I’d bring my two favorite books in the Tintin series, The Secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham’s Treasure, by Hergé (Georges Remi). The Adventures of Tintin were likely the first translated books I ever read—though I didn’t know it at the time. When I discovered the original French versions in our school library, I remember feeling not only shocked, but proprietary and violated. The Tintin books had always been mine, and now they belonged to other (Belgian) people, too.

That childhood experience of claiming cultural artifacts as my own wasn’t unique to Tintin, of course, but there is something about that crime-solving, fauxhawked man-child, his terrier sidekick, and their supporting cast (a drunk shipman, a deaf professor, and twin bumbling detectives) that engender, for lack of a better word, what I’d call intimacy.

Hergé’s ligne claire style creates tension between the most basic visual information and a strong narrative; this is a child’s world, balanced between realism and fantasy, mirrored perfectly in the cartoon characters and naturalistic backgrounds. As a kid reading Tintin, I felt trusted to “animate” each panel myself. The result was that Tintin and Snowy and Captain Haddock became as much my invention as Hergé’s.

Hergé’s unparalleled influence on comic art aside, Tintin is a godsend to any writer or reader who enjoys participatory, active storytelling. There is nothing pedantic or passive here; we are involved on every page. Imbued with reciprocal play and generosity, these are books that anyone who writes can learn from, and anyone who reads can enjoy.