This book takes place in a woodland setting, but somewhere in the north, where there is snow and ice, polar bears and killer whales. And then there is the volcano. Is this based on a specific region or event that you had in mind from history?
We came up with the idea of the volcano, the snow and the island mostly because after drawing the comic book about the tiger for a year, with all the green vegetation and the humidity of the jungle, I wanted a change. And, after drawing all those tigers and their stripes, I jokingly said to Frédéric, that the next volume should tell the story of a polar bear in a big snow storm, so that it would be faster and not so tiring. I imagined drawing just a few dark spots: two for the eyes and one for the nose. However, I ended up drawing the sea, whales, seabirds and snow, in addition to eruptions, lava, smoke, and explosions. The volcano is not connected to a specific event, though; we simply needed an environment that would not give our new protagonist an easy way out, and a northern island, supposedly close to Iceland, seemed to us to be the perfect location.
This story includes a brand new cast of “characters” – much different animals than your first book, THE TIGER. Did you imagine a cast of animals you like first and then write the story to include them all, or did the story grow to include new animals as you created it?
The story of the tiger has a main character that we follow from beginning to end. The story of the fox, on the other hand, is more choral; it has many more characters probably because the protagonist is the island itself, the volcano which disrupts the lives of all of them. This is one of the reasons why we needed so many animals: the plot influenced our choice, but we also decided to draw what we like to draw best. In this book you can find actors and extras, as well, just like in a movie; some have an essential role, others are simply part of the landscape.
What sort of story did you want to tell this time that was different from TIGER?
Unlike in the tiger, where we wanted to tell the story of a large predator’s routine on a “typical” day, in this book we wanted to show a character that isn’t as strong, that lives in a totally hostile environment like that of a natural disaster. The fox moves in a world that is about to collapse, with practically no hope of survival. The plot is in some ways much more traditional and less linear than the one of the first comic book, but it reflects the theme of the average man who faces extraordinary events and manages to discover many hidden personal resources. With this series of books we want to portray Love in all its forms, “…love that moves the sun and other stars”, to quote Dante Alighieri. In the first volume, we dealt with this subject from a distance, to show nature as it is: beautiful but cruel. In this second book, though, we talk about the kind of love we all know, the kind that makes us do crazy things and is stronger than anything else, even than life. So, I won’t say any more because you can get a better idea of what I’m talking about by reading it; besides, I don’t want to spoil the surprise.
How much research into the region did you do to make the story accurate? Do these animals occur as neighbors in reality?
Research played an important role mainly in the depiction of the environments. We used a method that is similar to the one used for the tiger, even though the colours were so different; the snow, for instance, or the magma of the volcano. It was much easier for the anatomy of animals, thanks to the internet and to Arkive.com, a website that I consulted often. As to the scientific consistency, as we did in The Tiger with piranhas, here, too there are some animals that are not exactly appropriate to the surrounding environment: for example, the African porcupines and the mouflons, which normally live in warmer places.
Next to be released is THE LION, and you are just now finishing THE DINOSAUR. What animal would you like to explore next?
After all these wild animals and grandiose landscapes, I’d like to do The Mole, a story that is completely set in the dark, a totally black comic book, ha ha ha! I could finish it in 5 minutes, the best deal of my life :-). Seriously, we haven’t talked about volume five, yet; for now, we have another very interesting project in mind that we would like to complete after The Dinosaur, something very close to “Love” in some ways, but of an entirely different nature and with different levels of interpretation. In other words, we’ll see.