Hergé’s heirs sue artist over his Tintin/Edward Hopper mashups


A French artist who imagines romantic adventures for the boy adventurer Tintin in the landscapes of Edward Hopper has been sued by the Tintin creator Hergé’s heirs, who said it was not funny to take advantage of Tintin by putting him in an erotic universe, especially as Hergé had chosen not to caricature women.

In Breton artist Xavier Marabout’s Hergé-Hopper mashupsTintin is variously painted into Hopper’s Road and Houses, scratching his head as he greets a woman in a car; looking disgruntled in a version of Hopper’s Cape Cod Evening, 1939; and kissing a girl in a car, in a spin on Hopper’s Queensborough Bridge, 1913. On his website, Marabout describes his work as “strip art”, in which he “strips distant artistic universes to merge them together” in a style where “parody [is] omnipresent”.

But the Moulinsart company, which manages the Tintin business, disagrees, accusing Marabout of reproducing the world of Tintin without proper consent.

“Taking advantage of the reputation of a character to immerse him in an erotic universe has nothing to do with humour,” a lawyer for the company said in court in Rennes this week, where Moulinsart has sued for infringement, as reported by Ouest-France.

Hergé, the lawyer added, had “explained his choice not to involve women in his work, because he found that they are rarely comic elements”. The Belgian artist included scarcely any female characters in the Tintin comics; in Benoît Peeters’ biography Hergé, Son of Tintin, he was quoted as saying: “I love women too much to make caricatures out of them! And besides, pretty or not, women are rarely comic elements … Is it that the maternal side of women doesn’t lend itself to laughter? It is indeed strange to realise that women are absent from many comic-strip stories. Or if they are there, they are rarely funny.”

In response, Marabout’s lawyer claimed the paintings were parody, reported Ouest-France, and cited a “conflict between copyright and freedom of expression and creation”, asking: “Does an artist have the right to wonder about Tintin’s sex life?” and “what about artistic freedom?” The Rennes court will rule in May.

Marabout told the Guardian that his work echoed the historian Christian Jacob’s belief that “there is no cultural transmission without reappropriation”.

“This is exactly what that I do in my work as an artist. I revisit my own culture by merging, or mashing up, different cultural worlds, and giving them meaning. Because some universes speak to each other in secret,” he said. As well as Hergé and Hopper, his fusions include Batman and Klimt, Picasso and the creations of cartoonist Tex Avery.

“In my Hergé Hopper series, I imagined a romantic life for Tintin in the intimate and voyeuristic universe of the American painter. Because frankly, the universe of Hergé is terribly virile and women are completely absent,” Marabout said. “Who can imagine a world without women? So my paintings where Tintin is staged with pin-ups are funny, but behind that I wanted to show that the two universes were perfect to meet. The mystery of Hopper paintings responding to the Tintin mystery.”

“I defend my right to parody which is part of freedom of expression,” he added. “It is a fundamental law in our democracy. I hope that justice will prove me right, but I am still worried, because we are going through a difficult period where freedoms are declining every day.”

Moulinsart did not respond to a request for comment from the Guardian.

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