The Black Island
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|The Black Island
Cover of the English edition
|Series||The Adventures of Tintin|
|Published in||Le Petit Vingtième|
|Date(s) of publication||15 April 1937 – 16 June 1938|
|Preceded by||The Broken Ear (1937)|
|Followed by||King Ottokar's Sceptre (1939)|
The Black Island (French: L'Île Noire) is the seventh volume of The Adventures of Tintin, the series of comic albums by Belgian cartoonist Hergé. Tintin travels to Great Britain, where he is framed for a theft, hunted by detectives Thomson and Thompson, and is on the trail of a gang of counterfeiters.
Hergé's Franco-Belgian comic was first serialized in black and white in Le Petit Vingtième, children's supplement to the conservative newspaper Le XXe Siècle, from 15 April 1937 to 16 June 1938, then published into a volume later that year. Five years later, in 1943, it was redrawn into a new colour version. Over two decades later, in 1966, Hergé and his team updated the work again.
While walking in the Belgian countryside, Tintin sees an unregistered plane making an emergency landing, but when he goes over to help, he is shot by the pilot. He wakes up in hospital the next morning, when Thomson and Thompson visit and tell him that an unregistered plane had crashed in Eastdown in Sussex, England the previous night. After hearing this, Tintin wonders whether the plane which crashed was the same plane that he had encountered and decides to go to England to investigate.
Tintin intends to go by train to Ostend, where he will take the ferry to England. At Brussels' railway station, Tintin is noticed by two men, who frame him for assault and robbery of one of them. He is arrested by Thomson and Thompson, who are also on the train, although he pleads his innocence. He manages to escape when the detectives are asleep by handcuffing them, and boards the ferry just before it leaves, where he is again spotted by the two men.
On arriving in England, Tintin takes a taxi to Eastdown. The two men, with the help of their accomplices, Ivan, pursue the taxi and eventually kidnap him. They take him to the edge of cliff and where they order him to jump into the sea at gunpoint. Snowy rescues him by making a goat go chase the two men, who escape. Later Tintin finds the plane crash in the outskirts of Eastdown, but cannot find the bodies of the crew, who have escaped. Further investigations take him to the woods, where he sees a jacket abandoned by one of the pilots. On searching it, he finds a torn piece note which reads Eastdown, Sussex, Müller, 3 f.r. Δ, but he is unable to understand what it means. Later while walking to Eastdown, he finds the estate of Dr. J. W. Müller, an evil German doctor who runs a mental institution which tortures his enemies to insanity. Wondering whether this Müller is the same person mentioned on the note, Tintin decides to sneak into the estate, but is caught by Müller who decides to take him to his mental institution. However he manages to escapes and locks himself in an upstairs room, but during the fighting Müller has accidentally set the house on fire. Tintin, who has fallen unconscious after a bullet breaks a bottle of Chloroform near his head, is finally rescued by the firefighter alterted by Snowy. In the meantime, Müller and his accomplices have fled.
The next morning, Tintin again visits the estate to investigate further. He finds some electric cables in the gardens, which he follows to uncover three red beacons marking out a triangle. With this information, he then makes sense of the note which says that three of something unknown would be dropped over Müller's estate if the triangle of red flares were lit, though he is unsure what that "something" actually is. After dark he lights the flares, a plane drops three sacks of counterfeit money over the estate, meaning that Müller is running a gang of forgers. He then pursues the duo of Müller and Ivan through the English countryside, a chase which ends only when Thomson and Thompson arrest him by chance at a countryside tavern where Müller and Ivan are also hiding. However they release him after he pleads that he will give himself up after he gets the forgers arrested. Accompanied by the detectives, he sees Müller and Ivan taking off in a plane. He abandons the detectives and follows the forgers in another plane, but is not able to catch up with them due to bad weather and crash lands in rural Scotland. He is rescued by a friendly Scottish farmer, who gives him a kilt to wear and shelter for the night.
The next morning, Tintin hears in the radio that the plane which he had been pursuing crashed off the coast of Kiltoch, a Scottish coastal village, with the victims presumed drowned. He is still suspicious and goes to Kiltoch to continue with his investigation. At Kiltoch, an old man tells him the story of Black Island- an island off the coast of Kiltoch where a residing "ferocious beast" kills anyone who goes to that island. On hearing this story, he becomes even more suspicious about the nature of the crash and decides to go to the Black Island the following day to investigate, despite warnings from the villagers. At the Black Island, Tintin encounters the "ferocious beast"- a gorilla named Ranko. He manages to flee from Ranko and its trainer- a man named Puschov (who was one of the two men Tintin encountered earlier in the book)- by hiding in a sea cave. Tintin goes further inside the sea cave, which leads into a printing press and finds out that the forgers are using the Black Island as their hideout, with Ranko being trained by them to kill anyone who enters the island. He temporarily subdues all the forgers, including Müller, Ivan and Puschov (they free themselves shortly afterwards) and contacts the police through radio. After a desperate rearguard action (which results in Ranko injuring his arm), the forgers are arrested by the police. Tintin, along with Thomson and Thompson (who are finally convinced that Tintin was innocent all along) investigate the island further before leaving; the basement of the island's castle (the forger's hideout) was a plane hangar with the beach at low tide used as an airfield (which explained how the forgers were presumed drowned by the Kiltoch locals). The book ends with a now submissive Ranko placed in Glasgow Zoo and Tintin returning to Brussels by air.
The Black Island is the only Tintin story to have had three major different editions published in French: 1937, 1943 and 1966.
First version, 1937–1938
The Black Island first appeared in black-and-white installments in the newspaper supplement Le Petit Vingtième between 15 April 1937 and 16 June 1938. It was then published in book form.
This version contains several scenes that were deleted or altered in later editions. These included:
- Tintin taking the Brussels to London train and referring to Ostend as the port from which he will take the ferry. Specific references to Belgium as Tintin's country of residence were taken out of the later editions of his adventures; in the 1966 edition the train is from Cologne to London via Brussels.
- In the cliff top incident Tintin chases Puschov and his associate back to the car only to come under fire by Ivan who is armed with an automatic rifle. Tintin ducks for cover. (In the later editions, this was replaced by Tintin tripping over a stone and no sign of Ivan.)
- When Tintin finds the airmen's clothes hidden in a tree, he notices bloodstains on one of the leather suits and believes one of them was injured during the crash landing. He thinks this will be a helpful clue, but the injured crewman is not referred to in the rest of the story.
- Doctor Müller and Ivan are shown leaving the hijacked locomotive after knocking out the two-man crew. Ivan wonders where they are, but Müller assures him that he knows the country like the back of his hand.
Second version, 1943
In 1943, a colourised version of the book was published. It was similar to the previous one, but there were some changes, the most notable being the deletion or alteration of the scenes noted above. In addition, some of the panels were cropped or even expanded to make the story fit the 62-page limit that was required due to wartime paper shortages (the original version had spanned 120 pages with the panels twice the size of the 62-page edition).
As in the original black-and-white edition, the opening panel has a newspaper report with a crude "photo" of Tintin and Snowy walking in the countryside. Next to it is a report from London of which only a few words can be made out: they include references to an island.
Third version, 1966
When The Black Island came to be published in English in 1966, Hergé's British publishers, Methuen, decided that the book did not portray Great Britain accurately enough, and Hergé was asked to rework it completely, updating it to the 1960s. The resulting book is the version most commonly available today.
Hergé's assistant, Bob de Moor was sent to Britain to gather material and take photos of various locations. He even obtained a uniform of the Scottish police. The police officers with whom Tintin is shown posing with were given more Scottish-sounding names. The original versions had Officers Edwards, Johnson, Wright and O'Rally. These were changed to McGregor, Stewart, Robertson and Macleod.
Another change was less accurate, but more appropriate to the series: in the original versions, Tintin and Snowy travel on a Johnnie Walker tanker train, a real brand of whisky from Scotland; this was changed to Loch Lomond, which was to be a prominent brand in other adventures including Tintin and the Picaros. Instead of the steam locomotive, Tintin and Snowy travel on a SNCB Class 22.
The story was updated from the 1930s to the 1960s: the cars and aircraft became contemporary 1960s models; fire hoses manually pulled by firemen were replaced with a Dennis fire engine; the counterfeited 1 pound notes were updated to 5 pound notes, and the 50 French francs to 100.
The LNER Class V2 steam engine that is hijacked by Müller and Ivan is replaced by a BR Class D16 diesel, and the GWR 6100 Class #6106 steam engine that is pulling the goods train that Tintin jumps on is replaced by BR Class 42 diesel. At the end of the story, Tintin flies home in a Sabena Savoia-Marchetti S.73 in the original version, and a BEA Hawker Siddeley Trident in the 1966 version.
Much of this work was done by de Moor, with Roger Leloup working on the aircraft. In keeping with Hergé's current style, the panels had more detailed backgrounds, such as the landscape of the countryside and the inside of Müller's residence. Other changes included the darkening of Tintin's hair colour and his brown suit being changed to his iconic blue sweater and plus fours. The other characters' clothing was updated.
The 1966 version also toned down the violence. Although guns remained in the 1966 version their presence was reduced compared to the previous editions: in the previous versions Tintin was shown armed when running in the panel prior to climbing the tree from which he tries to jump onto Müller's car; the police were also shown armed while confronting the gang at the castle.
Some of Snowy's injuries, either from Tintin's doing or by accident, were removed: in the originals Tintin grabbed hold of Snowy's ears while jumping onto a passing truck and Snowy fell on his face when they got off to examine Müller's crashed car. This was replaced by Tintin simply hitching a ride on an MG 1100.
Another change brought in supporting characters from the recently published The Castafiore Emerald (1963): journalists Christopher Willoughby-Drupe and Marco Rizotto are shown interviewing the old man in the pub and standing in the crowd receiving Tintin, respectively.
Critics attacked this updated version, claiming that the story lost a lot of its charm as a result.
Cartoon version 1960s
The Black Island is one of the books in the franchise that got adapted for the 1960s TV series Hergé's Adventures of Tintin. However, this adaptation changed the story significantly. Most obvious is the presence of Captain Haddock and Professor Calculus, neither of whom had appeared in the books yet. Also, Müller is drawn differently in the TV version than in the book. The ferry and train early in the book are replaced with an airliner. Although the VHS edition of this episode uses the book's cover (showing Tintin in a kilt and tam), Tintin stays in his normal attire during the entire episode, since his airplane does not crash upon his landing in Scotland.
Cartoon version 1991
In the second cartoon version the story is shorter, and there are some other changes in the story.
- Puschov's unnamed assistant is named Ivan, while the other Ivan is deleted from the story.
- Instead of the electric powered train Tintin took in Britain in the book, Tintin took a steam powered train in the cartoon.
- The setting appears to have been moved back to the early 1950s: Thomson and Thompson drive a 1941 Ford, the firefighters have a Green Goddess painted red, and the forgers' plane appears to be a surplus WWII-era Douglas Dauntless.
Bishop's Stortford is the station where Tintin leaps onto a passing train during his pursuit of Ivan and Muller; and Castlebay and Kisimul Castle were the locations of Kiltoch and Ben More Castle.
When The Black Island was originally published in Le Petit Vingtième in 1937, many aspects of the story reflected popular movies of the time, such as Alfred Hitchcock's The Thirty-Nine Steps (an innocent man on the run from the police pursues the real crooks to Scotland) and King Kong (Ranko the gorilla).
While talking to the old local in the pub, Tintin mentions the Loch Ness Monster which had been the subject of recent newspaper reports: the famous "Surgeon's photo" of the monster by Robert Kenneth Wilson had been published in newspapers some three years earlier.
The gang that Tintin confronts is made up of a wide variety of figures:
- The unnamed moustached associate of Wronzoff (or Puschov in the English version) could pass off as a typical cockney crook, similar to Flash Harry of St. Trinian's or Walker of Dad's Army.
- The name Ivan suggests that Müller's chauffeur is a White Russian, exiled by the Bolshevik Revolution.
- The name Müller implies that the character is a German. Some have suggested that the 1930s version of Müller is a Nazi German secret agent out to destabilise the British economy. It has been suggested that Müller was based on the adventurer Georg Bell, who was an associate of Nazi leader Ernst Röhm, and was involved in a counterfeiting operation against the Russian ruble.
- Ewing, Garen (1968-09-05). "History of The Black Island". Tintinologist.org. Retrieved 2012-11-25.
- [dead link]
- Tintin: The Complete Companion by Michael Farr, John Murray publishers, 2001
- [dead link]
- Dom Joly and the Black Island, broadcast by Channel 4 on 19 March 2010
- "A History of the Black Island" by Garen Ewing, written for Vicious Magazine in 1996