Behind the scenes with Captain Polo: using humour to address complex issues

by | May 1, 2020

As the story unfolds in my educational comic book, The Adventures of Polo the Bear, Polo’s character evolves. Starting out as just another hungry bear, he gradually takes on the role of a celebrity and an activist for climate action.

Using humour, often through nameless supporting characters, I get to address technical or complex subjects and hopefully make them easy to understand.


Author insight: Polo refuses an air ticket


plane ticket
Polo realises the carbon cost of flying


In this week’s author insight from the comic, Polo refuses a 1st class air ticket offered to him by a junior government official, who recognizes Polo’s celebrity status. This enables me to play with the idea of sustainability and idea that one must show the example to others. By bringing these notions down to a decision Polo makes, I hope kids will be able to relate to them more easily.

The humour kicks in because the official is confused, not to say slightly offended, by Polo’s refusal of the air ticket. But he does not have time to react, because the pushy TV reporter is there with her trigger-happy cameraman. Thrust under the microphone and the camera, live on national news, the government official has no choice but to make the best of the situation and try to regain his composure.

In this scene I was also able to address the subject of gender equity, a particularly important issue for climate justice and action. I believe we need more women leaders. They are out there – but they don’t always get the same opportunities as men do.

We need to draw attention to this, starting with kids.

The silly little civil servant is put in the hot spot by a sophisticated woman TV reporter

In this scene of my book, I made sure the environmentally savvy, sophisticated and challenging TV reporter was a young woman. Hopefully, girls reading this will relate to her and feel inspired.

The civil servant, by contrast, is your typically obscure, mediocre, petty official who’s vision only extends as far as his next pay check. I want my readers to think he is a silly little man.

I’ve been accused of relying too much on stereotypes for this book. I believe that stereotypes are at the heart of humour, but let’s leave that subject for a future blog!

See this week’s Author Insight from Polo’s adventures here: