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A year ago, (Jan. 7), I speculated on the possibility that Osamu Tezuka had originally been influenced by Herge's Tintin. My rationale was that parts of the story in Shin Takara-jima are very similar to that in Red Rackham's Treasure, published 3-4 years earlier. The problem is that Tintin is drawn really well, and if Tezuka had one of Herge's books in front of him to copy in 1946-7, his first manga would have looked a lot more polished. That, plus I have no proof that Tezuka had access to the Belgian newspaper that Tintin was serialized in.
(Back cover art, showing the modern version of Tintin and Snowy for contrast.)
On the other hand, I've never really studied Herge's works all that closely, and I hadn't paid attention to his growth as an artist, either. So, when I received 4 Tintin books for Christmas (Tintin in the Congo, Tintin and the Picaros, The Castafiore Emerald and Tintin in the Land of the Soviets), I was particularly interested in the fact that the cover for Soviets is much more primitive and crude than all the others. Turns out that just as Tezuka hated what his mentor, Shichima Sakai, had done to Shin Takara-jima, Herge disliked the overly heavy handed anti-communist propaganda his editor had insisted on for his own first story. The difference is that Tezuka completely redrew Shin Takara-jima for later reprint, while Herge redrew and recolored everything BUT Soviets for the book releases (the earlier, cruder Tintin stories having originally appeared in black and white in the newspaper serials). According to the wiki entry, because Herge refused to do a book release, Soviets became a collector's item and a number of pirate copies came out. In the 70's, Herge relented and authorized an official book reprint, but with virtually no changes. (Compared to Tezuka, whose estate didn't authorize the original unretouched version of Shin Takara-jima to be reprinted until the 2000's.)
(Here we have a speeding car. Compare this to Petey's car in Shin Takara-jima. Notice how the headlights give the vehicle an anthropomorphic feel.)
Which means that with the unretouched Soviets we have access to Herge's earliest work (dating back to 1929), and we can compare that with Tezuka's own first story (released in 1947). And yes, the visual similarities are striking. Note that the other stories immediately following were equally crude but were redrawn to look the way they do now in modern reprints. Shin Takara-jima is what you would get if you copied early Tintin, and then changed it somewhat to "personalize" it. The Tintin in Soviets starts out very rough. At one point I thought I was looking at a 35-year-old man - pudgy and with bags under his eyes. There are a number of panels where the characters look like they've been copied directly from Windsor McCay (which is reasonable, given that Herge had stated that he really liked Gertie the Dinosaur (1914)) while in others Tintin himself is just a round ball with a stick nose and two little dots for eyes.
(Tintin received a black eye in a previous panel that leaves him looking like a zombie here.)
If you're a fan of Herge, then you probably already have all of the Tintin books. If not, then Soviets is definitely worth getting just to see Tintin proto version 1.0. If you're a fan of manga, it's worth getting Soviets to put it side-by-side with the original version of Shin Takara-jima to see if I'm wrong or not. I still have no proof that Tezuka had access to the unretouched Tintin artwork when he first started out, but I am willing to buy into this particular conspiracy theory.
(The polar bear is classic Windsor McCay. After a year of practicing, Herge is finally figuring out how to draw Tintin consistently, but still having trouble with Snowy's legs and trunk.)