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From: www.thedailybeast.com 2011-12-22 09:39:00
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Art: on the trail of Tintin's Tibet

In the fall of my fifth year, I spent several months in Tibet without my parents even knowing it. That summer, they announced that the family was moving from Philadelphia to Montreal, and gave me a French copy of the comic Tintin in Tibet—a random choice, I guess, to ease my transition to the French culture of Quebec. I pored over the book, and when we arrived at our new home in "Quebet,"as I thought of it, I was disappointed not to find the great mountains, abominable snowmen, or levitating lamas that it had seemed to promise. (The book's snowdrifts did come, eventually—which only increased my frustration that it didn't deliver on the rest.)

Already at 5, I had plugged into the powerful myth of Tibet that Westerners have created. Hero, Villain, Yeti: Tibet in Comics, an exhibition now at the lovely little Rubin Museum of Art in New York, shows I wasn't the only kid who feasted on that myth. Martin Brauen, curator emeritus at the Rubin, has assembled 48 comic books built around Tibet, presenting some originals in cases on the wall but all 48 as reading copies out on open desks.

There's the famous Tintin book, of course, in both English and Tibetan editions. (The French original appeared in 1960.) Nearby is the "origins"volume of the Marvel comic Dr. Strange, from 1968, which shows that "Master of the Mystic Arts"acquiring his magic powers from a Himalayan sage. Uncle Scrooge, in a Donald Duck comic, as well as Bugs Bunny in his own, are given zany adventures set at the Top of the World, while Lara Croft, the Tomb Raider herself, also spends time there. During World War II there was even one American action comic, titled The Green Lama, that pretended to ground its superhero deep in Tibetan culture. (Its author cared enough to dig up an actual Buddhist prayer, Om Mani Padme Hum, as the magic phrase his hero utters to change from civilian clothes into cape and tights.)

There can't be many other cultures that Westerners have mythologized as deeply as Tibetan culture. The romance began early: in the 17th century, Catholic missionaries were caught up in the idea that there might be parallels between their own religion, hierarchical and highly ritualized, and the religion of a wildly remote land they were eager to get to.

For Bugs, Scrooge, and Lara Croft, Tibet is a place of great mountains and great adventures., Courtesy of the Rubin Museum of Art, New York [Photo/thedailybeast.com]

[editor : ]
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