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
Creators Hergé
Original publication
Published in Le Soir Jeunesse
Date of publication 20 October 1941 – 21 May 1942
Language French
ISBN 2-203-00109-7
Publisher Methuen
Date 1961
ISBN 978-0-316-35851-4
  • 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 first serialised in black-and-white in Belgium's leading newspaper Le Soir during the German occupation of Belgium during World War II, from October 1941 to May 1942. 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 proved to be one of the most controversial instalments in the series, being accused of anti-Semitism for its portrayal of Jewish characters, and it has received a mixed critical reception. The story was adapted for both the 1957 Belvision animation, Hergé's Adventures of Tintin, and for the 1991 Ellipse/Nelvana animated series The Adventures of Tintin.


A giant meteorite approaches the earth, observed 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 it 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]

However, 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 be the first 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 his ship out of the way. Further setbacks occur at the Icelandic port of Akureyri, when Captain Haddock is informed that there is no fuel available. He is furious, but then 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 of them 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 then receives an indistinct distress call from another ship and has to turn round to help. Inquiries by Tintin lead him to realise that the distress signal is a fake designed to further delay them. Resuming the journey, they then intercept a cable announcing that the Peary expedition has reached the meteorite but not actually claimed it yet. While the Peary crew rows to the meteorite, Tintin uses the ship's seaplane to parachute onto the meteorite and plant the expedition flag, beating the crew of the Peary by seconds. The Aurora expedition has won the race.[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 apple 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 back into the Aurora.[4]



A German Arado 196 seaplane used by Hergé as inspiration for the type used by Tintin in the book

During World War II amid the German occupation of Belgium, Hergé had found employment at Le Soir, Belgium's leading newspaper, now under Nazi control.[a] 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 Belgians.[6] It was alongside this content that daily strips of The Adventures of Tintin appeared.

The United States would be the antagonists in this new adventure. Hergé later asserted that The Shooting Star revolved around the theme of "the rivalry for progress between Europe and the United States."[7] Although not disliking Americans themselves, he exhibited a strong dislike of American big business,[8] and had exhibited anti-American themes in earlier works, namely Tintin in America.[9] During serialisation of the story, in December 1941, the United States joined the Allies in World War II, with Germany declaring war on them.[10] Reflecting this political trend, all the scientists featured in the story were from Axis or neutral countries.[11] However, as Harry Thompson noted, the only two nation-states in Europe not fitting into those two categories at the time was the Soviet Union and United Kingdom, and that furthermore the characters of Haddock and Chester were British.[8]

As in most of the Tintin books involving sea travel, Hergé was careful to obtain as much data about real ships as possible. Aurora was based on RRS William Scoresby and the Peary was most likely another Antarctic ship, RRS Discovery.[12] Hergé later claimed that if Aurora had been a real ship, it would probably be unseaworthy.[13] The seaplane on which the expedition travels was based on the German Arado 196-A.[14]

The Shooting Star shared plot similarities with Jules Verne's 1908 novel The Chase of the Golden Meteor.[15] As in Hergé's story, Verne's novel featured an expedition to the North Atlantic to find a meteor fragment which contained a new element. 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 claimed not to have read more than one of Verne's novels, although this influence may have come from Jacques Van Melkebeke.[15] The Swedish expedition member Eric Björgenskjöld[b] physically resembles a real person: Auguste Piccard, who was Hergé's inspiration for Professor Calculus.[16]


"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[17]

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.[10] The character of Blumenstein was also based on such anti-Semitic stereotypes, having a bulbous nose and being an avaricious, manipulative businessman.[18] 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, with one commenting "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 ay I von't haf to pay vem!" Hergé omitted this scene when publishing the story in book form.[19][c] Hergé had recently provided illustrations for Robert de Vroyland's Fables, a number of which were based on anti-Semitic stereotypes, reflecting the racist nature of much of the book.[20] Hergé later dismissed concerns over the Jewish caricature of Blumenstein, saying, "That was the style then."[10]

According to Hugo Frey, author of Trapped in the Past: Anti-Semitism in Hergé's Flight 714, the anti-Semitism in The Shooting Star played into the political situation in Belgium at the time. Within months of the story's publication, legislation was passed to collect and deport Jews from Belgium to German concentration camps. [21] In contrast, Matthew Screech, author of Masters of the Ninth Art: Bandes Dessinées and Franco-Belgian Identity, says Blumenstein was an anti-American stereotype, not anti-Jewish one.[22] Similarly, 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 was present, asserting that it is the United States and International Jewry who were the "ruthless opponents" of Tintin.[24]


The Shooting Star was serialized daily in the Le Soir from 20 October 1941 to 21 May 1942[25] under its original title L'Étoile mystérieuse (The Mysterious Star).[26] Tintin's previous adventure, The Crab with the Golden Claws, had been serialized weekly until the demise of the newspaper it appeared in, Le Soir Jeunesse, and continued daily in Le Soir; the earlier adventure had ended serialisation the day before The Shooting Star began.[27] The Shooting Star was the first Tintin adventure to be serialized daily in its entirety.[26] As with earlier Adventures of Tintin, the story was later serialised in France in the Catholic newspaper Cœurs Vaillants from 6 June 1943.[28]

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).

On page 20 of the published book, Hergé included a cameo of the characters Thomson and Thompson, as well as Quick & Flupke.[24] His story also introduced Captain Chester, who would be mentioned in later adventures, and Professor Cantonneau, who returns in The Seven Crystal Balls.[29]

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 undertaking raids on Jewish premises. Jews would subsequently be deported to Nazi concentration camps and extermination camps, with around 32,000 Belgian Jews being killed.[30] Hergé later recalled that "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."[31]

A few months later in September 1942, The Shooting Star was published as a colour album by Casterman.[32] Unlike the previous books in the series, because it was printed immediately in colour, it did not need to be totally redrawn.[33] It was the first volume of the Adventures of Tintin to be conceived from the start in the standard fixed length of 62 pages with colour throughout.[34] The 176 daily strips from the original serialization were not enough to fill up the 62 pages Casterman had allotted the book, so Hergé added panels, such as the half-page panel on page three of a giant telescope.[23] Hergé had wanted to include a small gold star inside the "o" of "Étoile" on the cover page, but Casterman refused, deeming it too expensive.[35]

In 1954, nearly a decade after the climate of wartime, Hergé set about making various changes to the story for its re-publication. Aware of the controversy surrounding the anti-Semitic depiction of Blumenstein, he decided to rename the character; he named the character Bolhwinkel after bollewinkel, the name of a candy shop in Brussels dialect. However, he later discovered that, by coincidence, Bolhwinkel was also a Jewish name.[36] 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.[37] 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 indefinitely postponed.[31]

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]

Hergé biographer Pierre Assouline remarked that Hergé's attention to accuracy lapsed in The Shooting Star: 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 into its depths, leaving a massive tsunami in its wake.[10] 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".[10] Fellow biographer Benoit Peeters asserted that The Shooting Star was "of great power and brilliant construction".[7] Elsewhere, Peeters noted that the book was "notable for the entry of the fantastic into Hergé's work."[38]

Jean-Marc Lofficier and Randy Lofficier thought it a "sad moment" in the series' history due to its anti-Semitism, awarding it one out of five stars.[9] 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 bomb.[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.[39] 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."[40]

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.[41] He also observed that the character of Professor Phostle was a prototype for Professor Calculus, who would be introduced later in the series.[42] Michael Farr asserted that the apocalyptic setting of the story reflected the wartime mood in Europe.[26] He notes that the story's opening pages are "unique in his 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."[26] He also 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."[43]

Literary critic Jean-Marie Apostolidès of Stanford University 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 the first thirteen pages are devoted purely to the former.[44] 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."[45] He then suggests that when hiding on the Aurora, Philippus "plays the role of the Phantom of the Opera".[45] 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".[45] 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".[46]

Literary critic Tom McCarthy believed that The Shooting Star represents the apex of the "right-wing strain" in Hergé's work.[47] 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."[48] 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.[49]

Nazi apologists and revisionists such as French Holocaust denier Olivier Mathieu used The Shooting Star as evidence that Hergé was an anti-Semite and had Nazi sympathies.[50]


In 1957, the animation company Belvision Studios produced a string of colour adaptations based upon 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, being directed by Ray Goossens and written by Greg, himself a well-known cartoonist who in later years would become editor-in-chief of Tintin magazine.[51]

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. Adapting 21 of the stories into a series of episodes, each 42 minutes long, The Shooting Star was the eighth story to be produced into the series, with the story spanning two episodes. Directed by Stéphane Bernasconi, the series has been praised for being "generally faithful", with compositions having been actually directly taken from the panels in the original comic book.[52]



  1. ^ Le Soir 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, who resumed publication after the war.[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; Slater 2012.
  6. ^ Assouline 2009, p. 82; Peeters 2012, p. 134.
  7. ^ a b Peeters 2012, p. 132.
  8. ^ a b Thompson 1991, p. 107.
  9. ^ a b Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 51.
  10. ^ a b c d e Assouline 2009, p. 81.
  11. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 107; Farr 2001, p. 100; Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 50.
  12. ^ Nygård 2013, pp. 120–128.
  13. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 110; Peeters 1989, p. 71.
  14. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 50; Farr 2001, p. 100; Peeters 2012, p. 133.
  15. ^ a b Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 49.
  16. ^ Remy 2012, p. 22.
  17. ^ Sadoul 1975; Peeters 2012, p. 134.
  18. ^ Assouline 2009, p. 81; Peeters 2012, p. 133.
  19. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 49; Peeters 2012, p. 133.
  20. ^ Peeters 2012, pp. 131–132.
  21. ^ Frey 2008, pp. 28–30.
  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. 48; Frey 2008, p. 28; Assouline 2009, p. 80.
  26. ^ a b c d Farr 2001, p. 99.
  27. ^ Farr 2001, p. 99; Goddin 2009, p. 86.
  28. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 48.
  29. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 109; Farr 2001, p. 99; Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 49.
  30. ^ Assouline 2009, pp. 81–82; Peeters 2012, p. 135.
  31. ^ a b Peeters 2012, p. 135.
  32. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 48; Frey 2008, p. 28.
  33. ^ Remy 2012, p. 23.
  34. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 108; Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 48.
  35. ^ Assouline 2009, p. 83.
  36. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 108; Farr 2001, p. 100; Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 49; Peeters 2012, p. 135.
  37. ^ Thompson 1991, pp. 107–108; Farr 2001, p. 100; Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 49; Peeters 2012, p. 135.
  38. ^ Peeters 1989, p. 70.
  39. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, pp. 48–49.
  40. ^ Goddin 2009, p. 92.
  41. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 106.
  42. ^ Thompson 1991, p. 109.
  43. ^ Farr 2001, p. 103.
  44. ^ Apostolidès 2010, p. 126.
  45. ^ a b c Apostolidès 2010, p. 127.
  46. ^ Apostolidès 2010, p. 133.
  47. ^ McCarthy 2006, p. 38.
  48. ^ McCarthy 2006, p. 52.
  49. ^ McCarthy 2006, p. 81.
  50. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 59.
  51. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, pp. 87–88.
  52. ^ Lofficier & Lofficier 2002, p. 90.


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