Chronologie d'une oeuvre: the years 1950 to 1957

Dossier ~ Thursday 2nd April 2009
Hergé, Chronologie d'une oeuvre Tome 6]

Eagerly awaited for two years, the sixth volume of Hergé, Chronologie d'une oeuvre has just been published. Readers are immersed in the step-by-step creation of Destination Moon and Explorers on the Moon (1950-1954), The Calculus Affair (1954-1956) and The Red Sea Sharks (1956-1957). Philippe Goddin, the author of this monumental undertaking, is our guide through this journey spanning 420 pages.

A museum in print

As we are fast approaching the opening of the Hergé Museum in Louvain-la-Neuve (2 June 2009), Hergé, Chronologie d'une oeuvre can be considered the paper equivalent: a full-scale exploration of the legendary artist's work. We are already aware that Hergé was not just the creator of Tintin (which is already no mean feat) but also a multi-talented artist, as accomplished in illustration as in graphic design and advertising, not to mention his first rate work in typography. The newly published sixth volume focuses on these lesser known aspects of Hergé's work, while using the latest printing technology to present high quality reproductions, notably remaining faithful to the original colours.

More than 2,000 documents!

In the process of selecting the 720 illustrations adorning this volume of Chronologie, Philippe Goddin and the production team delved into more than 2,000 documents provided by the Studios Hergé archives and private collections. As well as the preparatory sketches and countless photographs intended to inspire scenery found in the adventures, the author was keen to use the colour blueprints used in the production of Tintin magazine as primary source material. It will be of interest to inquisitive readers to know that Tintin magazine was printed using heliogravure, while the Tintin books were printed with offset techniques.The original graphics are reproduced not only in relation to Tintin, but also for Jo, Zette and Jocko, the heroes of The Valley of the Cobras, an adventure started before the Second World War and completed in 1954.

Detail from a promotional illustration for the byke type Tintin - Journal Tintin 1955
The Valley of the Cobras - 1954
Illustrations for the Tintin coloring books - 1957
Pandora's Box

A treasure trove of unpublished material

As well as comic strips, Hergé's work during the period between 1950 and 1957 included drawing the covers for Tintin magazine and designing a series of chromolithographs commemorating the history of the automobile. Hergé also drew postcards and greeting cards, drafted advertising graphics for the albums and derived merchandise such as games and toys, and had a hand in many other rediscovered objects. The sixth volume of Hergé, Chronologie d'une oeuvre also makes certain drawings available to us again, which appeared during the serialisation of the stories in newspapers, supplements and magazines, only to be left out of the published album versions. Hergé lived his life around publishing deadlines, week after week. This explains why in Tintin magazine, the pages of Prisoners of the Sun, Explorers on the Moon and The Calculus Affair do not correspond to the layout of the albums, which were arranged to be read from cover to cover in one sitting: different presentations for different readers.

New characters

As always, Hergé introduced new characters in each new adventure. Leading the way was Jolyon Wagg, the eternal bore. More information about the most persistent pain in the neck employed by Rock Bottom Insurance, can be found on our website pages cataloguing the characters who inhabit the world of Tintin. From The Calculus Affair onwards, Wagg becomes a regular member of the Tintin "family". Colonel Sponsz (his name means "sponge" in Dutch and Bruxellois dialect), as far as his head and (minimalist) hairstyle go, was based on Hergé's brother Paul Remi; an officer in the army and expert horseman.

Hergé on top form

With the Moon adventure, the murky world of international espionage during the Cold War between the United States, the Soviet Union and their allies (The Calculus Affair), and the arms trade and slave trade (The Red Sea Sharks), Hergé was at the peak of his creative talents. In 1957 he was overflowing with ideas for projects, one of which, Pandora's Box, looked as though it was set to become the next in the Tintin series. Circumstances dictated otherwise, and Tintin in Tibet triumphed over all other plans, but at this point we are already stepping into the seventh volume of Hergé, Chronologie d'une oeuvre, which is scheduled to hit the shelves in October 2010. On a final note for English readers, the seven volumes of, Hergé, Chronologie d'une oeuvre are being translated and edited into an international edition (in English) of three volumes, by the author and leading British Tintinologist, Michael Farr. The first volume, The Art of Hergé, Inventor of Tintin: Volume 1: 1907-1937, was published in August 2008, with the second volume due for publication in the autumn of this year. Happy Reading!

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