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Hsylop Lettering: Petition to bring it back to Tintin

#1 · Posted: 24 Jun 2019 17:23 · Edited by: Moderator
I am not sure if this is the right place to post this but I'm sure many of us have fond memories of poring over Tintin comic books featuring the elegant lettering of Neil Hsylop.

In 2004/05, Moulinsart decided to standardize the font used across all languages, depriving us and future readers of this signature feature of our favourite series.

I've founded a petition on Change.org with the objective of sending it to the Hergé Foundation upon securing a fair number of signatures.

While I understand that this organization is the custodian of Hergé's legacy, I humbly suggest that the fans and followers of Tintin should also have an input in what constitutes that legacy.

Please do sign the petition. At the very least, we can say that we gave it a shot.
#2 · Posted: 17 Jul 2019 01:34
This is actually a good idea!

To clear any skepticism about who owns the Hyslop lettering, Moulinsart does; the email I recieved from the Tintin Shop concerning the new Moon-themed watches has a frame from Explorers on the Moon just after the team have arrived to their destination - not only do they use the Hyslop lettering, they write something between the lines of "Moulinsart (c) 2019" (this is not what they wrote exactly - my inbox is so slow it won't let me re-open the email!).
#3 · Posted: 17 Jul 2019 18:36
To clear any skepticism about who owns the Hyslop lettering, Moulinsart does

I would avoid issuing any definitive statements about this, regardless of what is written in e-mails or otherwise, unless you actually have carried out some serious legal background checking first!

The lettering style in all honesty probably still rests with the estate of Mr Hyslop, as it was something he himself used and developed in his professional capacity as a cartographer - work which he carried out for other people than Methuen and their Tintin books; he may yet have based that on some other style or guide, but as far as can be told, his penmanship was unique to him.

The copyright notice will not be making claim to copyright in the font/ calligraphy, but in the inclusion of the art in the message.
#4 · Posted: 18 Jul 2019 01:18

Ah - I do admit I was making some assumptions there; thanks for clearing things up!
#5 · Posted: 18 Jul 2019 11:51 · Edited by: jock123
thanks for clearing things up!

No problem!

I think the easiest way to look at it is if you think of it being like a book: at the front it will often tell you that the contents are copyright by the author, and that the book is typeset in Times New Roman, or Adobe Baskerville, or whatever the font is - but that doesn't make the author's copyright extend to Adobe Baskerville.

It's possibly a little murkier here, as the legal catch-all statement used (at least in the past) by Moulinsart may be a little far reaching (although no more than many companies with boiler-plate legal statements which are designed to cover as broad a range of possibilities as they can), as was discussed in this thread, and does mention the Tintin "font". It's not actually clear what is meant by that - it might cover the digital font in use across the international versions, I grant you, or may mean the lettering used on several of the covers; but I doubt that they are extending it as far as the Hyslop calligraphy.

To get back to the main aim of the thread, I am as big a fan of the Hyslop writing as anyone, but fear that a petition to Moulinsart will cut no ice.
The means of production used now are completely different to when the old lettering was used, and it simply wouldn't make sense technically or commercially to make an exception for the English market; even if Moulinsart were the right people to ask (and I am not sure that they are, as Casterman and Egmont would probably be involved too), there really isn't anything in for them to make it worthwhile - it would be additional expense and complication for no real gain.

The old-style text is still very much available second hand, with probably more copies than would ever be needed to meet the demands of those who need it, so it's not like it's impossible to get any more.

Remember that the "facsimile" editions which came out a few years back didn't even use it; I can hardly imagine that they would change back without some very good reason (an upgraded, accurate facsimile series, at the very least), but even then, I'm not sure we'll ever see the Hyslop text in print for the regular series again.
#6 · Posted: 18 Jul 2019 20:18
If Hyslop had used his specific font for only the Tintin albums, then I believe Moulinsart may have a copyright to it after all. I personally think Moulinsart is the right institution to approach for this petition because as far as I know, they had recommended the change of Tintin font to computerized lettering and hence would be the ones to incorporate further changes. The petition I agree may not be enough to bring back the Hyslop font but at least we maybe could gain some further insights into why the lettering was changed in the first hand.

Which brings into mind certain other questions- what was the font in which the French albums were initially published in and why a different font for English?

Wouldn't it have been too much trouble and costly to make a different localised font for the English versions rather than go with the font in the French ones, citing the very reasons the Hyslop font was changed later?

Why initiate the Hyslop font in the first place?
#7 · Posted: 18 Jul 2019 22:58 · Edited by: Balthazar
what was the font in which the French albums were initially published in and why a different font for english?

I believe that the original French-language versions were hand-lettered by Hergé himself, in the way that most solo strip-cartoonists worked in those pre-computer lettering days and in which many still do. I'm not sure whether, as Hergé's studio team grew, the lettering duties were ever carried out by other people in his team in the way that some of the colouring and background/technical drawing stuff was, or if he always did the lettering himself. Someone else on these forums may well know more on that point. But in any case, the lettering style was Hergé's own, and it's very much that style - rather spindlier and less dominant, perhaps, than Hyslop's - that the current digital font is aiming to emulate.

Any translations made back then would, of course, have to be hand-lettered from scratch in the new language (unless they'd opted for mechanically typesetting the speech balloons which would have been hard to make look right even with a relatively informal typeface, and no doubt technically trickier to make fit than getting a calligrapher like Hyslop to do it by hand) so to describe either Hergé's or Hyslop's lettering as a useable font in the modern digital sense obviously wouldn't really be accurate.

I'm not sure if other non-French language publishers employed people with a hand-lettering style more similar to Hergé's own. But presumably the UK publishers Methuen actively liked the look of Hyslop's lettering, perhaps feeling that its rather literary non-comicky style helped their efforts to distinguish Tintin from the kind of comics that there was so much prejudice against in the British market. (Not that Hergé's own hand-lettering style looks particularly comicky either, but maybe a little more so than Hysop's.)

Somebody these days could, of course quite easily create a useable digital font from samples of Hyslop's lettering (modern comic-strip and picture book creators do that all the time with their own hand-lettering) and re-set the Tintin books in that. But I think it's worth remembering that while to us British Tintin book readers of a certain age the Hyslop lettering looks like the proper and correct lettering for these books, to readers of the Tintin book in their original French the Hyslop lettering style would look quite wrong, and that the current digital font being used may well look a much better match for Herge's own lettering style and thus a more sympathetic match for his drawings too.

This may also be true by now for younger British readers of the books who haven't grown up with the Hyslop lettering, and if that's the case, I'm not sure that even a UK-only petition to the UK publishers Egmont for a return to Hyslop-style lettering in the UK editions would have much logic or be met with much support.

That's not to say that I don't think the current digital font could be improved. I think I'm right in recalling that Moulinsart already made some tweaks to their first attempt at the digital font some years ago, following critical feedback, so no doubt they could keep improving it further, perhaps to make it look a little more hand-drawn still.

And I think there's definitely a case for raising the artistry of the digital lettering of some the books' sound-effects to match that of the hand-lettered originals, which (as I think fellow forum moderator Harrock n roll tackled in another thread somewhere ages ago!) has been done rather clunkily by the modern digital typesetters - and unnecessarily so given the sophistication and subtlety that's possible with today's digital lettering when used expertly.
#8 · Posted: 19 Jul 2019 16:10
I have only the Red Rackham's Treasure in the Hyslop font. The book originally belonged to my uncle who bought it in the 1980s or so. I was rather surprised to discover the different font in that book than the ones which I already possessed. Then I learnt about the change of fonts initiated in the 90s.

I rather like the Hyslop font and would not complain if it was brought back, even though I grew up reading the digitally lettered fonts. Matter of personal opinion, really.

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