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Recap / Tintin - Tintin in the Land of the Soviets

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Tintin in the Land of the Soviets is the first Tintin story, published in the magazine Le Petit Vingtième in the years 1929 and 1930. The young reporter Tintin and his dog Snowy are sent by the newspaper to the Soviet Union to gather material to write articles about the conditions under the Bolshevik government. What follows is a long tirade of anti-communist propaganda: Tintin wanders around Russia uncovering the oppression and the dirty secrets of the government while being attacked by evil government officials every step of the way.

As you can imagine, research for this story was minimal; Hergé had only one written source for information when writing it. Hergé himself would later think of the story as his Old Shame.

By the time of World war II at the latest Herge had effectively disowned the book, and refused to allow it to be reissued when he began redrawing the books in colour. As such Tintin in the Land of the Soviets is the only book in the series that has never been colourised or redrawn. As a result, it sticks out like a sore thumb if you're otherwise only familiar with the later, redrawn versions of Tintin's early adventures.

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Last book to be published in English (in 1989).


Tropes:

  • Aborted Arc: Tintin is sent off to Moscow and eventually gets there, but all kinds of events eventually lead him to other parts of Russia. Near the end of the story, he tries to return to Moscow again, but after a failed attempt, he just decides to go home. We also see him write his reports only once and he has to flee in the dead of night without taking all of his copies with him. So... in what way was his journalistic mission accomplished?
  • Adapted Out: This comic was never adapted into the animated series, for obvious reasons.
  • Agony of the Feet: Tintin rams his foot against the metal sewer gate out of frustration. The pain makes him jump around.
  • Amusing Injuries: Happens a lot.
  • An Aesop: Kids, don't play with fire!
  • Art Evolution: Being a weekly comic, one can clearly see Tintin evolve from his shorter, pudgy start to his now more familiar look. The art in general also improves over the course of the story.
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  • Artistic License – Biology and Artistic License – Engineering: Tintin manages to fashion a propeller for a plane by cutting it with a pen knife from a tree. After spending a whole day and night doing this, he simply puts it on the plane and flies away. Errr... didn't he need to sleep at one point, especially considering he has to concentrate on keeping a plane in the air?
  • Artistic License – Economics: Herge depicts the communist economy as literally phony, with people just banging on iron to produce factory sounds and burning hay to provide factory smoke. Also he refers to bananas, Shell petrol and Huntley & Palmers biscuits, all of which didn't exist in the USSR at that time.
  • Artistic License – Geography:
    • Soviet Russia seems to be nothing more than some dreary buildings and tundra. Hergé based all his knowledge about the country on one book, Moscou Unveiled by a Belgian Soviet diplomat named Joseph Douillet, which was a heavy anti-Soviet propaganda piece. Several scenes in the Tintin story are lifted directly from this book.
    • Another example are the Chinese torturers who just happen to be working for Soviet policemen in Russia. Hilarious in Hindsight though is the fact that only 20 years later, China would indeed become a Communist country!
  • Artistic License – Linguistics: Many Russian names end with -ski, despite the fact that this is more typical of Polish names.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: The speech bubble for the German valet who's showing Tintin to his hotel room applies wrong spelling and grammar for the sentence "Hier ist das Room". Later justified (and perhaps invoked) when the valet turns out to be a Russian assassin.
  • Ass in a Lion Skin: Snowy disguises himself as a tiger to scare the Russian guards away.
  • Author Tract: Sort of. The tract was more Hergé's boss's, him having commissioned Hergé to write it as anti-Bolshevik propaganda for children.
  • Banana Peel: A rare case of a banana peel being used to attempt assassination. Of course, bananas weren't really available in the Soviet Union at the time...
  • Bandage Mummy: Snowy gets fully covered in bandages due to his injuries from an explosion.
  • Bear Trap: Tiger@Snowy gets caught in a wolf trap which rips off half of his costume, much to the amusement of the other animals.
  • Bedsheet Ghost: Used by Tintin to chase some Russian mooks away from his bedroom.
  • Big Ball of Violence: The fight sequences are this.
  • Cartoon Bomb: The bomb at the train has this shape.
  • Convenient Escape Boat: Tintin jumps into a convenient motorboat to escape the police. The police use a faster motorboat to chase him down.
  • Crapsack World: Soviet Russia is depicted as a horrible, poor dictatorship where all of Communism is apparently a fraud.
  • Creator Provincialism: Tintin departs and arrives back at the Brussels train station.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: The story is in black-and-white and never colorized, because Hergé felt ashamed about it.
  • Dirty Communists: All communists are evil, according to this comic strip.
  • Don't Explain the Joke: A lot of gags are exposed before they actually happen, for instance the banana peel gag.
  • Door Judo: Tintin opens a door for a bad guy trying to charge it at full speed. The bad guy hits his head on the far wall, and Tintin closes the door in the face of the others following him.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • Tintin has no quiff for the first few pages, until a car chase puts his hair into motion. He is also seen writing journalistic paperwork for the first and last time in the series, though he never seems to send it to his newspaper, because that same night, he is attacked in his hotel room and has to flee without taking all those pages along with him. Snowy has a strange beard and he and Tintin clearly seem able to understand what they are saying to each other.
    • In terms of story, the album is more a Random Events Plot and a propaganda piece full of Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped lectures about the evilness and phoniness of Soviet communism. Many gags are set up and told in a very slow exposition that doesn't surprise the reader when they finally happen.
  • Handcar Pursuit: The handcar breaks just as he is about to catch up. He then spots a junk pile and motorizes the car by MacGyvering, but the villains succeed at literally derailing him.
  • Harmless Freezing: Tintin freezes stuck in the ice after he falls into icy water. When Snowy manages to unfreeze him, he is totally unaffected by the effects of being frozen for so long, even able to find the energy to fight with the Russian cossack who carried him along.
  • Inexplicable Treasure Chests: Tintin discovers an underground Bolshevik hideaway in a haunted house. A Bolshevik then captures him and informs him, "You're in the hideout where Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin have collected together wealth stolen from the people!"
  • Inscrutable Oriental: Tintin is brought to a Torture Cellar where he will be tortured by two emotionless Chinese torturers.
  • Ironic Echo: "Can't you read?"
  • My Name Is Inigo Montoya: The Russian cossack who dragged Tintin in an ice block behind him, boast "My name is Nokzitov and I'll tear you in pieces!" before starting to kick Tintin's ass.
  • National Stereotypes: The Russians are all miserably poor or spies for the government. Two Chinese torturers with pigtails appear too, as do English tourists smoking a Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe and tweed jackets.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Actually averted, which would later become very rare for the series. Tintin is explicitly being sent to Russia as a reporter, and we even see him talking to his boss about sending in articles.
  • Poke the Poodle: One Russian's idea of making sure Tintin is shut up forever is... putting a banana peel on the door step so that Tintin will fall after he leaves the building again. Yeah, that 'll show 'em!
  • Random Events Plot: The "plot" is basically just Tintin wandering around and being attacked by Dirty Communists. A lot of stuff just happens and several plot lines remain unresolved. Hergé later admitted that most of the early Tintin stories until The Blue Lotus were just a "joke" to him. He drew them for fun and was often close to deadline when he still hadn't found a way to get his character out of the sticky situation he put him in the previous episode.
  • Red Scare: The story was drawn under demand of Hergé's boss, who wanted an anti-Communist story to warn their young readers about the evils of the ideology. The boss was a Catholic Priest with Fascist sympathies by the way, even having a portrait of Benito Mussolini on his desk.
  • Room Disservice: The valet at the hotel in Berlin turns out to be working for the Russians. His attempt to kidnap Tintin gets foiled.
  • Russian Guy Suffers Most: The Russian people are depicted as people who are all hungry and poor, suffering under Communism.
  • "Scooby-Doo" Hoax: The Bolsheviks use one of these to scare people away from their hidden stash of stolen goods. Tintin himself also dresses up as a Bedsheet Ghost to scare away his attackers at one point.
  • Shout-Out: Tintin sings Au Clair De La Lune while fashioning a propeller from a tree using a pen knife all day and night.
  • Tempting Fate: The Russian Room Disservice brags that no-one has ever escaped him and neither will Tintin. Cue him being knocked out by Tintin who then hands him over to the German police.
  • Torture Cellar: Tintin is brought to one when caught in Moscow. Of course, he can escape before anything harmful could happen.
  • Unintentional Period Piece: This entire story is obviously dated. The Soviet Union doesn't exist anymore, for starters. The story was also produced prior to the First Five Year Plan after which (via hidious suffering) Soviet industry really was as widespread and productive as the characters in the story attempt to imply with a "Scooby-Doo" Hoax.
  • Vapor Trail: The streak of flame almost catches up with Tintin's car. Then the fuel runs out. Definitely not a case of Truth in Television: The fuel-air vapor in the empty tank would actually be a lot more flammable than liquid fuel.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Tintin is arrested at one point for blowing up a traincar and killing 218 people (actually an attempt to assassinate him). After he escapes, it is never mentioned or referenced again.
  • Yellow Peril: Two extremely stereotypical-looking (down to the long pigtails) Chinese men show up to torture Tintin.

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