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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 World War II 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.


  • 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 issues 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.
  • All-Natural Fire Extinguisher: Snowy puts out a dynamite stick by peeing on it offscreen.
  • 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!"
  • Ambiguously Jewish: Mr. Bohlwinkel, the New World banker who sponsors the villainous rival expedition to claim the meteor. His appearance (the Sizable Semitic Nose) and name (and, perhaps, profession) can be taken to suggest that he is a (caricature of a) Jew—he was actually named "Blumenstein" before Hergé modified the album after the war, trying to pick a name for the character that wouldn't invoke this, basing it on a Belgian slang expression as a sort of in-joke. Averted completely with the other villains, who all have typically Anglo-Saxon names.
  • Apocalypse How: If the main asteroid had collided with Earth, probably a class 4 at least. The fragment that detaches from it nevertheless causes a class 1.
  • 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.
  • Artistic License – Engineering: You shouldn't be able to see the spider covering the telescope. Real telescopes don't work that way. The telescope would focus on objects at a vast distance (i.e. the stars); something covering the telescope would only result in a blur on its location.
  • Artistic Licence – Physics: For an asteroid the size of the fragment (which is implied to be several kilometers across at least, since it falls into the Atlantic Ocean and doesn't completely sink), it is accurate that it would cause a major earthquake in much of the world, but it would do much more. Not only would it be pulverized by the impact, but it would also create a crater more than ten kilometers across, sending billions of tons of material into the atmosphere and starting a volcanic winter, and displace an enormous quantity of water, causing a megatsunami several hundred meters tall that would destroy much of the Atlantic coastline. It might not be the end of Mankind as it would have been if the much bigger main asteroid had hit, but it would still be the most cataclysmic event humanity ever lived through.
  • 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.
  • Ascended Extra: Thomson and Thompson only appeared in one panel in the comic, but are members of the expedition in the Belvision adaptation.
  • Banana Peel: Haddock slips on a spaghetti strand.
  • Brotherhood of Funny Hats: 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.
  • Claiming Via Flag: Tintin and the rival American scientists on the Peary race to be the first to plant their flag on the meteorite. Tintin succeeds, though he has some trouble undoing the knots.
  • Cloudcuckoolander:
    • 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 "Phostlite").
    • Philippulus the prophet was apparently a real astronomer before the fateful meteor came down, and he's genuinely gone insane.
  • Composite Character: Philippulus is combined with the astronomy assistant who made a mistake in his calculations in the Belvision version.
  • Compressed Adaptation: The episode from the 1991 animated series is only 22 minutes long. Tintin spends an entire night on the meteor while in the series he stays an hour at most on it.
  • Demoted to Extra: Philippulus 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...
  • Didn't Think This Through: 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?
  • Dramatic Sitdown: Haddock has to sit down when the news sink in about the R.S. Peary having beaten them. Unfortunately, it's Snowy he rests himself on.
  • 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.
  • Eldritch Location: The surface of the asteroid fragment is this due to the strange radiation the rocks produce. Flora and fungi grow at insane speed, to the point that after just one day the apple Tintin throws become an entire forest of apple trees shedding boulder-sized apples. It also makes fauna grow enormous. Why it doesn't make Tintin or Snowy themselves grow giant as well isn't explained.
  • 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 is horrified when one of his crew members tries to shoot Tintin in a last-ditch attempt to stop the Aurora from claiming the meteor, and immediately puts a stop to it.
    Captain: What are you doing, Frank?! Have you gone crazy?!
  • Fictional Country: São Rico, financier Bohlwinkel's home country.
  • Flaming Meteor: The meteor is seen as "a huge fireball" in the telescope.
  • 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. It still comes off as foreshadowing for what comes next.
    • The radiation (or whatever else) of the meteor is found to have enlarged a small spider that escaped from Tintin's cantine. Luckily, the spider dies crushed under a giant apple before it can harm Tintin.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: The astronomer Philippulus in response to the meteor, dressing in white robes, preaching The End Is Nigh and generally making a nuisance of himself.
  • Greedy Jew: Mr. Bohlwinkel, assuming that he is indeed Jewish. The work was published in the newspaper Le Soir, which was headed by pro-Nazi editor 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 these 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 stereotypical portrayal is beyond an understatement. This was scrubbed entirely in the revamped version.
    • Mr. Bohlwinkel also comes across to many as a stereotypical caricature of Jews, the Sizable Semitic Nose in particular. Worse yet, in the original version (which was, again, written directly under Nazi occupation), he was given the very Jewish name "Blumenstein", his country of origin being the USA. As stated above, the later version changed that to the fictional São Rico, while Hergé altered the name to Mr. "Bohlwinkel"... which is also a Jewish name (something that apparently Hergé didn't know).
  • Green Around the Gills: The passengers of the ship get green faces as a sign of their sea sickness. Captain Haddock of course takes the rough seas entirely in stride.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: Philippulus versus Captain Haddock over who's in charge on the ship.
  • Happy Dance: Tintin when he 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:
    • Snowy and the spider at the observatory:
    Snowy: A spider? ... A harmless little spider! That's all it was, scaring them out of their wits! ... This'll kill me. *sees spider* WOOOOOAAAAAAHHH!!!!!
    • There are a number of gags about Haddock being the President of the Society of Sober Sailors. A good example is Haddock being honored as the President... while boxes of whiskey are loaded onto the ship behind him.
  • 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 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.
  • Outside Ride: Swowy latching onto the wing of the plane. Tintin comes to rescue him.
  • Pictorial Letter Substitution: The French logo title "L'Étoile mystérieuse" has the "o" from "Étoile" replaced by a circle with a star inside.
  • 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, coming down to a last-minute race to be the first to plant their flag on the meteor. Second, to escape with their lives as the chunk of alien rock sinks under the waves.
  • Rule of Three: 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 Phostlite 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.
  • Timmy in a Well: Snowy barks loudly to point Tintin and Haddock to the bomb on the ship.
  • Tropaholics Anonymous: Society of Sober Sailors, the sea equivalent to Alcoholics Anonymous.
  • 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. Its unclear but amazing properties make it all the more frustrating how the substance reacts away, never to be even mentioned in later stories.
  • Worm in an Apple: While waiting for his team to come pick up the meteorite, Tintin eats an apple he discovers a maggot inside of. Either he didn't find it until after consuming most of the apple or he was hungry enough to remove the maggot and continue eating, because he throws away only the core. The next morning, the maggot has metamorphosized into a giant fly and the apple core has sprouted into a humongous tree all due to the meteorite's influence.
  • 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, so they're soon back on course.