Frédéric Brrémaud and Federico Bertolucci are gaining quite a reputation for LOVE, their beautiful and heart-tugging series of wordless wildlife graphic novels, each one focusing on a day in the life of a different animal in a different environmental setting.

Critics and fans have fallen for the first two volumes, THE TIGER and THE FOX, in a big way, with starred reviews, awards, and nominations. Next up: THE LION, which will prove once again why Fred and Fed truly are the big cats.

First: Congratulations! The LOVE books are getting a lot of, well, “love” from fans and press, with many starred reviews, awards, and nominations. Did you think the books would find so much appreciation in North America?

Federico: It makes us happy to know that our work is much appreciated and we are always surprised to receive awards and nominations. We already had some major awards in Europe, but to have them in the United States as well is real confirmation that LOVE is a project that can please everyone all over the world. It may soon be published in Asia, too, we’ll see!

The first two books (THE TIGER and THE FOX) were released last year, and THE LION is getting ready to release in June. What made you choose these particular animals for these stories?

Federico: We chose the characters based on stories that we wanted to tell, and we made a kind of “casting call” in the animal world. We chose the tiger for the first book because we wanted to represent the daily difficulties of one of the strongest animals in the dangerous jungle, at the top of the food chain… yet in his loneliness.

The fox was chosen because we needed an animal that was not too hard but not too helpless, to tell how she survives in a world that is about to be destroyed.

Unlike the others, the lion is an animal that lives in groups, so he gave us the opportunity to speak of the type of love that is the bond of social relations.


THE LION is a very lonely story, with a very powerful ending. It is certainly more dramatic and emotional than the first two books. Without giving away the finish, what made you choose to tell such a story with such a different mood?

Federico: Yes, in fact this story is pretty tough compared to others in the series — my daughter, a girl of 8 years, cries when she reads it — but we wanted to talk about the consequences of a love denied. The key is all in the quote by Orson Welles from “Citizen Kane” that we put at the beginning of the story. (“I don’t think any word can explain a man’s life. No, I guess Rosebud is just a… piece in a jigsaw puzzle… a missing piece.”)

Frederic: THE LION is perhaps the most surprising volume in the series. And without revealing the end of the story here, we thought it was important that the central animal has a very different destiny compared to that of the tiger or fox. It was necessary to stage a brutal nature, where death is always present. It is often said that after reading this volume, THE TIGER and THE FOX take on another dimension. A conscious recognition of other hazards.


These books are all quite accurate in the animal behavior and representation, not just in the beautiful artwork, but even in the motivation and actions that the different species take. How much study and realism did you hope to achieve?

Federico: In the classic fables of Phaedrus, Aesop, or the latest Italian Trilussa, the animals are always used to construct metaphors, to tell real stories of Man. We have done a bit the same thing, and the characters that we used had to have certain characteristics. The tapir in The Tiger is none other than the typical idiot who gets away without even knowing how (who has never met someone like this?). In The Fox, the bear is the classic bully who tries to take advantage of a dramatic situation taking place around him. The lion hunts the wildebeest, which for me are all those people who do something just because everyone else is doing. In short, the research of the typical behavior of each animal used has always been based on the story, the plot.

Cartoon Tiger

You also have a new series of books aimed for younger readers called LITTLE TAILS (coming in the Fall). They also focus on different animals, but with a different style. What was the inspiration to create this series on the side?

Federico: The success of LOVE among young readers surprised us, and we realized that we would have liked to do something lighter, to give children a way to learn about the extraordinary world of animals while having fun. We then created two small characters, a wimpy dog and an enterprising squirrel playing across the doorway of imagination and living small adventures around the world. The nice thing is that the color images and illustrations intersect with simple, very classic, comic strips. While drawing, we always had in mind the work of great cartoonists like Bill Watterson, Charles Shultz, Jeff Smith, and the beautiful background of the classic Disney cartoons


Federico, you worked for animation companies, like Disney, in the past – did this influence how you approached the story and character design?

Federico: Certainly, the Disney-style affects everyone who tries telling stories with animal characters. I personally took my first steps with Disney comics in Italy and, although I never did any animation, the basis for realizing Disney comics is the same that is used to make the cartoons: the dynamics of acting, the fluidity of the movements.

This taught me a lot and I drew LOVE with the characters treated simply with a little more realism, but based on drafts very much inspired by the Disney style. For example, to study the movements of the tiger, I watched video, but I studied the work of the animators who created “The Jungle Book,” Milt Kahl in particular. I hope that I approach their great art!


Frederic, you also write another series about neighborhood cats getting into adventures and solving mysteries. What is it about animals – especially cats – that you find so interesting?

Frederic: Animals are my passion, they inspire me and give me ideas for books. The cat is kind of a weird bridge between the wild world and us. They surround us but remain independent. Their reactions are often unpredictable, but always reasonable. When we talk about animals, stories can take an infinite number of unpredictable paths. But when a human character doesn’t follow a clear logic, they’re seen as crazy.

I also like to mix the animal species in the same story. The animal world that I present in a series like LEONID, cats have for me the same ingredients as characters from a Western: areas of lawlessness and communities that live and struggle on the same territory, yet leading parallel lives.


It’s also fun to challenge characters with different physical qualities, which ultimately have to compete as equals, but using each of their qualities as their own. Again, it multiplies the possibilities.

Next is THE DINOSAUR, coming later this Winter. What made you choose dinosaurs for this story?


Federico: We wanted to do something that has a great impact on the audience, and I think that dinosaurs are always a topic of great interest.

Frederic: The series volumes are all very different. THE DINOSAUR will speak of friendship, but also treachery. The theme was there. But for the environment, we told each other that a trip back in time would change us.

What other animals do you want to explore in the series?

Federico: There is the idea of joining different characters together in the same story that are equally important. But for now, we talk about the environments in which we would like to include them, but there is still nothing definite.

Frederic: Nothing specific, it’s true, but the aquatic world, life on the surface near the coast and in the deep seabed attracts us…

Tiger Water