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 airplane making an emergency landing. He goes to help and notices that it does not have a registration number on it. As he approaches the plane he is shot by the pilot. Tintin recovers at a hospital where police detectives Thomson and Thompson inform him that a similar plane has crashed in a field in Sussex, England. Tintin decides to investigate for himself.
Tintin takes a train from Brussels to the coast in order to board the ferry from Ostend to Dover, England. During the journey he is framed for the assault and robbery of a fellow passenger (who is in fact part of the mysterious criminal gang Tintin has inadvertently stumbled upon). Thomson and Thompson arrest Tintin, but he escapes by handcuffing them to each other while they are asleep.
Arriving in England, Tintin is kidnapped by the same men who framed him. They take him to a clifftop, intending to make him jump off it, but Tintin escapes with Snowy's help. His investigations lead him to Doctor Müller who, with his chauffeur Ivan, is part of a gang of money counterfeiters, led by Puschov, the so-called victim on the train.
Tintin's pursuit of Müller and Ivan results in a plane crash in rural Scotland, where a friendly farmer gives him a kilt to wear. He visits the pub in the coastal village of Kiltoch, where he is told strange stories about the Black Island, where an evil beast is said to roam, killing humans. Tintin buys a boat from a villager and heads for the island, where he is almost killed by a gorilla named Ranko and finds his boat missing. Stranded on the island, Tintin discovers that it is the hideout of the gang of counterfeiters led by Puschov and Müller.
Tintin temporarily manages to subdue the gang (they free themselves shortly afterwards) and calls the police on their radio signaling device after watching Thomson and Thompson win an air show race on a television set (though they didn't mean to). After a desperate holding-out action (in which Ranko's arm is broken), the gang is captured and Tintin returns to mainland Kiltoch, but the media and press do not stay very long after Ranko appears. The gang is jailed, the now submissive Ranko is placed in a Glasgow zoo, and Tintin decides to return home via a plane trip, which Thomson and Thompson, who have reconciled with Tintin, turn down due to their previous harrowing experience.
Publication history 
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.
- Ivan and Müller 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.
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 minor characters from the recently-published The Castafiore Emerald (1963): journalist Christopher Willoughby-Drupe is shown interviewing the old man in the pub, while his colleague Marco Rizotto is in the crowd receiving Tintin.
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, Dr. 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.
Contemporary connections 
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 Dr. J.W. 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