Intrepid and noble, fearless and dedicated, the classic Belgian comic-book character Tintin visited many places during his adventures in print—China, the American West, the Soviet Union, the deep sea and even the moon—but he had never been to Manila. Until now.
Last June 25, Fully Booked officially opened the Philippines’ first Tintin Shop on the ground floor of their Bonifacio High Street flagship store in Taguig. There, Tintin is everywhere, staring alertly out of T-shirts, standing tall in figurines, hanging from keychains and, of course, caught in action on the covers of his many books, of which there are different available versions. You can also see him around the store as the Fully Booked staff, dressed as Tintin and carrying Tintin masks, served as tour guides. It’s a full-fledged Tintin invasion of Manila.
“Tintin’s universal appeal, stretching from his birthplace in Brussels to corners of the world far more obscure than those he reached in his globe-trotting adventures, has a rock solid foundation in reality, enabling him to transcend fashion, age and nationality,” explains Michael Farr in “Tintin: The Complete Companion.”
Created in 1929 by the cartoonist Hergé (real name Georges Remi) and the best example of the “clean line” style, Tintin became the star of his own comics series “The Adventures of Tintin” and would go on to be featured in 24 albums, running until 1976, soon translated into English and eventually a staple in children’s reading the world over. He is rivaled only by Goscinny and Uderzo’s Asterix the Gaul in terms of popularity among European comic-book characters.
Tintin (originally pronounced “tahn-tahn” in the French, now pronounced “tin-tin” in the English) is a young reporter—with trademark hair—keeps trying to right wrongs and otherwise finds himself in danger in exotic locales, joined by his ever present fox terrier Snowy and friends such as Capt. Haddock, Professor Calculus and the duo of Thomson and Thompson. Tintin’s trips were given a great deal of realism with Hergé using a lot of real-world reference material.
Like many others, Fully Booked managing director Jaime Daez discovered Tintin as a child. “I have to be very honest, I didn’t remember it that well. I was more of a superhero fan.” This view changed as he read more comics. “I saw how important Hergé was to the world of comics. He’s really the godfather of all comics. That’s why we were so excited to bring Tintin to Manila.”
The first Tintin Store opened for business in London in 1984 and there are stores in places such as France and Singapore.
A trip to the Nuremberg toy fair earlier this year eventually got Daez in touch with the Tintin international vendor Moulinsart to set up Tintin in Manila.
Daez wasn’t worried about how Filipinos would receive the Belgian creation. “All I knew was that among a lot of parents and a lot of kids who are well-read, Tintin is very well-known.” Daez was also looking for something fresh and innovative for Fully Booked. “With the advent of e-books and other digital things, it’s harder to bring in new things in the book market. You have to be creative.”
The Tintin Shop had its soft launch on May 3 and steadily gained a following. Fully Booked purchasing manager Denise Cuyegkeng-Velasquez says they originally relied on Moulinsart’s recommended items for initially stocking the store.
“From there, we looked at the feedback, such as people looking for collectible items and for more of the minor characters,” she says. As for Tintin’s appeal to Filipinos, she says “it’s because we grew up with him. He’s adventurous, kind and smart. Personally, I think Snowy is really cute.”
The bestsellers are the cover cards in English and in French (the store’s most inexpensive items at P66 each, with “The Blue Lotus” being the top choice), the keychains and the figurines, particularly Tintin in his blue sweater or trench coat and the Snowy merchandise.
Fans can look forward to new items and designs in the future. Daez says Tintin’s contemporary popularity has been immensely aided by the well-received 2011 CGI motion picture adaptation “The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn,” directed by Steven Spielberg with Tintin voiced by Jamie Bell. There’s a sequel, produced by Spielberg and directed by “Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson.
“I feel just like many of these superhero comic books and young adult books, the more movies made about Tintin, the fan base is just going to get bigger and bigger,” he predicts. Manila, it turns out, is Tintin’s kind of place after all.