Speech bubbles featuring the three-pointed star.
Focus on Carl Benz.
The story begins with Carl Benz’s childhood and youth, and reports on his first steps as an inventor before concluding with his breakthrough with the Benz patent motor car in 1886 – the invention of the automobile. The highs and lows experienced by this exceptional man provide the narrative thread. Of course there is also plenty about the role of his wife Bertha – who also later became a famous figure. The ground-breaking achievements of Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach also feature. A second volume is due to appear within the next year and will look at such topics as the birth of the Silver Arrows, milestones in vehicle safety and future issues such as sustainable mobility.
“There's so much material here,” says Isabelle Lasser, showing palpable enthusiasm about Mercedes-Benz's tradition of invention which stretches back more than 125 years.
Support from the Mercedes-Benz Classic archives.
“We want to present this fascinating story through a new medium,” explains Michael Bock, head of Mercedes-Benz Classic. He grew up in Brussels, where “comics played a major part in my childhood.” He adds that animated stories have a higher cultural value in France, Belgium and Anglo-American countries. Michael Bock sees them as a new means of communication for introducing the automaker and its heritage to new target groups. That is why Mercedes-Benz Classic jumped at the chance to actively support the German-French publishing company’s project after an inquiry from Sadifa Media’s head of publishing Isabelle Lasser and CEO Christian Riehl. Lasser found the employees in Stuttgart, especially those working in the archives, to be extremely passionate about the project – “we couldn’t have asked for more,” she says.
“The best or nothing” ‒ an illustrious project team.
To live up to Gottlieb Daimler’s motto “The best or nothing” in this project, Isabelle Lasser engaged illustrious support in the form of internationally acclaimed Belgian-American artist Willy Harold Williamson. An expert on historical subjects, he has been publishing comic books for more than 50 years and his work has been the subject of several exhibitions in the Far East. His biggest success to date has been the comic Bataille des Ardennes (1975), which has been translated into 20 languages and sold more than 800,000 copies. But how does someone used to drawing the Crusades and Templar knights approach a theme like Carl Benz, Gottlieb Daimler and the invention of the motor car?
“I hung up a number of photos of Carl Benz in my studio so that I could capture the specific details of his expression,” says the 65-year-old, who describes his drawing style as “realistic and historical”.
Comic drawings in 3D.
Isabelle Lasser is especially proud of the 3D effects, which give depth to the pictures. “This is a very time-consuming and therefore rare form of illustration in comics,” she emphasises. In order to achieve an impression of depth with three-dimensional effect, the colour in each individual drawing was applied by an experienced colourist in three separate layers.
This makes the scenes appear much more vivid. Moreover, the many historical details allow readers to easily imagine what life was like at that time.
“Carl Benz's achievements were superhuman.”
But what is the story about? Unique pioneering feats, according to the comic’s author Martin Grünewald. “Carl Benz’s achievements were superhuman. He wasn’t just a talented inventor who overcame countless technical challenges in his work.” The man also suffered personal setbacks. Grünewald, an author and journalist, describes his protagonist Carl Benz as “incredibly courageous, determined and tough” and believes his spirit of invention lives on at Mercedes-Benz today, manifested in technological innovations such as ABS and airbags. The particular challenge for Grünewald was to pack in so many facts within a highly readable, exciting story.
Sadifa Media: experts on historical subjects.
Mercedes-Benz Classic was not the only one checking that these facts were historically accurate. Every last detail to be included in the comic, from the facade of a factory building in around 1890 to the engine of an early motor car, was painstakingly verified beforehand. Sadifa Media and Isabelle Lasser proved to be the perfect partner for Mercedes-Benz Classic here: the publisher has been successfully creating and marketing high-quality illustrated historical stories in comic-book form for almost 30 years. They cover topics ranging from historical buildings such as the Eiffel Tower to the history of individual cities and regions.
The publisher's portfolio also contains portraits of saints, including St Maurice, St Martin and St George.
A timeless, perfect comic.
What was the aim of the project with Mercedes-Benz Classic? Isabelle Lasser does not have to think for long: “A timeless, perfect comic that will still be contemporary in ten years’ time.” To achieve this, both the content and the look of the comic needed to be of the highest possible quality. “It had to be something never seen before,” she concludes before hurriedly saying goodbye as she heads off to another meeting with employees from Mercedes-Benz Classic. The comic appears in German, English, French and Chinese. An exclusive edition is available for €19.80 in the Mercedes-Benz Museum shop and online .