I don’t think so. Because the con-artist feels no remorse, and there is evidence that Herge suffered deep anguish after the war. “Exhaustion” and “nervous breakdown” are euphemisms used by biographers to explain at least three episodes when Herge retreated from the world. In the late ‘50s Herge consulted a psychiatrist to whom he described nightmares of blank whiteness. Herge ignored the doctor's advice that he stop cartooning. Instead, he self-medicated with art. It appears to have worked. Herge banished his bad dreams by writing and drawing Tintin in Tibet, page after page of snowy, frozen whiteness through which Tintin searches for Chang, lost friend of his youth. The adventure was published complete in 1960.

Tibet pg 165.jpg
THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN: Volume 6, by Herge, Little, Brown and Company, 1976, pp 165.

Artistic redemption. Tintin in Tibet has all the story elements of a hero’s journey into the underground of his own soul, on a quest to recover and reintegrate a part of himself that he lost long ago. And sure enough, after its publication Herge’s life stabilized. He stopped procrastinating and acted on several major life decisions, one of which was to divorce his estranged wife. He immersed himself in abstract art and painting. He began an ambitious schedule of travel. He regained artistic control over the publication of his stories. We are not told of any more break-downs or bad dreams.


The ch
Herge and Change 1932.jpg
Herge and Chang 1932
aracter Chang did, in reality, represent a lost part of Herge’s youth, both personally and artistically. Chang was based on a real-life friend from the 1930s, sculptor Chang Chong-jen. During his stay as an art student in Brussels he served as Herge’s China expert for the 1936 Tintin adventure, The Blue Lotus. Herge found it rewarding to research a foreign culture and translate it into a setting for his boy-reporter’s story. This marked a turning point in Herge’s art. After The Blue Lotus, he continued to invest the same care in background detail. His drawings became a sort of National Geographic of cartoons.


After the real-life Chang returned to China, real-world upheavals caused the two friends to lose contact. These were the same upheavals that led Herge to lose or betray a part of his soul. The character Chang also disappears from Tintin’s life. From ’36 to the late fifties, he is absent. Then, unexpectedly, like a ghost from a Greek epic, Chang reappears in a dream, calling to Tintin. The past can no longer be ignored.


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