Sexuality of comic heroes – who cares?

January 22, 2009
Baboons! Baby-snatchers! Bagpipers!

Is this what the Peter Pan world of comics is coming to?

A recent article in The Times has taken Tintin fans by surprise and thrown the Internet chat forums into a tizzy.

The author’s tongue-in-cheek article explains clues buried in the Tintin books all leading to one conclusion. That Tintin is gay.

Fans the world over have been debating Tintin’s sexual orientation for years and Times author Matthew Parris‘ article has come as Herge’s immortal comic character turned 80 this month.

I must say I have taken the news quite well given that my childhood plans (of marrying the Belgian cub reporter when I grow up) are now in serious trouble.

It is the sign of the complex times we live in that makes it imperative that we look beyond the make-believe world of our super heroes and delve deep into their souls to see if Batman and Robin had a thing going on between them in Gotham.

Now, I take my comics seriously. I may not still have gotten the grip of my chopsticks correct, but I can wield a deadly weapon when I am prowling the night city for potential criminals. Have been since I was seven years old.

So naturally I wondered if there is any need at all for children to think beyond the wonderful deeds of men in tights beating up the bad guy.

If in the last two decades the thought did not cross my mind why Tintin spends so much time alone with Captain Haddock in Marlinspike Hall, I can’t bring myself to do it now.

As a woman obsessed with Harry Potter, the news that Dumbledore, the mad genius headmaster of Hogwarts School of Wichcraft and Wizardry, is gay, came as a huge surprise.

Most fans had no inkling of the shocker that author JK Rowling threw at them at an interaction after the last of the series was launched.

Oh we have seen some seriously dark magic. The books that began as an innocent trip into the magic world of witches and wizards became grim towards the end in their portrayal of deaths and torture.

The news of Dumbledore’s outing raised huge cheers from Rowling’s audience in signs of how mindsets have begun to change from a very young age. Youths seem more prone to go beyond the talking-down-at prudishness of old fairy tales to explore more of a world they can relate to.

That said, I can’t help but ask. Is it necessary for children to peep through the eyehole into their super heroes’ bedrooms?

Tintin books still sell two to three million copies a year and more than 200 million copies have been sold since Herge drew the young reporter with a scarf around his neck accompanied by his talking dog Snowy.

There is no question that he still remains hugely favourite with readers the world over.

It is suddenly a discussion point with fans that Dumbledore and Tintin, loved fanatically as they are by millions, may be homosexuals.

Surely by the same yardstick Tarzan, Phantom, Spiderman and Superman’s romances must also be over analysed and debated?

Yet for a 10-year-old, what matters most is that the bad guy must lose, please God, and the hero must win the day.

Like in life, gay or straight.

9 comments

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Tintin is just a regular teenager from times past. To interpret his behaviour through the sexual mores prevailing today is anachronistic and opportunistic to boot.There are no love scenes in Wuthering Heights, a great love story, so what does that say about the sexual orientation of the characters? Frigid?

Posted by Vipul Tripathi | Report as abusive

I completely agree. To discuss the sexual orientation of comic characters in an inane debate. Please spare the fantasy world of kids and let it remain as innocent as it was when we were children.

Posted by Hanit Kaur | Report as abusive

If it is something of a ruse to make the character more palatable or popular to a larger audience, then it is in real bad taste. As such, no kid ever reads a comic with sexual orientation in mind. However, it seems to be more and more important these days and some of the new video games even have sex scenes in the game itself. Sometimes one just feels for the kids today and what they have to go through growing up, being thrown so much trash through the media. Atleast spare tintin which was just a comic for kids to enjoy non-sexual fantasies (something that is fast disappearing).

Posted by Prashanth D'Souza | Report as abusive

I think people have a lot of free time on their hands to be analysing such mundane things in life!!! Dont they have anything better to do than to think what a comic character’s preferences are???

Posted by Shraddha | Report as abusive

really now who cares about all this stuff.

Well-written but seems to miss the point. Any work of enduring quality will be given repeated close looks by critics to see if they reveal more than what can be seen on the surface. That is the job of any critic. Authors are known to hide little clues in their works.

A 10-year-old boy or girl may not care about the sexual orientation of some of their fictitious characters. That does not mean there is no room to take a close and different look, that is part of growing up.

Anything and everything interests readers these days and this is not the most meaningless study. It atleast prompted a blog!

Posted by ananth | Report as abusive

Seriously, does a character have to be forced to have a love interest of the other sex in order to be straight? I used to hate stories with love in them when I was little. I only had friends that were girls because boys had cooties. Why mix romance in stories that so obviously avoid it? And now, after Herge has been gone for around twenty years, politically correct people have to try to ruin the innocence in whatever still retains it. Leave Tintin alone.
People, cartoon or not, should be allowed to have very close friends without being brought under scrutiny.

Posted by Miranda | Report as abusive

I don’t quite understand why everyone is so upset at this prospect. The thing that disturbs me the most is that people automatically associate the ‘g’ word with sex or “bedroom” or other such “grownup” situations. However, we often see teenage love stories about boys and girls having first crushes and heartaches and don’t ever think this is a “grown-up” situation but only a fact of growing up itself. Just becuase one could be gay or could be questioned as being gay shouldn’t mean automatically that the entity in question has a sexual life at all. Whether it is right to change or destroy (through questioning or over-analysis) an author’s original view of a character is a different story.

Posted by Josh K. | Report as abusive

Hi, I agree with Josh K. As a girl fan of Tin Tin, back in the sixties, I was puzzled by the lack of women at all. Once I figured out that Herge was gay, I understood it better. By the way, I’m convinced that the love of his life was Chang, first presented in the Blue Lotus and then later in Tin TIn in Tibet. I think they are adorable together, at the appropriate first crush level. Tin Tin saves Chang from drowning, Chang helps him down from a wall with arms outstretched, Chang helps dress his wounds. Sweet! Good fun! Not about the bedroom.