Tintin, lotus and sewn mouth

This post comes from the daily newsletter of the Culture department of Release, sent free of charge every evening.

The design is certainly splendid. Tintin and Snowy, stashed in a jar, terrorized by something or someone who remains out of view, while the eye of the spectator lingers on a gigantic red dragon which stands out against the wall behind them. Variation around the canonical coverage of the Blue lotus, simplified, does the illustration justify such hysteria?

From France 2 to Point, of Telegram at BFM, the general media are agitated around the sale of a drawing auctioned this Thursday at 2.6 million euros. “An exceptional piece”, explains everywhere the expert of the comic book department of the house who put it up for auction and let all journalists know through his own newsletter – with video support reminding that eight of the last ten records of Hergé’s works are theirs made. The most conscientious media add that the work is controversial. Its mysterious origin, its property… Others, like the France 2 newscast, prefer to stick to the beautiful story of the meeting between Hergé and Tchang and “The huge event” of the reappearance of this blanket which attracts “Prestigious collectors”. Understand private.

What are we celebrating here? The value of the work? Obviously, no. It’s only fair if we evoke its plastic qualities. What matters is the rarity and the price that some investors are willing to attribute to it. Perhaps we are delighted that the original in question will languish with a private collector rather than in a museum in Belgium or France, where it would be accessible to all?

By dint of making its cabbage of the record figures of the comic strip, the media maintain and participate in a galloping and grotesque speculation. We are not even talking about the complex status of the concept of the original in comics where, unlike painting, the original does not merge with the work, which is accessible for ten euros in bookstores. A little more for fetishists looking for an original print …

This bludgeoning would pose less of a problem to us if it did not obscure everything else. On television and in many major media, comics only exist through the celebrations of the birthdays of octogenarian characters. Tintin, Haddock, Asterix, Batman, Lucky Luke, the usual suspects. At best, the BD is an Ehpad. At worst, a dead language. The incredible liveliness of the sector remains invisible. If everything must be summed up in a few spectacular figures, here are two: 53% of authors earn less than the minimum wage, 36% of them live below the poverty line. Well-known data, repeated exactly a year ago in the Racine report which was to come to the aid of the sector and was emptied of its substance by the half-measures of the Ministry of Culture. Caught between overproduction and drop in average book sales, authors are content with advances on rights, the amount of which is reduced from year to year. But let’s rather celebrate the dead authors and the 2.6 million Lotus …


Marius Chapuis

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