Tintin in the Soviet Union. In colour, this time.
It is without a doubt one of the most controversial albums in the history of comics, and not in the least due to its creator’s ambivalence towards it. When Hergé created his first Tintin story, Au Pays Des Soviets (In The Land Of The Soviets) way back in 1929 for the children’s weekly, Le Petit Vingtièmee, he was very much influenced by the politics of his anti-revolutionist, conservative Catholic mentor and editor, Abbé Wallez. The story was basically a roller coaster of anti-Soviet propaganda, made to measure for children.
When Hergé was approached by publisher Raymond Leblanc (you can read an interview with Leblanc here on the blog) to do colour editions of all of his books fifteen years later, he refused to rework this first story and basically disowned it. The fact that the official first Tintin book from then on would be Tintin Au Congo (Tintin In The Congo), even with all its racial bias and white supremacist tendencies (especially to modern eyes, hence why most editions come with a warning about racial portrayals from that period), should give an idea of the sense of shame Hergé felt about the very first adventure of his quiffed boy hero. In an interview in 1965, Hergé even stated that if he had to do it all again, Congo would undergo the same treatment as Soviets.
(Tintin (c) Moulinsart)
In 1961, after the long gestation of Tintin Au Tibet, Hergé deliberated doing a new edition of Soviets, presenting it to a new audience, but the publishers at Casterman, and more particularly its Paris branch, advised against it, as it did not really fit with the changing times, and moreover, young comics readers had come to expect more visual brilliance, which Soviets sorely lacked. Tintin fans would have to wait until 1981 to be able to buy a copy of the book, and even then the publication was set up as a facsimile edition, aimed at collectors and fans, and most certainly not as part of the regular series. But as time went on, and Tintin’s creator passed away, actions were taken to integrate the book more into the regular series. Even though the art remained the same (while all other albums were re-cut and sometimes even totally re-drawn), its size was fitted to the same format as the rest of the books, and it received a similar characteristic spine to fit in with the series.
And now, in 2017, the final step is taken: for the first time Tintin Au Pays Des Soviets is presented in coloured format. Starting from the original sketches, artist from the Studios Hergé worked for three years to create a version that is at once recognisable as “real” Tintin, and representative of its time. They chose a wide range of muted and pastel colors, and applied them as would have been the case in the 1950s and 60s, with single colours filling the shapes of the drawings, and without any gradient or shading. Page layout or story have been maintained — it’s up to the reader to decide whether colouring has helped the book grow old gracefully.
Tintin Au Pays Des Soviets in coloured format is available from Wednesday onwards, in French. No English edition has been announced as yet.
(Images from a report on lci.fr)