Tintin in the Land of the Soviets

As we await the one-year anniversary of the Tintin movie premiere, I invite you to follow this blog as it posts small bits of trivia for the next 30 days. I hope that those of you new to the site or new to Tintin have not heard many of them before, and if you have, pat yourself for being so smart.

The first relates to Tintin in the Land of the Soviets. Tomorrow will be about Tintin in the Congo, and so on…

Tintin in the Land of the Soviets is the first Tintin album, and the only album that Hergé did not redraw into color. But it is also the only album in which Tintin appears without his hair up (it actually gets that way in the book and never changes back) and the only album in which Tintin is actually shown writing an article for his newspaper.

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.

Editorial, Tintin, Tintin in the Land of the Soviets

Waffen-SS Tintin

This image of a smartly dressed, clean cut, young man comes from a documentary I was watching last night. Filmed in 1940s in Belgium I could not help noticing how like Tintin this man appears. Tintin was already very successful in Belgium at the time so has this young man’s appearance been influenced by Tintin? Or is that many young men looked liked this during the 1930s & 40s and Herge just based Tintin’s appearance on what he saw around him?

The still comes from a documentary series called Nazis: A Warning from History. This young Tintin look-a-like is signing up to fight for the Germams in the Flemish Regiment of the Waffen-SS, the 27th SS Volunteer Division Langemarck.

One of the lesser known facts about the SS is that they recruited in all the countries occupied by the Germans. Volunteers were attracted by not only the prestige and pay of the Waffen-SS but by the anti-communist propaganda. One only has to look at Tintin in the Land of the Soviets to see the right wing, anti-communist stance of many in Belgium around that time.

The documentary, Nazis: A Warning from History, is heartily recommended. Made by the BBC it is the best work on Hitler and explains how he rose to power and why, despite of everything, the Germans fought to the bitter end. You can watch the series on You Tube and the image above comes from this episode (at 4:03). The series includes many interviews with people on all sides who were involved in the war including a Flemish SS volunteer who was involved in war crimes.

The racism and colonialism found in the early works of Herge and his work for a German controlled paper during the war casts a long shadow over Tintin. But to me, this is not something Tintin fans should hide or shy away from. The important story of Herge’s life is that is that he recognized how blinkered and distasteful his worldview was and that he changed. Once having made that change, he then spent the rest of his life to educating and informing children of how humans around the world can be simultaneously very different and yet very much the same.

Tintin and Snowy, Tintin in the Land of the Soviets

Tintin in the Land of the Soviets is our hero’s first appearance and he is barley recognisable in the early part of the book. It is hard to imagine that this crude artwork is by the same man who put such loving detail into his books from The Blue Lotus onwards.

Tintin the Reporter

Though Tintin is always referred to as a reporter in the books, we never see him doing any actual reporting. Such as filing copy or talking to his editor. The only time we see Tintin doing anything like work is at the start of Tintin in the Land of Soviets when what we see Tintin writing copy for his editor. Clearly Herge decided that his readers are not be interested in such mundane things and never featured Tintin’s work again.

Herge, the Hater of Communists?

It is clear from the very start of the Tintin in the Land of the Soviets that this book will be full of a negative images of Russia. In panel 4 of page 1, Snowy is worried that there will be fleas. By page 2, a communist agent is plotting to kill Tintin because he might report the truth about the Soviet Union.

Herge’s attitude to the communist Soviets came about because of his conservative upbringing that involved church schools and partaking in the scouting movement. In 1925 Herge started working for a the Catholic newspaper Le XXe Siècle under the editor Norbert Wallez, a Catholic abbot who kept a photograph of Mussolini in his office.

By 1929, the Communist Government in Russia had been in power for over ten years. In the meantime, Belgium’s neighbour Germany was in a state of near anarchy as the fascists under Adolf Hitler fought the communist for control. In all the major european countries, socialist parties were attracting a lot of support. The idea that communism could spread across the whole of europe was seen as a very real threat. Against this backdrop, Herge’s youthful ignorance was focused into an anti-communist comic for children by Norbert Wallez and Tintin in the Land of the Soviets is the result.

Signposts to the Future

Whilst the artwork is crude and the storyline chaotic, even by Tintin’s standards, there are clear indications in Tintin in the Land of the Soviets of what Tintin would become. There is plenty of slapstick humour with people running into things and falling down stairs. As is Tintin’s ability to beat armed enemies with a few simple punches. Snowy’s roll as occasional saviour of Tintin and supplier of sarcastic remarks is firmly established.

The first signs of Herge’s love of the accuracy can be seen. On page 53, Tintin is being chased in a speedboat. The boats and the machine gun his pursuers are armed with are well drawn and accurate (if simple) depictions of those in use at the time. These hints in Tintin in the Land of the Soviets would become full blown obsessions in later books where Herge would create models of boats and follow the latest scientific develops in an attempt to be as realistic as possible.

One aspect of Tintin’s personality hasn’t yet become fixed. Towards the end of the book (page 121) we see Tintin get drunk. Though Tintin does occasionally get drunk in the latest books, it is normally the result of an accident. In Tintin in the Land of the Soviets, Tintin chooses to drink and wakes up with a hangover.

Returning from the Land of the Soviets

After a long sequence where Tintin appears to travels around unnamed parts of Russia, Tintin ends up in control of a plane. By luck, he finds himself in Tempelhof, Germany and from there he starts his return journey. Though this being Tintin, the return leg of the journey it is not without its own adventures.

As he rides the train in the final stage of the journey, Herge once again starts providing exact details of our hero’s location as he identifies the towns the train passes through. It is possible that the nature of how Tintin in the Land of the Soviets was written dictated this sequence. Herge supplied two pages every week but never had an overall plan. Each week’s adventure would go wherever Herge felt like at the time. But having decided to finish the adventure, Herge had to pace the story out over the final pages. Tintin’s identification of the towns and Snowy’s comment on the sugar producing region of Tienen might just be there to fill up space.

Tintin, The Beginning

Unlike all his other works, including the heavily criticised Tintin in the Congo, Herge never redrew Tintin in the Land of the Soviets. Why? Was he embarrassed by the anti-communist, stereotypes he portrayed in the book? Or was it just that the story was so weak that it was not worth revisiting? Herge would of have had to rewrite and redraw the whole book. Moving on and doing something new would of been far more attractive.

Reading Tintin in the Land of the Soviets for the first time has been an interesting experience. I’ve been reading Tintin for over thirty years and I’m now about twice the age of Herge when he start the book. Before starting it I was worried it would be too crude and too anti-communist to be a proper Tintin book but I have been surprised. Whilst flawed and primitive, it is certainly a Tintin book. The same humour and attention to detail can be seen whilst the adventures are as wild and exciting as any later books.