Tintin in the Congo was one of the first books that Herge made. It was, in a way, a reflection of the European perception of Africa. Subsequently, Herge did make amends but the book continues to offend many. It is now the subject of a law suit in Europe.
“It makes people think that blacks have not evolved,”
Herge by no means was apolitical. Belgium was right in the middle of all action with imperialism, slave trade, world wars, Nazism, military dictatorship, drug trade and much more. These themes have been in many of his books. The central plot of Red Sea Sharks has the evil Marquis di Gorgonzola and an Emir running a profitable slave trade – kidnapping people by luring them with a sea trip to Mecca. There’s the cold war between two Central-Eastern European countries Syldavia and Borduria which includes the race to the moon as well as the search for weapons of mass destruction (The Calculus Affair).
Depictions of people have been a subject of controversy. Jews for example seem to be hassled about The Shooting Star where the supposed bad guy in the story is a Jew (at least he has a Jewish name) and there is another side character, a loony soothsayer claiming that the end of the world is here. Then you have naked Indian fakirs, drunk Latin American guerrillas, pestilential insurance salesmen, bumbling English cops, evil and cruel Japanese and not to forget the evil Greek tycoons.
The specific story about The Congo seems quite interesting:
There was a move to ban the book three years ago in Britain, sparked by a complaint to the Commission for Racial Equality. This led to its being sold with a warning that some might find its contents offensive, an over-16s reccommendation on some websites, and its removal in some shops from the children’s section to the adult graphic novels shelves. The result was that sales rocketed, climbing from 4,343 place to fifth on the Amazon bestseller list.
The Brooklyn Public Library has placed it in its reserve collection, viewable only by appointment.
It’s a wonder that sailors have not protested against the depiction of Haddock.