on 24 June 2001
When astronomer Professor Phostle detects an enormous star heading for a collision with the Earth it looks like everyone is doomed. But the Professor has miscalculated and the huge star brushes past missing narrowly but leaving behind an enormous meteorite which has crashed into Arctic waters. While the Professor was mistaken about the collision there is no mistake about his discovery of a unique new metal present in the meteorite. Tintin, Snowy and Captain Haddock along with a group of scientists are soon on their way to the polar regions where they are to experience some of their most bizarre adventures!
This story was created by Herge in occupied wartime Belgium in 1942. It was the first to go straight into the format with which we are familiar for Tintin today - the 62 page 4 strip per page colour book. It was also the first to be printed in colour (the older books were later coloured and reprinted - but up to "The Shooting Star" the previous stories had appeared in Black and White).
Occupied Belgium under the Nazi's was a difficult environment to continue work in. Herge's previous books ("The Black Island" and "The Crab with the Golden Claws") had experienced great difficulty getting through the authorities strict censorship. With "The Shooting Star" he was careful to pick a fantastic story which was unlikely to lead to political problems. In the original version of this story the rival expedition to discover the meteorite was not from Sao Rico but from America which no doubt helped the books release with censors. After the war Herge changed this though if you look closely at the crew of the "Peary" you can still see that they appear more North then South American.
As far as the story itself goes we have almost arrived at Herge's peak middle period. All the early crudity has gone and we are now experiencing Herge about to peak in his genius. The fantastic certainly appears in this book - with the unforgettable giant mushrooms and spiders/butterflies. But more subtle moments of genius are also present.
I particularly like the scene when Tintin first emerges on deck on page 27 where they are approaching Arctic climes. The slip on the ice and the re-emergence in furs is very evocative of changing climate and seems a clever way to draw attention to this.
"The Shooting Star" is a must have for Tintin fans and one of Herge's classics.
In 1942 the continent of Europe was totally embroiled in World War II, which may well explain why Herge offers up the most fanciful of all of the adventures of Tintin. In fact, nothing else comes as close to "The Shooting Star," which begins with the world about to end because of a collision with a giant come and ends with Tintin dealing with giant mushrooms on an island in the middle of the ocean. In between there is a race to find a meteorite that contains a new element of great scientific importance (another case of Herge's remarkable premonitions based on his meticulous research no doubt).
Tintin is aided and abetted in this adventure by Captain Haddock, who we first met in the previous tale, "The Crab with the Golden Claws." But I must say the supporting character who caught my attention was the seaplane pilot who helps our hero throughout the episode and plays a pivotal role in the thrilling climax. You do not usually see such as a realistic, levelheaded, intelligent person helping out Tintin. I find it to believe Herge did not even give this fellow a name, who more than makes up for the eccentric college of eggheads whom Tintin is trying to help.
"The Shooting Stars" is one of the best Tintin straightforward adventures and his adversary is more often the elements than the bad guys trying to beat the good ship "Aurora" to the meteorite. Consequently, there is a lot less gun play than we normally see in the early Tintin adventures. The contrast of Herge's simple drawing of characters against more realistic backgrounds finds several excellent sequences in this story, the first to be originally printed in color.
Whereas expeditions to Tibet, the Moon, the Middle or Far East and the bottom of the ocean tend to get most of the kudos, I think this is one of the funniest and most interesting of Herge`s early Tintin stories. It does mark significant change too, as Captain Haddock is now firmly in place as a major character, and this signals the last time Snowy is as chatty as any other character; he becomes, well, a pet dog after this one. Personally, I love Snowy and his mixture of misbehaviour, amusing observations and arachnophobia is at it`s peak here.
The story is fabulous - a meteorite heads toward earth, lands safely in the ocean, but with a fair bit of the rock still above water. Tintin, funded by a group of pan-European backers after the precious metal at the core of the meteor, faces a race against the American ship, the Peary, whose backers attempt to sabotage Tintin`s attempts to plant the flag first many times. It`s fair to say much (too much) has been made of the American financier, Mr. Bohlwinkel, and his Jewishness). The comic highlights are too frequent to mention, and I don`t think the pace drops throughout; I also think it`s both coloured and drawn as beautifully as any other tale from this wonderful series. Fantastic.
on 29 July 2016
Real Tintin fans will, of course, buy all the books in the series, including the enigmatic Tintin and the Alph-Art. But if you are a more selective buyer, this is not the best the bunch.
On the plus side, Herge was well into his stride by the time he created this adventure in wartime Brussels and we have a coherent plot along with pretty good artwork. There are also some rather fun characters like Professor Phostle, along with regulars like Captain Haddock.
On the other hand, even if you put aside the rather far-fetched story line (giant fast-growing apple trees anyone?), this mainly nautical tale suffers from periods where the action rather runs out of steam. There are also some odd scientific errors in the story and inconsistencies in the drawings which marr this adventure by comparison with later stories like the Calculus Affair.
Additionally, the character of Mr Bohlwinkel, chief villain in this story, will strike a slighly queasy note for older readers. There is actually quite a story behind this aspect of the story, which has been explored at some length by Tintin afficionados.
But all in all, this is not a bad earlyish work by Herge. It's just that he went on to create much better adventures!
Rather unusually for a Tintin adventure, The Shooting Star starts off like something out of a pulp science-fiction story as Tintin and Snowy identify a huge fireball heading rapidly towards Earth on a direct collision course. The end of the world is only hours away the scientists at the observatory tell him (and how does Tintin spend his last moments on Earth? - listening to the speaking clock) ...except they've got their calculations wrong and instead of the fireball hitting the Earth, a smaller meteorite breaks off and lands in the Arctic ocean, causing a minor earthquake.
Professor Phostle however has identified a new and unknown metal on the rock that he names Phostlite, and organises an expedition of European scientists to the Arctic to find it and examine it, taking along Tintin and Captain Haddock, who will be in command of the Aurora. As if an attempt to sabotage the ship even before it leaves port isn't enough, a rival foreign ship is on its way to try and reach the meteorite first and claim ownership of its precious minerals.
As unusual as the science-fiction element is (Hergé does of course later take Tintin to the Moon long before a real manned mission ever got there, but Destination Moon/Explorers on the Moon was based on a lot of real scientific research, if not in every detail), it creates a thrilling end-of-the-world opening with doomsayers, portentous giant spiders, millions of panicked rats fleeing from the sewers and the tar on the roads melting from the extreme heat of the imminent final conflagration. Hergé maintains this entertaining tone throughout, with numerous mishaps on the journey, pratfalls and a great deal of humour at the expense of Captain Haddock's unlikely presidency of the Society of Sober Sailors - even the usually unflappable Tintin gets his share of knocks here.
The Shooting Star appears to be a fun, harmless diversion with no overt political statements, but written in 1942 while Belgium was under the control of the occupying German forces - the first Tintin adventure to be published in its now classic standard full-colour 62 page format as opposed to being first serialised and then reworked for collected publication - the reality of the story's creation is well hidden. It's notable that the scientists for the expedition are all from neutral European countries, but there were other controversial elements in the original version - the financier behind the evil rivals from the fictional country of São Rico was originally American and Jewish - elements that were suppressed after the first edition. What's left however remains a highly entertaining Tintin adventure, wonderfully drawn in the 'ligne claire' style, that isn't really all that more far-fetched than the usual stories.
The Shooting Star
In Tintin's tenth adventure he has to deal with a 'near earth asteroid' event, allowing Hergé to indulge his interests in science and a little bit of gentle pedagogy, whilst telling a fantastical adventure story. As his first venture in this direction it's not surprising that it's somewhat naive in this respect, his 'mad professors' more caricatured and his 'science' itself (always at the service of his stories, rather than dominating them) more slapdash hokum than it would eventually be, when, with the arrival of Cuthbert Calculus, and particularly for the lunar adventures, Hergé wanted his science to be at least plausible.
After spotting an extra star in 'The Great Bear', growing alarmingly quickly and attended by a heat wave and numerous other odd occurrences, Tintin consults Professor Phostle at the local observatory. The prof. is greatly disappointed when the meteor passes near the earth without actually colliding, but revives on learning that the meteor contains a new element (a fact brought to his attention by his assistant), a metal which he names Phostlite in honour of, um, himself. The story then becomes that of their journey in a ship captained by Haddock, carrying an international science team, in search of the meteor which has landed in the polar seas near Greenland. It's soon learned that a rival team is also making for the meteorite: will Tintin, Haddock, Prof. Phostle and co., aboard the Aurora, beat the Peary and her crew, and thwart the Sao Rico financier Bohlwinkel?
The supposedly devout Catholic Hergé (thankfully) hardly ever refers to religion in his Tintin adventures.* Indeed, here we have the former colleague of Decimus Phostle, now the self-styled 'Prophet Philipullus' - one of the only characters in the entire panoply of Tintin to explicitly use theological jargon - who is clearly both insane and a nuisance to our plucky hero. Interesting! Other points of interest include the depiction of Auguste Picard, a real life scientist Hergé had seen in Brussels, as Swedish scientist Eric Björgenskjöld. Picard was the figure who ultimately inspired Hergé's creation of Cuthbert Calculus. There are also appearances by Prof. Cantonneau, who reappears in The Seven crystal Balls, and Capt. Chester and his ship the Sirius, who return in Red Rackham's Treasure
Two rather more contentious points are the ethnicity of Bohlwinkel - is he, as some suggest (his name was originally Blumenstein), an anti-Semitic caricature? - and the changing of his nationality and that of the rival expedition ship and crew from Americans to South Americans. On the other side of the scales, Hergé clearly wants to show, as the multi-national science team of the Aurora makes clear, that science is a cross-cultural international collaboration. The references to science range from the plausibly informed mention of spectroscopy to the fanciful effects of Phostlite.
Although it's the tenth adventure in the Tintin canon, it was actually the first to appear as a full colour 'album' in what became the standard Tintin format. Created during the first half of world war two in occupied Brussels, the changes subsequently made are fascinating, and in some cases rather worrying. I have to dock at least one star for the residual taint of what does look like anti-Semitism (apparently a more blatantly offensive frame featuring money lenders was totally expunged), which is a shame, because, other than this, this is a cracking early Tintin yarn. Kids probably won't pick up on this sinister undercurrent (I know I wasn't aware of it on first reading this as a child). It just goes to show how profoundly the traumas of WWII reached into all aspects of life. Such a pity that it should taint this seemingly innocent icon of plucky boy-scout style 'wholesome' fun.
Having said all this, the end result as it now stands is a solid example of early-middle-period Hergé, and very enjoyable.
* At least not as we see them today, his strips were significantly altered between their original weekly episodic state and the 'album' versions we now see today.
on 7 August 2015
The canonical version of “The Shooting Star” is my favorite Tintin adventure. The slapstick humor and the, shall we say, Haddockisms are kept down to a minimum. The actual plot takes centre stage, as Tintin and his friends embark on a scientific expedition to the Arctic Sea in order to claim a huge meteorite containing a mysterious metal. The story contains a few science fiction elements, and lampoons both distracted scientists and doomsday prophets (in the Swedish version, the prophet Philippulus is actually called Pythagoras). Naturally, a greedy banker from “Sao Rico”, a certain Mr Bohlwinkel, also wants to lay his hands on the valuable piece of space debris, and does everything in his power to sabotage the legitimate expedition. Parallels to Jules Verne's “The Golden Meteor” have been duly noted.
Unfortunately, “The Shooting Star” is seriously marred by the fact that the original version was published in Nazi-occupied Belgium and contained anti-Semitic propaganda. The greedy banker was named Blumenstein in the original, and his expedition sailed from the United States, a nation the Nazis claimed was controlled by Jews. It also contained other examples of anti-Semitism. Tintin's creator Hergé cleaned up the story after World War II, but that simply made matters worse, since he came across as an opportunist (which he, of course, was).
The de-Nazification of “The Shooting Star” also created a number of anomalies. I always wondered why most characters from the purported Latin American nation of “Sao Rico” look White and have English names. That's because they *were* North Americans in the original version. Bohlwinkel (ex-Blumenstein) still looks pretty “Jewish”, however, and even spouts a red star-like emblem on his tuxedo! Meanwhile, defenders of Hergé has claimed that the original story contains secret anti-Nazi codes, such as the menacing spider being called “fasciata” (compare “fascism”), or the crazy prophet's name Phillipulus (compare Phillip Petáin). I'm not sure if I buy this, and I wonder whether anyone ever noticed at the time?
It's a shame that such a good story has such a colorful background (and, occasionally, foreground), but at least the fate of “The Shooting Star” shows that the Allies won the shooting war…
on 8 May 2013
This was my first ever Tintin, I rebought it for my daughter in hopes of giving her the same enjoyment I had but she did not respond as desired! It's still a great read though and at least I enjoyed reading it again.
on 31 March 2012
It seems years since my two daughters were deep in their Tintins..................
I bought this one following the strong recommendations and was not disappointed
Splendidly done and thoroughly enjoyed
on 25 February 2010
Tintin and the Shooting Star
By the time Herge wrote Tintin and the Shooting Star he was going mad. He was hallucinating without being under the effect of anything and every night dreamt that he was dying. As is obvious, the books get progressively more and more farfetched and strange as they go along. The Shooting Star is somewhere in the middle of the series so is relatively sane. The story goes that Herge, because of his huge wealth, sent out people to take photos of the scenes that his famous reporter and dog could be seen in. One of the most infamous examples is when, during the story of The Crab with the Golden Claws; Tintin is sitting in a restaurant on a corner in Morocco and Herge asked for photos to be taken of the waiters at the restaurant. The attention to detail and complex drawings, often with reference to other books/films are extremely attractive to the human eye and this is why the Herge is so widely read and distributed. Tintin and the Shooting Star is about a meteorite which is supposed to hit the earth and then doesn't. The main storyline is about Tintin, Captain Haddock and a few scientists on a race to discover a chunk of the meteorite which has hit the earth including overtones of the second world war, the period in which the story was written in. Herge was pro-Nazi and in the original version of the book two Jews, depicted in classic anti-semitic caricature are seen looking on and looking forward to seeing Tintin being beaten up by Philippus. Tintin himself uses a World War II Arado 196 German reconnaissance aircraft in the story. The storyline is a little predictable, but what can you expect from a cartoon and the scenery is so vividly drawn that that alone made me want to read more and more. My favourite character would have to be Captain Haddock as he is such a blundering idiot. Herge once described Captain Haddock's last name as "A sad English fish that drinks alot" Captain Haddock also puts a cynical spin on Tintin's often unbelievable heroics. An astoundingly good read. Buy it.