By Amanda Sheppard
Meet the Man of Many Identities: Roberto Rastapopoulos
Few names in Tintin’s universe are as synonymous with ill-intent as Roberto Rastapopoulos. The main antagonist in The Adventures of Tintin
series, the monocled villain sought to create chaos wherever he could flee – and flee he did on many occasions.
Conniving, menacing and vindictive, Rastapopoulos was the polar opposite of the heroic titular character. Being Italian-Greek-American, he was multilingual, an attribute that allowed him to assume multiple identities throughout the series. His never-ending pursuit of ill-gotten gains made him public enemy number one throughout Tintin’s adventures.
Rastapopoulos was first introduced in Tintin in America
, though he was not to play a significant role until Cigars of the Pharaoh
,. Here he was introduced as a friendly intermediary – a successful Hollywood filmmaker. In the volume’s sequel, The Blue Lotus
, Rastapopoulos shows his true colours, uncovered as the criminal mastermind behind an opium smuggling ring.
Though his appearance changes numerous times throughout Tintin’s adventures, his devious ways remain a constant. That is, however, until Hergé’s penultimate tale. In Flight 714 to Sydney
, Rastapopoulos appears, at last, to be well and truly foiled, left pleading for mercy with his future left to be determined by a group of extraterrestrial beings.
While he is thought to play a significant role in the final instalment, the posthumously published Tintin and the Alph-Art
(disguised as Endaddine Akass), Hergé’s narrative remains unfinished, leaving Rastapopoulos’ true fate undetermined. Tintin’s foe is left on a perennial cliffhanger – perhaps the ultimate form of punishment for a villain as vengeful as he.
The Hergé hoodwink
Tintin’s adventures across the world are fraught with danger. In many of Hergé’s tales, Tintin dupes his nemeses, but perhaps the greatest hoodwink of all comes from the author himself, and his attempts to misdirect readers along the way.
In much the same way as Tintin is misled, to the reader, villains appear at first to be trusting. Rastapopoulos is a prime example, convincing Tintin he is an ally before revealing his true intentions at the end of The Blue Lotus
. This is the first of many cases of mistaken identity.
Rather than simply repeating the same formula with other villains, he reintroduces Rastapopoulos throughout the series, disguising him from the reader until the last moment – often as peculiar characters, like the decadently garbed Marquis di Gorgonzola in The Red Sea Sharks
Rastapopoulos enlists the help of fellow villains like Mitsuhirato, in The Blue Lotus
, who pulls the wool yet again over Tintin’s eyes, feeding him false information and pointing him in the wrong direction.
Hergé also misleads his audience with the help of fumbling detectives Thomson and Thompson. Readers follow the pair on a continual hunt for the wrong man, making the life of crime-solving ever-more difficult as they send themselves, and Tintin, on a series of wild goose chases.
Faced with villain after villain in the continued face of danger, Tintin’s overtly optimistic outlook diverts readers’ attention from the serious environments and issues he faces – this, in and of itself, is arguably Hergé’s ultimate hoodwink.
The HOCA Foundation, in collaboration with The Hergé Museum, presents THE WORLD OF TINTIN
Wednesday – Sunday, 17 November – 10 December at the new ArtisTree. Due to popular demand, the exhibition will be open daily from 11 – 26 December.
See the Tintin programme page
for more details.
Follow @artistreehk on Instagram for all the #tintin_Artistree action