The Shooting Star is the tenth of The Adventures of Tintin, a series of classic comic-strip books that were written and illustrated by Belgian writer and illustrator Hergé, sequel to The Crab with the Golden Claws, featuring young reporter Tintin as a hero. Its original French-language title is L'Étoile mystérieuse ("the mysterious star").The Shooting Star tells the story of Tintin's voyage to the Arctic Ocean to recover a meteor that is composed of Phostlite, an unknown metal. It was first serialized in the newspaper Le Soir in black and white in 1941, and was subsequently published in a colour album in 1942.
One night Tintin is out walking with his dog Snowy. The evening is particularly hot. Tintin then notices an extra star in the Great Bear. When he reaches home, he calls the Observatory. They say that they have the phenomenon under observation and hang up.Tintin wonders why it is so hot, and opens the window. He sees that the star is getting bigger every minute. He walks to the Observatory, and, after some trouble, gets inside. He meets a man called Philippulus the Prophet who proclaims himself to be a prophet and tells him that "It is a Judgement! Woe!" Puzzled, Tintin proceeds to the main room with the giant telescope. There he meets the director of the observatory, Decimus Phostle, who explains that the extra star is a vast ball of fire making it way towards Earth, which will cause the end of the world tomorrow morning. In the event, however, the shooting star does not collide with the Earth, but passes by it. A piece of it, a meteorite, lands in the arctic ocean, causing an earthquake that lasts a mere few seconds.
After an analysis of a spectroscopic photo of the meteor, Phostle deduces that it is composed of an entirely new metal. He names this metal "Phostlite," but is dismayed to discover that the meteor has landed in the sea and therefore, presumably, is lost. Tintin, however, realises that the meteor could be protruding above the surface of the water, and the Professor is persuaded to organise an expedition led by himself to find the metal and to retrieve a sample of it for further research. The expedition consists of leading scientists, as well as Tintin, Snowy and the alcoholic Captain Haddock (ironically serving as president of the Society for Sober Sailors), aboard the trawler Aurora. However, unknown to the Aurora expedition, another team has already set out, backed by a financier from São Rico by the name of Mr. Bohlwinkel, aboard the polar expedition ship Peary. The expedition becomes a race to be the first to land on the meteor.
Bohlwinkel attempts to sabotage the Aurora expedition by getting a henchman to plant a stick of dynamite on the ship on the eve of departure, but Snowy urinates on the fuse to extinguish it. Philippulus soon appears with the same stick of dynamite but it falls into the sea; Philippulus is escorted off the ship by doctors from a mental hospital, who reveal that he's an escaped inmate. While crossing the North Sea the Aurora is almost rammed into 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. Coming close to catching the Peary, the Aurora then receives an indistinct distress call from another ship and has to turn round in order to help. Inquiries by Tintin then 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. Tintin uses the ship's seaplane to parachute onto the meteor and plant the expedition flag, beating the crew of the Peary by seconds. Tintin makes camp while the ship's over-exerted engines are repaired. The next day he discovers the remarkable properties of Phostlite: his apple core instantly grows into an enormous tree full of oversized apples, and a maggot turns into a massive butterfly. Tintin and Snowy are menaced by a giant spider which is crushed by an apple and huge, exploding mushrooms before rescue arrives. Then a sudden seaquake shakes the meteor to its core, and the young reporter and Snowy retrieve a rock sample and jump to safety as the rock sinks into the sea. The triumphant expedition's return is reported on the radio. Bohlwinkel listens at first in frustrated silence, but then gets concerned at the news that law enforcement agencies are closing on him over his attempts at destroying and delaying the Aurora. Back on the ship itself, as they prepare to dock, the Captain announces that they are short on one vital commodity; whisky.
The Shooting Star was first published in serial form in the newspaper Le Soir in black and white in 1941. It was subsequently published in a colour album in 1942, the first Tintin album to be in colour. It was also the first Tintin story that was restricted from the start to what would become the standard fixed length of 62 pages. The previous stories had all been about 110 pages long in their original incarnations due to the size of the panels.
The original version had some significant differences from later editions; for example the rival expedition is from the United States. There are also villainous Jewish characters which led to charges of anti-Semitism against Hergé: when the end of the world is announced, two stereotypical Jewish men are seen hoping that the disaster will mean they do not have to pay off their creditors. In addition, the main villain of the piece is an American financier with a Jewish name, Blumenstein.
The two Jewish debtors were removed when the story was published in book form. In later editions of the book, the villains hail from the fictional country of São Rico, and Blumenstein's name becomes Bohlwinkel (a name less immediately identifiable as Jewish). Despite these changes, traces of the original version remain: the Sao Rican ships still have American names (the Peary and the Kentucky Star) and Tintin uses a World War II Arado 196 German reconnaissance aircraft.
In the original French language version of the scene where Philippulus is at the top of the mast, Captain Haddock claims that he is the only master of the ship after God and orders Philippulus to climb down. But Philippulus rejects this by claiming that it is he who is the only master after God. Tintin also claims to be the voice of God the Father when he uses the megaphone to tell Philippulus to climb back down. Such references were taken out of the English translation, presumably to avoid offending the Church. Instead, Tintin says he is "your guardian angel speaking from heaven".
- This book features a brief appearance of The Sirius, which is later used as the expedition vessel in "Red Rackham's Treasure". However, the version of The Sirius shown here looks somewhat different from its depiction in the later album.
- Philippulus the Prophet drops Tintin's suitcase on the head of Professor Professor Paul Cantonneau a member of the expedition. Cantonneau later reappears as one of the victims of "The Seven Crystal Balls" which explains how he and Tintin know each other when Tintin phones to warn him of the danger just when Cantonneau does fall victim, but he later get recovered in "Prisoners of the Sun".
- Quick & Flupke, who made a cameo appearance in "Tintin in the Congo", also make a cameo appearance in this book, where they are rushing to see the Aurora set sail. They had also previously appeared as protagonists in their own comic series Quick & Flupke, which Hergé abandoned to focus more on Tintin.
- Although Captain Chester made an only appearance in the whole comic series, specifically in this comic book, he was later mentioned in "The Secret of the Unicorn", "Red Rackham's Treasure", "The Seven Crystal Balls" and in "The Castafiore Emerald".
- Captain Haddock
- Thompson and Thomson (cameo)
- Philippulus the Prophet
- Decimus Phostle
- Eric Björgensköld
- Porfirio Bolero y Calamares
- Otto Schulze
- Professor Paul Cantonneau
- Pedro João Dos Santos
- Mr. Bohlwinkel
- Captain Chester
- Captain of the Peary
- The atmosphere of doom and foreboding that occupies the early part of the story very much conveys the feelings of the time, when World War II was still at its height.
- When Phostle announces the discovery of Phostlite he decides to celebrate with a packet of sweets — a rather odd way of celebrating a discovery of this importance. As well as the humour, it may be a reflection on the fact that most foodstuffs were rationed during the war.
- Philippulus the Prophet drops Tintin's suitcase on the head of Professor Professor Paul Cantonneau a member of the expedition. Cantonneau later reappears as one of the victims of The Seven Crystal Balls which explains how he and Tintin know each other when Tintin phones to warn him of the danger just when Cantonneau does fall victim.
- Thomson and Thompson only appear in one panel in this adventure, as they make their way to the docks to see the Aurora off. Also in the same panel are Quick & Flupke, fans of Tintin, who had also appeared in the opening panel of Tintin in the Congo.
- In most of the Tintin books involving sea travel, Hergé was careful to obtain as much data concerning the ships involved in the adventure as possible. However, the Aurora was an entirely fictional vessel, and Hergé admitted later that it was probably unseaworthy.
- Eric Björgensköld from Sweden is part of the expedition. He can be seen on the right of the panel in which Phostle is given the flag to plant on the meteorite. He physically resembles a real person: the Swiss Auguste Piccard, who was Hergé's inspiration for Professor Calculus.
- The seaplane pilot who flies Tintin to the meteorite and back is nameless, but after WWII he featured in a number of text articles in the newly-launched Tintin magazine. In these articles, Tintin would "interview" the pilot and Captain Haddock on technical details concerning aircraft and ships, from models to full-scale versions. The questions in the interviews were based on readers' letters. The technical aspects of balloons and planes were explained by the seaplane pilot who was given the name Major Wings and often lapsed into English. The rank of Major would imply an American USAF commission — which would be odd for a European-based expedition — but it might be noted that continental writers have often given Army ranks to officers of the British RAF regardless of the fact that it does not use such a system. The comic book hero Colonel Clifton, who is retired from the RAF, is an example of this — his proper rank would be that of Group Captain.
- This book features a brief appearance of the Sirius, which is later used as the expedition vessel in Red Rackham's Treasure. The version of Sirius shown here looks somewhat different from its depiction in the later album.
- Tintin, who had disapproved of Captain Haddock's drinking in The Crab with the Golden Claws, actually gets him to drink alcohol in order to make him more co-operative — he would use the same tactic in The Red Sea Sharks and Tintin in Tibet.
- The Peary sends out a fake distress signal for a ship starting with the letters V-I-L, and in The Broken Ear, the name of the ship is the Ville de Lyon. There is a possible connection here.
- Captain Chester does not appear in the 1991 television series
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