BEIJING — Beloved Belgian cartoon reporter Tintin is getting a makeover in China thanks to a new, more faithful Mandarin translation of his adventures.
Wang Bingdong, who first discovered Herge's comic strip hero in 2001 at the age of 66, spent three years penning the new version of 22 Tintin books -- a painstaking task he says was a pure delight.
"I really found myself feeling happy as I was translating -- I felt younger with Tintin and the other members of the Tintin family by my side every day," Wang told AFP with a grin.
The new Chinese edition includes nearly all of Tintin's stories -- "Tintin in the Land of the Soviets" was deemed too anti-communist by the country's censors for its criticism of the Soviet Union.
The plucky character and his canine pal Snowy first appeared in China in the 1980s, when some of the stories were published in so-called "little book" format, but the first official set of books only came out in 2001.
More than two million books were sold, but the translation was far from perfect, having been done from the English, not the original French, which first appeared in 1929.
Wang, a fluent French speaker, immersed himself in Herge's work, paying careful attention to the names and places.
He received a bit of help from Pierre Justo, a 44-year-old Frenchman and avid collector of foreign Tintin editions who lives in Beijing and has an encyclopedic knowledge of the globe-trotting journalist.
Incompetent detectives Dupond and Dupont became "Dubang" and "Dupang," not Thompson and Thomson.
Captain Haddock's famously colourful insults are given new life -- "Ten thousand thundering typhoons!" becomes "Tian da lei pi!" or "May the Heavens punish you and thunder strike you down!"
Tintin fans in China -- the only country that the character visits twice -- say they are thrilled with the new book.
"This is the first time that the original text has been respected. The translator worked hard to remain faithful to it," said 36-year-old Han Ziwen, one of the leaders of China's Tintin fan club.
"I discovered Tintin in the 'little books' in 1983. At the time, only a few books had been translated, but I was always waiting impatiently for the next one," he said.
"China was opening up to the world, and I was discovering the world with Tintin."
The new edition -- each adventure is available in small and large format, at a cost of 12 and 20 yuan (1.75 and three dollars) -- will benefit from a massive advertising campaign, which should bring Tintin hordes of new fans.
Japanese manga cartoons dominate China's comic book market, but publishers say they are confident that the Belgian hero's reintroduction will offer a golden sales opportunity.
"This is a sizeable market.... There is of course a commercial aspect to all this, but this is also about paying tribute to Herge in a place that he loved," explained Louis Delas, managing director for Belgian publishers Casterman.
"We and the Chinese publisher paid close attention to the print quality, the translation and the price to ensure this was a quality item with mass-market appeal, especially in the run-up to Steven Spielberg's Tintin film in 2011."
There are also sentimental reasons for the Chinese to be fond of the young reporter. In the first Tintin book set in China, "The Blue Lotus," Herge took the side of the Chinese over their Japanese occupiers in 1930s Shanghai.
"At the time, that was not an easy thing. The Japanese protested against Tintin's pro-China stance. It was a daring publication," said Wang.
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