From comic strip hero to film star

How fortunate that the Brussels comic strip heroes are made of paper - they would otherwise be getting big ideas of themselves, now that they've made it into the film world. And Tintin is not the only one.

Tintin is still the number one, as always. It was none other than Steven Spielberg who turned this Brussels comic strip hero into a film star. The legendary American film director discovered Hergé's oeuvre when film reviewers in the early eighties pointed out the similarities between Indiana Jones and Tintin. Spielberg was an instant fan, and also the one selected by Hergé to film Tintin. But he took his time - about thirty years. Tintin's world premiere didn't take place until October 2011 in Brussels. The strips 'The Crab with the Golden Claws', 'The Secret of the Unicorn' and 'Red Rackham's Treasure' were fused into one action-packed adventure film. Advanced technology was employed to bring Tintin and the motley crew of supporting characters to life. The end result is animation, but the basis was laid using real actors. As a tribute, Spielberg gave Hergé a cameo in the first scene of the film. Hergé is the street artist who draws Tintin at the flea market in the Vossenplein. 'The Adventures of Tintin: the secret of the Unicorn' is to have a sequel, directed by another giant of the film world who is also a lover of Tintin: Peter Jackson, director of the Lord Of The Rings trilogy.

2011 was also a great year for the Smurfs. Peyo (pen name of Belgian Pierre Culliford), first drew the famous little blue creatures with white gnome hats and trousers in 1958. The strips were a big success and the animation film, 'The Smurfs and the Magic Flute', followed in 1975. The American break-through came in the eighties, thanks to the hundreds of cartoons produced by Hanna-Barbera for television. In the summer of 2011, Papa Smurf, Grouchy Smurf, Clumsy Smurf and Brainy Smurf conquered the hearts of many children in a Hollywood production. 'The Smurfs' is not a cartoon but live action with three-dimensional, computer-generated smurfs. Pursued by the evil wizard Gargamel and his cat Azrael, the smurfs land in the New York of the present day. 'The Smurfs' was a box-office hit, and 'The Smurfs 2' is currently in the making.

Tintin and the smurfs are not the only comic strip heroes who have made it to film stardom. In 2008 and 2011, two French blockbusters were released based on Largo Winch - a millionaire in jeans with the charm of a playboy and the superhuman powers of the traditional comic book hero. Largo Winch is a creation of the Brussels duo, Jean Van Hamme (screenplay) and Philippe Francq (art work). Together they collaborate on the spare themes of the popular comic strip of the same name.

Spring of 2012 at last saw the release of 'On the Trail of Marsupilami' by Alain Chabat, the French director who previously had a hit with 'Asterix and Obelix Meet Cleopatra'. Marsupilami, a mysterious creature from the Palombian forest that can do the craziest things with its tail, was created by Franquin, the grand master of the Belgian comic strip who also gave us Gaston Lagaffe, among others.

It is very likely that even more comic strip heroes will take the step on to the screen. For example, one project is adapting 'The Yellow M'- 'By Jove!', one of the most popular adventures of the now classic Blake and Mortimer series by Edgar P. Jacobs.

Niels Ruel