The Calculus Affair

Hergé originally got the concept for Calculus’ machine in The Calculus Affair when he heard that some people’s windshields had broken outside of a building conducting secret sound related experiments, and decided to look into the technology and use it in an espionage theme story he wanted to set in Switzerland.

The Calculus Affair

Ok guys, I’m back! I’ve been busy the past two weeks, but I haven’t forgotten about the post, and instead of another “Chaque Jeudi,” I’m ready to tell you about Nyon.

While everything I did in Geneva was fun and the Hotel Cornavin was awesome to see…Nyon is really where the important action takes place. In Geneva, little more happens than Tintin and Haddock checking to find Calculus in his hotel, only for him to leave in one elevator as they go up the other. Afterwords they are stalled by bad guys and miss the train Calculus takes. All in all they spend about three pages in Geneva. They spent around eight pages in Nyon.

Writing and drawing new Tintin stories was a very demanding job for Hergé, and there were times when he just needed to take a break and get away from all the stress in Brussels. He had friends on the coast of Lake Geneva very close to Nyon, and after he came to visit once, I’m not surprised that he continued to come back for years to come. The area around Nyon is beautiful, and within forty minutes of the city to the right of the highway was some of the beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen, with enormous mountains looming over the huge lake. I wish there had been a place for the car to pull over so I could have taken pictures of the most beautiful sections I saw. But I can promise you plenty of Nyon itself.

Of all the Tintin locations I’ve ever visited, this was by far the closest I’ve come to walking straight into one of the panels Hergé drew. Even Cheverny is not this meticulously accurate. And the best part: the town is aware that Tintin came to visit them (this is, after all, the French-speaking part of Switzerland), and they had the most incredibly helpful brochure charting every location in town shown in the book on a map of Nyon. Better still: the map is available online! If you want to head to Nyon yourself, don’t dream of going without a printed or digital copy of this brochure. Even if you don’t go, you’ll learn some interesting trivia about the places Tintin went and the history of The Calculus Affair. For example, a quote from an interview with Hergé where he says “I had to find the exact place where a car could leave the road to fall into lake Geneva, between Geneva and Nyon.” Ha ha ha unfortunately I did not see that exact spot of the road, but for my safety it is probably better that way. I’m curious if you actually could go off the road in the same spot today…just the fact that he went and found the exact spot is amazing…nobody comes close to that level of dedication to detail today in the world of comics.

So, with a printed copy of the brochure, I went to find Nyon. It does indeed take thirty minutes to get to Nyon from Geneva, just as in the book!

This was the closest thing I found to the sign drawn in the book. I drove up and down the town three times. Didn’t see the entry sign…

I drove by the tourist information center, thankful that I had printed my brochure, because they were closed and I wasn’t gonna get a real copy of one.

In the tourist center, according to the brochure, is one of those old firefighter trucks that puts out the fire when the house blows up. I was OK with not seeing that, because I had bigger fish to catch. And the biggest of them all was Professor Topolino’s house. Tintin and Haddock know that Calculus is headed to the man’s house. The door is locked but they hear a sound like a man banging against a pipe inside. Haddock waits at the front door and than gets a shock when Tintin opens the door from inside, having entered through the open back door (the shock is actually a bit extreme, even for Haddock). They find Topolino tied up in the basement. He thinks Calculus tied him up there, but in actuality it was a man staging as Calculus. Tintin and Haddock, now friends with Topolino, talk things over while they drink (mainly, Haddock does the drinking…). And then, all of the sudden…BOOM!


Of course the real house didn’t blow up, and is still there. I suppose somebody lives there…but they have left the paint exactly as it was in the days of The Calculus Affair. It was easy to hold the book up to the house and imagine the real one exploding.


Here’s a less common angle of the house, with a stairway going around the side. It was seriously very exciting to see this house. But there were also some more obscure locations to find in The Calculus Affair. Grab your copy of the book, and lets go!

Tintin and Haddock walk by Lake Geneva, worrying about poor Calculus. I found the exact spot they walked.

I love how the panel matches the picture so well. I could almost in my mind see that car by them on the actual road.

And here’s the view they would have looked at. The view Hergé loved so much.

The most difficult location to find (of those that I found. Good luck finding the Nyon sign…) was a statue Tintin and Haddock walk by. I love it because it is of such minor importance in the book, but Hergé took the time to find it and draw it in the book to accurately show Nyon. To get there you have to park your car and walk on one of the paved roads that are only for civilians. Finding this one actually let me see a bit of Nyon and its Swiss houses. The town really is worth a visit, even if you could care less about Tintin. There’s a nice little castle there that I saw down one street:

And finally, I found it.

I’ll leave you to find this panel in your book as a sort of scavenger hunt. It was a fitting thing to be the last location I saw in Nyon from The Calculus Affair, because it is the last thing we see of Nyon in the book as well. I was sad to leave this town, but glad that it was one more thing checked off of the Tintinologist bucket list I have for myself. I wonder how many things I have left on that list? One thing is for sure…I will continue to post about them as I check them off.


The Calculus Affair

Some four years ago I had the privilege of visiting Brussels, a treasure trove of fun things to do and places to visit for avid Tintinologists. I did a good deal of research on the Tintin-related things there were to see there, and I remember while I was searching I accidentally found a site that linked to a brochure for Nyon, a small town in Switzerland that Tintin visits in The Calculus Affair. The town is obviously nowhere near Brussels, so I ignored it, and I remember specifically thinking ”no way will I ever make it over there…”

I am very happy to have been proven wrong.

As it turns out, I was able to stay in Geneva for only two nights this summer, but it proved long enough to see just about everything I set out to find. The difference between visiting Geneva or Nyon, compared with visiting Brussels, is that Brussels has a lot of Tintin related locations, but not a lot of locations Hergé actually drew in the albums.  Instead, there is an entire train stop that he painted with all of his characters, a wall on a building where he painted a blown-up version of a panel with Haddock and Tintin going down a fire escape, and even an Hergé museum (which I didn’t see because it wasn’t finished at the time). But very little of Brussels is identifiable as where Tintin lives. I have heard that early on Hergé was encouraged to draw Tintin’s ”home town” as nondescriptly as possible because the English were starting to believe Tintin lived in London. Afterwords we barely see Tintin live outside of Marlinspike Hall, though he seems to still have a house in town. However, once Tintin is out of Brussels, Hergé would go to great lengths to make sure that the places Tintin was going to really existed and looked like they did in real life, and while we see examples of this in just about all of the books, Hergé put most effort into this aspect when he sent Tintin to Switzerland.

In The Calculus Affair, Tintin and Haddock travel to Geneva to find Professor Calculus, whom they rightfully believe is in danger. They’ve found the name of the hotel he’s staying at, the Hotel Cornavin. Sure enough, the hotel really existed, and still exists. Since then it’s undergone  quite a few changes. And while I suppose I could have seen some of them through visitor photos on tripadvisor, what would have been the fun in that? Instead, I did some exploring and found the hotel myself.

It’s not like it was hard to find. The hotel Cornavin is facing the Place de Cornavin, right in front of the Cornavin Station that, incidentally, Tintin and Haddock stop at to get to the hotel (I only saw it from the outside as I have heard it looks nothing like the train station in The Calculus Affair). If you have a copy of The Calculus Affair with ytou, you might want to read this part of the story to get the most out of the post, unless you remember it perfectly.


I brought my own copy of The Calculus Affair with me and had a blast comparing certain panels with reality. The front of the hotel is still very similar to how Hergé drew it, although some of the letters have changed:


I hope I don’t get into any trouble for posting pics of The Calculus Affair; my purpose is only to compare Hergé’s work with his drawings.

There was a very nice little exhibit in the window to remember the fact that the Hotel Cornavin had been recorded in The Calculus Affair, if only for a page. As you can see here, the hotel looked identical to how it did when Hergé drew it.


Anyway, I found a couple of very interesting surprises inside the Hotel Cornavin:


First of all, I noticed Tintin in the window, along with a bunch of Tintin trinkets that I’ll show later (I got pictures of them ALL).

Snowy was there too:

I then looked around to see just what Hergé got right about the interior of the hotel. And surprisingly…it was fairly accurate. Of course everything was much more modern, but the feel of the hotel is similar to the one he drew. There were two obvious similarities between reality and the album that I believe Hergé copied deliberately. The first was the wall of keys:

Sorry that picture is a bit blurry, but you get the idea. Even today it looks much like the keys on the wall in the book, and it’s easy enough to imagine somebody leaving the hotel while that man’s back was turned.

The second similarity was the elevators. They are indeed on your left as the man behind the counter says, though technically they are only slightly to your left as you walk down the hallway, which is actually to your right if you are looking at the check-in counter. Nonetheless, the elevators are situated just like in the album:

Only two elevators, side by side! Sure, they have steel doors now, but they look like they might be in the same shafts Hergé would have looked at. Professor Calculus comes out one door just as Tintin and Haddock go up the other elevator! Very strangely, the exact same thing happened to me at a separate hotel on this trip: I was looking for a few of the guys I went travelling with, and went up to the room to see why they weren’t downstairs yet. As it turns out, they had left the room and were coming down at the exact same time I was going up. Apparently I have to follow every possible detail of Tintin’s steps whether I want to or not.

So then I set out to ”find Calculus’ room.” I did some research ahead of time so I didn’t fall into the disappointment others have when they found out: Room 121 doesn’t exist on the fourth floor, so there is no way to go to Calculus’ ”exact room.” Hergé got a lot right about this hotel but for one reason or another messed up the room numbers. There IS a fourth floor though. Room 122 is just on the first floor. So first I went to the fourth floor:

And then I went down 3 floors to room 122:

It was good enough for me. No smoking, it says on the door, so I guess Bordurian cigarettes are out. I don’t think those Bordurians would be allowed to smoke in the lobby either. Which brings me to the list of reasons why, had Tintin and Haddock lived today, they would have made that train to Nyon. First, they would not have been able to have been tripped:

The lobby is huge now, and even if they had walked as close to those white chairs as possible, I doubt they could be tripped. It would make no sense to walk there anyway…you’ve got a huge amount of space for your bags. But most importantly, even if, let’s say the Bordurians distracted them some other way, Haddock still would have had one of his first lucky days:

The revolving door no longer revolves! It is simply two automatic doors, thus keeping the air conditioning in, but giving those staying at the hotel much more space. Unless Haddock found a way to push too hard on an automatic door, I don’t think he would have gotten stopped in there for long.

That, added to the fact that the station was just across the street, makes me think that they would have caught the train in time.

And speaking of time, I discovered the most unexpected thing in the Hotel Cornavin. Never would I have imagined that the Hotel actually held a Guiness World Record!

At 30.02 meters height, the Hotel Cornavin holds the record for the world’s biggest mechanical clock. It is in Switzerland, after all. I was utterly surprised to find it at this hotel of all places, though. I looked up at the pendulum, and it literally goes up eight stories:

I went up to the eighth floor and saw the top of the clock:


30.02 meters is impressive, but I’ve kind of surprised nobody has beaten that record. I hope they don’t though, for a while at least. It makes the hotel an even more fun place to visit.

The real reason that I went up to the eighth floor was because the elevator said there was a panoramic café up there. I imagine it is only for those staying at the hotel, but the place was closed anyway, leaving me to enjoy the wonderful view of Geneva without paying anything (truly an amazing feat, where prices are sky high anywhere you go in Switzerland, let alone Geneva).

The church in the Place de Cornavin. I don’t know what it’s called, but I hope they finish construction soon.

You can’t see it very well in this pic, but you can actually see the Mont Blanc in the distance. I don’t know if Calculus got a chance to see it from here or not. That floor looks newer than the rest of the hotel. It was fun to see, anyway.  It let me get that shot of the train station from earlier.

And, as promised, the trinkets in the display in the window. There was a letter, or maybe a quote from a book of his, from Michael Farr about the hotel and the story that so many fans came in asking for Calculus’ room that they had to put up a silhouette of Tintin and a sign apologizing for the numbering system. I found no proof that they ever renumbered their rooms to let people stay in a room 122 on the fourth floor, though it might be possible that they changed the system so that there would be a room 122 at all. However, the hotel is pretty big and I think there always has been a room 122. The display in the window apparently replaced that old apology, and the man at the counter said the only Tintin stuff they had to show was in the window.

Tintin is ”Tim” in German. But I was in French speaking Switzerland, so I’m not sure why this is there. Maybe it just belonged to the owner of the display. Maybe he speaks German? Anyway, where would you have bought a Tintin pennant?


My favorite is this very cute Professor Calculus doll. Is it too much to ask for this to come out again?

The ”room keys” Calculus leaves.

Interesting car…

Somebody needs to stand Haddock back up, though of course he would fall down…

Well, that’s all I saw of Tintin in Geneva. Check back for my next post, where I’ll tell you all about what I found in Nyon! And, if you want any MORE pictures of the Hotel Cornavin, you could find them at tripadvisor here. But it’s much more fun to go in person. If you actually stay there, I’d love to hear from you!

I’ll post again soon. Thanks for reading.






















The Calculus Affair

In a recent Comic-Con interview, Peter Jackson mentioned this about Tintin 2:

The filmmakers plan to switch roles on the next one, with Jackson directing a follow-up that he said will move Tintin “to a slightly different genre, a slightly less of a rollicking adventure and something a bit more, a little bit more of a sort of espionage type of story. So it’s a slight tone shift, which I think will be good.”

Though this doesn’t confirm anything, ”espionage” does sound a whole lot more like The Calculus Affair than any other album. A combination of The Shooting Star” and ”Red Rackham’s Treasure,” proposed by some guessing fans as what Tintin 2 could be like, doesn’t seem to fit that feel as much.

Especially now that I’m going to Nyon, I admit I would be very excited if The Calculus Affair was the next film choice. Calculus could be introduced as a scientist they need to rescue that they get to know as they save him perhaps, rather than a character they already know. No matter how they do it, there’s potential in the album for a movie, that’s for sure.

Peter Jackson, Prisoners of the Sun, Steven Spielberg, The Calculus Affair

In a recent interview with Total Film, Spielberg and Jackson revealed some information regarding the sequel to ”Tintin,” . . . which is really not much information at all.

“Peter [Jackson]’s doing it. I wanted to do it, but Peter has to because we made a deal. I said, ‘I’ll direct the first one, you direct the second one.’

“And Peter, of course, is going to do it right after he finishes photography on The Hobbit. He’ll go right into the 31, 21 days of performance capture.

“We’re not telling the world what books we’re basing the second movie on yet.”

But didn’t producer Kathleen Kennedy say it’s going to be The Calculus Affair?

“We haven’t decided that yet. She’s throwing a monkey wrench into your story! It could be that. I like The Calculus Affair. So it could be.

“We have completed a story outline now. We have a writer on it. I’m just not declaring what it is. It will be more than one book, but no more than two.”

Why wouldn’t he go right to Tintin 2? It only takes a month or less on set to shoot!I see the wisdom of their choice of not revealing the stories just yet…Apparently it’s not Prisoners of the Sun, and it may or may not be the moon books (a long time ago that was considered as a better Tintin 3). That leaves no more two part stories, which means another combination of stories that is bound to receive mixed reactions. I was amazed at how well the two they blended last time worked, and especially after recently having read Horowitz’s ”The House of Silk”, I am firmly confident that he can write an adventurous story while respecting to the best degree Tintin’s original albums. So long as people understand they will not BE the original albums, the movie should be very enjoyable, like the first one was. However, if they wait too much longer I think I am going to explode. I have made little effort in concealing the fact that my vote definitely goes to The Calculus Affair. But what story would it go with? Maybe just the a small section of Red Rackham’s treasure to introduce Calculus, or do they plan on grafting in more than just that from one album into another? Jackson, I would really appreciate it if you don’t wait TOO long to reveal the albums to the world.


Albums, Cigars of the Pharaoh, Destination Moon, Editorial, Explorers on the Moon, Flight 714, King Ottokar's Sceptre, Land of Black Gold, Prisoners of the Sun, Red Rackham's Treasure, The Black Island, The Blue Lotus, The Broken Ear, The Calculus Affair, The Castafiore Emerald, The Crab with the Golden Claws, The Red Sea Sharks, The Secret of the Unicorn, The Seven Crystal Balls, The Shooting Star, Tintin and the Picaros, Tintin in America, Tintin in the Congo, Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, Tintin in Tibet, Tintin Merchandise, Tintin Movie News

By popular demand, the highly praised Travels of a Boy Reporter has returned. This map tracks the journey of Tintin in his 23 adventures across the world.

Download & Print

The map is available as a download for just £10. Once you’ve downloaded it you are free to use it how you wish (non-commercially only). Print it out, have t-shirts made, use it as your computer’s desktop. You are free to use it however you want.

It comes in a variety of sizes ranging from the small 480×320 pixels, suitable for an iPhone, to the huge 6679×4722 pixels, suitable for an A1 poster.

Find out more about the map or skip to chase and buy it now.

High resolution graphics with license to print and use the map for any non-commercial purpose.

Flight 714, Herge, Land of Black Gold, Ligne Claire (Clear Line), The Calculus Affair, The Castafiore Emerald, Tintin

Last Sunday, an auction of Tintin and Herge memorabilia smashed national and international records. The highlights of the auction were a handful of original pages drawn by the man himself. All the pages are reproduced below, taken from the auction catalog. If you are interested in Tintin memrobilia then I advise you to have a look through the catalog but these drawings are the real gems.

My favourite are the pages from Flight 714, particularly the sketch pages. In the image of Tintin with his hands behind his back we can see how fine an artist Herge was. Also, the strange figure in the bottom left hand corner. It is an odd mix of styles, half realistic, half modern art. The pages from The Castafiore Emerald are great examples of how Herge refined the story as he drew. Look how the sequence and point of view of the images changes between the original and the inked work.

Land of Black Gold Original DrawingThe Calculus Affair Original Drawing Page 38Castfiore Emerald Original Drawing Page 3Flight 714 to Syndey Original Drawing

Many thanks to MetaBunker for finding these.

Herge, The Calculus Affair

In the 1920’s and 30’s, before RADAR was developed, there were various attempts at developing an acoustic system that literally listen to the sound of approaching planes. An example of this can be seen in King Ottakar’s Scepture.


In the UK, massive concrete acoustic mirrors were built that focused the sound into a microphone, allowing planes to be detected earlier. Now these crumbling structures are to be saved as national landmarks.

Listening ears acoustic mirrors

Its amazing that technology Herge used as cutting edge science in his early books is now needing preservation orders and listing as a national landmark.

More Info: Britain’s vast cement “listening ears” designated a national landmark