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Tintin in the Land of the Soviets: Colour edition in January 2017

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#1 · Posted: 22 Sep 2016 22:14
It's the end of civilisation!

The French paper "Le Monde" has announced that [url=Soviets has been colourised and is due to be published in January 2017[/url].

Apparently, they scanned the original pages drawn by Hergé and coloured them in by computer.

It's been justified on the grounds that it will make it more readable and appealing to those raised on the colourised, ligne claire versions that are more common today.

Personally, I think that this act is a travesty which cannot be forgiven! I think that the Tintin comics of the 1930s do not benefit from being colourised especially since Hergé himself is not around to actually approve such a thing.

Maybe I'm too old-fashioned but I think that comic strips drawn and published in black-and-white should remain that way. It may make them look old but that is the whole point. It gives them a certain period charm in many ways like an old movie. I once watched an old black-and-white movies which had been colourised: I fiddled with the TV colours to get it back to black-and-white.

There are plenty of old strips being colourised these days ("Doonesbury", "Mutt and Jeff" and "Peanuts") and quite frankly I don't think it improves them.

Colourising old Tintin comics is like colourising old Charlie Chaplin movies. Doesn't improve them, ruins their charm and of no use whatsoever.
#2 · Posted: 23 Sep 2016 13:46
Colourising old Tintin comics is like colourising old Charlie Chaplin movies.
Yes - it's exactly the same: colourising the book also doesn't erase the existence of the original, it merely gives options to those who would like a choice... ;-)

The fact that it was possibly in the pipeline was revealed at the Angoulême festival in February 2014, but it's good to know it's come to fruition, and that they have set a date.

I'll wait until I've seen what they have done with it before passing judgement!
UK Correspondent
#3 · Posted: 23 Sep 2016 19:49
I'm very curious to see it – and there's a (very tiny) preview already out in the wild!

The Boutique Tintin recently posted a photo to their Instagram account as part of the build up to the Grand Palais exhibition.
In it you can see the deluxe edition of the catalogue, which comes in a presentation box with a print of a coloured panel - from Tintin au pays des Soviets.

Not much to go on, but we can see flat digital colours have been used, and the halftone shading from the black and white edition is gone - that of course wouldn't have been on the original artwork, which was specially rescanned for this version.
#4 · Posted: 17 Oct 2016 13:06
Further to the above, Le Monde has today revealed the new cover to be used on the colour edition of the book.
#5 · Posted: 17 Oct 2016 19:52
It's interesting that this is now happening, considering Hergé was reluctant to even release the collected volume, & presumably turned down any suggestions of a coloured edition.

Are any of the old Studio staff involved?
#6 · Posted: 18 Oct 2016 10:13
Hergé was reluctant to even release the collected volume, & presumibly turned down any suggestions of a coloured edition.
Benoît Peeters actually says otherwise, and sheds some light on the subjectin this article.

According to the eminent M. Peeters, Hergé considered a revised and coloured edition of Soviets just before the second world war; however, it was set aside as a project as the original artwork could not be found at that time.

It was only after the war, when the revisions and colour work began in earnest on the series, that Hergé decided that Soviets was too naïve and politically "sour" to bring into the main series (there may also have been reservations about Abbé Wallez's associations with it).

It then seems to be a combination of both Hergé and his publishers that the book wasn't available (rather than one or the other), as the article goes on to say that Hergé used Soviets as some sort of bargaining chip with Casterman, after the 1969 private facsimile was produced to mark the 40th anniversary - threatening to offer the story to Dupuis for republication.

So it seems that Hergé had no particular beef about Soviets in colour, it was never done because the book wasn't going to be included in the series, and - interestingly - the decision not to include it in the post-war restructuring of the books appears far more pragmatic in reality than the legend of Hergé simply not liking the book which has grown up.

The article points out that the book was seen as controversial by the time the sixites rolled around, with its anti-Communist message, so in some ways I wonder if by choosing that time to have it reappear Hergé was perhaps indulging in a little mild stirring of his critics?

Now, in a world where the book has not only been reintroduced to the public, but is available as both facsimile and "uniform" editions, I can see no reason that Hergé himself, had he lived, would not have finally got around to undertaking what he intended to do back in 1939.

Are any of the old Studio staff involved?
Mme Rodwell, who, to be fair, is in a better position to know how the Studios would have approached a colouring job such as this than anyone else...!

Oh, and one final little nugget from the article, which I had read before, but had forgotten: the artwork for Soviets was rediscovered by Numa Sadoul rolled up in an art tube in a cupboard next to the Studios Hergé toilets during the period he was carrying out his interviews with Hergé! What a treasure to find! Obviously it must have been properly "found" since it was originally "lost", to have made its way to Avenue Louise, but can you imagine something so valuable in your hall cupboard?
It reminds me of Michael Turner telling me that he had picked up armfuls of E.H. Shepard Winnie the Pooh illustrations off the floor when he was at Methuen!
UK Correspondent
#7 · Posted: 18 Oct 2016 18:44
That's a fascinating article, Jock!

So it seems that Hergé had no particular beef about Soviets in colour
Also in 1937 when Hergé drew the endpapers that would be used for the albums until (I think) The Red Sea Sharks, he included an image of Tintin in Soviet dress, which suggests at least some intention of reworking it as part of the series proper at some point.

In 1981 a series of lithographs were sold in aid of the World Wildlife Fund, depicting pages from the Tintin books. One of them was a page from Tintin in the Land of the Soviets.
In 2011 the Galerie Champaka in Brussels held a sale of Hergé-related material, which included some of these prints.
One lot was the Soviets page hand-coloured by France Ferrari, one of the Studios Hergé colourists who worked alongside the now Mme Rodwell on the Tintin albums.
#8 · Posted: 18 Oct 2016 19:48
Thanks for filling me in. From Michael Farr's books I had the impression Hergé regarded Tintin in the Land of the Soviets as a "sin of my youth", and the facsimile release was mostly to kill the market for pirate editions.
#9 · Posted: 19 Oct 2016 11:22
he included an image of Tintin in Soviet dress,
Ah, of course he did - another brick in the wall for this theory there, I think!

One lot was the Soviets page hand-coloured by France Ferrari,
An example of a coloured page (at least the third such, given the two earlier "Christmas" pages during the initial run in Le Petit Vingtième), made in the Studios by one of Hergé's most trusted staff, while he was alive, demonstrates to me at least that he can't have been wildly opposed to the notion!
Again, another nice catch there!

Thanks for filling me in
No problem - we're all learning here!

I had the impression Hergé regarded Tintin in the Land of the Soviets as a "sin of my youth"
He certainly seems to be quoted a lot as calling it an "erreur de jeunesse", which may be seen as a sin, I suppose, but could just be "mistake"; at that point one would have to delve a bit deeper and ask, was he talking about the book as a totality, in its promotion of the Abbé Wallez's zealous anti-Communism, as a showcase for his writing skills, in terms of his art, or some other aspect or combination of aspects about it?
The popular story has been that he was writing it off entirely, that the absence of a colour edition meant that he never intended to colour it, that it staying out of print was a sign of his displeasure with the book, and that he was driven to republish only to fend off pirates.
All are decent points and surmises, and there may even be whole strands of truth to it - who is ever totally satisfied with what they have done? But also, who has never looked at something they have done, and at different times thought, "That's terrible!", then later "That's not so bad!"?
However, as more and more work is done to research primary sources, and more time is spent separating fact from legend, such things will be undoubtedly explored and many will be found to be wanting.
Michael Farr is an excellent journalist, and has more first-hand experience at the "coal-face" of Tintinology than most, but I am sure that he would be the first to agree that there are always new things to be found out, new ways of assembling the fragments of data to tell the story.
When Hergé made his comment on the book, he may have just been intending (for example - I don't know) to imply that he was dissatisfied with how it came out - but that now, if he tackled it again, he'd do it differently, or indeed that he intended to redo it some day, and perfect it.
With M. Peeters's interpretation of the facts, it actually becomes easier to reconcile things with other comments from Hergé.
For example, when asked why he didn't remove Congo from the line-up, he made a remark to the effect that he'd rather be judged on it, than accused of covering it up.
This hardly makes sense if he'd be happy with the dropping Soviets for emotional rather than pragmatic reasons (I've made a similar argument in favour of dropping Congo before too: if Soviets can go, why not Congo?).
There seems to be little consideration of whether or not Soviets would have sold in a black-and-white edition during the years it was out of print - perhaps it wouldn't.
Perhaps the news that it was being released in pirate editions didn't so much prompt a "we're losing money!" response as "Ah! At last the time is right - if people will buy cheap, paper-back, poorly-printed bootlegs, now is the time to put it back into print!"
It also seems to be forgotten that the arrival of Soviets in the Archives Hergé volume wasn't just its return, but the first reprinting of the black-and-white Congo and America too for many years.
Tellingly, it isn't numbered or advertised as the first in a series, so it must have been to test the waters for how the older versions would fair. When it was successful, volumes two, three and four came out.
Hergé and Casterman may not just have been giving in to demand after all, but timing the revival of the long-dormant black-and-white series; and if Hergé was in fact driving for the revival, and pressuring Casterman with threats to have Soviets published at Dupuis, then we really might all have to revise our understanding of what was going on!
#10 · Posted: 19 Oct 2016 19:31
A French article on the subject includes a page from an early "sort of" colourisation of "Soviets".

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