Nick Hackworth

The Adventures of Tintin at Sea National, Maritime Museum

Essays & Reviews Evening Standard

What childhood would be complete without walk-on parts for Tintin, his dog, Snowy, and the flawed but loveable Captain Archibald Haddock?

The oddly coiffured Belgian foreign correspondent is now a global popular cultural icon and to commemorate his 75th anniversary and encourage further generations to engage with the full complexity of Tintin’s world, the National Maritime Museum is staging Tintin at Sea.

In truth, the aquatic connection is a little fishy, since, as the catalogue acknowledges, it was only in Tintin’s ninth adventure, The Crab with the Golden Claws, that the sea gets the leading role the Maritime Museum believes it should have had all along.

The show, then, is an odd mix of the story of the cartoon character’s birth, including rare originals by Georges Remi, Tintin’s creator, who gave himself the pseudonym Hergé, and displays of Tintin’s other sea- bound escapades, including the sail to the North Pole in The Shooting Star and the search for pirate treasure in The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham’s Treasure.

On show are 1930s life jackets, star maps, models of ships that figure in the stories and a working one-man submarine modelled on the one that appears in Red Rackham’s Treasure. The show will appeal to anyone with an interest in the comic for here there are gems to be uncovered, such as the story of the naming of Captain Haddock, the drunk sea captain, who becomes one of Tintin’s best friends.

A haddock, said Hergé’s wife, was “a sad English fish”, the name thus encapsulating all the pathetic qualities that Hergé wanted to bring to the old salty sea dog. First prize for interest, however, goes to the oddest item on show, Andy Warhol portraits of Remi, who was a collector of contemporary art.

Now what would Tintin, Snowy or, for that matter, Captain Haddock have made of that den of voyeurism, loose sexual morality and narcotic assumption that was Warhol’s Factory? We shall never know.