (to which wrongly they had been assigned an incredible iron content), introducing the intake of these vegetables as the reason for the incredible strength of Popeye.

The campaign was an unprecedented success and the figure of Popeye opening his can of spinach became an icon of American culture, which even had its own radio serial, which certifies it as one of the first transmedia phenomena. Segar signed wonderful adventures of the character, almost delirious, but always with a residue of denunciation and social criticism that was insinuated thanks to the common sense (and some cynicism) of the famous sailor. The series was so well known that many of its characters are part of the American commercial culture: Wimpy glutton gave name to one of the most important burger chains in the country; while the fantastic Eugene the Jeep, a mascot of incredible powers, inspired the name of the famous military SUVs.

The month of January 1929 was prodigal for the US comic: to the series of Segar must be added the beginning of the adaptations to the comic series popular literature as famous as Buck Rogers or Tarzan, that contributed new genres to the comic that later became necessary spaces of escape and escapist exoticism during the depression.

Tintín and Popeye managed to transfer the vignettes to rise in fundamental part of the imagery of the 20th century, recognizable icons of a popular culture built around the ninth art.

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