The Tintin Ebola Connection That Makes For A Very Strange Story

By Abdulkareem Baba Aminu

Way back in 1976, Peter Piot, a researcher at a lab in Antwerp was a young scientist and was part of the team that discovered the Ebola virus back then in Africa. In a nice, long (and compelling, if that kind of thing's your cup of tea) interview on The Guardian's website he spoke about those days. While describing the time he headed to Africa to research a then-mysterious, deadly virus, he also mentioned a fascinating nugget of info: "When the Belgian government decided to send someone, I volunteered immediately. I was 27 and felt a bit like my childhood hero, Tintin." So, there you have it: Famous scientists doing important work read comics, kids!

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But there was also another interesting angle, as Piot disclosed that the nuns who contracted the disease and who had died were from Belgium and at Yambuku, part of the Belgian Congo. Which suggests he must've been reading Tintin in the Congo, an early book in the series and one that would later spark controversy for portraying racism, as creator Hergé has long been accused of.

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It even infamously spawned a 2012 court case, during which a Belgian court ruled that the 1946 edition of the book did not break anti-hate laws, chalking it up to "the attitudes of the day and not a deliberate attempt to incite racism". Congolese campaigner Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo had been for years seeking a ban on the book as he believed the portrayal of Africans was "a justification of white supremacy" as detailed in an article by The Independent from 2012.

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Abdulkareem Baba Aminu is a Bleeding Cool contributor, newspaper editor, award-winning journalist, cartoonist, comic book creator and painter. The Nigeria-based writer has reviewed comics, novels, movies and music for a variety of platforms. He is currently the Editor of the Saturday edition of the Daily Trust, one of the most influential newspapers in his country. You can follow him on Twitter @KareemReal

About Hannah Means Shannon

Editor-in-Chief at Bleeding Cool. Independent comics scholar and former English Professor. Writing books on magic in the works of Alan Moore and the early works of Neil Gaiman.

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