Tom the Dancing Bug: Billy Dare - Subtle Racism?



  1. It’s nice to see that, after all this time, Mr. Reuben can still go from a topical political strip to a more esoteric, never-ending artistic argument referencing a beloved Belgian cartoonist and the people who hate him. Classic Bolling!

    1. “Classic Bolling!”
      I think you misspelled “Trolling”.

      (Not that I in any way think that vaguely ethnic imaginary characters should ever be cast as villains, or that blond-haired protagonists should ever be considered anything but evidence of authorial Nazism. Especially in this case, where the actual author is Bolling, whose parody is reflexive and self-defeating one that pushes the reader to reject the first order parody and the dubious tactical allegation of antisemitism by the villain. …unless of course the previous sentence was a meta-parody…but not a meta-meta parody…)

  2. I figure that this is about Tin Tin. It should be noted that as he matured as an artist and a person Herge did come to understand his earlier racism and made a conscious effort to depict non-white people as people in their own right. Whether he succeeded or not is certainly up for debate but you can’t talk about Herge and race without considering this fact.

  3. I myself prefer to think of the author as a classifying principle within a particular discursive formation.

  4. Personally I love Herge and Tintin. The whole thing about antisemitism… well of course it could be antisemitic. Its not exactly a secret that 1930’s Europe and US had some nasty ideas about judeism and jews. Or for that matter racism.

    Herge was a great storyteller, he paved the way for more mature comics and illustrated tales – but he was an ordinary guy with some really nasty ideas at times. I have a dictionary from the 1920’s at home and I dont even want to quote what they thought about blacks, what my grandparents when they where young took for actuall proven facts. My grandfather was an active antiracist during the war and after, he was a nice man who was kind to others no matter what skincolour or religion they had. But before the war when he was younger I would bet allot of money that whatever opinions he had on black people, jews, muslims would be scary for us now. (my paternal grandmothers family fought for the nazis but Im sure they would have been nice people to if they had survived)

    Herge wasn’t a saint or anything – but he was an ordinary racist man in an age where that was commonplace.

    1. “Herge wasn’t a saint or anything – but he was an ordinary racist man in an age where that was commonplace”

      This really doesn’t excuse anything.

      1. It’s hard to realize when your society as a whole is ignorant. Those who fail should not be excused entirely, but it doesn’t hurt to understand why they failed.

        1. I hope that I’ve made it clear that my thoughts on the matter are more considered than a simple “fuck him he was a racist”.

      2. My mother’s best friend when she was growing up in the 30s was a black girl from Jamaica, which apparently didn’t ruffle the feathers of my grandparents, who were born in the 1890s. My mother also became a research scientist in the early 1940s. I don’t really accept the ‘everybody was racist and sexist back then’ defense.

        1. DUDE!!!!! You did not just say some of your (mother’s) best friends are black, did you? C’mon man. Friendship, presumed or otherwise, with people of color does not mean that someone is not racist, you know that right? My spouse is white and if you were to peek into my brain when I am particularly disgusted with him, I am quite sure it would reveal me to be racist as well. Meaning, Hools Verne has a point re-TinTin. But of course, some might argue it is moot.

          But yes, comics perpetuate/d racist stereotypes all the way up to and through to, today.

          1. I’m pretty sure that an interracial friendship in a small town in the 1930s qualifies as evidence that at least one person wasn’t a racist asshole during the ‘get out of being censured free’ period that some people would like to extend to racist assholes throughout history.

          2. Thanks for perpetuating racism by continuing to insist that its not something that we all have to confront in ourselves.

          3. Hools, it will help all of us greatly if you will just give a short list of acceptable feelings about race and ways to express them. Will do anything to comply with your nuanced understandings.

          4. The question of how to feel about racists from history is something that I struggle with a lot. You refer to the idea of ‘get out of being censured free’, but how can I censure someone who died when I was 5? What about the majority of people who died before I was born? What does it mean to censure them?

            I don’t want to feel angry at billions of dead people, and I don’t imagine that there is any punishment I can inflict on them. Even in our own time I’m not sure that being angry at or imagining that I can punish racists makes sense, but how could it accomplish anything against the dead?

            You are right that not everyone in history was a racist, and that it isn’t right to say there was no other way to be. But a lot of people were. They lived and died and never learned the value of the lives of all people. I don’t know whether to feel angry at them or sorry for them.

          5. Of the two, “sorry” gets my vote, perhaps: but either way, don’t YOU lose any sleep over it.
            The dead have had their run: you duty to them is to manage your own in light of their examples.

            It is important to learn from the successes of our ancestors: but even more important may be not to neglect the lessons which we have, that is to say, the knowledge which we have gained, from their mistakes – for which knowledge they (and us too, perhaps) have had to pay so dearly.

          6. My point isn’t about Antinous’s family history. That’s his business. My point is simply that excusing a person for holding the attitudes of his time is a vapid attempt to avoid responsibility. There’s an implicit assumption in that defense that “we know better now” which was as false in Herge’s time as it is today. The argument is even more ill considered when applied to Herge specifically because unlike, say Mencken or Lovecraft, Herge ended up confronting his own racism and attempted to combat it so the least you can ask of his admirers is to do the same.

    1. Well, it says ‘with Quentin’, not ‘with sideckick and crime-fighting partner Quentin, the Wonder Parrot’ :-)

  5. Really? Every Tom the Dancing Bug gets it’s own BB item?!

    C’mon, we really are smart enough to follow a webcomic on our own.

    1. Really? Every Tom the Dancing Bug gets it’s own BB item?!

      Tom the Dancing Bug is no longer a feature at Salon where it used to be, so Boing Boing is now the main website that features it every week–see Bolling’s announcement here where he talked about the Salon cancellation and how “Tom the Dancing Bug is now a full free agent on the web, looking for a partner with a strong web presence that would be enhanced by frequent particle collider jokes, ducks making fun of presidents, and ghosts of living celebrities.” So, judging from the initial announcement it looks like Boing Boing stepped in and decided to take the role of that partner. I’m glad, since this comic was one of the main reasons I used to go to Salon!

      On the subject of Hergé, there’s an interesting discussion on this thread from the Comics Journal discussion forum, which talks a little about his early reliance on ethnic stereotypes for comedy, and how he came to regret that and edit some of his earlier comics to remove the more extreme ones.

      1. TY anon and Jesse M. I didn’t realize that TTDB was now a feature, although I am still willing to maintain that us idiots know how to follow a webcomic, even if it moves from Salon to BB.

        If the goal is to attract as many viewers as possible, it is still much better to link to it when it is great or at least good. People who love it will back-research it, that’s the great thing about the internets. It works for XKCD.

        Clay Shirky will provide the math next time he is a guest moderator.


        I can handle TTDB every _single_ time if we can wrap up the book appearances into 1 weekly announcement. Yeah, I’m looking at you, Mark.

    1. The comic wouldn’t be the same without him/her.

      Hey, even Daisy Bumstead at least shows some reactions.

  6. Herge was a man who thought enough about his own ideas to question them and make changes where he saw room for improvement, including rewriting some of the books.
    He studied a lot of different cultures and researched his work thoroughly. Tintin was laden with social and political commentary, pointing out injustices such as the stealing of land from the native americans.
    The villification levelled against him is often worse than the early, mild overtones he used.
    And if any of the characters appear like stereotypes it’s because it’s a comic, and that’s what makes them comic characters.

  7. @Hools Verne, 26

    Lovecraft started to confront his racism towards the end of his life. He had a neighbor who, like Lovecraft, admired Hitler in the early 30s, but the neighbor actually moved to Germany for a while. She came back completely disillusioned, told HPL about it, and it pushed him to change his views. He was still bigoted against blacks, but he abandoned his hatred of Jews and his prejudice against Asians. Even his prejudice against blacks was much weaker than it once was by the time he died.

    You can map out the change in HPL’s views by how Lovecraft’s letters refer to Hitler, who goes from being “Handsome Adolf” to an admirable clown to a menace to civilization from 1930 to 1935.

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