AFP - Cartoon legend Tintin, a rare reporter to rise to world fame having barely written an article, celebrates his 80th birthday this weekend as popular as ever.
The immortal boy reporter -- the most beloved figure in cartoon-mad Belgium's history -- first appeared on January 10, 1929 bound for the Soviet Union, in a supplement to the Roman Catholic Brussels weekly, Le Vingtieme Siecle.
Since then, 24 comic books about his adventures have been translated into more than 50 languages, with over 200 million copies sold and new young fans attracted to what appears to be a timeless and certainly ageless character.
It has been a long career that the death in 1983 of his creator, Georges Remi -- alias Herge -- has not compromised, with his descendants refusing to hand over the rights to Tintin.
Yet he may be immortalised on screen soon. With the agreement of Herge's wife, Fanny Rodwell, US film-maker Steven Spielberg plans to make a trilogy of cartoon movies, the first expected out next year.
This could finally give the character so well-known to Europeans the acclaim he never had in the United States, even if Tintin, his faithful companion Captain Haddock and trusty little dog Snowy have travelled the world.
However this anniversary will not just be a celebration of a character who is both brave and resourceful with the morals of a boy scout.
Tintin and his creator, whose 100th birthday was marked last year, remain a target for some.
They have been accused of anti-communism in his first adventure "Tintin in the Land of the Soviets" and colonialism in "Tintin in the Congo" from 1931.
Worse still, in 1942, there also appeared a story of his called "The Mystery Star," which prompted charges of anti-Semitism, a charge Herge denied.
It's a litany that was examined last month by the British business weekly, The Economist.
The magazine described Tintin as "a very European hero" who, while being wholesome and slightly priggish, had a simple ethical code that is far from the politically correct attitudes found in English-language comics today.
It is a problem that Spielberg, and associate Peter Jackson, will have to grapple with on the big screen.
For Alain De Kuyssche, the chief editor of the Internet site www.tintin.com run by Moulinsart SA, the institution charged with supervising Herge's artistic heritage, the allegations are unfounded.
"To judge Tintin or Herge according to criteria set by the events of history, the evolution of mind-sets and political upheavals only gives a false impression of a forgotten reality," he said.
"I met Herge several times, and never had the impression that I was with someone who had no sensitivity about such questions. You have to put things back into their context," said De Kuyssche, noting that he is of Jewish origin.
Festivities to mark Tintin's birthday begin in earnest on January 14, with the unveiling of a fresco in his honour at the Brussels-Luxembourg train station in the Belgian capital.
At the beginning of June, the Herge Museum designed by French architect Christian de Portzamparc will open its doors in Louvain-la-Neuve, to the south of Brussels.
This could also serve as an occasion to pay homage to a largely forgotten old man, 96-year-old Palle Huld, who inspired Herge.
In 1928, at the age of 16, this Danish scout toured the world to mark the centenary of the birth of Jules Verne. A photograph shows him on Moscow's Red Square wearing golfing trousers and a cap.
On his return, he was welcomed by a huge crowd at Copenhagen railway station, just like Tintin in his first adventure.