Melusine volume 3: The Vampires’ Ball


By Clarke (Frédéric Seron) & Gilson, coloured by Cerise and translated by Jerome Saincantin (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1-905460-69-4

Witches – especially cute and sassy teenage ones – have a long and distinguished pedigree in fiction and one of the most seductively engaging first appeared in venerable Belgian magazine Spirou in 1992.

Mélusine is actually a sprightly 119 years old and spends her days – and many nights – working as an au pair/general dogsbody to a most ungracious family of haunts and horrors inhabiting a vast monster-packed, ghost-afflicted chateau whilst diligently studying to perfect her craft at Witches’ School…

The long-lived much-loved feature is presented in every format from one-page gag strips to full-length comedy tales, all riffing wickedly on supernatural themes and detailing her rather fraught life, filled with the demands of the appallingly demanding master and mistress of the castle and even her large circle of exceedingly peculiar family and friends.

The strip was devised by writer François Gilson (Rebecca, Cactus Club, Garage Isidore) and cartoon humorist Frédéric Seron, AKA Clarke whose numerous features for all-ages Spirou and acerbic adult humour publication Fluide Glacial include Rebecca, Les Cambrioleurs, Durant les Travaux, l’Exposition Continue… and Le Miracle de la Vie.

Under the pseudonym Valda, Seron also created Les Babysitters and as Bluttwurst Les Enquêtes de l’Inspecteur Archibaldo Massicotti, Château Montrachet, Mister President and P.38 et Bas Nylo.

A former fashion illustrator and nephew of comics veteran Pierre Seron, Clarke is one of those insufferable guys who just draws non-stop and is unremittingly funny. He also doubles up as a creator of historical and genre pieces such as Cosa Nostra, Les Histoires de France, Luna Almaden and Nocturnes and apparently is free from the curse of having to sleep…

Collected editions began appearing annually or better from 1995, with the 24th published in 2015 and another due next year. Thus far five of those have transformed into English translations thanks to the fine folk at Cinebook.

Originally released on the Continent in 1996, Le bal des vampires was the second Mélusine album and sets the scene delightfully for newcomers as the majority of the content is comprised of one or two page gags starring the sassy sorceress who makes excessive play with fairy tale and horror film icons, conventions and themes.

When brittle, moody Melusine isn’t being bullied for her inept cleaning skills by the matriarchal ghost-duchess who runs the castle, ducking cat-eating monster Winston, dodging frisky vampire The Count or avoiding the unwelcome and often hostile attentions of horny peasants and over-zealous witch hunting priests, our saucy sorceress can usually be found practising her spells or consoling and coaching inept, un-improvable and lethally unskilled classmate Cancrelune.

This sorry enchantress-in-training is a sad case: her transformation spells go awfully awry, she can’t remember incantations and her broomstick-riding makes her a menace to herself, any unfortunate observers and even the terrain and buildings around her…

At least Mel’s boyfriend is a werewolf, so he only troubles her a couple of nights each month…

This turbulent tome features the regular procession of slick sight gags and pun-ishing pranks but also features a few longer jocular jaunts such as the fate of rather rude knight in armour, a brush with what probably isn’t a poltergeist in the Library and Mel’s unfortunate experience with daunting dowager Aunt Adrezelle’s patented Elixir of Youth…

Wrapping up the barrage of ghostly gaffes, ghastly goofs and grisly goblin gaucheries is the sordid saga of the eternal elite at their most drunkenly degenerate as poor Melusine is not only expected to organise and cater ‘The Vampires’ Ball’ but has to stick around and handle the explosive clean-up for those especially intoxicated Nosferatus who tend to forget why the revelry has to die down before dawn…

Wry, sly, fast-paced and uproariously funny, this compendium of arcane antics is a great taste of the magic of European comics and a beguiling delight for all lovers of the cartoonist’s art. Read before bedtime and don’t eat any hairy sweets…

Original edition © Dupuis, 2000 by Clarke & Gilson. All rights reserved. English translation 2007 © Cinebook Ltd.