Tintin and Casterman: the end of a great adventure?

The affair is not new. In January 2007, Nick Rodwell already considered that Casterman who edits and broadcasts Tintin: « n’a[vait] not well managed the international export of the Belgian hero for at least 20 years “. The editor’s reaction was not long in coming, so he reminded everyone that they were staying the exclusive holders of the worldwide rights for the edition of the albums of Adventures of Tintin until 2053! “. An announcement which surprised especially concerning the expiry of this contract, undoubtedly an error of interpretation.


In 2009, we reopened the file, with new declarations of Nick Rodwell at Belgian economic magazine Trends [1] : “I have a scoop for you. I think today that it is impossible to work with Casterman! It is as if two people are married, but the couple is no longer functioning and neither wants to leave the house. Between Casterman and Moulinsart, it’s the same thing: the marriage no longer holds.[…] The file is in the hands of the lawyers. “.

The takeover by Gallimard and the arrival of Benoît Mouchard

The situation was therefore more than tense in 2009. But the time was probably not for major decisions, because the Tintin museum was opening its doors, and despite the legal attacks against Tintin in Congo, the King of the Belgians came to visit the place dedicated to the work of Hergé. Then the film of Steven Spielberg in 2011 calmed the spirits, giving worldwide notoriety to the young reporter, and even winning a Golden Globe.

2012 was also a turbulent year for Casterman: the acquisition of the Flammarion group by Gallimard generated the integration of Tintin’s long-standing partner into the leading group of comic book publishers. It did not go smoothly: the resignation of the PGD Louis Delas, the departure of part of the editorial team, the bronca of the authors, etc.

Charlotte Gallimard, Didier Platteau de Moulinsart and Benoît Mouchart
Photo: D. Pasamonik (L’Agence BD)

Finally, in early 2013, we learned that Benoît Mouchart moved from the post of artistic director of FIBD d’Angoulême to that of editorial director of Casterman, enough to ease the tensions between the new management and the authors. But also with Moulinsart, with whom the young director had good contacts, as he confirmed to us: « Charlotte [Gallimard] and I want Hergé’s masterpiece to return to its place at the head of the bow of the Casterman vessel. We therefore established a constructive dialogue very early on with Fanny & Nick Rodwell ”.

In fact, during 2014, Casterman published two very beautiful monographs written by Philippe Goddin and devoted successively to 7 Crystal Balls and at Sun temple. A state of mind confirmed by Nick Rodwell himself still in 2014, in an interview with Didier Pasamonik, part of which we reproduce below. It sheds light on these different precedents.

One of the key points of this improvement is undoubtedly the return to favor of Casterman since its takeover by Gallimard. The situation had indeed deteriorated to such an extent that the Moulinsart editions no longer had a distributor: the only possibility of acquiring the formidable albums of the Chronology of a work or the biography of Hergé by Philippe Goddin was to buy it in one of the rare “Tintin shops” served directly by Moulinsart or on the Internet! Since then, Casterman has taken over the distribution of Moulinsart and the turnover has started to rise again.

Rodwell explains to La Libre Belgique his part of tussle with the publisher tournaiso-germano-pratin: ” It is true that when we signed for the film Tintin, I asked for 3 things: 1. that Hergé be the best paid author of Casterman, since he represents about 25% of the profits of the publishing house for 30 years. 2. that they develop an international department, because currently it sucks! 3.they are sponsors of the Hergé Museum to the tune of 50,000 € per year, symbolically, this would be quite normal.”

It would seem that he partially won his case on the first point: “The contract for the sponsorship of the museum must be signed today. “As for the other two:”Hergé is not the best paid, but contacts are much better with the management of Casterman. We hope that the international department can emerge quickly…”

Fanny Rodwell, Hergé’s universal legatee, in May 2014. She imposed the Hergé Museum against the advice of her husband who would have preferred traveling exhibitions.

You who pale in the colors of Tintin …


If everything seemed to be going so well in 2014, how could the situation have deteriorated to such an extent? On the contrary, 2015 and 2016 saw Casterman and Moulinsart increase their collaborations: the publication of [L’Art d’Hergé par Pierre Sterckx et surtout le lancement du Feuilleton intégral en 2015, une magnifique collection qui allait rassembler tout ce qu’Hergé avait réalisé au long de sa carrière dans différents supports, une magnifique et pharaonique entreprise.

Puis en 2016, les passionnés purent bénéficier non seulement de la suite du Feuilleton intégral, mais surtout de la parution d’une version colorisée de Tintin chez les Soviets pour laquelle Casterman avait sorti la grosse artillerie commerciale : train à l’effigie du héros, affiches et flyer disséminées, un véritable carpet bombing. Seule ombre au tableau de la relation entre les deux partenaires historiques, la publication de la toujours pertinente analyse de Philippe Goddin publiée uniquement chez Moulinsart, et pas avec Casterman, dans un format et une présentation très différente des deux précédents Rascar Capac… Étrange !

2016 au Train World : l’ancien hall de gare a été redécoré aux couleurs de Tintin.
Au premier plan : Nick Rodwell, et Piet Jonckers, le directeur de Train World.

Photo : Charles-Louis Detournay

L’harmonie semblait régner à nouveau lorsqu’en janvier 2017, Casterman et Moulinsart ont organisé une redite du retour de Tintin à Bruxelles, en hommage à la marée humaine qui avait accueillie l’événement organisé en 1930 par l’Abbé Wallez.

Un autre problème allait subvenir : après la colorisation des Soviets, Nick Rodwell voulait poursuivre dans cette direction, en publiant d’un côté d’anciennes versions colorisées pour le grand public, soutenues de l’autre par des monographies qui combleraient les attentes des passionnés. Un calcul tout-à-fait judicieux de la part du directeur de Moulinsart, qui contournait ainsi habilement le fait de ne pas réaliser de « nouvelles » aventures de Tintin, tout en maintenant le héros d’Hergé sur le devant de la scène grâce à de fréquentes publications.


Le hic était qu’après les Soviets, venait le tour de Tintin au Congo, un album sous le feu des critiques et des attaques en justice depuis de nombreuses années ! Certains organismes avaient voulu censurer l’album ou renoncer à l’éditer, et beaucoup attendaient une préface qu’ils jugeaient nécessaire, comme c’était déjà le cas dans la version anglophone.

Un 90e anniversaire qui jette un froid

Ce foureau recèle un album à l’italienne qui reproduit les doubles pages de l’album avec son appareil de commentaires.

La réponse de Moulinsart à ces attaques est finalement venue par le biais de la publication des Tribulations de Tintin au Congo, une nouvelle monographie de Philippe Goddin qui parvient toujours à analyser et contextualiser l’œuvre d’Hergé avec des sources à l’appui. Alors que cet ouvrage reprenait exactement la même maquette que les deux Rascar Capac, il s’agissait cette fois-ci d’une coédition entre les deux partenaires, Casterman n’étant plus le seul sur la couverture. Rien de vraiment étrange : Moulinsart publie d’autres ouvrages depuis quelques années, il paraissait alors logique qu’ils fassent part égale sur la couverture.

Le vrai problème était dans l’édition de la version colorisée grand public de Tintin au Congo. Toutes les informations provenaient de Moulinsart, et seul son logo apparaissait sur la couverture. Il paraissait évident que Casterman ne souhaitait pas publier cet album, vus les problèmes que cela allait susciter. Moulinsart allait-il donc publier cet ouvrage grand public sans Casterman ? Cela aurait été une première !

Philippe Goddin
Photo : Charles-Louis Detournay

Si Nick Rodwell voulait éditer seul cette version colorisée de Tintin au Congo, en avait-il le droit ? Comme le précise le gestionnaire des droits d’Hergé sur son site Internet : “À la différence des Éditions Casterman qui gèrent les droits des albums en bande dessinée créés par Hergé (français et langues étrangères), les Éditions Moulinsart éditent des ouvrages dérivés de l’œuvre. Ces ouvrages peuvent être obtenus chez tous les “bons” libraires, dans les boutiques Tintin ou via notre site Internet.” [2]

But was it necessary to consider this colorized version of Tintin in Congo as a “derivative work” of the work? For digital rights it seems, the thing is clear: only Moulinsart markets them. But for the album?

At the end of this showdown, everyone remained in their position: Casterman did not publish and distribute this colorized version of Tintin in Congo, sticking to Goddin’s monograph; and for its part, Moulinsart has sold the digital version as it has the rights, as well as an ultra-limited version of 500 copies in a special box. A version that is already unleashing passions at auction. This 90th anniversary therefore cast a chill between the two historical partners, Casterman not being present at the press conference celebrating the event.

The question at the start of 2019: will the colored version of Tintin in Congo only be sold by Moulinsart?
© Hergé, Moulinsart – 2019.

Operation seduction

The partnership forged between Hergé and Éditions Casterman to accompany and support the work of the author and the expectations of the public, dates back to 1934. In business, especially in terms of creation, such longevity between two partners remains exceptional. It is therefore logical that, since the creation of Éditions Moulinsart, the relationship between the two companies has not been a long quiet river. If this had calmed down with the arrival of Benoît Mouchart, the Congo affair threw a serious chill.

The temperature has dropped a notch again because of the Thermozéro, this unfinished adventure of Tintin of which Benoît Mouchart is a fine connoisseur. On several occasions in January 2019, he passed his message through the media: « [Le Thermozéro] is Hergé’s golden age, the moment when he is in full possession of his art, his narrative means and his humor, so this is a very interesting testimony. I urge all France Inter listeners to write to Hergé’s beneficiary, Fanny Rodwell, to convince her to publish this story. “

During a cross interview with Philippe Geluck in March 2019, Nick Rodwell sent a scathing response: « [Publier ce travail inachevé] would be completely ridiculous. It comes back today, because Benoît Mouchart, the editorial director of Casterman, encouraged the public in France and Belgium to write personally to Fanny to personally plead the cause of this album that Hergé did not finish. But I find that completely stupid. “

At the same time, Benoît Mouchart weighed his point of view and reminded listeners and the general public why there was no new Tintin album. In addition, the fiftieth anniversary of the first step on the Moon would allow a new co-edition between the two partners. A step in the right direction? …

The great silence

Not really, because after this joint reissue which ultimately only brought together Objective moon and We walked on the moon Without additional file, Casterman and Moulinsart no longer published a joint album.


The perfect example of this historic lack of collaboration is the abrupt halt to the publication of the Full serial after five volumes. Readers and club fans have mobilized in a petition sent in May 2020 to the two companies: “Casterman and Moulinsart editions must keep their commitments and respect their readers. We therefore ask them to get back to work and complete the full Order Paper. “ No answers from those concerned.

The following two publications published at the end of 2020 mark the divisions which seem to be widening between Casterman and Moulinsart. In line with his strategy, Nick Rodwell ordered a colorized version of Tintin in America as well as the associated monograph, entitled Hergé, Tintin and the Americans (we will come back to this in a future article). However, neither of these two works is co-published with Casterman: they were both published under the leadership of Moulinsart only, which also poses some problems of distribution because Moulinsart does not of course have the imposing Casterman structure. Meanwhile, the historical editor of Tintin does not give up, communicating around the 80th anniversary of the appearance of Captain Haddock for example.


For Whom the Bell Tolls ?

How did it come about that two important releases to keep Hergé’s work in the news were not provided by Casterman? The differences generated by the colorization of Tintin in Congo crystallized in another file: the sale of the first cover of the Blue lotus at Artcurial this Thursday January 14 at 2:15 p.m..

As we explained to you previously, this coverage should normally reach a new record, undoubtedly exceeding 2.5 million euros. According to Artcurial’s press release, this unique and historic piece would have been offered “By Hergé in person to the young son of the publisher Louis Casterman who kept it in a drawer after having carefully folded it in six. “


It seems obvious to specialists that this story is only a fable. Experts from all sides agree on another version: the fact that this first cover, too complicated to reproduce, would never have been returned to Hergé and would have remained in the publisher’s archives. According to Philippe Goddin, it would have been rediscovered by chance in 1979, during the fiftieth anniversary of the creation of Tintin, when the TV host and passionate about Hergé Stéphane Steeman was authorized to open a few letters exchanged at this time.

All this brings a lot of credit to Nick Rodwell, who has long battled over historical pieces regularly sold by former Casterman collaborators, and who claims that this cover be included in the Hergé Museum. The only problem: Hergé first, then Fanny after her death, had several times the opportunity to ask for this work to be returned to them, and never did. Enough to nullify the request for restitution today …

January 2017: Simon Casterman, with one of his friends on his left, as well as two other “characters larger than life”, to celebrate Tintin!
Photo : Charles-Louis Detournay.

Consequently Moulinsart puts pressure on Casterman so that the Casterman family reconsider its decision. However, the publishing house has not belonged to the Casterman family for a long time! Although Simon Casterman still officiates there today as Managing Director, the publishing house is owned by the Gallimard group. Who is currently in a cul-de-sac: there is nothing he can do to prevent today’s sale, and Artcurial’s hammer may well drive the last nail in the coffin of this hostile collaboration between the two ankle partners for 86 years.

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