The Shooting Star

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The Shooting Star
(L'Étoile mystérieuse)
Book cover. Tintin and Snowy in the bottom left corner look up, surprised, at a giant, red-and-white mushroom at the right.
Cover of the English edition
Date 1942 (colour)
Series The Adventures of Tintin
Publisher Casterman
Creative team
Creator Hergé
Original publication
Published in Le Soir
Date of publication 20 October 1941 – 21 May 1942
Language French
Publisher Methuen
Date 1961
  • Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper
  • Michael Turner
Preceded by The Crab with the Golden Claws (1941)
Followed by The Secret of the Unicorn (1943)

The Shooting Star (French: L'Étoile mystérieuse) is the tenth volume of The Adventures of Tintin, the comics series by Belgian cartoonist Hergé. It was the first volume published in what was to become the series' standard 62-page full colour format, after first being serialised from October 1941 to May 1942 in black-and-white in Belgium's leading newspaper Le Soir during the German occupation of Belgium during World War II. The story tells of young Belgian reporter Tintin, who travels with his dog Snowy and friend Captain Haddock aboard a scientific expedition to the Arctic Ocean on an international race to find a meteorite that has fallen to the Earth.

The Shooting Star was a commercial success and was published in book form by Casterman shortly after its conclusion. Hergé continued The Adventures of Tintin with The Secret of the Unicorn, while the series itself became a defining part of the Franco-Belgian comics tradition. The Shooting Star has received a mixed critical reception and has been one of the most controversial instalments in the series due to the alleged anti-Semitic portrayal of its villain. The story was adapted for both the 1957 Belvision animated series, Hergé's Adventures of Tintin, and for the 1991 animated series The Adventures of Tintin by Ellipse and Nelvana.


A giant meteorite approaches the earth, spotted from an observatory by Professor Decimus Phostle, while a self-proclaimed prophet, Philippulus, predicts the end of the world. The meteorite misses the earth, but a fragment of it plunges into the Arctic Ocean. Phostle determines that the meteor is made of a new material which he names Phostlite, and sets off to find it with a crew of European scientists, as well as Tintin and Snowy, in a ship helmed by Captain Haddock.[1]

Unknown to the Aurora expedition, another team has already set out aboard the polar expedition ship Peary, backed by a financier from São Rico, Mr. Bohlwinkel. The expedition becomes a race to land on the meteorite. Bohlwinkel attempts to sabotage the Aurora expedition by having a henchman plant a stick of dynamite on the ship on the eve of departure, but it is found and thrown overboard. While crossing the North Sea, the Aurora is almost rammed by another of Bohlwinkel's ships, but Haddock manages to steer out of the way. Further setbacks occur at the Icelandic port of Akureyri, when Haddock is informed that there is no fuel available. He is furious, but he and Tintin come across an old friend of his, Captain Chester, who reveals that there is plenty of fuel and that the Golden Oil Company (which has a fuel monopoly) is owned by Bohlwinkel. The three devise a plan to run a hose from Chester's ship, Sirius, to the Aurora and thus trick Golden Oil into providing them with the fuel they need.[2]

Coming close to catching the Peary, the Aurora receives an indistinct distress call from another ship and alters its course to help. Inquiries by Tintin lead him to realise that the distress signal is a decoy to delay them. Resuming the journey, they intercept a cable announcing that the Peary expedition has reached the meteorite but not yet claimed it. While the Peary crew rows to the meteorite, Tintin uses the Aurora's seaplane to parachute onto the meteorite and plant the expedition flag, beating the crew of the Peary by seconds.[3]

Tintin makes camp while the Aurora '​s engines are repaired. The next day he discovers that Phostlite advances the ageing process and makes things much larger: his apple core grows into a large tree while a maggot grows into a huge butterfly. Tintin is menaced by a giant spider and huge, exploding mushrooms before rescue arrives. A sudden seaquake shakes the meteorite to its core and it sinks into the sea, just as Tintin and Snowy escape to the Aurora.[4]



Black-and-white photo of a seaplane surrounded by people
A German Arado 196 seaplane used by Hergé as inspiration for the type used by Tintin in the book

Amid the German occupation of Belgium during World War II, Hergé found employment at Le Soir, Belgium's leading newspaper, then under the administrative control of the occupying military government.[a] The Shooting Star initially featured the United States as the primary antagonists; explaining this, Hergé later asserted that the story revolved around the theme of "the rivalry for progress between Europe and the United States".[6] Although not disliking Americans themselves, he exhibited a strong dislike of American big business,[7] and had exhibited anti-American themes in earlier works, in particular in Tintin in America.[8] During serialisation of The Shooting Star, in December 1941, the U.S. entered the war on the side of the Allies, thus coming into direct conflict with Germany.[9] All of the scientists featured were from Axis or neutral countries, which might be a reflection of the strip's anti-Allies political slant.[10] Entertainment producer and author Harry Thompson stated this should not be interpreted as a strong anti-Ally bias, for the only two nation-states in Europe that were part of the Allies at that point were the Soviet Union and United Kingdom, and that the characters of Haddock and Chester were British.[7]

As with most of The Adventures of Tintin which feature sea travel, Hergé was careful to obtain as much data about ships as possible in order to make his portrayals more realistic. The design of the Aurora was based on the RRS William Scoresby, while that of the Peary was most likely based upon another Antarctic ship, the RRS Discovery.[11] The seaplane on which the expedition travels was based on the German Arado 196-A.[12] Hergén evertheless later criticised his own efforts in this area, saying that if Aurora had been a real ship, it would probably be unseaworthy.[13]

The Shooting Star shared plot similarities with The Chase of the Golden Meteor, a 1908 novel by pioneering French science-fiction writer Jules Verne.[14] As in Hergé's story, Verne's novel features an expedition to the North Atlantic to find a meteor fragment containing a new element. In both stories, the competing expedition teams were led by an eccentric professor and a Jewish banker, and Verne's novel had a Doktor Schultze to Hergé's Professor Schulze—both from the University of Jena. Hergé denied deliberately copying Verne's story, saying that he had only read one of the French novelist's works; it is possible that the influence from Verne came via Jacques Van Melkebeke, Hergé's friend and assistant, who was a fan of the genre.[14] The Swedish expedition member Eric Björgenskjöld[b] physically resembles a real person: Auguste Piccard, who was Hergé's inspiration for Professor Calculus.[15]


"All I actually did was show a villainous financier with a Semitic appearance and a Jewish name: Blumenstein, in The Shooting Star. But does that mean there was anti-Semitism on my part? It seems to me that in my entire panoply of bad guys there are all sorts; I have shown a lot of "villains" of various origins, without any particular treatment of this or that race... We've always told Jewish stories, Marseillaise stories, Scottish stories. But who could have predicted that the Jewish stories would end as we know now that they did, in the death camps of Treblinka and Auschwitz?"

Hergé to Numa Sadoul[16]

Under Nazi control, Le Soir was publishing a variety of anti-Semitic articles, calling for the Jews to be further excluded from public life and describing them as racial enemies of the Belgian people.[17] Hergé biographer Pierre Assouline noted that there was a "remarkable correlation" between the anti-Semitic nature of Le Soir '​s editorials and The Shooting Star '​s depiction of Jews.[9] Within months of the story's publication, legislation was passed to collect and deport Jews from Belgium to Nazi concentration camps.[18] Thus, The Shooting Star reflected trends in the Belgian political situation at the time.[18] However, the story was the not the first time that Hergé had adopted such a perspective in his work; he had recently provided illustrations for Robert de Vroyland's Fables, a number of which contained anti-Semitic stereotypes, reflecting the racism much of de Vroyland's book.[19]

When The Shooting Star appeared in Le Soir, Hergé featured a gag in which two Jews hear the prophetic news that the end of the world is near. They rub their hands together in eagerness, and one comments: "Did you hear, Isaac? The end of the world! What if it's true?" The other responds: "Hey, hey, it vould be a gut ding, Solomon! I owe my suppliers 50,000 francs, and zis way I von't haf to pay vem!" Hergé omitted this scene from the collected edition.[20]

The character of Blumenstein also displays anti-Semitic stereotypes, such as having a bulbous nose and being an avaricious, manipulative businessman.[21] Hergé later dismissed concerns over this Jewish caricature, saying, "That was the style then."[9][c] In his assessment of Franco-Belgian comics, Matthew Screech expressed the opinion that Blumenstein was an anti-American stereotype rather than an anti-Jewish one.[22] Similarly, reporter and Tintin expert Michael Farr asserted that Blumenstein was "more parodied as a financier than Jew".[23] Conversely, Lofficier and Lofficier asserted that both anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism were present, and that it is the United States and International Jewry who were the "ruthless opponents" of Tintin.[24] Nazi apologists and revisionists such as French Holocaust denier Olivier Mathieu used The Shooting Star as evidence that Hergé was an anti-Semite with Nazi sympathies.[25]

To Mark McKinney, the competing expeditions are presented as a simplistic race between good and evil wherein Blumestein displays the stereotypes of Jews held by advocates of the Jewish World Conspiracy presented in works such as the anti-Semitic Protocols of the Elders of Zion. McKinney writes that Blumenstein's "large and bulbous nose ... rounded forehead, receding black hair, and small beady eyes" were stock anti-Semitic imagery in the 1930s and 1940s, as promoted by such as the journalist Édouard Drumont whose anti-Semitic Paris-based newspaper La Libre Parole was influential in Brussels.[26] Blumenstein was presented as overweight and a smoker of cigars, representing to anti-Semites the alleged finincial power of Jews.[27] The concludes with Blumenstein hearing news that he is to be tracked down for his treatment of Tintin, recalling the contemporary roundups of Jews.[28]

McKinney contrasts Hergé's complicity with the anti-Semites to the actions of others Belgians, such as those who struck against the Nazis at the Université libre de Bruxelles and those who risked their lives to hide Jews. Hergé's other strips of the time avoid political overtones. Following the war Hergé escaped imprisonment himself for collaborationism as comic strips were considered of little importance, though it has been argued that the popularity of the Tintin strip attracted readers to Le Soir under its collaborationist publishers.[28] Other anti-Semitic characters shared traits with Blumenstein, in particular Rastapopoulos a recurring character in albums from Tintin in America in the early 1930s to Flight 714 in 1968.[29]


One of the politically loaded images. Initially, the antagonists were Americans (top), while later editions feature the flag of the fictitious country São Rico (bottom)

The Shooting Star was serialized daily in the Le Soir from 20 October 1941 to 21 May 1942[30] in French under the title L'Étoile mystérieuse (The Mysterious Star).[31] Tintin's previous adventure, The Crab with the Golden Claws, had been serialized weekly until the demise of its children's supplement Le Soir Jeunesse, and continued daily in Le Soir; the earlier serial had ended the day before The Shooting Star began.[32] The Shooting Star was the first Tintin adventure to be serialized daily in its entirety.[31] As with earlier Adventures of Tintin, the story was later serialised in France in the Catholic newspaper Cœurs Vaillants, where it first appeared on 6 June 1943.[33]

On page 20 of the published book, Hergé included a cameo of the characters Thomson and Thompson and Quick & Flupke.[24] The story also introduced Captain Chester, who is mentioned in later adventures, and Professor Cantonneau, who returns in The Seven Crystal Balls.[34]

On 21 May 1942, The Shooting Star concluded serialisation. Less than a week later, the occupied government proclaimed that all Jews in Belgium would have to wear a yellow badge on their clothing, and in July the Gestapo began raids on Jewish premises, followed by deportations of Jews to Nazi concentration camps and extermination camps, resulting in around 32,000 Belgian Jews being killed.[35] Hergé later recalled: "I saw very few Jews wearing the yellow star, but finally I did see some. They told me that some Jews were gone; that people had come for them and sent them away. I didn't want to believe it."[36]

The earlier Tintin albums reproduced the newspaper strips, which had come to appear weekly in two-page allotments of three tiers to a page. War shortages reduced the space for the strip by a third, and later it appeared daily as a four-panel strip. Hergé's publisher had him agree to a new album format of four sixteen-page signatures, which gave sixty-two pages of story plus a cover page. Though the format reduced the page count it maintained the same amount of story by reducing the size of the panels reproduced. As The Shooting Star progressed he cut up and laid out clippings of the strip in an exercise book in preparation for the new layouts.[37] It was the first volume of The Adventures of Tintin to be conceived in the 62-page full-colour format that thereafter was the series standard.[38] Casterman published the album in September 1942.[39] Unlike the previous books in the series, because it was printed immediately in colour, it did not need to be totally redrawn.[40] The 176 daily strips from the original serialization were not enough to fill the 62 pages Casterman had allotted, so Hergé added panels, such as the half-page panel on page three of a giant telescope.[23] Hergé wanted to include a small gold star inside the "o" of "Étoile" on the cover page, but Casterman refused, deeming it too expensive.[41]

In 1954, Hergé began making various changes to the story for its re-publication. Aware of the controversy surrounding the anti-Semitic depiction of Blumenstein, he renamed the character "Bolhwinkel", adopting this name from bollewinkel, a Brussels dialect term for a confectionery store. He later discovered that, by coincidence, Bolhwinkel was also a Jewish name.[42] Trying to tone down the book's anti-American sentiment, he also changed the United States to a fictional South American nation called São Rico, substituting the U.S. flag flown by the Peary '​s crew to that of the fictional state.[43] In 1959, Hergé made a list of changes to be made to the artwork in The Shooting Star, which included altering Bohlwinkel's nose, though the changes were postponed and have never been made.[36]

Critical analysis[edit]

"The Shooting Star remains to this day a blot on Hergé's record. How did the man who had so eloquently defended the Native Americans in Tintin in America and the Chinese in The Blue Lotus, who only three years before denounced fascism in King Ottokar's Sceptre, become a propagandist for the Axis remains hard to understand. It did not have to be that way."

Randy and Jean-Marc Lofficier [24]

Pierre Assouline remarked that Hergé's attention to accuracy lapsed in The Shooting Star; for instance, neither a comet nor an asteroid approaching Earth would cause a heat wave, nor would it have floated on the surface of the ocean, but would have plunged to the sea floor, causing a tsunami.[9] He also noted that the concept of madness was a recurring theme throughout the story, and that there was "an unreality in the whole adventure".[9] Fellow biographer Benoît Peeters asserted that The Shooting Star was "of great power and brilliant construction".[6] Elsewhere, Peeters wrote that the book was "notable for the entry of the fantastic into Hergé's work".[44]

Jean-Marc and Randy Lofficier deemed the anti-Semitism a "sad moment" in the series, awarding the story one out of five stars.[8] Nevertheless, they felt that the "pre-apocalyptic ambience is stark and believable", and that the giant mushrooms on the meteor were a "strange anticipation" of the mushroom-clouds produced by the atomic bombings in 1945.[24] Focusing on the characters of Professor Phostle and Philippulus, they asserted that both resembled Sophocles Sarcophagus from Cigars of the Pharaoh and that the former was "in the Jules Verne tradition" of eccentric professors.[45] According to philosopher Pascal Bruckner, Tintin experts find Philippulus a caricature of Marshal of France Philippe Pétain, who demanded the French repent imaginary sins when he took power.[46] Philippe Goddin stated that the strips for this story "kept the reader daily on tender hooks in a story replete with new twists and humour".[47]

Harry Thompson described The Shooting Star as "the most important of all Hergé's wartime stories", having "an air of bizarre fantasy" that was unlike his prior work.[48] He observed that the character of Professor Phostle was a prototype for Professor Calculus, introduced later in the series.[49] Michael Farr asserted that the apocalyptic setting of the story reflected the wartime mood in Europe.[31] He calls the story's opening pages "unique in [Hergé's] work for the feeling of foreboding they convey", and that "Hergé daringly eschews the strip cartoonist's recognised means of denoting a dream, deliberately confusing the reader".[31] He felt that the "flow of the narrative is less accomplished" than in other stories, with "spurts and rushes followed by slower passages, upsetting the rhythm and pace".[50]

Literary critic Jean-Marie Apostolidès described The Shooting Star as "the final attempt of the foundling [i.e. Tintin] to rid himself of the bastard [i.e. Haddock] and to preserve the integrity of his former values", as evidence highlighting that the first thirteen pages are devoted purely to the boy reporter.[51] He also argued that Phostle and Philippus represent two halves of "an ambivalent father figure" within the story, with the former prefiguring Calculus "more than any other previous character".[52] He suggests that when hiding on the Aurora, Philippus can be compared to The Phantom of the Opera, because he steals a stick of dynamite and climbs up the ship's mast before threatening to detonate the weapon.[53] Apostolidès believed that the star itself is "more a religious mystery than a scientific one" and that Tintin is therefore "the perfect one to figure it out in some religious way – that is, unrealistically."[52] Turning to the political elements of the story, Apostolidès asserted that it represented a conflict between "the incarnation of unregulated capitalism against the spirit of European values" and that Hergé was adhering to "a utopian vision that in 1942 smacks of pro-German propaganda".[54]

Literary critic Tom McCarthy believed that The Shooting Star represents the apex of the "right-wing strain" in Hergé's work.[55] He highlighted the instance in which Tintin impersonates God in order to give commands to Philippus as representing one of various occasions in The Adventures of Tintin where "sacred authority manifests itself largely as a voice, and commanding—or commandeering—that voice is what guarantees power".[56] McCarthy further observes that the image of a giant spider in a ball of fire, which appears near the start of the story, reflects the theme of madness that is again present throughout the series.[57] Discussing the political elements of Hergé's series, McCarthy also noted that in the original publication of the story, the spider which climbed in front of the observatory telescope and was thus magnified greatly was initially termed Aranea Fasciata; he saw this as an intentional satire of the threat to Europe posed by fascism.[58]


In 1957, the animation company Belvision Studios produced a string of colour adaptations based on Hergé's original comics, adapting eight of the Adventures into a series of daily five-minute episodes. The Shooting Star was the sixth to be adapted in the second animated series; it was directed by Ray Goossens and written by Greg, a well-known cartoonist who was to become editor-in-chief of Tintin magazine.[59]

In 1991, a second animated series based upon The Adventures of Tintin was produced, this time as a collaboration between the French studio Ellipse and the Canadian animation company Nelvana. The Shooting Star was the eighth story to be adapted and was divided into two twenty-minute episodes. Directed by Stéphane Bernasconi, the series has been praised for being "generally faithful" to the original comics, to the extent that the animation was directly adopted from Hergé's original panels.[60]

In 2010, American cartoonist Charles Burns authored X'ed Out, a graphic novel with a variety of allusions to The Adventures of Tintin. In one scene, the protagonist, Nitnit discovers a warehouse containing white eggs with red spodges, akin to the mushrooms in The Shooting Star,[61] and the cover to Burns's book pays homage to that of Hergé.[62]



  1. ^ Le Soir as published during the occupation was known by Belgians as Le Soir volé (The Stolen Soir) as it was published without the approval of its original owners, Rossel & Cie, who regained ownership after the Liberation.[5]
  2. ^ Björgenskjöld may be seen on the right of the panel in which Professor Phostle is given the flag to plant on the meteorite.
  3. ^ This panel from the first version of The Shooting Star may be seen here: Ideology of Tintin#Tintin and the Jews


  1. ^ Hergé 1942, pp. 1–14.
  2. ^ Hergé 1942, pp. 15–28.
  3. ^ Hergé 1942, pp. 29–40.
  4. ^ Hergé 1942, pp. 41–62.
  5. ^ Assouline 2009, p. 70; Couvreur 2012.
  6. ^ a b Peeters 2012, p. 132.
  7. ^ a b Thompson 1991, p. 107.
  8. ^ a b Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 51.
  9. ^ a b c d e Assouline 2009, p. 81.
  10. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 107; Farr 2001, p. 100; Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 50.
  11. ^ Nygård 2013, pp. 120–128.
  12. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 50; Farr 2001, p. 100; Peeters 2012, p. 133.
  13. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 110; Peeters 1989, p. 71.
  14. ^ a b Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 49.
  15. ^ Remy 2012, p. 22.
  16. ^ Sadoul 1975; Peeters 2012, p. 134.
  17. ^ Assouline 2009, p. 82; Peeters 2012, p. 134.
  18. ^ a b Frey 2008, pp. 28–30.
  19. ^ Peeters 2012, pp. 131–132.
  20. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 49; Peeters 2012, p. 133.
  21. ^ Assouline 2009, p. 81; Peeters 2012, p. 133.
  22. ^ Screech 2005.
  23. ^ a b Farr 2001, p. 100.
  24. ^ a b c d Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 50.
  25. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 59.
  26. ^ McKinney 2011, p. 28.
  27. ^ McKinney 2011, p. 29.
  28. ^ a b McKinney 2011, p. 30.
  29. ^ McKinney 2011, p. 33.
  30. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 48; Frey 2008, p. 28; Assouline 2009, p. 80.
  31. ^ a b c d Farr 2001, p. 99.
  32. ^ Farr 2001, p. 99; Goddin 2009, p. 86.
  33. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 48.
  34. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 109; Farr 2001, p. 99; Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 49.
  35. ^ Assouline 2009, pp. 81–82; Peeters 2012, p. 135.
  36. ^ a b Peeters 2012, p. 135.
  37. ^ Taylor 2009.
  38. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 108; Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 48.
  39. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 48; Frey 2008, p. 28.
  40. ^ Remy 2012, p. 23.
  41. ^ Assouline 2009, p. 83.
  42. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 108; Farr 2001, p. 100; Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 49; Peeters 2012, p. 135.
  43. ^ Thompson 1991, pp. 107–108; Farr 2001, p. 100; Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 49; Peeters 2012, p. 135.
  44. ^ Peeters 1989, p. 70.
  45. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, pp. 48–49.
  46. ^ Bruckner 2013, p. 63.
  47. ^ Goddin 2009, p. 92.
  48. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 106.
  49. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 109.
  50. ^ Farr 2001, p. 103.
  51. ^ Apostolidès 2010, p. 126.
  52. ^ a b Apostolidès 2010, p. 127.
  53. ^ Apostolidès 2010, p. 129.
  54. ^ Apostolidès 2010, p. 133.
  55. ^ McCarthy 2006, p. 38.
  56. ^ McCarthy 2006, p. 52.
  57. ^ McCarthy 2006, p. 81.
  58. ^ McCarthy 2006, p. 40.
  59. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, pp. 87–88.
  60. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 90.
  61. ^ Schwartz 2010.
  62. ^ Das 2012.


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