Dread apparition in the sky!

A roaring star is dislodged, is falling toward us, and is burning up the world. Follow our hero, Tintin, and look through the lens of Professor Phostle's telescope.
Shooting Star pg 5.jpg
THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN: The Shooting Star, by Herge, Little, Brown and Company, 1978, pp 5.


Will that which comes unbidden from the dark deep of space, that monster of impersonal destruction, that which is alien to life, our life … will it burn us and smash us to smithereens?

No, because this is a Tintin adventure, The Shooting Star (L'Etoile Mysterieuse in its original French), by comic artist Herge. Any prophecy of doom will turn out to be a silly miscalculation.

shooting star pg 10.jpg
shooting star pg 11.jpg
THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN: The Shooting Star, by Herge, Little, Brown and Company, 1978, pp 10-11.


shooting star pg 45.jpg
THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN: The Shooting Star, by Herge, Little, Brown and Company, 1978, pp pg 45.
The earthquake happens when a fragment of that fiery messenger plummets into our small, closed atmosphere. A chunk of meteorite crashes into the Arctic Ocean and bobs there like a floating island - like a burning shard of unconscious content irrupting into the chill, conscious light of day.


A good-vs.-evil race begins. Two ships launch, each hoping to land first on the meteorite island and claim its extraterrestrial metal. The Aurora is led by good guys -- egg-head intellectuals in pursuit of scientific knowledge (with Tintin along as reporter.) The Peary is crewed by baddies after materialistic profit.

Here is romance. Worlds do not end and heroes do not die in Herge stories. Instead, the pure-hearted protagonist embraces a noble quest that takes him through exotic lands. The hero’s purity of purpose, most clearly expressed in Tintin’s bland, uncanny face, may be what saved Herge, the man, from artistic oblivion. Herge came close to being burned and smashed himself.

L'Etoile Mysterieuse was first published in 1942 in Nazi-occupied Belgium, even as World War II was smashing and burning Europe. Herge was 35 years old, a native Belgian, ambitious, and not about to let war interrupt his career. He’d invented Tintin in 1929.

The author’s true name was Georges Remi, but he turned it inside-out and called himself by the French pronunciation of his reversed initials – RG, or Herge. He had talent, as well, for turning circumstances inside-out.

flagchange.gif
Image © Hergé/Moulinsart.
During the war, Herge continued his Tintin strip by publishing with a Nazi controlled newspaper. The original L'Etoile Mysterieuse is crassly anti-Semitic. All good-guy scientists are also white-guys hailing from Axis controlled or neutral European countries. They chase across the ocean in competition with a ship flying the American flag and owned by a rich, conniving Jewish-American banker. After WWII, when The Shooting Star was republished, its most offensive panels were deleted or redrawn (although a Jewish name and a softened caricature remain.) The Peary’s flag was changed into that of a fictional Central American country.


Was Herge an Axis sympathizer? He certainly appeared reconciled to the German invasion and their New Order. His country, Belgium, had tried to remain neutral when the war started. Perhaps Herge continued with the same strategy on a personal level, remaining neutral and pragmatic.

At war’s end, four different groups accused Herge of Nazi collaboration. He was arrested but never brought to court, and he nursed bitterness about those allegations for the rest of his life. Herge’s immediate postwar reputation was sullied, but the support of friends and the popularity of his hero Tintin overcame war memories. Herge went on to write block-buster Tintin stories until his death in 1983. Most fans and biographers forgive Herge any lapses in judgment and grant him the Indulgence of being an artist trying to survive and create during crisis.

Why? Why are his readers so generous?

Back

Continue