The character is a mixture of many different impulses as well as my everlasting preoccupation with death itself. Still, it was not a long-cherished wish of mine to make a cartoon about just another allegory of the Grim Reaper, it simply came in handy since my former cartoon series was reaching to its end.
The original concept was not very elaborated. I wanted Death to have a pseudo-medieval look (which, in fact, isn’t medieval at all but came up only in the baroque, but that’s a different story), but I didn’t want to give him a skull or any face at all. However, I do have a weakness for challenging mimics. My other cartoon series, NINA, shows figures without pupils and noses, whereas Death has only his eyes and occasional eyebrows to express himself. The look that finally made it is still very opulent, though! My original sketches wanted him to express his mood only by the shape of his hood and not even grant him eyes.
In contrast to some embodiments that picture Death as some romantic lad ("last lover"), I prefer to see him as a cynic. A little bit arrogant, stubborn nagger, very tangible and sometimes even ridiculous. Death as I show him is not an epic figure, he is more like some ordinary guy who really likes to do his job, if only his clientel were less reluctant!
Designing the Maiden was an even harder task. While I knew how to characterize Death from the beginning, I didn’t have a clear vision of his opponent. Amongst many, many sketches appeared one day the one that had to be her.
The only thing I knew right from the beginning was that she should not be your average "beauty". I personally like the way she looks, I find her cute, but she’s definitely not the big-boobed hot-sexy type that one usually finds as comic heroines. She’s average looking, and that’s just what I wanted her to be.
I also wanted to give her a personal history – e.g. a job, family & friends – right from the beginning. I dropped those plans, thinking it better for the reader to get to know her step by step, just like Death vice versa, which turned out as a good idea, I think, because it left more room for drama.
Oh, and for all who’d like to know: Her hair is dyed, but her eyes are genuine green.
I have tried to explain the idea behind this character many, many times, but still, people don’t quite seem to comprehend it. I cannot do more than just repeat what I wrote already:
I know that this character might be a little problematic to the readers who are not familiar with la petite mort. It oviously doesn’t exist in the USA, I don’t know about Britain or other countries. One thing is sure, though: In French and German speaking countries, it should be known. I believe the term little death origines in France. In a common way it describes the sexual highlight, the orgasm. At least this is the best known meaning of what is indicated by saying someone just experienced a little death! (a rather poetic circumscription, as you might have guessed)
There are, however, other meanings of the word. Some equalize it with sleep, yet the most popular name for Morpheus had always been Brother of Death (vice versa, Death has been described as Brother of Sleep), so I didn’t take this into my own definition of Little Death.
Other sources referred to la petite mort as any sort of sudden inner disarray, which is experienced either through positive feelings (love, joy, ecstasy) or the contrary (pain, disappointment, fear, sorrow). In either way, this experience has to come in a sudden rush from within. So, it’s not the sort of pain we feel when we bruise a finger, it’s the pain we feel inside when we realize e.g. someone very dear deceived us or when we are really embarassed. On the other hand, it can be the uplifting of the soul when we hear certain music, or when we succeeded in something.
It is fast and it is strong, and it feels as if one’s heart was ready to jump out of the throat. I am sure that everyone has experienced that kind of feeling in some way. Well, yes, and that’s it – or rather him. Little D.
You don’t have to look too closely to notice hundreds of mistakes within the drawings of the Beetle. The truth is that I am not very skillful nor experienced in drawing cars, and I had absolutely no idea of how many VOLKSWAGEN bugs there were! You could ask me why I started out with a cartoon series that takes place on the highway in the first place – and I cannot answer but: It was time for the challenge!
If you think I’m too picky on myself regarding the correctness of the Beetle – I can assure you, it’s only concerning this particular car. I don’t care the least for any other car in the cartoon, whether it’s correctly
drawn or not. But the Beetle is special, since it’s the most beautiful car in the whole world!