Melusine volume 2: Halloween


By Clarke (Frédéric Seron) & Gilson, coloured by Cerise and translated by Erica Jeffrey (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1-905460-34-2

Teen witches have a long and distinguished pedigree in fiction and one of the most engaging first appeared in venerable Belgian magazine Spirou in 1992.

Mélusine is actually a sprightly 119 year old who spends her days working as an au pair in a vast monster-packed, ghost-afflicted chateau whilst diligently studying to perfect her craft at Witches’ School…

The long-lived feature offers everything from one-page gag strips to full-length comedy tales on supernatural themes detailing her rather fraught life, the impossibly demanding master and mistress of the castle and her large circle of exceedingly peculiar family and friends.

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.

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…

Halloween was the eighth Mélusine album, originally released in 2001, and gathers a wealth of stunning seasonally sensitive strips, making it a great place for newcomers to start as the majority of the content is comprised of one or two page gags starring the sassy sorceress who – like a young but hot Broom Hilda – makes excessive play with fairy tale and horror film 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, or ducking cat-eating monster Winston and frisky vampire The Count, she’s avoiding the attentions of horny peasants, practising her spells or consoling and coaching inept, un-improvable and lethally unskilled classmate Cancrelune.

Mel’s boyfriend is a werewolf so he only bothers her a couple of nights a month…

Daunting dowager Aunt Adrezelle is always eager and happy to share the wisdom of her so-many centuries but so, unfortunately, is family embarrassment cousin Melisande who spurned the dark, dread and sinisterly sober side of the clan to be a Fairy Godmother; all sparkles, fairy-cakes, pink bunnies and love. She’s simplicity, sweetness and light itself in every aspect, so what’s not to loathe…?

This turbulent tome riffs mercilessly on the established motifs and customs of Halloween where kids fill up to lethal levels on sweets and candies, monsters strive to look their worst, teachers try to keep the witches-in-training glued top their books and grimoires even as their over-excitable students experiment most unwisely on what to do with pumpkins – including how to grow, breed or conjure the biggest ones – whilst the fearfully pious local priest and his flock endeavour to ruin all the magical fun…

Even Melisande gets in on the party atmosphere in her own too nice-to-be-true manner, lightening the happy shadows with too much sunshine and saccharine before the collection ends with the extended eponymous ‘Halloween’ wherein Melusine and Cancrelune learn the true meaning of the portentous anniversary when they inadvertently join the creaking clacking cadavers of the Risen Dead as they evacuate their graves on the special night to fight and drive away for another year the Evil Spirits which haunt humanity…

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.