Melusine volume 4: Love Potions


By Clarke (Frédéric Seron) & Gilson, coloured by Cerise and translated by Jerome Saincantin (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1-84918-005-4

Like most things in life, this ideal keepsake for Love’s Labours’ Ludicrously Lost comes far too late to be the perfect St. Valentine’s Day recommendation, but let’s face it: if you want to read a comic rather than romance a paramour – imagined, potential or otherwise – there’s little hope for you anyway…

And Dark Gods forbid if you think buying one for him/her/it/they counts as a Romantic Gesture. You deserve everything you get…

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-year-old diligently studying to perfect her craft at Witches’ School. To make ends meet she spends her days – and far too many nights – working as au pair and general dogsbody to a most disgraceful family of haunts and horrors who inhabit/infest a vast, monster-packed, ghost-afflicted chateau some chronologically adrift, anachronistically awry time in the Middle-ish Ages…

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 Mélusine’s rather fraught existence is filled with the daily indignities day-job, college studies, the appallingly trivial domestic demands of the master and mistress of the castle and even our magic maid’s 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 of the curse of having to sleep…

Collected Mélusine editions began appearing annually or better from 1995 onwards, with the 24th published in 2015 and another due this year. Thus far five of those have shape-shifted into English translations…

Originally released in 1998, Philtres d’amour was Continentally the fifth fantabulous folio of mystic Mélusine mirth and is again most welcoming: primarily comprised of one and two page gags starring the sassy sorceress which delightfully eschew continuity for the sake of new readers’ instant approbation…

As the translated title of this (fourth) Cinebook offering suggests, Love Potions devotes the majority of its content to affairs of the heart – and lower regions – and how to alchemically stack the deck in the game of romance….

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.

Unlike Mel, this sorry enchantress-in-training is a real basket 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…

This tantalising tome features the usual melange of slick sight gags and pun-ishing pranks; highlighting how every bug, beast, brute and blundering mortal suffers the pangs of longing and occasionally needs a little Covenly charisma to kick romance into action…

Whether that means changing looks, attitudes or minds already firmly made up, poor harassed student Mel is bombarded with requests to give Eros a hand…

Her admittedly impatiently administered and often rather tetchy aid is pretty hit-or-miss, whether working for peasants, rabbits, tortoises or even other witches, and helping poor Cancrelune is an endless, thankless and frequently risky venture.

Moreover the master and mistress of the castle have obviously never had an ounce of romance in them, even when they were alive…

At least daunting dowager Aunt Adrezelle’s is always around to supply the novice with advice, a wrinkly shoulder to cry on and, when necessary, a few real remedies…

This turbulent tome also includes a longer jocular jaunt exploring the dull verities of housework, anti-aging elixirs and the selfish ingratitude of property-speculators…

Wrapping up the thaumaturgical hearts-&-flowers is eponymous extended epic ‘Love Potions’ which sees Melusine’s patience pushed to the limits after another attempt by the local priest to “burn the witch” ends up with her helping the locale’s latest scourging saurian marauder find the dragon of his fiery dreams…

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 share with your loved ones – but only after asking politely first…
Original edition © Dupuis, 1998 by Clarke & Gilson. All rights reserved. English translation 2009 © Cinebook Ltd.