Tintin and I

PBS Premiere: July 11, 2006Check the broadcast schedule »

Lesson Plan: Historical Storytelling in Comics

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  1. Explain to students that, "The Adventures of Tintin" by Belgian creator Hergé (pronounced "air-JAY") are as recognizable in Europe and Canada as Mickey Mouse and Superman are in the United States. Tell the class that the comic book series initially began in 1929 as a strip in a Catholic newspaper with the intent of teaching political lessons. Early Tintin stories reflected stereotypes of the day, but then Hergé experienced a professional turning point. (read more about history)
  2. Show students a video clip from the film, Tintin and I (watch streaming video) that presents some of the racial and geographic stereotypes that Hergé included in a Tintin story set in colonial Africa, "Tintin in the Congo," as well as some later illustrations of Chinese culture in the story, "The Blue Lotus." (The clip begins at 13:50 into the film with, "At this stage, the early Tintins…" and ends at 16:50 with, "...by the extra trouble he had taken over it." Note: The voice speaking French in the clip is that of Hergé.)
  3. Following the clip, go back and compare specifics of Hergé's illustrations of colonial Africa and China. Discuss why the depiction of Chinese culture was more genuine.
  4. Explain that after Hergé's experience with "The Blue Lotus," he began extensively researching material for each new Tintin adventure. In his search for authenticity, Hergé would read considerably and cut out photographs or articles about a particular place from newspapers, magazines, catalogs and other sources. He would also visit local museums to examine artifacts from different cultures. However, Hergé never traveled to the locations he wrote about.
  5. Have students read the interview with comic artist Jason Lutes, particularly the Q&A about his best-known comic series, Berlin, which is about people living in Germany during the 1920s and early 1930s — the years just prior to the rise of fascism and World War II. Lutes talks about the research he did for the series and how he focused more on the mundane details (silverware, doorknobs, etc.) to capture life during that era. Download some of the panels available on this site and print them out. Or borrow a copy of Berlin from the library and pass it around the classroom. Ask students to point out aspects of the imagery that tells them it takes place in Germany during this time period.
  6. Discuss the difference between primary and secondary sources and how the use of one kind or the other might impact storytelling, such as "The Adventures of Tintin." How do such sources illustrate social conditions and cultural identity? What are the advantages and disadvantages of using primary versus secondary sources?
  7. Have students then research a foreign culture, create their own adventure narratives with simple illustrations that reflect their research findings, and then write an essay that analyzes the impact that primary and/or secondary sources had on their work.

POV documentaries can be recorded off-the-air and used for educational purposes for up to one year from the initial broadcast. In addition, POV offers a lending library of DVDs that you can borrow anytime during the school year — FOR FREE! Please visit our Film Library to find other films suitable for classroom use or to make this film a part of your school's permanent collection.


For additional resources related to Tintin, please see the Delve Deeper reading list (PDF) produced in collaboration with the American Library Association for this film.

Tintin in America
This essay describes Tintin's popularity outside of the U.S., how the illustrations from Tintin influenced on American pop culture, and why Tintin's appeal continues to endure.

On Cartooning
Discover the modern world of comics as six contemporary artists talk about Hergé's influence, visual narratives, and the art of cartooning.


Arts and Communication

Standard 4: Understands ways in which the human experience is transmitted and reflected in the arts and communication.

Historical Understanding

Standard 2: Understands the historical perspective.

Language Arts

Standard 1: Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process.

Standard 4: Gathers and uses information for research purposes.

Standard 10: Understands the characteristics and components of the media.

Visual Arts

Standard 3: Knows a range of subject matter, symbols, and potential ideas in the visual arts.

Level IV, Benchmark 1: Understands how visual, spatial, temporal, and functional values of artworks are tempered by culture and history.

Level IV, Benchmark 2: Applies various subjects, symbols, and ideas in one's artworks.

Standard 4: Understands the visual arts in relation to history and cultures.

Source: Content Knowledge by McRel (Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning)