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Tintin Albums: The back cover designs

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#1 · Posted: 2 Mar 2005 23:56
Not sure if this topic has already been covered here (have had a quick look through the existing forums), but what is the deal with the three (that I know of) different back cover designs on the Tintin books?

The designs I'm aware of are:

1. The seemingly "standard" back cover showing all of the covers of the series, with "Lake Of Sharks" simply a line of text underneath.

2. The covers again, but with "Blue Lotus" and the condensed version of the "Unicorn"/"Rackham" two-parter in each of the top corners.

3. One I only saw on the battered copies in my school library a good decade or more ago, with the Tintin books listed by text title (no cover art at all) and surrounded by themes/imagery from the books (from memory things like Haddock looking through a sextent, the idol from "Broken Ear", possibly Abdullah in the background etc etc)

I assume they denote different print runs, but does anyone have a comprehensive list of which volumes have particular covers (esp. with reference to the third cover I've described, as I've not seen that since my school days, even on tatty old second-hand books)???

#2 · Posted: 3 Mar 2005 02:50
I've seen the third cover on my hardcover copies of Red Rackham's Treasure, Secret of the Unicorn and Tintin in Tibet. Bonus fact: Quick and Flupke are also on that cover, preparing to break open Haddock's bottle of whiskey with a slingshot.
#3 · Posted: 3 Mar 2005 04:10
Most of my Tintin books came from Joy Street, Little, Brown, or Joy Street-Little, Brown, and all of these books showed the covers for the 21 episodes on the back cover. I also have two Methuen books, and those have the themes/imagery from the books (although I don't recall Abdullah being there. I do recall seeing Quick and Flupke, though, if they were the ones hiding behind one of the posts supporting the sign that reports the summary). I also have six of the 3-in-1 volumes, and their back covers resemble those that appear on the Methuen books. I have no idea who publishes those 3-in-1s. though.
#4 · Posted: 3 Mar 2005 13:00
A very minor point, but I've never seen a back cover with all the covers on it and the condensed Unicorn/Rackham at the top (with Blue Lotus).
Books I have are the same as this only feature The Making of Tintin in the World of the Inca instead of the Unicorn/ Rackham book. This is Crystal Balls/ Prisoners in one, with background to the stories along as well.

And another very, very minor point is that on my hardback Methuens I have (printed in the mid 90s) the covers are all shown, but there is a space in the middle listing other Tintin and Hergé books available.

And in the top left, there is a picture of Tintin with Snowy under his arm, in the familiar running pose. On my french ediions, this picture is replaced by the cover for Tintin au Congo, and on the newly-printed Egmont books, by Tintin in the Land of the Soviets. My sole Italian book, Il Drago Blu, has the third listed backing.

On the subject of the two boys, they're the two kids from the port in Seven Crystal Balls. Are you sure they are actually Quick and Flupke? Was this intended as a cameo role for them by Hergé, or is it just two boys who look roughly similar?
From what I remember of Quick and Flupke, they look a little bit different. But I can see the logic - both sets of boys play pranks and get up to mischief, if indeed they aren't actually Quick and Flupke.
Do you think it's a coincidence?
Harrock n roll
#5 · Posted: 3 Mar 2005 15:09
There are in fact many other back covers to the English editions than the 3 insured_by_wagg has listed.

The "billboard" back cover was used on the English hardback editions from 1958 (when Methuen began releasing them) until about the mid-70s. It was drawn in 1945 for the back of the French/Belgian editions and comprised elements of all the books which had been released to date, from Congo to Red Rackham's Treasure (Soviets had been withdrawn by that time). Crystal Balls had also been serialised in Le Soir but wasn't released as a book 'til 1948.

That back cover was followed in the mid-70s by one with 16 thumbnail pictures of the books (with the other titles available at the time mentioned in text at the bottom). Quite a lot of my original books have these back covers which tells you how old I am.

After that there are many different variants with an ever increasing number of thumbnails, some with a white space to list other Hergé books, some with a picture of Tintin running to fill an odd space as OJG mentions.

And in answer to OJG's question; the 2 boys in the billboard back cover are definitely Quick & Flupke and it's certain that Hergé had intended them to look similar to the 2 in Crystal Balls.
#6 · Posted: 21 Apr 2005 17:07
On the topic of back covers but with a different angle .....

Members have discussed spines in details , so here are my observations about thumbnails of books on the back covers of Egmont and Little Brown books.

1) Tintin in America - Both the Egmont and Little Brown carry different fonts

2) Blue Lotus, Seven Crystal Balls - Egmont books have larger font while Little Brown are smaller

3) Black Island,Prisoners of the sun,Calculus Affair - Egmont smaller font, Little Brown larger font

4) Explorers on the Moon,Castafiore Emerald - Egmont yellowish coloured font while Little Brown is white.

What has been shown on the thumbnails , is it true for actual books as well ?? Anybody having both the publications will be able to compare.

Who did the writing on the covers , was it Mr Hyslop ??

- Pyne
#7 · Posted: 14 Oct 2022 11:59
Harrock n roll:
It was drawn in 1945 for the back of the French/Belgian editions and comprised elements of all the books which had been released to date, from Congo to Red Rackham's Treasure

Just a quick update on the back-cover design Harrock is talking about here; since he made his post, more information has come to light to flesh out and illuminate the subject.
In 1945, with the albums going into colour, Charles Lesne of Casterman contacted Hergé with a request for a new image for the back cover, to replace the then-current image of Tintin and Snowy standing beneath a box ( perhaps meant to be an adevrtising sign on a wall?), with Tintin pointing at it and asking the reader if they knew about the books listed on it. This had been in place since 1937, replacing a simple box listing title without illustration, which had in 1931 replaced the blank backs of the first books.
Hergé initially was reluctant to get involved in a redesign, as he felt that the pressure of producing new episodes for his strips, and revising the exiting stories to colour, plus whatever other material was needed was quite enough work.
However, Casterman prevailed, and Hergé worked up some sketches, first as a fairly simple update of the existing cover, then getting the idea for the free-standing billboard, then finally coming up with the basics for the familiar-to-many scene of Tintin, Snowy, Haddock and Cº in a landscape leading down to the sea, with the Black Island in the distance (for some reason I've generally thought that they were on an island, but I see now that there isn't really anything that indicates that, so presumably the location shows an otherwise unrecorded park or pleasure garden in the environs of Kiltoch, on the coast of Scotland - I'm glad that they got such nice weather for it!).
A feature of the image - as Harrock says - is the inclusion of objects evoking the stories to date which would be included in the colour series (hence the lack of Soviets), and it can be fun to spot them.
However, what wasn't evident was that initially Hergé did include items for the then still-running but not yet collected-into-book-form adventure that would become Crystal Balls and Prisoners.
The design that was submitted to Casterman shows the crystal balls lying on the grass in the centre at the bottom, and an Incan statue to the bottom right hand corner.
Lesne however had reservations about the picture, which was intended to fill the entire back-cover, and so was at the time rectangular - he worried that, while the current image was no longer impressive enough, quite such an elaborate and colourful image might actually be too eye-catching, and detract from the impact of the front covers (talk about being careful about what you wish for)!
The compromise that was arrived at was to present the new picture as an inset in the middle of the back-cover, and to leave a brown margin around it; as a further effect at this time, the image was given an irregular edge.
With the reduction in the overall size, and the new edging encroaching on the image, the initial arrangement of the design was adjusted - Ottokar's sceptre was moved up slightly, and the crystal balls and the Incan statue were removed.
I have to admit that there is some slight surmise here: I can't say that for certain that the objects weren't removed because someone felt that the lack of books with them in might be confusing, rather than there being no space for them, or that the intention was to restore them when their books came out and that didn't happen. This begs a question: if they had added back in the balls and statue, might they have continued to update the scene with new additions for future books?
Sadly, perhaps, it never happened, and the "billboard" image remained until the release of Picaros in 1975 introduced the start of the various iterations of colour thumbnails and text in a box which remains to this day.
The full, rectangular, version of the cover was used, with Hergé's signature in the lower left corner, albeit not for albums: it was used as an advert for the albums in a Flemish Scouting magazine in 1957, then for the back of an exercise book manufactured in the late fifties.
As a final thought, it's also possible to surmise that the billboard design was prepared before work on revising King Ottokar's Sceptre was completed, as the sceptre, even in it's new location, has not been given the wings that it gained between the B&W and colour versions.
#8 · Posted: 14 Oct 2022 18:27
About the missing items - this may be an explanation:

In 1986, an edition of Tintin magazine celebrated the 40th anniversary of its first issue. One of the stories published in it had three friends going for a walk and discovering various items which remind them of Tintin, such as the tin of crab meat ("Crab"), King Ottokar's actual sceptre, the fetish with the "Broken Ear" and even the idol of Sir Francis Haddock from "Treasure".

The three friends then notice a part of their page has been pulled open and when they look through they find themselves in the park with the billboard but slightly changed: Tintin is scolding Quick & Flupke about misleading the items that should be at his feet and Haddock is also glaring at them and the slingshot they were about to shoot at him!

The items mentioned above are missing from the scene of the billboard in the park (redrawn by another artist) though how Quick & Flupke managed to shift the huge idol remains unexplained!

It may have been for the best that the crystal ball was not in the final picture. Can you imagine what could have happened if Quick & Flupke had got their hands on it?
#9 · Posted: 2 Nov 2022 17:26
One I only saw on the battered copies in my school library a good decade or more ago

This is the standard back cover design here in Sweden.
But I remember reading that they had to fight for the right to use it for the most recent translation into Swedish.
#10 · Posted: 3 Jun 2024 19:30
I don't know whether this is the right place - is there a topic on the blue-and-white portrait drawings in the inside covers of the (Casterman French) hardcover books?
I'm intrigued by them and started compiling a complete list of the characters shown. Has anyone already done this? Or where do I post mine when I'm done?

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