TINTIN, the most recognisable figure in ail fiction, has been a publishing phenomenon since he first appeared in 1929. For half a century Tintin books have sold four million copies annually in more than fifty languages, and every year new fans succumb to his appeal, which is just as strong for adults as for children. This book explains the books'sources in real life. Hergé, Tintin's creator, drew on the news stories of his day. The fascist plots of the thirties, and later Stalinist machinations too, were transformed and inimitably satirised in the tension between Syldavia and Borduria. The race to the moon, fascination with the Abominable Snowman, the revolutionary Tupamaros in South America, plus much more, caught his imagination as well. Hergé was also preoccupied with accuracy. Equipment from aircraft to guns, street scenes, interiors, clothes, flora and fauna were ail drawn from his enormous archive of press cuttings, postcards, catalogues and ephemera, and updated for new editions. People were updated likewise: Rudolf Valentino for example, who has a walk-on part in Cigars of the Pharaoh, later becomes Kirk Douglas. Tintin himself was based on Hergé's younger brother, who (together with Erich von Stroheim) was the model as well for the dastardly Colonel Sponsz. Bianca Castafiore was derived from his Aunt Ninie - with a touch of Maria Callas - and Thomson and Thompson from his father and uncle, twins who really did wear matching bowler hats. Auguste Piccard is recognisably Professor Calculus and, though Captain Haddock has no traceable source, there was coincidentally an Admiral Haddock who might have captained the Unicorn. Tintin: The Complete Companion is full of fascinating information and intriguing connections, is comprehensive and unrivalled, and beautifully designed in colour throughout. For devotees of Tintin and the Tintinesque it is indispensable.