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Pt. I of Hergé's classic lunar double-bill.
on 15 April 2012
Part one of Hergé's double-bill lunar oddysey - both parts written quite some time before mankind actually made it to the moon - this is classic stuff. I actually came to this second lunar episode some time after Explorers On The Moon, through a quirk of chronological fate. But I was able, then and now, to enjoy each part as either a stand-alone adventure or, once I had them both, in combined effect.
As a scientist of international renown Professor Calculus gets involved in plans to put man on the moon. To be launched neither from Russia nor America, but Hergé's own east-central European creation, Syldavia (as previously featured in King Ottokar's Sceptre), this makes for an interesting contrast with the Cold War realities of the Space Race. Of course, this being Tintin, intrigues are as usual afoot, and Tintin's pals are there to bring welcome comic relief to his earnest adventuring.
Hemmed in by mountains like a Bond villain's lair, the Sprodj atomic research centre is a fabulous creation. With armed checkpoints and underground tunnels, it was a real spur to my childish imagination. Once the characters are established in their new location a wonderfully fraught rapport develops between the practically deaf Calculus and the always irascible Haddock, culminating in some fantastically funny scenes. Hergé rather cleverly uses the resulting humour to get across some scientific exposition from Calculus that might otherwise have seemed tedious for young readers.
As with Explorers On The Moon there's been interest, naturally, in what Hergé got right and wrong scientifically. Personally I think he got the balance between credibility and fantasy just right. Certainly as a kid I was just enchanted by it. Even now, knowing what we do, these stories work well as a work of child's entertainment that can also enchant and satisfy adult minds and imaginations. It is also, of course, beautifully and meticulously drawn. For me this remains, all these years after having first read it, a satisfying masterpiece of children's storytelling, 'bande dessinée', and the Hergé studios 'clear line' style at its best, and sets one up for eager anticipation of Explorers On The Moon.