As an explorer, crime fighter and all-round hero, comic-strip icon Tintin has been an inspiration for generations. But his status as a paragon of wholesome adventure is under threat, thanks to a court bid to ban one of his books, Tintin in the Congo, for its racist portrayals of Africans.
The trial, which will begin on Wednesday in Brussels, the city where Tintin’s creator Hergé lived, is reviving memories of an era that Belgium would rather forget: its brutal colonial empire in the Congo. The case was lodged by a Brussels-based Congolese former accountant, Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo, 42, who says the book — first published in 1930 — is racist, colonial propaganda. “It shows the Africans as childish imbeciles,” he tells TIME. “It suggests blacks have not evolved.” Indeed, to today's reader, many of the scenes range from politically incorrect to hideously offensive, including one where a black woman bows before Tintin exclaiming, “White man very great. White mister is big juju man!”