Comic fans certainly familiar with Tintin, a character created by Belgian comic artist Georges Remi or Herge (1907-1983). Tintin is a young journalist from Belgium who actively investigate cases of international criminal and adventure to various places, from Russia to the Moon. And in each of his adventures, Tintin is always accompanied by Milou, a fox terrier type dog.
Through his strong imagination and a comprehensive research, Herge was able to narrate every Tintin adventure with enough detail. Herge did not just make a comic series for children who showed muscle strength, he shows Tintin’s views and attitudes toward an issue that was raised at that time.
Tintin adventure story begins with the publication of Les Aventures de Tintin, reporter du Petit “Vingtième”, au pays des Soviets (Adventures of Tintin in the Soviet Union) as a comic strip in Vingtième newspaper published in Belgium in 1929-1930 and made a separate album on 1930. Since then (1930-1986) Herge published a series of Tintin adventures in the Congo, America, Egypt, China, Tibet, Australia as well as in the Moon. Totally there are 23 books plus an unfinished work “Tintin and Alph-Art” in 1986.
Of the 24 Tintin comic books, one told Tintin’s presence in Indonesia. In a comic entitled Flight 714 to Sydney, which was published in 1968, Tintin and two other figures, Captain Haddock and Professor Calculus, arrived in Jakarta. They are on their way to Sydney when their plane stopped to refuel in Jakarta Kemayoran Airport.
At the airport Kemayoran, Tintin met with his old friend who became a pilot. On the way to Sydney, hijackers took over their plane and stranded somewhere in Indonesia. In this moment Herge wrote several conversations in the Indonesian language, including mentioning Sambal bajak as one of Indonesian food from Java.
We are certainly pleased that Indonesia was mentioned in the one of Tintin adventures stories. This suggests that Belgian society has long been familiar with Indonesia. Through the comic of Tintin, the Belgian society know the city of Jakarta, Kemayoran International Airport, the Indonesian language, Komodo and one of the Indonesian food, sambal bajak.
Thirty-five years after Tintin’s presence in Indonesia via Flight 714 to Sydney, the figure of Tintin in the relationship between Indonesia and Belgium re-surfaced when the new Indonesian Ambassador to the Kingdom of Belgium, Arif Havaz Oegroseno, handed his credentials to King Albert II on 25 November 2010. On that occasion, Ambassador Havaz Oegroseno besides explained the developments in Indonesia, including Indonesia’s role in the G-20 and as Chairman of ASEAN, 2011, he also gave some souvenirs, one of which is a comic book Tintin in the Indonesian language, entitled Penerbangan 714 ke Sydney (Flight 714 to Sydney).
The presentation of Tintin comics in the Indonesian language is a unique. Ambassador Havaz Oegroseno viewed that Tintin is no longer an imaginary character but has become a distinctive icon for the government and people of Belgium. Therefore, the presentation of Tintin comic books as a souvenir is part of cultural diplomacy or soft diplomacy and could enhance bilateral cooperation between Indonesia and the Kingdom of Belgium.
King Albert II himself expressed his gratitude for the provision of Tintin comic book in the Indonesian language and a brief description of Indonesia. He also welcome the initiative to enhance bilateral cooperation between the two countries.
The fact that Tintin is recognized as one of the icons of Belgium, among others, can be seen from the statue of Tintin in the door of the arrival airport Zaventem, Brussels. Although not as big as the statue of Bung Karno and Bung Hatta at the Soekarno-Hatta Airport in Cengkareng, Jakarta, but the installation of a statue of Tintin in the arrival lobby suggests that every person who came to Belgium, through Zaventem Airport, was greeted warmly by Tintin.
Tintin as an Icon of Belgium also appears in the comic museum in Brussels. In this museum, the visitor could see the display Tintin comic-making process and various other comic works of Belgian comic artists like Lucky Luke. In this museum there is also souvenir shop selling various Tintin souvenirs .
The existence and popularity of Tintin in the world was able to unite the fans of Tintin in the world, including Indonesia. Many fans of Tintin is then conducting gathering, join in a community for mutual exchange of stories about the adventures of Tintin, hunting Tintin collection objects and many of them visit Tintin museum in Brussels.
I myself quite fortunate to have lived in Brussels for 4 years while assigned to Mission of Indonesia to the European Community (PRIME) / Indonesian Embassy in Brussels (2004-2008). During this period I visited the comic museum several times, either alone or along with guests from Indonesia. I also had time to collect some Tintin collector items such as watches, Tintin cars replica or t-shirts, including of course the whole comic Tintin in French.