Melusine volume 1: Hocus Pocus & volume 2: Halloween


By Clarke (Frédéric Seron) & Gilson, coloured by Cerise and translated by Erica Jeffrey (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1-905460-20-5 (PB Album Hocus Pocus) 978-1-905460-34-2 (PB Album Halloween)

Teen witches have a long and distinguished pedigree in fiction and one of the most engaging of all first appeared in venerable Belgian magazine Le Journal de Spirou in 1992. Mélusine is actually a sprightly 119 years old and spends her days working as an au pair in a vast monster-packed chateau whilst studying to perfect her craft at Witches’ School…

The feature ranges from one-page gag strips on supernatural themes to short tales detailing her rather fraught life, the impossibly demanding master and mistress of the castle and her large circle of peculiar family and friends.

Collected editions began appearing in 1995, with the 26thEn rose et noir – published in 2018. Five of those have thus far made it into English translations thanks to the fine folk at Cinebook.

The name derives from European folklore: in olden days Melusine or Melusina was term for a flighty female spirit or elemental inhabiting a sacred spring or well…

The strip was devised by writer François Gilson (Rebecca, Cactus Club, Garage Isidore) and top flight cartoon humourist Frédéric Seron – AKA Clarke – whose numerous features for all-ages Spirou and acerbic adult humour publication Fluide Glacial include RebeccaLes 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 sublimely 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…

Hocus Pocus was the 7th Mélusine album, originally released in 2000, and offers a fine place for newcomers to start as the majority of the content is 1- or 2-page gags which – like a young, hot Broom Hilda – make 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 dreadfully unskilled classmate Cancrelune. Her boyfriend is a werewolf, so she only sees him a couple of nights a month…

Her days of toil are occasionally spiced up with and put in perspective by sports days such as blindfolded broom-flying contests and there’s always dowager Aunt Adrezelle who is eager and happy to share the wisdom of her so-many centuries…

After a splendid succession of quick-fire japes and jests, things take on a touch of continuity here and even tension when scandalous cousin Melisande pops in for an extended visit.

Spurning the dark, dread and sinisterly sober side of the clan, Melisande becomes 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…?

No sooner does the twinkling twit start to grow on everybody, however, than she falls victim to one of The Count’s periodic bite-fests and slowly metamorphoses into a true witches’ witch: skin-tight black leather, batwings and always ready for wicked transformations and sorcery duels at the drop of a pointed hat…

The situation comes to a head and the cauldron boils over in eponymous extra-long episode ‘Hocus Pocus’ wherein Melusine and Melisande finally face off to decide which witch is worst…

Clever, wry, sly, fast-paced and uproariously funny – whether physically printed on traditional paper or in digital incarnations – 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…

The second English-language collection happily offers more of the same. Mélusine is still a sprightly 119-year old, spending the days au pairing in a vast monster-packed, ghost-afflicted chateau whilst diligently studying to perfect her hereditary craft at Witches’ School…

The long-lived feature and attendant books have become an annual event, with a new collection every year: always offering everything from single 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 a large circle of exceedingly peculiar family and friends.

Halloween was the 8th European Mélusine album, originally released in 2001: gathering a wealth of superb seasonally sensitive strips, and another great place for newcomers to start as the majority of the content comprises short gags starring the sassy sorceress.

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 still spurns the dark, dread and sinisterly sober side of the clan to work in Fairy Godmothering field. She’s all insufferable sparkles, bunnies, love, it’s so hard not to loathe such a delirious confection of simplicity, sweetness and light itself…

This turbulent tome riffs mercilessly on the established motifs and customs of Halloween. Here, 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 to their books and grimoires. Their over-excitable students rashly experiment on what to do with pumpkins – including how to grow, breed or conjure the biggest ones – all whilst the fearfully pious local priest and his flock endeavour to ruin all the magical fun…

Even ghastly Melisande gets in on the party atmosphere – in her own too nice-to-be-true manner – illuminating the happy shadows with too much sunshine and saccharine before the collection ends with extended, eponymous ‘Halloween’ wherein Melusine and Cancrelune learn the true meaning of the portentous anniversary after they inadvertently join the creaky, 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…

Read before bedtime on paper or screen – and don’t eat any hairy sweets…
Original edition © Dupuis, 2000 by Clarke & Gilson. All rights reserved. English translation 2007 © Cinebook Ltd.