A tearful, beloved cartoon adventurer, Tintin, quickly emerged as a symbol of solidarity in the chaotic aftermath of the Brussels terror attacks as social media users worldwide took to Facebook and other Web streams for check ins by loved ones potentially in harm's way.

On Twitter, on Instagram and elsewhere around the internet, the red-haired reporter in his signature trench coat and his white dog Snowy — the creations of Belgian cartoonist Herge — were shared as shocked and saddened versions of their usually indomitable and irrepressible selves.

Some cartoonists drew "too soon" criticism for depicting the stars of the comic series "The Adventures of Tintin" — made into a movie in 2011 by Steven Spielberg — as bloodied and battered versions of themselves.

Others on social media borrowed from the Charlie Hebdo tragedy, using the hashtag "JeSuisBruxelles," or "I am Brussels," just as those after the Paris attacks did when spreading the sentiment "JeSuisCharlie."

Facebook, meanwhile, activated its "safety check" system yet again to help Tuesday within hours of the three deadly explosions at the Brussels airport and a metro station.

The system can provide an easy way for people to mark themselves as "safe" after a major disaster or crisis so that people searching for them will know they are unharmed. It has been used recently to help people communicate after major floods and earthquakes as well as terrorist attacks.

The Tintin cartoon books have been translated into 70-plus languages, from Chinese to Armenian, English to Spanish, just as social media users are lending their languages and voices of outrage, fear, defiance and concern to the cacophony following the Brussels attacks.

The books have sold in the tens of millions of copies, but only in Belgium has the fearless reporter and his dog been ingrained in the DNA of most youngsters since the 1950s. Creator Herge died in 1983 and is considered a national treasure in his native Belgium.


Associated Press writer Raf Casert in Brussels contributed to this report.