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Prisoners of the Sun: Changing background?

mct16
Member
#1 · Posted: 9 Nov 2013 23:49
Moderator Note: Separated from this thread
tintin_forever:
errors in Tintin albums

On page 11 of "Prisoners of the Sun", there are two panels with contradicting backgrounds:

In panel 1, Haddock has his back to the Thompsons and the sea is on his left-hand side. In panel 2, he then turns round and tells them to look for clues. In panel 2, the sea should now be on his right-hand side but instead there are the mountains.

Panels 8 and 9 have Haddock and the Thompsons discussing how to split three men into two groups! The mountains are in the background. Panel 10 has the sea in the background!

There is an explanation for this: when the story was originally published in the weekly "Tintin magazine" in 1946, panel 10 was originally used for the scene in which Haddock tells the Thompsons to look for clues, while panel 2 was used for when he tells them that they will go separate ways.

I hope that make sense.
jock123
Moderator
#2 · Posted: 8 Sep 2014 23:11 · Edited by: jock123
mct16:
In panel 2, he then turns round and tells them to look for clues.

I only just got around to looking at this, as I'd misplaced my book of reprints, and while you are quite right that the chopping and changing of the panels in the second case makes it difficult (if not just impossible) to explain the sudden appearance of the sea in the back-ground, I think the first case actually works regardless of which version of the story you have.
He is shown turned round in the magazine, facing the Thom(p)sons, which is why one correctly sees the sea behind them.
In the book, in the sequence on the beach, he is only shown moving away from the Thom(p)sons, so when he makes his statement about not shouting themselves hoarse, he is to all intents and purposes still moving away from them (he isn't pictured facing them, as he is in the magazine, and there is nothing to indicate that they are particularly close together), and the framing can thus be assumed to indicate that the Detectives are off to the right, the sea is behind the artist, who is facing the Captain and looking in land, and Haddock is bellowing to them (about not shouting) over his shoulder, without looking at them.
Mind you, whatever the "in world" explanation, or lack thereof, it does raise the question why, back in the real world, the backgrounds weren't sorted out when the frames were re-jigged? They must have been really pressed for time, or something...!
Balthazar
Moderator
#3 · Posted: 11 Sep 2014 09:31
Interesting stuff! I'd not really noticed this before, so thanks mct16.

While I admire your ingenuity, Jock, in finding a way that the first case can just about be made to make sense "in-world" if we imagine Haddock is still facing away from the Thom[p]sons and calling back to them, it would of course have been untypically clunky of Hergé to done this while confusingly flipping the viewpoint (and thus flipping the relative positions of the characters) mid-scene for no reason. (An old school film and video producer once told me that in film-making, this practice would be called "crossing the line" and was something they were taught to avoid doing randomly.) If Hergé had actually wanted to show that Haddock was still facing away from the Thom[p]sons and calling back to them, he'd surely have maintained the looking-out-to sea viewpoint and maintained Haddock facing to the right, not to mention doing something with his expression and posture to indicate that he was speaking to people behind him.

jock123:
... it does raise the question why, back in the real world, the backgrounds weren't sorted out when the frames were re-jigged? They must have been really pressed for time, or something...!

From what I've read, being under pressure and pushed for time wouldn't have been unusual at this point in Hergé's career. That being the case, it strikes me that Hergé and his associates do seem to have created a huge amount of extra work for themselves by drawing the whole adventure in that wide format for Tintin magazine, presumeably knowing that all the frames would then have to be re-jigged down the line to fit the book format.

One other thing strikes me with these frames:
In what's now frame 10 and was frame 4, Haddock's expression and posture seems unduly angry compared to the content and tone of his dialogue. The picture makes it look as if he's exploded at something really stupid the Thom[p]sons have said, whereas what he's saying in either frame (ie: the speech in frame 4 that this picture was originally drawn to go with, as well as the speech in frame ten that it now goes with) seems merely impatient and bossy. Has something been lost in translation, either from the original magazine frame four speech to the book version, or from the French book to the English? (Not that I especially want to want to re-ignite your favourite debate, mct and jock, about the merits or failings of the English translations! ;-) I'm just genuinely curious.)
robbo
Member
#4 · Posted: 11 Sep 2014 14:20
I think the error occurred during the redrawing and re-jigging the original Tintin magazine format for the album edition. Comparing the two versions, the original sequence has been shortened by at least 5 frames. The discrepancies of background can be explained by the fact that frame 2 pg 11 has been moved from right near the end of the sequence and clumsily inserted where it doesn't really fit, complete with new dialogue from Captain Haddock. The sudden jump in mood by Captain Haddock is also explained by the fact that frame 10 was part of an earlier completely different exchange with the Thompsons, where the backgrounds to frame 8 and 9 were originally the sea.

mat
Balthazar
Moderator
#5 · Posted: 11 Sep 2014 23:53 · Edited by: Balthazar
robbo:
I think the error occurred during the redrawing and re-jigging the original Tintin magazine format for the album edition.

Yes indeed; actually mct16 explained this in his post at the start of this thread, so we understood that much (though thanks for the re-iteration anyway). Jock's alternative explanation was just a fun observation that one of the switched frames could still just about be made to make sense within the context of the book version.

robbo:
Comparing the two versions, the original sequence has been shortened by at least 5 frames.

That's interesting. As I said, the switch of the two frames discussed didn't in itself quite seem to account for Haddock's sudden ferocity in the frame where he's shouting at the Thom[p]sons, but maybe in the magazine version there's some particular Thom[p]son stupidity that precedes his outburst that's been lost in the shortening? (I really should get the magazine version! Is it still in print?)
jock123
Moderator
#6 · Posted: 12 Sep 2014 09:01
Balthazar:
in film-making, this practice would be called "crossing the line" and was something they were taught to avoid doing randomly.

Yes, that or the "180-degree rule"; however it's an advisement, and not an actual law, so it can (and is) broken from time-to-time!
Actually, the point I was making (or trying to make) is that it's only by comparison with the original that the reader would know the Captain has "turned round". Without that information, he doesn't.
Just going by what we see, the land is on his right, by inference the sea is to his left over Hergé's shoulder, and therefore he is heading in the same direction he always was, up the beach away from Thompson and Thomson. Without the additional frames showing him face-to-face with the Detectives, that's really all we can tell, and therefore, apart from a bit of iffy "cinematography" the story runs "correctly".
It's worth bearing in mind, I think, that the direction of travel across the frame had meaning to Hergé, who saw movement left-to-right as narrative progress, and achievement by his characters, and right-to-left as representing set-back and upset (I've read this, but to be honest I've not stopped to check how heavily he applied it).
This could mean that, for story-telling purposes, the line was crossed on other occasions. It's entirely possible that the 180-degree rule was less important to him than to film makers.

Balthazar:
being under pressure and pushed for time wouldn't have been unusual at this point in Hergé's career.

That's absolutely true, but while the week-to-week churning out of the double-page full-colour strip for the magazine must have been a grind, it might have been thought that there was a little less pressure on him when the album was to be prepared, especially when by this point his colleagues were well-used to the draw and re-draw process Hergé favoured. With assistants like Jacobs skilled in supplying new backgrounds for Hergé's character figures, taking the tiny shreds of sea out and inserting the mountain-scape in the back would seem remarkably trivial.

Balthazar:
presumeably knowing that all the frames would then have to be re-jigged down the line to fit the book format.

I'd need to look it up, but I've a feeling it was a slightly more mechanical process than one might think, and was prepared for.
I'm maybe way off beam here, but I think there was a bit of preparation built in, with the framing on the landscape pages done to allow the re-jigging of them into the album version with less work, so that you'd get a frame break when the end of an album "row" was reached, or some frames were drawn as "padding", with the intention of dropping them for the book. It wasn't infallible, but I think it helped.
I could be entirely wrong, as I can't remember where I saw that stated (perhaps it was at the Inca exhibition in Brussels?)

Balthazar:
(I really should get the magazine version! Is it still in print?)

It's certainly available again, as part of the two-volume La Malédiction de Rascar Capac set, which collects the black-and-white Crystal Balls in volume one, and the Journal version of Prisoners in volume two. Not seen them myself yet, but it's meant to be a good collection, edited by Philippe Goddin.
Balthazar
Moderator
#7 · Posted: 12 Sep 2014 10:06
jock123:
Just going by what we see, the land is on his right, by inference the sea is to his left over Hergé's shoulder, and therefore he is heading in the same direction he always was, up the beach away from Thompson and Thomson. Without the additional frames showing him face-to-face with the Detectives, that's really all we can tell, and therefore, apart from a bit of iffy "cinematography" the story runs "correctly".

That's true; if, as readers, we could be relied upon to pay full attention to the background, we ought to be able to infer that Haddock is still facing away from the Thom[p]sons and that it's the point-of-view that's turned round 180 degrees rather than Haddock. However, I suspect our almost subconscious assumption of point-of-view consistency is so strong as readers that some of us miss the background change completely (as I certainly did) and assume that Haddock has turned round.

jock123:
This could mean that, for story-telling purposes, the line was crossed on other occasions.

Oh, definitely. Hergé (like good filmmakers too) tends to prioritise pragmatism for telling the story the best way over following any general rules slavishly. For instance, he crosses the line in the last panel of page 13 in Prisoners of the Sun, when we see the coach break away from the train. Hitherto, the train has been showing going left-to-right (following the way we read and turn pages, thus progressing naturally through the book) and so we might expect to see the coach breaking away from the rest of the train and rolling back down the way they've come in a right to left direction. However, Hergé's priority is to have the action of the runaway coach in the following pages also flowing in a left-to-right direction, to make the coach zoom naturally through the frames the way we read them, so he crosses the line in this last frame of page 13 to establish this new point of view for the sequence to come.

He also crosses the line back again for just one frame in the middle of the runaway coach sequence - the fourth panel of page 15, where Tintin spots the emergency brake. Hergé could have avoided this switch by drawing this picture from behind Tintin, so that the reader's point-of-view was looking in through the coach door. But I guess he thought that this composition - with the brake in the foreground, and the reader looking out of the coach and able to see Tintin's face - was stronger. And maybe this sudden switch in the general direction of narrative travel makes sense at a psychological level, since Tintin is having a sudden moment of hope that he can stop the coach. Not that I'm sure most of us consciously notice this switch whilst caught up in the excitement of the sequence, though Hergé does use the tilt of the drawing and snowy's expression to emphasise that in this frame, the coach is travelling right-to-left.

jock123:
I think there was a bit of preparation built in, with the framing on the landscape pages done to allow the re-jigging of them into the album version with less work, so that you'd get a frame break when the end of an album "row" was reached, or some frames were drawn as "padding", with the intention of dropping them for the book. It wasn't infallible, but I think it helped.

That's interesting, and makes good sense.

jock123:
It's certainly available again, as part of the two-volume La Malédiction de Rascar Capac set...

Thanks for this info. I may have to wait till I'm feeling flush enough though!
mct16
Member
#8 · Posted: 12 Sep 2014 20:19 · Edited by: mct16
Balthazar:
In what's now frame 10 and was frame 2, Haddock's expression and posture seems unduly angry compared to the content and tone of his dialogue. The picture makes it look as if he's exploded at something really stupid the Thom[p]sons have said

And haven't they?

1. They suggest the weird notion that the men they are after made an about-turn on the road in order to go in the opposite direction;
2. they suggest that three men be divided into two groups;
3. and when it is pointed out that this is bad maths, are at a loss as to what to do.

Personally I think that if they had used either frame 2 (a calm Haddock) or 10 (an impatient Haddock) of the current book, it would have worked.

Being calm he is simply thinking: "Go ahead and follow a false trail if you must, I know I'll find Tintin first"; while in the impatient mode it's more "Blast these two iconoclasts, they're wasting my time and I've got to find Tintin."

Balthazar:
(Not that I especially want to want to re-ignite your favourite debate, mct and jock, about the merits or failings of the English translations! ;-) I'm just genuinely curious.)

Don't worry, on this occasion the translation is very faithful to the original French.

However, at the risk of having Jock123 leaping in at Herge's defence, I must admit that I have always found Haddock's last statement "keep your eyes open" a bit of an anomaly (even in Herge's original French text). It's obvious that he thinks that the Thompsons are wasting their time going the other way and that they will never find Tintin or Calculus and his kidnappers, so why tell them to be on the lookout for nothing?

Of course, it does help to set up the joke for the final three frames of the page when they walk into a road sign, but still it is a curious thing to say since, instead of urging them to follow his lead, he is essentially telling them to get lost.
robbo
Member
#9 · Posted: 12 Sep 2014 20:23 · Edited by: robbo
Balthazar:
Yes indeed; actually mct16 explained this in his post at the start of this thread, so we understood that much (though thanks for the re-iteration anyway). Jock's alternative explanation was just a fun observation that one of the switched frames could still just about be made to make sense within the context of the book version.

Apologies for repeating what was already understood, but from my point of view this section especially frame 2 just doesn't work once you've seen the original context for it in the magazine version. I am wrong to say that two of the backgrounds in frames 8 & 9 were originally sea, I mixed these up with a similar frame which was scrapped. The point is that in this section it must have been decided not to bother redrawing any frame and rather to juggle them round and simply move or add text as necessary to make the story flow. This is strange seeing as elsewhere in Prisoners of the Sun frames have been redrawn to open up the view or even new ones added: for example pg 16 frame 4 and pg 33 frame 1.

I think they should have kept the frame where Thompson suggests they give up the search it being pointless making themselves hoarse, Tintin has disappeared and they should go, which is the creditable cause of Haddock's outburst. It's not only Haddock's over reaction that makes the sequence suffer, but also the sudden change in mood by the Thompsons from being torn off a strip to cheerful optimism as they walk off in the other direction.

Frame 7 could have been cropped or redrawn to accommodate the extra one.

mat

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