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Hergé: His inked drawings

#1 · Posted: 31 Jul 2022 21:32
The still photos I have seen of Hergé at his desk mostly show him with inked black-and-white pages of drawings. The dialog boxes are there, but blank.
What was the process of adding the dialog? Did Hergé specify it for the publishers to fill in?
Also, did he specify the colours, or did someone else decide them?
The colouring is quite sophisticated in the later works and I'd be surprised if he left it completely to others to decide what colours to use.
I've been dabbling with a Tintin-like strip myself.
My instinct is to colour it in - with pencils the best solution I can find.
#2 · Posted: 2 Aug 2022 13:02
Generally speaking, the adding of dialogue and colour depends on the artist and their situation.

I understand that colouring, like drawing, can be very lengthy and time-consuming but also expensive. At the start of their careers, most comic artists might have to do most of the dialogue and colouring themselves or employ a friend or relative to do it for them as a favour or for a small fee. If and when they become more successful, they will employ actual professionals at a more expensive rate.

Leaving the choice of colours to the colourist depends a lot on the story and characters. If, for example, you are depicting events based on real life, then it would be important to have the actual colours used in the real-life events. I once read that an artist, working on his early comic strips, got his sister and other relatives to do the colouring but he failed to mention what the colours should be. As a result some pieces of real-life machinery which were included in the comics, and which he knew from his research were black, were coloured green.

Also, a mentioning of colours may be included in the dialogue or may be an important aspect of a character. For example, if there is a dialogue that a character is wearing a green overcoat then their overcoat must be coloured green if they are present or in a previous scene. The colour may also be iconic in some way: imagine that a colourist can choose whatever colour he wants for a scene in a "Star Wars" comic and Darth Vader ends up in pink armour! :)

The same applies to dialogue. When planning the story, a whole script will be written beforehand, like a script for a movie. The artist or an assistant will then fill in the speech bubbles based on the script. A system, such as numbering every line of text in the script and then including the numbers in the appropriate speech bubbles, will be necessary in order that the right text goes into the right bubble. All too often I have seen examples of panels which include two characters talking, but saying the wrong dialect: in an interrogation scene, a suspect is asking the questions you expect the detective to ask, and the detective is giving answers that only the suspect would know at this stage!

Like actors, a dialogue writer may actually improvise sometimes. I read somewhere that Herge's dialogue writer, a very religious lady, added references to God in the speech bubble which were not in the original script.

I believe that most colouring is done by paints and increasingly by computer, but to each his own. Good luck with your strip.
#3 · Posted: 11 Aug 2022 14:26
What was the process of adding the dialog?

Initially Hergé's art was lettered directly onto the page of original art. It meant that if another language edition was to be made, that the content of balloons had to be covered over, and new dialogue added.
Over time, it was easier for Hergé to leave the balloons blank on the final art, and the dialogue to be inserted from a separate sheet of art, made into a printing plate; you can speed up production time in this way, by printing all the elements that are the same in one pass, then swapping text plates to over-print the artwork.
did he specify the colours, or did someone else decide them?

He was very particular about colour, and took great pains with it; although the initial colour albums used some painterly effects in their schemes, over the years he sought to get the colour as flat and uniform as possible.
As a note of particular importance for yourself, Hergé didn't colour the original art for publication (although he did colour it by hand from time-to-time, to give as gifts to friends and coleagues), but used copies, reduced to approximately publication size. This makes it far easier to revise, rework and reproduce the art.
Initially he coloured art himself, assisted by his first wife Germaine; later he added specialist assistants, leading to a team at his studios, led by the head of department, Josette Baujot. Hergé's second wife, Fanny, was part of the team.

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