Scared to Death volume 1: The Vampire from the Marshes


By Mauricet & Vanholme, with colours by Laurent Carpentier and translated by Luke Spear (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978- 1-905460-47-2

There’s a grand old tradition of scaring, empowering and entertaining kids through carefully crafted horror stories with junior protagonists, and this occasional series is one of the better modern examples.

Conceived and executed by journalist Virgine Vanholme and youthful yet seasoned illustrator Alain Mauricet, the Mort de Trouille series of albums was launched by Casterman in the year 2000. There have been seven sinister sorties so far…

Whilst I’ve not been able to find out much about the author, the artist is rather well travelled, having worked for CrossGen, Image and DC in America as well as on a wide variety of features in Europe.

He’s also to be seen in David Lloyd’s magnificently wonderful digital delight Aces Weekly

Born in 1967, Mauricet originally inherited the comic bug from his parents and, after studying at the Academy of Fine Arts under legendary creator Eddy Paape, began his own career aged 20 at Spirou.

From spot cartoons he graduated to strips, creating superhero parody Cosmic Patrouille with Jean-Louis Janssens and Les Rastafioles with Sergio Salma. Following the aforementioned stateside sojourn he resumed his Franco-Belgian efforts with the strip under review here, as well as basketball comedy Basket Dunk (with Christophe Cazanove) and Boulard (with Erroc) and others.

He now lives in Brussels, and also designs for computer games whilst working on a more personal graphic enterprise entitled Une Bien Belle Nuance de Rouge

Back in early 2000, though, he was detailing the first of a sequence of spooky yarns starring studious Robin Lavigne and boisterous overly-imaginative Max Mornet, a couple of lads with an infallible instinct for ferreting out the weird and uncanny…

In 2008 Cinebook picked up Mort de Trouille: Le vampire des Marais and invited British and American kids to solve the mystery of The Vampire from the Marshes, which began when the boys first snuck a peek at forensic scientist Dr. Lavigne’s locked files…

The well-travelled medic has been called in to examine a body found in rural Deadwater Swamp: a corpse stinking of booze, drained of blood and completely covered in hundreds of tiny triangular bite marks…

His son Robin and especially horror-story obsessed Max are fascinated by the case and the latter envisions all manner of ghastly and vivid vampiric scenarios, despite his more prosaic pal’s protestations…

All too soon the lads are invading the (still potential) crime scene, recording their own findings and suppositions. They are quite freaked out when they find a strangely slaughtered bird but completely terrified when they disturb a poacher who chases them off with murderous curses…

Unbeknownst to all involved, their prying has also alerted and disturbed a clan of far more dangerous and unnatural creatures…

Soon the boys are being constantly shadowed by an uncanny, cloaked figure who even breaks into the Lavigne home as it strives to preserve its anonymity and ancient secrets from the eyes of prying, violent mankind. It is noisily disturbed as it closes in on the boys and they can only thank their lucky stars that the household cat is such a noisy and vicious beast when stepped upon…

Events peak to a cursed crescendo next day after Max falls into his own hastily dug vampire trap and is taken by the noisome Nosferatu. Whilst Robin anxiously and urgently searches for his missing friend, Max is learning the tragic secret history of the bloodsuckers.

His oddly ambivalent abductor is Janus and seems rather reluctant to bleed him as a proper vampire should. The creature has, however, no problem leaving him – and the freshly captured Robin who stumbles upon them – to drown in a deep well…

Next morning Dr. Lavigne and the police are frantically searching the swamp for the missing boys and only find them thanks to some unknown person leaving Max’s camera on the rim of a well…

As the frightened boys are pulled to safety, Robin’s dad questions them and goes ballistic when he learns they’ve been looking through his confidential files. He also utterly trashes their ridiculous theory of vampire killers, patiently explaining the true and rational – if exceedingly grim and grisly – cause of death of the drunk in the swamp…

Chastened but undaunted and sharing an incredible secret no adults will ever believe, the boys are taken home whilst deep in the wooded mire an ancient family of incredible beings pulls up stakes and moves restlessly on to who knows where…

Deliciously delivered in the manner of Goosebumps and Scooby-Doo, this is a superb slice of all-ages spooky fun in the classic mould that will enthral and enchant everyone who’s suffered from “father knows best” syndrome and loves tall tales with devilish twists.
Original edition © Casterman, 2000 by Mauricet & Vanholme. English translation © 2008 by Cinebook Ltd.