With a new generation of fans enjoying Steven Spielberg’s movie, The adventures of Tintin: The Secret Of The Unicorn, enthusiasm for collecting all 24 of Herge’s original comic books has never been higher.
Saying “It was written in the 1930s” doesn’t explain away everything, however.
When I worked at the Catholic publishing company Novalis in the 1990s, one of the biggest projects was putting out an English language, children’s version of the “new” Catechism.
Francoise Darcey Burube came to our office to discuss the details.
If you are my age, you used her Come to the Father catechism in Catholic school. (The one with the dark orange cover.)
First, an introduction:
As a Canadian citizen with European roots and a deep fondness for the United States, Darcy-Berube is a truly “multicultural” and “international” person whose work has helped to lay the foundation for a major “paradigm shift” in catechesis on both sides of the Atlantic and across the U.S.-Canadian border for the past forty years.
She is probably most recognized for her work as the principle author (though unnamed) of Come to the Father the first elementary school religious curriculum for American Catholic children written in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council.
OK, so Berube comes with a bunch of other French people, and they’re eager to show off the drawings for the French version of the new children’s catechism.
We’d been thinking we’d just use these illustrations in the English version, to save money.
My boss opened the large portfolio and almost had a nervous breakdown.
Up to that point, she’d been extremely deferential to the eminent “Madame” Berube, so my now shocked boss struggled to explain, in her faultering French, just what the trouble was.
You see: the made-in-France illustrations for the children’s catechism were “international” and “multicultural” all right.
The “Chinese” children wore peasant hats and had basically hyphens for eyes and their skin was bright yellow.
I mean: this colour.
Basically, the “Y” in CMYK.
But it was not a printing error.
And the drawings were new.
Did I mention this was in the late 1990s?
Berube and her entourage literally didn’t understand why, as my boss said, “We could never publish this in Canada!!” I’m serious. They were, or pretended to be, completely baffled as to why.
“But you see, they are quesque-se Chinese! Aren’t they cute?!”
My boss left the room to calm down, and called the big boss to tell him the project was going to be much more expensive than they’d budgeted. We needed a Canadian illustrator, stat.
Yep. Europeans. SO “progressive.” So sophisticated.
Oh, and I’m a “racist.”