Hergé reached a watershed in his work around his 30th birthday and the release of Tintin and the Blue Lotus. The Blue Lotus was released in 1936 and was the fifth Tintin adventure. The end of the fourth album Cigar of the Pharaoh had led to a mention that Tintin would be off to China in his next adventure.
A University of Leuven professor one father Gosset got in touch with Hergé and asked for the illustrator to be perceptive about how he approached China in his next album. Gosset was the chaplain of the university’s Chinese students and introduced Hergé to a young Chinese sculptor called Chang Chon-jen who resided at the Brussels Académie des Beaux-Arts.
Hergé and Chang instantly made a connection. Chang introduced Hergé to Chinese history, culture and techniques of Chinese art that left a lasting impression on Hergé. In the Blue Lotus Hergé endeavored to become more correct in detailing the places that Tintin visited. The bond formed between these two artists is now cemented in history as Hergé called one of his characters “Chang Chong-Chen” in the young sculptor’s honor. Chang Chong-Chen is a young Chinese boy who befriends Tintin, with the character discarding some of the more outrageous fabrications about Chinese culture.
The bond formed with Chang resulted in Hergé heightened comprehension of the problem with colonialism and particularly Japan’s horrific assaults into China. A theme of anti-imperialism can clearly be read in the Blue Lotus which was contrary to common western beliefs that were compassionate to Japan and its colonial enterprise. Hergé took a lot of flack for the views from Japanese dignitaries in Belgium but history has shown that the Blue Lotus was vindicated.
In a sad tale after finishing his studies Chang went back to China and the two friends lost contact after the Japanese invasion and subsequent civil war at it was forty years before they met again.
Hergé was going to see a modification in Tintin’s style again. This was through necessity rather than choice. In September 1st 1939 the Nazi’s invaded Poland and Hergé as a reserve lieutenant had to stop his work on the Tintin adventure The Land of Black Gold. Belgium soon fell under German occupation along with most of Western Europe.
Le Petit Vingtième was closed down and Hergé found himself writing for Le Soir the mouthpiece of the Nazi occupational forces. Hergé began to write The Crab with the Golden Claw which was to be the first of six albums written during the war.
Hergé was unable t finish The Land of Black Gold due to its anti-fascist undertones. The war was to continue in earnest and led to Hergé changing his style. A paper shortage led to him having to publish Tintin daily in a three or four frame strip, rather than the two full pages every week as when he had worked for Le Petit Vingtième. The meant Hergé had to create drama at the end of each strip rather than the end of each page. Hergé by necessity introduced more frequent quips and a more rapid hustle of action.
Hergé had been quite political at times in his earlier albums but now under Nazi occupation this was no longer possible. The Tintin adventures turned to escapism with escapades to meteorites (The Shooting Star), a treasure hunt ((The Secret of the Unicorn) and a expedition to unravel an ancient Inca curse in (The seven Crystal Balls and Prisoner of the Sun).
Hergé now placed more emphasize on characters and plots and led to some of Tintin’s greatest characters being introduced to the globe. Captain Haddock and Cuthbert Calculus make their debuts during this era. This change of style was noticed by readers and these yarns have proved the most popular over the years.
In 1943 Hergé met Edgar Jacobs an American comic artist who he hired to help revise early Tintin albums. Jacobs was instrumental in redrawing many of the outfits and settings to make the albums for accurate and appropriate. Jacob’s was also to help on Tintin and the Seven Crystal Balls. By the end of the war Tintin had gone about a change of style and was more fashionable then ever and was on its way to be adopted by the French population.
The increasing demands the Tintin magazine placed on Hergé led to him having a breakdown in 1949 while he was working to complete Land of Black Gold. He then went on to suffer another breakdown in 1950 working on Destination Moon. It was at this point Hergé Studios were set up in April 6th 1960. This was another turning point in the Tintin world.
Click on Herge to read about his early years. John Helios has been a big Tintin fan for a number of years. He is very much looking forward to the new Tintin movie trilogy with the first film due for release in 2009.