It’s just a Belgian comic book, a childish adventure about an asexual French man-boy with a paintbrush-sized tuft of red hair named Tintin. Why would people bet their life’s savings on a slice of Dupont Circle real estate to devote an entire store to it?
Bashi Bazouks store owners Claude Taylor and Jennifer McCarthy expect to capitalize on the intense cult appeal of Georges Remi’s acclaimed adventure comicas well as that of other characters from Europe: Astérix, Madeline, Babar, Wallace & Gromit, and the Little Prince (plus the lone Yankee, Curious George). It appears their gamble is paying off. Since their store opened at 1627 Connecticut Ave. NW in April, Taylor says, legions of consumers have flocked in to snatch up all manner of comic curios, from the $8.95 Tintin paperback adventures to the limited-edition resin statues of Tintin, his faithful canine companion Snowy, and his best bud, the comically alcoholic Captain Haddockwhich sell for $1,050 each.
The 30-ish proprietors, both former White House staffers, have combined McCarthy’s Europhilia and Taylor’s nostalgia for the deftly drawn, expertly paced comic books of his youth.
“I grew up on Tintin,” Taylor says. “I learned to read with Tintin.”
Tintin was born in Georges Remi’s comic strip Le Petit Vingtième on Jan. 10, 1929; the debut strip sent the knickers-clad boy-reporter to the U.S.S.R. Tintin in the Land of the Soviets is boring, and the artwork is atrocious, as it is in Remi’s follow-up, Tintin in the Congo, which is replete with offensive depictions of Africans. Soon after those volumes, however, as if hit by a lightning bolt of talent, Remi (who wrote under the pseudonym Hergé), began spinning compelling dramas distinguished by their elaborate detail and lavish color. By Tintin’s seventh adventurethe quiet, suspenseful The Black IslandRemi had come into his own; his total works sold 120 million copies and were translated into 40 languages. When Remi died in 1983, the world mourned selfishly: They wanted more Tintins, so badly that the quick, crude sketches for Tintin’s next adventure, Tintin et L’Alph-Art, has been bound and is for sale at Taylor and McCarthy’s store.
Bashi Bazouks takes its name from one of the more clean curses spewn from the lips of the quick-tempered Captain Haddock, Taylor’s favorite character. Nonetheless, Taylor maintains deep admiration for the redhead to whom the store is devoted. “Tintin stands for truth and justice,” he says, “friendship, loyalty…all the virtues.” Not to mention wealth.Jake Tapper