pp. 62 #070322/260722
Flight 714 to Sydney (French: Vol 714 pour Sydney; originally published in English as Flight 714) is the twenty-second volume of The Adventures of Tintin, the comics series by Belgian cartoonist Hergé. It was serialised weekly from September 1966 to November 1967 in Tintin magazine. The title refers to a flight that Tintin and his friends fail to catch, as they become embroiled in their arch-nemesis Rastapopoulos’ plot to kidnap an eccentric millionaire from a supersonic business jet on a Sondonesian island.
Hergé started work on Flight 714 to Sydney four years after the completion of his previous Adventure, The Castafiore Emerald. At this point in his life, he was increasingly uninterested in the series, and used the story to explore the paranormal phenomena that deeply fascinated him. After its serialisation in Tintin magazine, the story was collected for publication in book form by Casterman in 1968. Although the artwork has been noted for its high level of detail, critical reception of Flight 714 to Sydney has been mixed to negative, with its narrative being criticised by commentators for the farcical portrayal of its antagonists and for leaving its central mystery unresolved. Hergé continued The Adventures of Tintin with Tintin and the Picaros, while the series itself became a defining part of the Franco-Belgian comics tradition. The story was adapted for the 1991 animated Ellipse/Nelvana series The Adventures of Tintin.
During a refueling stop at Kemajoran Airport, Jakarta en route to an international space exploration conference in Sydney, Australia (as guests of honour for being the first men on the moon), Tintin, his dog Snowy, and their friends Captain Haddock and Professor Calculus chance upon their old acquaintance Skut (introduced in The Red Sea Sharks). Skut is now the personal pilot for aircraft industrialist and eccentric millionaire Laszlo Carreidas, who is also attending the conference. Tintin and his friends join Carreidas on his prototype private jet, the Carreidas 160, crewed by Skut, co-pilot Hans Boehm, navigator Paolo Colombani, and steward Gino. Carreidas’ secretary Spalding, Boehm, and Colombani hijack the plane and bring it to the (fictional) deserted volcanic island of Pulau-pulau Bompa, situated in the Celebes Sea, where the aircraft makes a rough landing on a makeshift runway. While disembarking from the plane, Snowy bolts from Tintin’s arms and runs off into the jungle under gunfire. The mastermind of the plot then reveals himself as Rastapopoulos, intent on seizing Carreidas’ fortune. Captain Haddock’s corrupt ex-shipmate, Allan, is present as Rastapopoulos’s henchman, and Sondonesian nationalists have been hired as mercenaries.
Tintin, Haddock, Calculus, Skut and Gino are bound and held in a Japanese World War II-era bunker, while Rastapopoulos takes Carreidas to another bunker where his accomplice, Dr. Krollspell, injects him with a truth serum to reveal Carreidas’s Swiss bank account number. Under the serum’s influence, Carreidas becomes eager to confide his life of greed, perfidy, and theft, revealing every detail thereof except the account number. Furious, Rastapopoulos strikes at Krollspell, who is still holding the truth serum syringe, and is accidentally injected, whereupon he too boasts of past crimes until he and Carreidas quarrel over which of them is the most evil. In the process, Rastapopoulos reveals that nearly all of the men he recruited, including Spalding, the aircraft pilots, the Sondonesians and Krollspell, are marked to be eliminated after he gets the account number.
Snowy helps Tintin and his friends escape, and they find the bunker where Carreidas is held prisoner. Tintin and Haddock bind and gag Rastapopoulos, Krollspell and Carreidas, and escort them to lower ground, intending to use Rastapopoulos as a hostage. The serum’s effect wears off, and Rastapopoulos escapes; Krollspell, eager to stay alive, continues to accompany Tintin and Haddock. After a run-in with Allan and the Sondonesians, Tintin, led by a telepathic voice, guides the other protagonists to a cave, where they discover a temple hidden inside the island’s volcano, guarded by an ancient statue resembling a modern astronaut. Inside the structure, Tintin and his friends reunite with Calculus and meet the scientist Mik Kanrokitoff, whose guiding voice they have followed via a telepathic transmitter obtained from an extraterrestrial race that was formerly worshipped on the island as gods and are now working with Kanrokitoff to communicate with Earth’s scientists. Calculus gets angry and he gets into a fight with Laszlo Carreidas. An earthquake and explosion set off by Rastapopoulos and his men triggers a volcanic eruption; Tintin and his party reach relative safety in the volcano’s crater. Rastapopoulos and his henchmen flee the eruption outside the volcano and launch a rubber dinghy from Carreidas’ plane.
Kanrokitoff puts Tintin and his compatriots under hypnosis and summons a flying saucer piloted by the extraterrestrials, which they board to escape the eruption. Kanrokitoff spots the rubber dinghy and exchanges Tintin and his companions (except Krollspell, who is returned to his clinic) for Allan, Spalding, Rastapopoulos, and the treacherous pilots, who are whisked away in the saucer to an unknown fate. Tintin, Haddock, Calculus, Skut, Gino and Carreidas awaken from hypnosis and cannot remember what happened to them; Calculus retains a crafted rod of alloyed cobalt, iron, and nickel, which he had found in the caves. The cobalt is of a state that does not occur on Earth, and is the only evidence of an encounter with its makers. Only Snowy, who cannot speak, remembers the hijacking and alien abduction. After being rescued by a scouting plane and interviewed about what they can recall of their ordeal, Tintin, his companions, and Carreidas catch the titular Qantas flight to Sydney. Hergé began writing Flight 714 to Sydney four years after he had ended his previous instalment in the series, The Castafiore Emerald. His enthusiasm for the Adventures of Tintin had declined, and instead his main interest was abstract art, both as a painter and a collector. He initially planned on titling his new story Special Flight for Adelaide before changing it to Flight 714 to Sydney. While working on the story, Hergé told English translator Michael Turner that “I’ve fallen out of love with Tintin. I just can’t bear to see him”.
With Flight 714 to Sydney, Hergé stated that he wanted a “return to Adventure with a capital A… without really returning there”. He sought to provide answers to two questions: “Are there other inhabited planets? And are there ‘insiders’ who know it?” Hergé had a longstanding interest in paranormal phenomena, and believed that a story with such elements would appeal to the growing interest in the subject. He was particularly influenced by Robert Charroux’s Le Livre des Secrets Trahis (“The Book of Betrayed Secrets”), which expounded the idea that extraterrestrials had influenced humanity during prehistory. The character of Mik Ezdanitoff (Mik Kanrokitoff in the English translation) was based on Jacques Bergier, a writer on paranormal topics; Bergier was pleased with this. The name “Ezdanitoff” is a pun on “Iz da nie tof”, a Marols (Brussels dialect) phrase which means “Isn’t that great”. The television presenter who interviews the protagonists at the end of the story was visually modelled on the Tintin fan Jean Tauré, who had written to Hergé asking if he could be depicted in the series shaking Haddock’s hand.
Rastapopoulos, a recurring villain in the series who had last appeared in The Red Sea Sharks, made a return in Flight 714 to Sydney. In his interviews with Numa Sadoul, Hergé noted that he was consciously shifting the nature of the villains in the book, relating that “during the story, I realised that when all was said and done Rastapopoulos and Allan were pathetic figures. Yes, I discovered this after giving Rastapopoulos the attire of a de luxe cowboy; he appeared to me to be so grotesque dressed up in this manner that he ceased to impress me. The villains were debunked: in the end they seem above all ridiculous and wretched. You see, that’s how things evolve”. Other characters that Hergé brought back for the story were Skut, the Estonian pilot from The Red Sea Sharks, and Jolyon Wagg, who is depicted watching television at the very end of the story.
Hergé also introduced new characters into the story, such as Laszlo Carreidas, who was based on the French aerospace magnate Marcel Dassault. In his interview with Sadoul, Hergé also observed that “[w]ith Carreidas, I departed from the concept of good and bad. Carreidas is one of the goodies of the story. It does not matter that he is not an attractive personality. He is a cheat by nature. Look at the discussion between him and Rastapopoulos when, under the influence of the truth serum, they both boast of their worst misdeeds[…] A good example for small children: the rich and respected man, who gives a lot to charity, and the bandit in the same boat! That’s not very moral”. Hergé also created a secretary for Carreidas in the form of Spalding, whom Hergé remarked off in an interview with The Sunday Times in 1968 as “an English public school man, obviously the black sheep of his family”. Another character he invented for the story was Dr. Krollspell, whom he later related had “probably ‘worked’ in a Nazi camp”. He was thus portrayed as a former doctor in one of the Nazi extermination camps—perhaps based partly on Josef Mengele—who had fled Europe after the Second World War and settled in New Delhi, where he established his medical clinic.
Although Hergé drew the basis of Flight 714 to Sydney, his assistants at Studios Hergé, led by Bob de Moor, were largely responsible for the story’s final look, which included drawing all of the background details and selecting colours. To depict the erupting volcano, Hergé utilised photographs of eruptions at Etna and Kilauea that were in his image collection. He also turned to this collection for a photograph of a flying saucer that he used as the basis for the extraterrestrial spacecraft depicted in the story. Later, Hergé regretted explicitly depicting the alien spacecraft at the end of the story, although was unsure how he could have ended the story without it.