2/2/11

Tintin in Black and White - Part 1

Many people may not know that Hergé got a do-over when drawing most of the Tintin stories. His initial versions ran in black and white in the French magazine Le Petit Vingtieme. After Tintin found greater success, he got a chance to tweak his work when the books were re-published in color. I was reminded of this by a posting on the Tintin Facebook site:
"In 1942, Hergé's publisher decided to re-publish all the Tintin books in a new 62-page colour format. Why? Ever since 1930 (the date of the first appearance of the book of Tintin in the Land of the Soviets), all Tintin's adventures were published in black and white and stretched to around 124 pages long. ...He started in 1937 by inserting color plates in the books (hors-texte). The move to a 62-page format was partly a response to these paper shortages. Hergé was keen on adopting the colour. The conditions of publication changed too and Hergé looked at the American comics and wanted to take advantage of the quadrichromy. The deal was concluded in 1942. While The Shooting Star became Tintin's first adventure published in color, Hergé tackled the hard work of reformatting, re-adapting and colouring the albums of pre-war period with the help of the team of the Hergé Studios."
I have reprints of the black and white (B&W) editions, and decided to compare a couple pages from the Cigars of the Pharaoh, which was first printed in B&W in 1934, and then recreated in color in 1955.


The color edition takes 8 panels to introduce the scientist. I found it interesting that Hergé changed Tintin's trip from a circumnavigation of the world to a cruise around the Mediterranean. I can only speculate why the itinerary was changed, perhaps because the middle east areas Tintin planned to visit were too dangerous for a casual cruise, but since the boy reporter never gets beyond Cairo, the destinations mentioned are mostly spice for the opening conversation. Instead, Hergé adds spice by showing a dhow next to the cruise ship in the opening shot of the color edition.

The black and white edition takes only seven panels to get to the excitement, but lacks a certain tension. It's more casual with a long shot of the boat in the sea, then a friendly chat between Tintin and Snowy. Notice how in the conversation it's as if Tintin can hear Snowy. It's obvious throughout the books that Snowy can understand Tintin. But in the second panel when Snowy asks if the cruise will end in Port Said, Tintin answers directly back to the dog. I wonder if Hergé played with making their communication less uni-directional?

Also notice that Hergé signed the bottom of the second page. In the B&W editions every other page is signed because in Le Petit Vingtieme they appeared as two-page runs. This also directs the action: Hergé wants to create a bit of a cliff-hanger at the end of every second page so readers will come back for the next installment.


The color edition uses 12 panels for the incident where the scientist's papyrus blows overboard, while the B&W edition uses only 11. Notice that the crewman in the B&W edition ends up with a black eye, ostensibly because Tintin socked him off-camera. This might have been in character for the 1930's Tintin, but the more mature boy reporter 1955 merely gives the poor sailor a stern scolding.

The last panel in the B&&W edition, where Tintin is talking with the captain, seems to be taking place half an hour or more after the incident, while in the color edition Tintin discovers the scientist minutes later. I'm not sure which method I prefer: the B&W pause has a bit more comedic timing and fits with the 2-page print run, while the color edition keeps the story flowing more quickly.

It just goes to show, even if you're the great Hergé, the urge to revise is a good thing, and usually makes the work stronger.

The site "A Brief History of Tintin Books" has much more information on the time line of the different editions, and is worth a read.  The Wikipedia entry for Cigars of the Pharaoh has a section comparing more differences between the B&W and color editions.

Read  Tintin in Black and White - Part 2


Here's my translation of the French text of the B&W edition:
Pages 1 & 2:
Tintin: Tomorrow, my dear Snowy, we'll disembark at Port Said.
Snow: Port Said? And then our trip will be done?

Tintin: Done? After there's still the trip along the Suez Canal and then get off at Aden
Snowy: What?

Tintin: And then land again at Bombay, then Colombo, in the island of Ceylon
Snowy: More!

Tintin: And there's still Singapore... Hong Kong, and finally Shanghai.
Snowy: But...but that will take months! Months aboard this boat that moves like a turtle and in this stifling heat. Ah! The trip is boringly monotonous

Scientist: Stop it! Stop it!

Pages 3 & 4:
Scientist: Stop it! Stop it!

Tintin: Stop what? Stop what?

Scientist: There!...There!... that flying piece of paper!!

Tintin: Wait! I'll get it for you
Scientist: Stop it! Stop it!
Snowy: This is good! Let's go!

Scientist: Stop it! Stop it!
Scientist: Stop it! Stop it!
Tintin: ...And there it is!
Sailor: Halt! my friend, you won't escape that way!

Sailor: Got you!

Scientist: Lost! Lost! My papyrus! My beautiful papyrus!
Tintin: Calm yourself, sir!

Tintin: See what you've done with your stupid ideas! The gentleman was desperate...

Tintin: Hold on! Where's the scientist?
Snowy: He was here just a moment ago.

Tintin: ...After that, I didn't see him any more. I knocked on his door and have searched everywhere! He can't be found. I fear he's had an accident.
Captain: Provided he hasn't already jumped into the water to retrieve his precious papyrus. These scientists are so absent-minded.
Snowy: He's certainly a mysterious scientist

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