Tintin in the Congo: 1930 | 1946 Comparison

The now controversial "Tintin au Congo" was first serialized in black and white in the pages of "Le P'tit Vingtième", the youth insert of the Belgian newspaper "Le XXème Sciècle" between 1930 and 1931. It was the second Tintin story, after his visit to the Soviet Union. But as master cartoonist Hergé moved out of the strips and into full-color albums, he redrew and colored the story (but not Soviets, never Soviets) in 1946. I wanted to compare some panels to show how his craft evolved, but also to see how he changed the story in places (1930 version in English translation; 1946 in original French).
In this, the first panel of the story, Tintin gets on a train so he can catch a ship and reach the Congo. Note how the original story was more clearly about a Belgian reporter leaving from a Belgian city. In album form, perhaps because the stories were meant for an international audience, Tintin was simply made "European" and his nationality never referenced. The 1946 edition also replaces those train conductors with Dupont & Dupond (or Thomson and Thompson, for you Englishers); they would not actually be created until two stories later, 1934's Les Cigares du Pharaon (Cigars of the Pharaoh), which was also redrawn (in 1955). Hergé's comedy characters Quick & Flupke however have cameos in both versions of the scene.

And there are cartooning differences, of course. A shorter Tintin, less detailed backgrounds (Hergé often put his studio artists on this kind of thing), and more caricatured faces. Moving to albums, Hergé adopted his characteristic typesets for dialog and captions as well.
Even if Hergé's work was technically better later in his life, I still miss some of his cartoony energy at times. As with the above panels where Tintin and Milou (you'd call him Snowy) are sleeping on the deck of the ship. There's no question that the 1946 edition has the technically better picture, the better defined human figure and the cuter Snowy. But I think we lose something in the technical formality. Tell me whether or not you agree.
The story is re-paced for a larger page size as well (told in 62 pages rather than 110), and this allows Hergé some ker-pow moments that didn't exist in the original comic. For example, after he shoots an elephant and fails to pierce his hide (Tintin is very much the Big White Hunter in this, another reason why it's now deemed inappropriate; you'll note that I purposefully didn't include pages with African caricatures so as not to open that can of worms again - but see these related Tintin posts on Animal Preservation and on Racism), the elephant runs after him and he climbs a tree, which the pachyderm proceeds to shake. The 1930 strip doesn't have that big silent splash of the animal charging (big silent panels are often a clear indication of an extra bit added by Hergé), nor do the original pages have the height to show the animal attacking the tree.

And that's my page of comics history for the day...


Anonymous said...

Yeah, Tintin isn't exactly a conservationist, is he? He pretty much shoots anything that moves.

I haven't read the original B&W editions, just the later (color) ones, but from what I see here, I think I'd prefer the later editions. As you say, the story opens up a bit more with the big panels and I think it gives some more power to many of the images. As for the backgrounds...well, I don't really pay much attention to those anyway, so the differences don't mean much to me :)

Mike W.

Siskoid said...

The new ones are definitely better. As a kid, it was always strange to me how book 4, The Blue Lotus, never redrawn, looked wonkier than the three preceding "older" books, and consequently, I was never a big fan of that one even though it's Tintin's first adult story, and the first that was truly a complete novel, rather than vignettes hung together on a travelogue.


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