Tintin in Bangladesh


This story by Pantha originally appeared on Global Voices on 8 July 2021.

The drawings of Tintin's adventures in Bangladesh have been circulating widely on social media of late. It is cartoonist Zahidul Haque Apu revitalising Tintin's memory with his concept art series ‘Tintin in Bangladesh’, which places the beloved comic book character at iconic sites throughout the country.

The Adventures of Tintin is a French-language series of comic books created by Belgian cartoonist Hergé, whose real name was Georges Remi.

In the series, Tintin, a young Belgian reporter and adventurer along with his dog Snowy, explored the Soviet Union, Belgian Congo, Peru, India, Egypt, Morocco, Indonesia, Nepal, Tibet, China and many more countries. Alas, Tintin never made it to Bangladesh.

Nevertheless, Tintin was a popular comic book character for cartoon lovers young and old in Bangladesh during the 1990s. Many teenagers used to borrow the book from the local library or saved pocket money to buy the Bengali translation printed by India’s Ananda Publishers.

Tintin was also Zahidul Haque Apu’s favourite character and he grew up reading the translations, of which there were three: 1988’s “Tintin in Tibet” followed by “The Castafiore Emerald” the next year, the last title was “Tintin in Congo”, published in 2006.

“But the characters, the animals and the places were all foreign, I could not relate to many things. So I would question, ‘why Tintin does not come to Bangladesh?’ … From that thought, I started the fan art series.”

The artist behind the Tintin fan art revival in Bangladesh is however better known as RJ (Radio Jockey) Apu. Drawing was always his favourite pastime hobby but Apu could never give it serious time. “But I got diagnosed with Covid and had to isolate myself. I had plenty of time, so I gave it a shot,” he says.

Apu first posted the Tintin fan art on his Facebook timeline. People liked them and were widely shared, even in a popular Tintin fan group on the social media platform. Encouraged by his supporters, he created a Facebook page called Arts by Apu. He now has 8,000 followers.

Comic book fans of Tintin in Bangladesh can now relate to his depiction of the popular fictional character in the South Asian nation.

“The drawing matches our Chandpur launch terminal. If you enter through the main gate, you get this view on the right side — just like that! Beautiful,” wrote Adnan SaiQat on Facebook.

Apu has also started creating innovative fusions — mixing local cultures and fictional characters. In one of his latest covers, Tintin is seen with Baker Bhai and friends, one of the most popular fictional characters in Bangladesh, created by novelist and filmmaker Humayun Ahmed for a widely acclaimed TV show during the 1990s.

Jasarat Al Atun, a user on Facebook commented: “If only a whole comic book on this concept art could be created!”

But for Apu, the biggest inspiration for recreating this cross-genre fan art was his six-year-old daughter. The pandemic meant schools were closed and travels restricted, but he realised children could learn about new places and life experiences through their favourite fictional characters. And the series was born.

In 'Tintin in Tibet', Tintin travels to Kathmandu with Herge’s surprisingly accurate drawings of the old town.

For many fans, the drawings have triggered nostalgia and warm feelings with many viewers requesting that Tintin visit their town next.

Says Zahidul Haque Apu: “When I get the kind of response I get on my fan art, I know I’m not alone, many people are like me. I want to take Tintin to more places in Bangladesh.”

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