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Seven Crystal Balls: Jean Capart - Professor Tarragon's real-life model!

#1 · Posted: 28 Mar 2018 16:11
Readers of the Belgian Le Soir newspaper were treated on the 28th of March, 1944 to their first ever sighting of the fearsome Incan mummy Rascar Capac ("He-who-unleashes-the-fires-of-heaven"), as the events of The Seven Crystal Balls continued to unfold.

Having startled Snowy in an off-page encounter moments before, Tintin, Calculus and Haddock are introduced to the late ruler, sitting in a glass case in a house in suburban Brussels, by Calculus's old friend from student days, the redoubtable "expert on ancient America", Professor Tarragon ("Bergamotte" in the original French), in whose collection the dread Inca had ended up.

Like Calculus before him, Tarragon had a real-life template, upon whom Hergé based the look, and larger-than-life personality, of this latest entry into the pantheon of eccentric scholars which can be found in the stories.

Just as Calculus was modeled upon Swiss academic Auguste Piccard, Tarragon's prototype was the Belgian Jean François Désiré Capart (1877-1947), an ethnographer and Egyptologist.

A fact slightly disguised in the book is that although they were not student contemporaries (like Calculus and Tarragon), Hergé and Capart did attend the same Brussels school, the Institute Saint-Boniface-Parnasse, in the Rue du Conseil, Ixelles.

Another interesting fact is that Capart was also the inspiration behind not just one, but two comic-book academics.

Edgar P. Jacobs used Capart as the inspiration for his character "Docteur Grossgrabenstein", the Egyptologist encountered by Blake & Mortimer in The Mystery of the Great Pyramid.
#2 · Posted: 8 Apr 2018 00:33
Edgar P. Jacobs used Capart as the inspiration for his character "Docteur Grossgrabenstein", the Egyptologist encountered by Blake & Mortimer in "The Mystery of the Great Pyramid".

Grossgrabenstein was also partly inspired by Henri Quittelier, an artist and acquaintance of Jacobs who was also apparently very chatty - like Grossgrabenstein. Quittelier's grandson, Rene, who was also Jacobs' step-son, was the model for several characters.

Here's another fun fact: I always loved the sinister-looking General from "S.O.S. Meteors", a man with such a hard and penetrating stare that even Olrik is taken aback. Apparently he was based on Anastas Mikoyan, a leading Soviet politician and associate of Stalin and Khrushchev. With such a background, it is no wonder Jacobs makes him so powerful and creepy.

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