The list of Mercedes-Benz models used by comic-book illustrators is getting longer all the time. The heyday of Spirou and Fantasio and series like it may now be in the past but, thanks to the commitment of smaller publishing houses, comic fans can still look forward to new adventures in a similar mould. And this promises a further increase in not just the variety of vehicles in comic-book albums, but also the scope of artistic expression in the exciting, amusing and dramatic stories. It’s certainly true that the depiction of a Mercedes-Benz model by one illustrator can differ considerably from the drawings of the same vehicle in a separate series.
Car fans like Graton (the Michel Vaillant series) and Seron (“Les Petits Hommes”) have an ability to bring Mercedes sedans to life with a vigor and élan reminiscent of the work of legendary press illustrator Hans Liska. Other artists, however, alter the form of the vehicles they use as templates in order to make their pictures as dynamic as possible.
A third, albeit small group, decide not to incorporate actual vehicles into their work. These authors mostly make no attempt to replicate real-life automobiles, instead using illustrations of extremely simplified cars. That is certainly the case in “Fix & Foxi”, as well as the majority of Disney adventures. German comic detective Nick Knatterton was one of those deprived of the pleasure of a Mercedes-Benz sedan or SL 300 roadster during his exploits (published between 1950 and 1959).
It’s a shame when real-life automobiles come low down the priority list of illustrators, since automotive culture in all its variety is an important part of the development of the everyday features, infrastructure and popular aesthetic which make up the footprint of life in the 20th century. In comics, these are constantly compressed by color and brush, pen and ink into brief snapshots in time. The result is a constantly expanding graphic museum which illustrates the captivating and multi-facetted development of the automobile. And the entrance to this extraordinary exhibition lies between the covers of comic-books starring Donald Duck and friends.