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Tintin sets sail for Greenwich

Cartoon hero's latest museum adventure aims to bring marine geography to life. Adi Bloom reports

Herge, the Belgian creator of the famous Tintin comic strip, used to loiter purposefully in corners of the Musee de la Marine in Paris. Now fans of the cartoon reporter-explorer can do the same in the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, south London.

A new exhibition, opening in March, is to link rare editions and sketches with the marine artefacts that inspired them.

Visitors will be able to see the Belgian magazine in which Tintin made his first, single-frame appearance. They can witness the moment when he acquired his famous quiff, while driving against the wind, pursued by Soviet villains. And they will be able to see the sketchbook used by Herge, as he wandered through the Musee de la Marine, drawing items of interest that later appeared in the cartoon strips.

Kristian Martin, curator of the exhibition, said: "Herge felt passionate about getting the maritime world right. One cartoon shows Tintin against the night sky, and every star is in the right place. He saw museums as great repositories of information, and would sketch real objects, such as ship models or navigation points for a sea battle. The detail is almost excessive."

The exhibition, which marks Tintin's 75th birthday, will display the types of objects that inspired these sketches, alongside the cartoons in which they eventually appeared. It will focus on five in which the adolescent hero, his dog Snowy, and his friend Captain Haddock, embark on adventures at sea.

Images of Tintin battling against pirates will be shown next to 18th-century cutlasses and pistols. Exploits underwater will be accompanied by a 1900 diving helmet. And sextants, compasses and model ships will sit alongside navigation scenes.

Nick Rodwell, of the Herge Foundation, which is backing the exhibition, believes that linking museum items to popular tales of adventure on the high seas will interest children in the otherwise unglamorous elements of geography and maritime history.

He said: "If you go to sea, you don't know what's waiting for you. It allows people to forget about the world today and dream about other things, opening up doors to adventure."

David Lambert, chief executive of the Geographical Association, said: "In geography children can find it hard to see what the story is. But it's the story of how the world came to be, and the exploration of that world. If Tintin will help children make sense of that, I'm an enthusiast."

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