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Le ThermoZéro: Should it be released?

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RedVictory356
Member
#31 · Posted: 28 Oct 2021 04:58 · Edited by: RedVictory356
I've recently read Greg's original scenario of Tintin et le Thermozéro, which was published in 2003 in issue 36 of the magazine Les Amis de Hergé at pages 19–30. The scenario has been mentioned before in this thread (in a post back in 2012). But I haven't seen it discussed in detail on this forum. So I thought I would share a few observations.

1. The magazine includes an introduction by Philippe Goddin, in which he dispels a number of errors that are often made about the project. These include the mistaken belief that Greg put forward two distinct variants of the scenario, Les Pilules and Le Thermozéro. Goddin traces that error back to a mix-up that occurred when Benoît Peeters spoke to Greg in the 1980s.

2. The scenario did, however, go through at least two successive drafts. The first is the one I am discussing here, which Goddin describes as 'the original scenario, the true one'. The second is a draft that was published in a rare volume by Rombaldi in 1988 and inaccurately attributed to Greg. This, writes Goddin, 'is just the fair copy of a manuscript by Jacques Martin, presumably developed in the course of multiple exchanges with Hergé'. I have not read this second draft. If anyone else has, then I'd be interested in hearing about the differences.

3. In Greg's original scenario, the item that drives the plot is initially referred to by the English term 'Zero-Heater'. The French term 'Thermozéro' is given as an alternative and used subsequently. Neither term is in the title, which is simply Scénario Tintin. I understand from elsewhere that it was Hergé himself who came up with the title Tintin et le Thermozéro.

4. The scenario begins with Tintin and Haddock visiting Mount Vesuvius as tourists. My guess is that the volcanic environment is supposed to prefigure the effects of the Thermozero. Still, this prelude seems superfluous to me; the plot does not really start until they are driving home and a car crash occurs. Hergé must have thought the same, because his later pencilled pages skip the prelude and begin with Tintin and Haddock driving. (These pencilled pages are much more widely accessible, so perhaps many of you are familiar with them. For example, I have a copy in the Archives Tintin edition of Tibet published in 2010.)

5. The regular cast are largely absent. Calculus appears only briefly, in the very last scene; the Thomsons have only a slightly bigger role; and characters like Wagg and Castafiore do not appear at all. Even Haddock is absent for almost the entire second half of the scenario, which begins to feel like one of Tintin's solo adventures. This, too, may have changed later in the development of the project: in the first of Hergé's pencilled pages, Calculus is asleep in the back of the car; and, in the last couple of those pages, Wagg shows up and Castafiore is heard (predictably!) on the radio.

6. The most prominent of the new characters are two Americans, called Major Fullscotch and Douglas D Thinnose: a Francophone's idea of humorous English-derived surnames!

7. The similarities to the Calculus Affair are so obvious that I am surprised that Greg didn't do more to make the story distinctive. Tintin and various spies pursue each other around Europe looking for a dangerous item that we discover, though not until the last scene, to be an invention by Calculus. Much of the scenario takes place in Switzerland. The item is left behind at a hotel (compare the lost umbrella in Calculus Affair). One of Tintin's friends is kidnapped, in this case Haddock rather than Calculus. And ultimately the runaround turns out to have been a waste of time, because a critical ingredient of the Thermozero never left Marlinspike (compare the revelation at the end of Calculus Affair that the microfilm never left Marlinspike).

8. There is one interesting difference. When Tintin is drawn into political intrigues, they usually involve fictional countries rather than real ones (with the notable exceptions of Soviets, Blue Lotus, and the early versions of Black Gold). But here the climax takes place in the very real Berlin at the height of the Cold War. It has the air of a John le Carré or Ian Fleming story. A raincoat and a briefcase play key roles. The villains are from the ISSA (the International Spies & Saboteurs Association—yes, its name is given in English), a group of spies who operate independently of both Cold War blocs, just like SPECTRE in the James Bond books.

9. Some of you will know that, after abandoning Tintin et le Thermozéro, Hergé asked Bob De Moor to adapt it into a Jo, Zette, and Jocko adventure (see this other thread). That must have been a thorough rewrite; I find it hard to imagine those characters in a Cold War spy setting.

10. In my opinion, Hergé was right to abandon this project. It did not promise to add anything novel to his work. And instead we got the much more interesting Castafiore Emerald.

My apologies for the length of this post! I hope the content justifies it.
jock123
Moderator
#32 · Posted: 28 Oct 2021 09:37
RedVictory356:
I thought I would share a few observations.

Thank you so much for that!
It's interesting to have a more detailed breakdown of something which has always been elusive, so this is really useful stuff!
On the Vesuvius preamble, I wonder if that was always intended to be an optional section? Is there any indication how long it might have been intended to be? If it was less than a page, it might have been going to be "disposable", an extra couple of rows to be used in the magazine, but omitted from the album to allow the addition of the story title on page one, as happened with Tibet, for example. If it looked likely to run to a couple of pages or more, then we can scratch that idea!

Interesting that the scenario was polished by Jacques Martin. I've generally seen the Pillules/ ThermoZéro question heavily caveated - not so much that people thought that they were separate entities, just that nobody knew for sure! Good to have that cleared up, and interesting that the source of the confusion could be pin-pointed. Does the article suggest who actually applied thise bames in the first place, if the working title was Scénario Tintin?

I love the idea of this being a "solo" Tintin adventure - much as I love the "paper family", I think that Hergé's constant endeavour to shoe-horn them all in all the time was a trifle stifling, and I would happily have had Tintin and Snowy team back in action as the focus.

RedVictory356:
Hergé was right to abandon this project.

May be, but I'd still like to have the book to find out! Maybe part of the enjoyment would be to see how close the stories could be while remaining different; Hitchcock ploughed a very narrow furrow for a lot of his work, and delighted in doing so by seeing how changing the "MacGuffin" could dress up very similar plots.

Pure speculation makes me wonder if having it a re-hash of Calculus Affair wasn't actually a deliberate move by Greg to show Hergé that he was better setting his own stories? That was the outcome after all.
RedVictory356:
My apologies for the length of this post!

None needed - it's good of you to share. Thanks for the data!

RedVictory356:
I hope the content justifies it.

It certainly does - I'm much better informed for having read it!
RedVictory356
Member
#33 · Posted: 28 Oct 2021 12:51 · Edited by: RedVictory356
jock123:
On the Vesuvius preamble, I wonder if that was always intended to be an optional section? Is there any indication how long it might have been intended to be?

Oh, I would say a page or two. I'll give you a more detailed summary. The opening images are of little craters in the suburbs of Naples 'in the shadow of Vesuvius'. A guide tells the tour group about the destruction of Pompeii, including the damage from sulphurous fumes. He demonstrates how a lit cigarette causes the little craters to produce clouds of smoke. Haddock, who is not paying attention, lights his pipe—with a result that you can picture for yourself. Then he and Tintin have a conversation about their plans for the rest of the holiday. And then we actually see two further short scenes: one of Nester alone at Marlinspike bringing in the newspapers, which have headlines about 'a new international espionage affair'; and a scene of the Thomsons receiving instructions to investigate the same affair. Only after that do we get the scene of Tintin and Haddock driving that serves as the beginning of the later pencilled pages.

And to elaborate on my comment that the Vesuvius scene prefigures the Thermozero: we learn that it is designed to cause explosions in the vacuum of space and that, if used in ordinary conditions, it threatens to 'inflame the molecules of oxygen in the air in a Dantean explosion'.

jock123:
I've generally seen the Pillules/ ThermoZéro question heavily caveated - not so much that people thought that they were separate entities, just that nobody knew for sure! Good to have that cleared up, and interesting that the source of the confusion could be pin-pointed. Does the article suggest who actually applied thise bames in the first place, if the working title was Scénario Tintin?

No, Goddin's piece doesn't explain. But I've had another look at what Jean-Marie Embs and Philippe Mellot say in the Archives Tintin edition of Tibet, and there are some hints there.

They say that, in 1960, Hergé remembered an article that he had kept from Marie-France about some Americans who became 'radioactive' from exposure to 'a mysterious pill'. He then wrote this note: 'A bottle (or any other object) containing a deadly product (atomic pills? See Marie-France) has been taken (by mistake) by someone. Tintin will pursue the fellow and will reach him at the moment when the product in question is going to begin its ravages'.

Embs and Mellot go on to say that Hergé handed over 'the development of a scenario inspired by this idea' to Greg, who rapidly produced 'a fifteen-page synopsis, untitled, that Hergé baptised Tintin et le Thermozéro'. Now, the scenario that I have been talking about, according to Goddin's introduction, was sixteen pages in its original format. But a small discrepancy like that might easily be explained (for example, perhaps the sixteenth was just a cover page that Embs and Mellot didn't count). So we can probably infer that these are the same thing.

My best guess, then, is that Hergé himself came up with the pills idea but didn't develop it beyond the note I quoted; and when we see references to Les Pilules, they are extrapolations from this earliest, embryonic version of the idea. Then Greg took over and changed the macguffin to the Thermozero, which led Hergé to name the project Tintin et le Thermozéro. What do you think?

jock123:
I love the idea of this being a "solo" Tintin adventure - much as I love the "paper family", I think that Hergé's constant endeavour to shoe-horn them all in all the time was a trifle stifling, and I would happily have had Tintin and Snowy team back in action as the focus.

Interested in this take! A weakness of Alph-Art, I think, would have been the huge number of returning characters. I don't know if you also read Valerian, but the finale of that series does a similar thing, and it leaves too little space for the story. On the other hand, we already have a pared-back book in Tibet, focusing just on Tintin and Haddock. And I find it hard to imagine the later Tintin without at least Haddock. Don't you feel his absence in Black Gold?

jock123:
May be, but I'd still like to have the book to find out!

Well, yes! Or at least, I'd like an Alph Art–style book. Even though some of the Thermozéro material has already been published, it's all in such scattered and difficult-to-find places.

jock123:
Pure speculation makes me wonder if having it a re-hash of Calculus Affair wasn't actually a deliberate move by Greg to show Hergé that he was better setting his own stories? That was the outcome after all.

My sense is that, from about the time of Red Sea Sharks, Hergé tried to avoid repeating himself. All the books after that are distinctive or experimental in some way. With Greg, in contrast, the similarity to Calculus Affair makes me think of how his other Tintin plot, Lake of Sharks, draws so heavily from Secret Ray (the boy and girl standing in for Jo and Zette, the underwater tank, the underwater lair that floods at the end). So maybe just different tendencies? But I haven't read any of Greg's other work.

That was another long post. But I'm pleased you're interested in this too.
Bukowski
Member
#34 · Posted: 30 Oct 2021 01:43 · Edited by: Moderator
mct16
It should be used as the basis for an expanded new story written and drawn by a competent Belgian of Flemish origin. Happy now?

Moderator Note: A couple of points.
1) We noted, on a previous post that you made, that you should quote a short section of the message to whih you are replying, to indicate which point you are replying to. In some threads messages can be pages away and years back in time, and the discussion might have moved along so far that points of view have changed and new information has come to light.
THere's no indication as to which post you are replying to, nor which particular point, and as it's not relate to the preceding few posts, it's important to give your remark context.
If a post was made some considerable time ago, and you bring it back just to make a remark that doesn't further the discussion, or simply rehashes a point long-gone, then your post could be seen as thread-bumping, and may be removed.

2) Perhaps more importantly, please be careful with your tone. You're a new member, so may still need to find your feet. mct16 is a long-standing and respected member of our community, and has been an important contributor to the continuing life of our forums for many years.
It may not have been intended, but adding comments like "Happy now?" comes across as snarky, and could be taken as trolling or flame-baiting, and they would not be acceptable.
When you signed up to join you agreed to terms and conditions which placed value on treating fellow members with respect, and frankly that is lacking in the way you are responding to other's posts. There's a guide to posting here which will give you a run-down of what is required, and the site rules are here; please take a couple of minutes to read them.
The Tintinologist Team
mct16
Member
#35 · Posted: 30 Oct 2021 15:06 · Edited by: mct16
RedVictory356
RedVictory356:
I've recently read Greg's original scenario of Tintin et le Thermozéro, which was published in 2003 in issue 36 of the magazine Les Amis de Hergé at pages 19–30... I thought I would share a few observations.

Thank you for your summary of the plot. It has been fascinating to read. I don't recall ever being told of the Vesuvius episode (or maybe I've forgotten) but that would be in the spirit of Tintin travelling to real-world locations as a tourist and not just for adventure.

I hope that this script will become available sometime in book form. There have been suggestions of an "Alph-Art"-like book edition but, as far as I know, it has never gone any further.

The Tintinologist Team
Tintinologist Team:
mct16 is a long-standing and respected member of our community, and has been an important contributor to the continuing life of our forums for many years.

Thank you, :)

Bukowski:
mct16
It should be used as the basis for an expanded new story written and drawn by a competent Belgian of Flemish origin. Happy now?

Where did I make this remark?

My usual view of "Thermozero", as stated at the start of this thread, is that it would be a good basis for a film and RedVictory356's remark that it is similar to "Calculus Affair" would mean that it would appeal to those who enjoy such adaptations, while seeming to be more original since Tintin is in pursuit of spies who have stolen a dangerous device rather than simply out to rescue a friend - who hardly appears in the story anyway.

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