Sunday, February 25, 2007

viral enteritis and vampires

two weeks of viral gastro enteritis, so I've done little more than read over the last fortnight. No work, rarely out of the house but my mind has been busy getting out and about into fictional worlds.

Just finished Joann Sfarr's "Vampire Loves". Never read Sfarr before although I knew of him and after this I will give anything with his name on it a close look. Despite the vampire and monster theme prevailant among the characters I can think of few books that seemed more autobiographical. The book is a collection of four french albums telling, primarily, of the romantic misadventures of Ferdinand, the vampire, and his circle of friends and aquaintances. The mixture of romantically confused characters carrying torches for loves unrequited and failing to find love in other places has the potential of turning into crass soap opera but never makes it thanks to the believably awkward dialogue that characterises each coupling and encounter. Ferdinand is suprised, and I think a little horrified, when the woman he moons after rejects him but the women he treats with disdain seem to love him all the more. An experience that has to be almost universal.

Another plus for the book is the scratchy, shakey, heavily rendered artwork. European comics seem to have an interesting dichotomy in art styles. The European split seems to be between the "ligne claire" of Herge and his ilk and the blotchy and scratchy pen work of Sfarr and people like Tardi. Although each school runs a gamut of styles from realistic to cartoony there are few artists I can look at and not put into one camp or another. Sfarr is slightly reminiscient of people like Glen Dakin in the organic fluidity of his art style and the surreal nature of his stories. Like Dakin, Sfarr is much more concerned with the relationships between his characters and uses his art to emphasise the nature of each of them. Ferdinand, the Vampire, insecure and dreamy, is drawn spindly and angular, staring at his shoes as he flies. The treeman is solid and reliable in appearance and this is how he is perceived by the other characters although the changability of his appearance demonstrates his inner conflicts.

Despite connections to Sfarrs "Little Vampire" this isn't a kids book like his "Sardine" volumes. There is little action or excitement in the conventional sense but once they've felt the pangs of a first unrequited love this book will speak volumes to the reader.

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