The Calculus Affair (1956) is the 18th adventure of Tintin
, mostly set in Switzerland
. It is a Cold War
tale featuring Spy Versus Spy
situations. The tale begins at Marlinspike Hall during a thunderstorm. Tintin and Haddock witness a series of mysterious events. Glass and porcelain items both within the Hall and in its general vicinity shatter for no apparent reason. Followed by a series of gunshots right outside the Hall. The two friends fail to find anyone out there. Except a wounded man who makes a quick escape.
The duo have no idea what is going on. Calculus seems undisturbed. Leaving the following day for Geneva, where he is to attend a conference on nuclear physics. All strange incidents seem to stop in his absence. It doesn't take long for Tintin to figure the significance of this fact. The glass was breaking due to the Glass-Shattering Sound
of a sonic weapon created by the Professor. Gunfights take place around Calculus because rival team of spies, send by the nations of Syldavia and Borduria, are tailing him. Attempting to capture him and eliminate their opponents. Tintin and Haddock have to rush to Geneva and try to save their missing friend. But it might already be too late.
The album introduces Jolyon Wagg, an overly-friendly insurance agent. He invites himself into Marlinspike Hall during the thunderstorm and tries to sell insurance to Captain Haddock. He fails but has no intention of actually leaving. He even stays there while the residents are absent and soon invites his family to a joined vacation. The annoying man was based on a salesman who came to Hergé's door and invited himself in. The ever-annoying Wagg would become a recurring character.
- Beauty Equals Goodness: Tintin and Captain Haddock witness their friend Professor Calculus being carried off by mysterious figures, when another group ambushes them. When Haddock asks which side they should help, Tintin evokes this trope by telling him to hit the ugliest ones. Haddock is then confronted by two brawling mooks, each as ugly as the other. So he bangs their heads together. (As it turns out, the "rescuers" are trying to kidnap Calculus as well).
- Clingy MacGuffin: Parodied with the piece of sticking plaster. When Captain Haddock tosses it off, it sticks to someone else, who in turn shakes it off. And so it goes all over the bus, before coming to the Captain's cap. It then follows him aboard the plane, eventually makes its way to the cockpit (causing the pilots to momentarily lose control), lands on the Captain again by the end of the flight, is thrown away at the police station, only to return yet again on the captain's clothes in the hotel room!
- Commie Nazis: Borduria is depicted as a stereotypical half-Eastern Bloc and half-fascist country complete with its own secret police (ZEP) (led by Colonel Sponsz) and a fascist military dictator called Kūrvi-Tasch who promotes a Taschist ideology. A statue of Kūrvi-Tasch appears in front of a government building, in which he wears a moustache similar to Joseph Stalin's and gives a Nazi-like salute.
- Conspicuous Trenchcoat: Worn by the Bordurian spies.
- Ditch The Bodyguards: Played With. While staying in Borduria as supposed "guests" of the state, Tintin and Haddock get their "bodyguards" drunk so that they can escape.
- Dress-Coded for Your Convenience: During the story, a fight breaks out between the Syldavians, who are all wearing brown coats, and the Bordurians, who are all wearing grey coats and have shaved heads. The Captain doesn't know which side to aim for, so Tintin just tells him to go for the ugliest mugs.
- Drives Like Crazy: Arturo Benedetto Giovanni Giuseppe Pietro Arcangelo Alfredo Cartoffoli da Milano.
- Founder of the Kingdom: Marshal Kūrvi-Tasch is portrayed according to this trope in Bordurian propaganda.
- Hat Damage: Professor Calculus returns from his lab with a bullet hole going straight through his hat. He attributes the damage to moths.
- Hypocritical Humor
- Haddock on hitchhiking, when he's the one out on the side of the road:
"There ought to be a law to make those infernal mileage-merchants stop when people signal."
- Haddock on hitchhiking, when he's the one comfortably inside an automobile:
"Hitch-hikers! Blistering barnacles, there ought to be a law against them!"
- Men Are Uncultured: At one point, Tintin and Captain Haddock hiding in the Klow opera. Tintin wakes the Captain up at the end with a disapproving Grande Dame looking on. Note that Hergé himself admitted to disliking opera, stating that it usually bored him or made him laugh.
- Only a Model: The Bordurian military elite displays the effectiveness of a proposed new sound weapon through the destruction of a "large North American city" (an Expy of New York) on a TV screen to the delight of its audience, only to reveal that they had merely used a smaller scale version to destroy a model. Everyone is disappointed.
- Overly-Long Name: Arturo Benedetto Giovanni Giuseppe Pietro Arcangelo Alfredo Cartoffoli da Milano, an Italian driver who helps Tintin and Haddock. He crosses the borders to France and gets pulled over for reckless driving. After giving his full name, the gendarme lets him off with a warning rather than bother to write it down.
- Punny Name: Marshal Kūrvi-Tasch, noted for his curvy (mous)tache. It even appears on the Bordurian flag!
- Put Their Heads Together: Captain Haddock uses this move on two rival spies.
- Reluctant Mad Scientist: Calculus invents a Nikola Tesla-style sonic superweapon. But he is extremely opposed to any government using his invention, goes to meet a fellow scientist because his discovery frightens him, and at the end burns the plans on his own volition. Meanwhile Syldavia and Borduria are all too eager to employ him and use the weapon on their enemies.
- Scale Model Destruction: Calculus' ultrasound device is used on a model of New York City. The results point to why both factions would like to use the device as a Weapon of Mass Destruction.
- Shaggy Dog Story: Both sides spend the whole book trying to kidnap Calculus not only for his knowledge, but because Calculus is carrying plans for his sonic device. At the end, Calculus unscrews his umbrella handle to find the plans are gone...then when they return to Marlinspike Hall, he finds he forgot to put them in there in the first place, and they were on his desk all along!
- Shown Their Work: Herge's drive for realism probably culminated in this album, where the amount detail put into background art and scene composition would have put a movie cinematographer to shame. In fact, in planning for a minor scene in the story where enemy spies force Tintin's car off the road into Lake Geneva, Herge actually sent a employee to drive along Lake Geneva to find a location where assassins might plausibly force a car off the road. Also the fire truck shown after the house explodes was the exact reproduction of the actual fire truck of the town, down to the NUMBER PLATE.
- Smoldering Shoes: Subverted. Tintin briefly believes Captain Haddock to have been vaporized after receiving a massive electric shock, but he's merely been launched into the overhead chandelier.
- The Thing That Would Not Leave: Jolyon Wagg.
- Third-Person Person: Jolyon Wagg when he starts vocalising his internal monologue as part of an annoying story.
- Train Escape: Subverted. Tintin pursues the villains. They try to use this trope on him. He manages to stay on their tail.
- Villainous Breakdown: Colonel Sponsz completely loses it when he realises that Calculus's release warrant has been stolen. The last we see of him is him frantically screaming into a phone ordering his troops to blow Tintin to pieces.
- Wicked Cultured: Sponz seems to enjoy the Castafiore's performance, even inviting her to sing for a private party.