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Olav: "One Night in Shanghai" - A strip by Hergé and Jacobs?

#1 · Posted: 28 May 2010 16:57
I am currently reading Michael Farr's Hergé biography, The Adventures of Hergé, and on page 98 he mentions a strip cartoon detective thriller that Hergé started with Edgar Pierre Jacobs called One Night in Shanghai in 1945.

Does anyone know how many pages were made?
Where I can find more info on this or perhaps a picture of one of the pages?

This is my first post to this forum and I hope I've posted in the right section.
#2 · Posted: 29 May 2010 14:29
Hi Momber, and welcome to the forum!

The first page of One Night in Shanghai is reproduced in The Art of Hergé, Volume 2, by Phillipe Goddin, translated by Michael Farr (here's an Amazon link to it, if you're not familiar with it).

According to the book's caption text, this first page was the only page ever produced.
The book also shows single panels from two other one-page demos of different adventure strip ideas produced by Hergé and Jacobs, under their joint post-war pseudonym, Olav.

I think the pages were shown to a few publishers, but weren't taken on. And shortly afterwards, Hergé and Jacobs were given permission to work again, under their own names, thanks to the intervention of Raymond Le Blanc and his Tintin magazine idea.

The single page of One Night in Shanghai borrows many elements of The Blue Lotus, but is drawn in a more American "noir" style, a bit like Jacobs' most loose and sketchy style.

By the way, I believe the Art of Hergé series is basically a translated and abridged version of Phillipe Goddin's more extensive muti-volume Chronologie series, so presumably this page also apears in the relevant volume of that.
#3 · Posted: 29 May 2010 20:39
Thanks Balthazar! I will definitely have to order The Art of Hergé, Volume 2 and the others in the series.

There are quite a lot of interesting references to books and movies that inspired Hergé in Michael Farr's book - recently I ordered Hashish: A smugglers tale by Henry de Monfreid (Penguin Classics) from Amazon. I've finished reading The Adventures of Hergé by Michael Farr and I heartily recommend it to anyone who has not read it yet.
#4 · Posted: 19 Aug 2023 14:45
I have been reading volume 5 of "Herge, chronologie d'une oeuvre" which describes his work from 1943 to 1949.

This includes the three pages that Herge and Jacobs drew under the pen-name "Olav".

After World War Two, Herge, like many others, was in trouble due to his working for the collaborationist newspaper "Le Soir" in which Tintin's adventures, including "Shooting Star", "Unicorn", "Rackham" and "Crystal Balls", had been published during the occupation of Belgium. As a result, he was shunned by most publishers.

In an effort to get work, he and Jacobs drew the first page of three potential adventure stories. The settings for these stories included the Yukon, cowboys and Indians and Shanghai.

Herge's agent, Bernard Thiery, was asked to submit them to publishers but was largely unsuccessful - though a source suggests that he never bothered. Thiery was later discovered to be siphoning money off Herge.

In the end, Herge and Jacobs focused on redrawing the early Tintin adventures, such as "Congo" and "Ottokar". They also drew other illustrations, such as pictures based on Tintin's adventures for a colouring book, and later founded "Tintin magazine".

Thiery did actually get a commission for one of the stories: the cowboys and Indians adventure "Le Canyon mysterieux". Herge and Jacobs had actually written the full script for it and entrusted the drawing to young artist Paul Cuvelier.

"Le Canyon mysterieux" was published in book form in 1947 by Editions du Berger, but signed under the pen-name "Sigto". In a small town, former convict Bill Doulton is about to make some serious revelations to the sheriff when he is shot by an unknown killer. Doulton's last words are "Death Canyon". The sheriff's friend Tom Colby investigates and discovers that white traffickers are supplying arms to the local Native Americans and attacking isolated farms in order to cause trouble and war.

An interesting point is that it takes place in the town of White Sands. During his confession in "Explorers on the Moon", Wolff mentions working at White Sands, a real-life testing ground for rockets and missiles.

Cuvelier later became best known for the comic "Corentin", the adventures of a young boy in the 18th century, which was one of the first to be published in the newly-launched "Tintin magazine" in September 1946.

For some reason, Cuvelier did not appear to like the work he had done with "Le Canyon mysterieux". He became a popular artist in his own right but would not let it be republished and apparently never even mentioned it in interviews or lists of his work. It was not until after his death in 1978 that Magic Strip was able to release it again in book form.

As for the other two pages drawn by "Olav", there is no indication that they were continued beyond the first page:

In the Yukon story, it is the height of winter. A man has made a huge hole in the ice of a frozen river. He then pushes a heavily-laden sleigh into the hole before covering it with snow. It is implied that the sleigh contained the body of a man called John Dickson. Rubbing his gloved hands and giving an evil grin, the first man then examines a map and sets off with his own dogs and sleigh.

In the Shanghai story, set in contemporary times, a Westerner is walking through the streets at night. He checks his watch and realises that he is going to be late for a meeting. Another man, dressed in Chinese clothes, is following the Westerner. In a deserted street, he attacks and stabs him, grabs some papers and runs off.

The Chinese clothes are similar to the ones worn by Tintin in "Blue Lotus"(!)

It would be interesting to know if the scripts for these two stories were finished like "Le Canyon mysterieux" and are in either Herge's or Jacobs' archives.

They are gritty and atmospheric but certainly feel more Jacobs than Herge, having the style and drama of the former but lacking the humour of the latter.

Le Canyon mysterieux can be found on ebay.com.
#5 · Posted: 24 Aug 2023 02:55
Thanks for this, mct16.

Interesting that Hergé went back again and again to the American West: Totor, Tintin, Tim the Squirrel, Popol, this script, the abandoned 'La Piste Indienne' ('The Indian Trail'). Maybe he never felt he'd got it quite right.
#6 · Posted: 24 Aug 2023 16:56
Maybe he never felt he'd got it quite right.

That was definitely the impression that Michael Far got from Hergé's archive - he has said that he found the two largest stocks of unused reference material, that Hergé was still actively gathering at the end of his life, were for Australia, and the world of the Native American.
His brand of Scouting was based around a romantic, stylized presentation of the Native American way of life, and that seems to have lived with him for his entire life, Scouting being perhaps the happiest of times in his life; he seems to have felt that the simplistic representation of the West in Tintin in America - albeit that it clearly takes a position against the encroaching of the developers and settlers driving the Native Americans out - wasn't a serious enough statement of the plight of the Native American, and that a return to the subject (perhaps inspire by what he had learned on his visits to America and the American West, in particular when he met Edgar Red Cloud in South Daota) was not just possible, but perhaps necessary.
#7 · Posted: 25 Aug 2023 02:16
the two largest stocks of unused reference material, that Hergé was still actively gathering at the end of his life, were for Australia, and the world of the Native American.

As an Australian, I'm tantalised by this! I wonder what ideas he had.

the simplistic representation of the West in Tintin in America - albeit that it clearly takes a position against the encroaching of the developers and settlers

Yeah, it's simplistic, but as you say Hergé takes a position; you get the sense that he actually wants to tell this story. I think this makes America the true beginning of Tintin: for the first time, Hergé gets creative control over the setting (instead of being instructed to write political propaganda); Tintin starts acting more like Tintin, someone with a sense of justice (instead of just wandering around randomly and leaving a trail of destruction); and there's a corresponding leap in quality from the two earlier stories (which in comparison feel like rough drafts or 'juvenilia', closer to Totor).

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