In this fascinating 2006 interview, CHRIS WARE talks about the difficulty of drawing cartoons, and why Tintin never caught on in America.
POV: Although some have approached its widespread popularity, there is no exact parallel to Tintin in American comics. Why do you think this is so? What in American comics comes closest to Tintin and approximating the cult of Tintin? In other media?
Chris: Tintin was fundamentally too sexless to really catch on in America. There are hardly any girls in Hergé’s stories, and there’s also a peculiar sense of responsibility and respect in Tintin that is antithetical to the American character, or at least that of the budding individualist nine-year-old boy who just wants to set things on fire and has been weaned on much more outrageous stories. I’m not even sure if it’s fair to say that there is an analog in American culture to Tintin, actually. I read a few serialized episodes in a magazine my mom subscribed to for me when I was a kid and it made me feel really, really weird; I didn’t like it at all. I could tell that it was “approved” and “safe” and it immediately bored me, because it didn’t seem to have anything to do with what I thought of as the “real” adult world, which was for me at that time superpowers and crimefighting. (I like Tintin now, of course.)
POV: How does politics influence or impact your work in comics (or not)? Has it had a lesser or greater effect over the years?
Chris: Drawing the kind of comics that I do takes so long that to specifically address something as transitory as a political matter in it would be about as effective as composing a symphony with hopes that it would depose a despot. On top of that, I personally don’t think that my version of art is the best way to deal with political issues at all, or, more specifically, the place to make a point. Not that art can’t, but it’s the rare art that still creates something lasting if its main aim was purely to change a particular unfair social structure. (For example, I’d hate to have been a cartoonist in the 1970s and be only able to claim a body of anti-Nixon comics.) I admit that this is an entirely arguable point, however, and I defer to anyone who takes issue with me about it, because I change my mind about it often and I’ll agree with anyone just so I don’t have to talk about it.
Besides, it’s not like there aren’t enough political cartoonists out there already who are much smarter and more clear-headed than I am. About the only times I’ve allowed myself to be topical and opinionated have been in the fake ads in my comics, as I consider that to be the “throwaway” parts of what I do; I know that I’m living in a country where all needs and comforts for a large part of the population have been met frequently at great cost to other parts of the world, however, so writing stories about its inhabitants takes on a sort of responsibility in and of itself. Fundamentally, I have no idea how the world works, though I am trying to figure it out.