Recap / Tintin The Shooting Star

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One night when on a walk with Snowy, Tintin notices a new star has appeared in the Great Bear. When he notices that the star appears to be growing larger, he questions the astronomer Professor Decimus Phostle about it. Tintin discovers to his dismay that the star is in fact a meteor that is due to collide with the Earth and cause The End of the World as We Know It.

Fortunately, Phostle's assistant's calculations are proven wrong when the meteor ends up missing the Earth. However, a small piece of the meteor still crashes onto the planet and lands in the Arctic ocean, causing a short earthquake. When it is discovered that the meteor is made up of a hitherto unknown substance, the story becomes a race with Tintin, Phostle, Captain Haddock and a team of scientists on one side and the Peary, a crew hired by the villainous Mr. Bohlwinkel on the other side. Whoever's the first to reach the meteor's location and claim the mysterious material will be making the discovery of a lifetime.

Written during a period in which Belgium was occupied by Nazi Germany, the book is an oddball among the canon of Tintin stories, particularly given the fantastical elements. Controversy over Herge's depictions of Americans and Jews have dogged the work. A revamped version made some changes, particularly in terms of the antagonists' nationality.


Tropes:

  • Absent-Minded Professor: Prof. Decimus Phostle is a straight example.
  • Ace Pilot: The unnamed seaplane pilot. First, he lands his plane dodging several icebergs, then he lands in rough seas to save Tintin's life.
  • Adaptational Early Appearance: Professor Calculus appears in the Belvision animated series episode of The Shooting Star, replacing Professor Phostle. Calculus didn't appear until Red Rackham's Treasure two albums later in the comic books.
  • Adapted Out:
    • Captain Chester in both the Belvision and Nelvana cartoons.
    • Professor Phostle is replaced by Professor Calculus in the Belvision version.
  • Admiring the Abomination: Prof. Phostle is absolutely giddy about the upcoming end-of-the-world meteor.
    • "It will destroy the world tonight. Tomorrow, everyone will know my name for discovering it!"
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Philippulus the doomsday prophet announces that doom is nigh, and that those who survive the cataclysm will suffer from "pestilence, famine and measles." Granted, measles is a much more serious disease than most people think it is, but odds are it isn't going to be the main thing you're concerned about in the face of literal Armageddon.
  • Art Shift: Herge's ligne claire style ordinarily involves little to no depiction of shadows. However, as Tintin wanders the streets after hearing about the impending meteor, his shadow, Snowy's, and those of other people and objects are portrayed in stark black ink (because of the new light source). This creates a chilly, high-contrast visual scheme for several pages, contributing a lot to the eerie atmosphere of anticipation before the meteor passes.
  • Badass Beard: Philippulus.
  • Big Bad: Mr. Bohlwinkel.
  • Binocular Shot
  • Brotherhood of Funny Hats / Weird Trade Union: Haddock and Chester seem to be in one for merchant captains, complete with bizarre greeting ritual.
  • The Cameo: Thomson and Thompson make only a single panel cameo, watching the Aurora depart. The same panel also includes a cameo by Quick and Flupke, characters that are the titular protagonists of one of Hergé's other series.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Prof. Phostle seems to be under the impression that discovering the meteor that will destroy the world will make him famous and is severely disappointed when it turns out that it doesn't. He doesn't exactly get more reasonable when he heads over to inspect the chunk of it that landed in the ocean (wanting to name the new, alien substance "Phostilite").
    • Phillipulus the prophet was apparently a real astronomer before the fateful meteor came down, and he's genuinely gone insane.
  • Composite Character: Phillipus is combined with the astronomy assistant who made a mistake in his calculations in the Belvision version.
  • Compressed Adaptation: The Nelvana adaptation is only 22 minutes long.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Bohlwinkel.
  • Demoted to Extra: Phillipulus in the Nelvana adaptation, where he only appears at the start of the episode and during Tintin's nightmare.
  • Depth Deception: The spider running across the lens of Phostle's telescope...
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Tintin dreams he is visited by Philippulus the prophet, who then shows him a picture of a gigantic spider. The madman claims that the creature is life-size. Later in the story, he actually meets Philippulus again, and Tintin soon discovers a new island where a spider has indeed grown to gigantic size, due to the radiation (or whatever else) of the meteor.
  • Dunking the Bomb: An early attempt to sabotage the Aurora with a stick of dynamite is thwarted when Tintin throws it into the harbour.
  • Eagleland: In the original version, Bohlwinkel (or "Blumenstein") and the crew of the Peary are Type 2 examples. In the later versions, they are instead from the fictional Banana Republic São Rico. The nationality contrast between the protagonist ship and the antagonist ship is understandably enough given how the work was written under Axis occupation, although things are muddled. While the Big Bad was intended to be American (Allied), Haddock is explicitly British (Allied), and other helpful characters range from being likely Axis to likely neutral to having an ambiguously defined nationality.
  • The End Is Nigh: Philippulus adopts this view when he sees the meteor, claiming to be a prophet of God.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: The captain of the Peary forbids one of his crew members to shoot Tintin when Tintin is about to claim the meteor for the Aurora.
  • Friends All Along: Haddock and Chester clash violently and seem about to have a martial arts duel when they meet, but it is actually their quirky greeting ritual.
  • Fungus Humongous: Fast-growing, exploding mushrooms on the meteor. It Makes As Much Sense In Context.
  • Giant Spider: Tintin briefly mistakes a spider crawling over the lens of Phostle's telescope for a planet-sized arachnid heading for Earth. Played for Laughs. However, the radiation (or whatever else) of the meteor is found to have created a real Giant Spider.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: Philippulus.
  • Greedy Jew: Mr. Bohlwinkel. The work was published in the newspaper Le Soir, which was headed by collaborators Horace Van Offel and Raymond De Becker when Belgium was under occupation by Nazi Germany during World War II. The stereotyping isn't a surprise given the circumstances but still appears grating.
    • In the original edition, two Jews can at one point be talking about the end of the world, with one of them noting that if that were the case, he wouldn't have to pay his debts. To say that it's a "Funny Aneurysm" Moment is beyond an understatement. Thankfully, this was scrubbed entirely in the revamped version.
    • Mr. Bohlwinkel also comes across to many as a stereotypical caricature of Jews. Worse yet, in the original version (which was, again, written directly under Nazi occupation), he was given the very Jewish name of Blumenstein, his country of origin being the U.S. As stated above, the later version changed that to the fictional São Rico, while Herg&eacute altered the name to Mr. Bohlwinkel... which is also a Jewish name (something that apparently he didn't know).
      • This leads to the further unfortunate implication that South Americans and Jews are interchangeable when it comes to villainy, given how terribly the antagonist ship acts.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: Philippulus versus Captain Haddock over who's in charge on the ship.
  • Happy Dance: Tintin when he's sees the seaplane coming back to rescue him... until he finds himself facing an immense spider.
  • Harmless Villain: Philippulus the so-called prophet. He poses a real threat to the protagonists with his shenanigans, but he's acting out of genuine mental instability without a hint of actual malice. It doesn't take much effort for Tintin and associates to deal with him.
  • Hypocritical Humor: There are a number of gags about Haddock being the President of the Society of Sober Sailors.
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Philippulus. 'Villain' doesn't even quite fit, as he's more of an entertaining loon than anything.
  • Mood Whiplash: The opening section (when it appears The End of the World as We Know It is coming) is very stark, introspective and terrifying with even Tintin's nerve cracking under the sense of an impending doom that looks unstoppable. Knowing the context makes it even more chilling. The remaining two thirds are an exciting Race Against the Clock adventure- still tense but far lighter than the first few pages.
  • My Brain Is Big: Professor Phostle has a very large forehead.
  • No Name Given: Mr. Bohlwinkel is not named in the Nelvana version.
  • Oddball in the Series: Let's just say you can tell it was written under Nazi occupation immediately. It's not just the aforementioned use of Americans and Jews as villains. The fantastical and supernatural elements used in an escapist way are truly unusual for a Tintin book, and they stand out even more if somebody's reading this right after the highly grounded previous comic. Given the ending, with the mysterious alien substance amounting to nothing in the long run, the whole thing is kind of a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment.
  • Punny Name: Mr. Bohlwinkel's name was based on the Marol dialect (spoken by Flemish people in Brussels) expression bolwinkel, which means candy store.
  • Race Against the Clock: First, to beat the Peary. Second, to escape with their lives as the chunk of alien rock sinks under the waves.
  • Reality Ensues: Seriously, Tintin (and all your friends), should you really be that surprised that the huge, mysterious chunk of alien rock, floating about when it should probably be already at the bottom of the ocean, is sinking? Or that surprised that it's so dangerous that you can't properly handle it, even to take just a little bit of it back for analysis?
  • Rule of Threes: Snowy eating the cook's dinner. The third time, the man finally remembers to shut the door, doing so right in the dog's face.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: It looks as if this will be narrowly averted. Tintin remembers to grab a hunk of Phostilite just moments before the meteor sinks under the waves. However, the substance reacts before it can be properly tested, and the whole series of events ends up meaning nothing in the grand scheme of the Tintin stories.
  • Unobtainium: The extra-terrestrial metal the meteor is made of is sought after by the two expeditions. It has extraordinary growth properties, making a giant apple tree and giant mushrooms grow in no time. It also makes critters such as a dragonfly and a spider grow to monstrous sizes. It's unclear but amazing properties make it all the more frustrating how the substance reacts away, never to be even mentioned in later stories.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Captains Haddock and Chester. When they meet in Akureyri, Tintin believes they are going to attack each other. They're really performing some odd salutation ritual.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: A fake distress call is sent out, attempting to send the Aurora off course. However, Tintin realises the call sign doesn't match any vessel in the register. He's right.
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