Sleazy Tintin book raises ire of estate

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Author of Pink Lotus, Antonio Altarriba, says he will never again talk about Tintin as long as Moulinsart maintains its stringent policy.

20 August 2008

MADRID - The intrepid Snowy has died, Captain Haddock has squandered his fortune on drink, orgies and gambling, Professor Calculus is wasting away in a psychiatric hospital and Tintin, of course, is depressed about all of the above.

In order to get his groove back he decides to return to journalism, but everything has changed since he was a young roving reporter. The world no longer wants adventures, but instead sensationalist stories about celebrities and their sexual misconduct.

Obviously, Georges Remi - better known as Herge - never imagined such a story for his young hero. The Belgian cartoonist, whose Adventures of Tintin remain one of the most popular comic-book series in the world, died in 1983.

The new Tintin material is from a short story included in the book Tintin and the Pink Lotus, written by Antonio Altarriba and illustrated by Ricard Castells and Javier Hernandez Landazabal.

Ever since it appeared on the market in late 2007, as part of the 100th anniversary celebrations of Herge's birth, the story has been nothing but a headache for its author and for the publisher, Edicions de Ponent.

Both soon had to deal with the Moulinsart Foundation, which holds the rights to the Tintin character, and which was not amused by the initiative.

Publisher Paco Camarasa explained that Moulinsart first tried to pressure them into pulling the book from stores, before then agreeing to let it be distributed until the first 1,000 copies were sold. In exchange, Edicions de Ponent promised not to reprint the book ever again.

Although Moulinsart did not consider the illustrations that come with the text as infringement of any copyright laws, the estate concluded that the book "perverted the essence of the personality" of Tintin.

In the new story, whose title makes reference to the popular Tintin adventure The Blue Lotus, the reporter loses his virginity to none other than French actress Catherine Deneuve.

"I can't do battle against them. They are more powerful," says Camarasa, irritated at the fact that the controversy made it into the pages of the British press this week.
"I think people talk about the book without having seen it. It is not a comic book full of strips showing Tintin having sex. It is simply a work of fiction. Moulinsart may hold the rights, but that does not give them the right to censor whoever and whatever they want. At this rate, they are going to turn it into a cult book."

The author Altarriba seems equally upset. A cartoon scriptwriter and a pioneer who introduced cartoon studies into the schoolroom, Altarriba is currently a professor of French literature at the Basque Country University.

On Monday, he said that he will never again even talk about Tintin, at least for as long as Moulinsart maintains its stringent policy.

"I did everything with respect," says Altarriba in a telephone interview.

"I have learned many things reading Herge. I thought adult people would be able to distinguish between something crude and something born out of admiration. Had I known it would bring me so much trouble, I would have thought twice about it."

[El Pais / Israel Punzano / Expatica]

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