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The Broken Ear: Poor quality colouring?

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#1 · Posted: 14 Aug 2004 07:19
Hi everyone,

Of the early books, ‘The Broken Ear’ is a favorite of mine. However, I’ve always thought it is let down by the quality of its colouring. Harry Thompson writes in ‘Tintin, Herge & His Creation’… “The Broken Ear had figured among Herge’s first ever attempts at shortening and colouring existing artwork, in 1943. The colours, mostly a series of pale washes, are a touch lifeless and betray the story’s black-and-white origins”

Compare the colouring found here with that of ‘The Blue Lotus’ (coloured in 1946). Quite a difference, and over-all more pleasing to the eye, no? Personally, I’d like to see ‘The Broken Ear’ re-coloured and brought closer into line with the others in the series. Would this be tampering too much with an historical document? A moot point maybe, but I’m interested to hear what other fans think.

Lastly, I think it’s interesting to look at Tintin in this book. It’s clear that here, along with ‘The Blue Lotus’, we are seeing him as close to his original, un-perfected form as we can get in the official series. For example, look at the bottom of page 18, frame 1. Tintin is shocked to discover his suitcase has been switched and now contains explosives. I find our young hero barely recognizable. He looks like a wizened old hunchback! I’m surprised Herge wasn’t inclined to re-draw some of these frames in later years.

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#2 · Posted: 14 Aug 2004 10:53
I'd agree that Hergé's first tentative steps into colour can be slightly less than satisfying. I find many of the early Tintin books to be more visually pleasing in their original black-and-white formats. "The Crab with the Golden Claws" and "Red Rackham's Treasure" are patchily coloured and the general impression is rather clumsy, which is a shame as the drawings are evolving all the time. Though by 1946 the colouring had improved considerably on the whole, the artwork of "The Blue Lotus" is so fantastic in its original format that the colour reproduction, for me, has much less impact.

As for re-colouring the books, Hergé was unsatisfied enough with the first colour version of "The Shooting Star" to have it redone in the fifties, which shows that he viewed his first efforts critically. Whether it should be done post mortem is another matter - I think it may be a visual improvement, but Hergé was so particular about the use and reproduction of the colours (see the correspondance printed in "Chronologie d'une Oeuvre") that to do any tampering without him would probably be against the spirit of his work.

I suppose that some of Hergé's slightly clumsy artwork in "The Broken Ear" was partly due to him being overworked and pressured - which led him to move out of the Vingtieme Siecle offices and go freelance before starting "The Black Island". Harry Thompson points out how, by page 52, the background detail has completely disappeared, and this is a telling point. Compare the last half of "The Broken Ear" to the beautiful 1943 facsimile of "The Black Island" and there's almost a revelation.

#3 · Posted: 14 Aug 2004 13:53
Strangely (for me, as I usually have a fairly free-and-easy attitude to changes being made to the books), I feel that the colouring should be left as-is. “Broken Ear” is a bit of a let down in the quality of Hergé’s work, but it is his work, and I think it should stand.

The panels shown at the Institute Française (from “The Shooting Star”) were hand coloured by Hergé himself, and were therefore akin to a painting by the man himself. I don’t think getting a jobber in now to replace those colours would be in any way appropriate.

I have no idea if it was the first or second version which was on display, but the inference was it was the original colour work on display (I don’t think I’d have known it was redone, to be honest).

I like the painterly look of the early colouring, and think it has a subtlty that had completely disappeared by, say, “Tibet”, where flat colour rules. The colours have texture and warmth in things like “Rackham”, and that adds to the effect.

What may be called for is a restoration, such as was done on “Black Island”, to improve fidelity to the original colour plan, and remove places where registration had gone off over the years.
#4 · Posted: 15 Aug 2004 01:32
Quoted from above (jock123):

'The colours have texture and warmth in things like "Rackham." '

Maybe that's your opinion but for me the "Rackham" adventure lacks variety of colour and this kills the book somewhat for me. There are just to many brown and green hues and not enough colours. Too me it is drab. I would love to have seen the black and white edition. I think it would be an improvement.
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#5 · Posted: 15 Aug 2004 03:36
“Broken Ear” is a bit of a let down in the quality of Hergé’s work, but it is his work, and I think it should stand.

Just looking at it now, I think the poor quality of the colouring fits even more into my view of the Broken Ear as Herge's take on a 1930s-ish crime thriller -- a view which I must say I'm taking to more and more...

The washed-out semi-random colouring adds to the story's retro feel, IMO. Of course, it wasn't retro at the time, but it feels like it is now.

I'd better stop before I confuse myself any more. :)

#6 · Posted: 14 Jun 2009 13:46
The Crab with the golden claws, The Shooting Star, secret of the Unicorn and Red Rackham's Treasure had poor quality colouring too.
#7 · Posted: 17 Jun 2009 12:11
Actually, I think Crab with the Golden Claws had poor quality colouring only somewhere in the beginning, and that was usually just for the cheek colours. There were also parts which had darker patches than others, so it really looked like it was water-coloured. That disturbed me a bit, for some reason. Maybe it was because I was convinced until then that Tintin colouring was always quite solid.
#8 · Posted: 31 May 2011 18:53
Many of the forest frames in the Broken Ear were just green backgrounds, in contrast to Picaros where every last leaf and blade of grass can be seen.
The earlier books were much more becoming of a child's comic, whereas the later ones had more continuity and are more suited to adults. The contrast between America and Castafiore Emerald couldn't be more stark.
#9 · Posted: 29 Aug 2011 17:27
Well, I read this post yesterday, and happened to read Crab with the Golden Claws later.. I feel more than any other book the colouring of Crab...is not up to the mark.. I don't know if this is because my book is at least 10-15 years old now, or what..(I have kept all my Tintin books like babies so don't think that should be a reason).. the colouring looks like plain fading watercolours in many places..especially the first few pages where Tintin meets the Thompsons at the bar and after that..does anyone else feel the same way?
#10 · Posted: 1 Jan 2012 21:34
I’d like to see ‘The Broken Ear’ re-coloured

So would I. Why is the colouring sort of poor in quality?

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