– A fantastic exciting marginal
– A comic book that wonderfully updates the novel
A point of history!
The Gothic novel Draculawritten by bram stoker in 1897, occupies a significant place in the pantheon of the founding writings of a whole section of pop culture, since it imposed the iconic figure of the vampire in all minds. A place of choice that he still occupies today in the horrific imagination, while playing elbows with other major figures such as the Alien of Ridley Scottor the Frankenstein of Mary Shelley.
However, the Irish author is far from having given birth to the myth of the bloodsucker. In 1836, for example, the French author Theophile Gautier already dealt with vampirism in his short story The Loving Death. The idea of a story about a vampire staying in the Carpathians even existed 53 years before Stoker’s story, with the novel The Stranger of the Carpathians of Karl A. Wachsman.
Despite everything, this novel is indeed the one that established a large part of the elements that have become inseparable from the vampiric genre, namely the stake in the heart to seal the fate of the creature, the fear of money or garlic , and of course the coffin as a resting place.
In the meantime, the myth of Dracula has undergone various transformations and modifications adapting to the modern context, but has always kept this marked duality between Good and Evil. A duality which is the very basis of the novel, which we will first talk about before immersing ourselves in one of its recent adaptations…
The story of the novel
What would a legendary antagonist be without his own enemies? In Stoker’s novel, whose narration is essentially epistolary or in the form of a diary, several characters – hostile to the monster but familiar to the reader – orbit around this count ready to bring down his bloodthirsty fury on the whole world:
First there is the young notary clerk Jonathan Harcker, summoned by Count Dracula to his home in the depths of the Carpathians to acquire properties in London, his wife, Mina, but also the young Lucyvictim of Dracula’s influence, lurking in his dreams…
And finally, there is of course the famous nemesis of the count, the doctor Van Helsingwho here is far from the modern character that we know: because yes, before being a ruthless demon hunter carrying all the paraphernalia to slaughter vampires, he is originally a Dutch doctor who speaks very little English, but has a great knowledge of vampires!
The fact of discovering such a “kitsch” character, far from the virile figure that the Hollywood imagination has conveyed for decades, is an opportunity to recall an important detail: if we discover the novel Dracula today, several elements of prose may seem dated, even cutesy. One only has to see the long plaintive tirades of certain characters in the face of events, as well as the sometimes very tearful letters they send to each other, to quickly want to close the book, convinced of not having opened good.
Moreover, some passages turn out to be quite useless and laborious (we think here of the whole hunt to find Dracula, or even the torments of Lucy before her death which never seems to end), and for those who discover the novel, the final fight against Dracula which may seem disappointing, especially after a long hunt of a few hundred pages through London and Romania.
However, if one is ready to force his reading a little, the reader will quickly understand what is the real strength of Stoker’s novel, namely the epic struggle between Dracula, this entity embodying Evil in its purest form, against to a handful of women and men with good intentions.
The struggle between these two camps ultimately symbolizes two discourses in line with the time of publication: first a purely biblical discourse, which imposes the figure of a humanity capable of facing darkness without ever falling, like the main protagonists united in adversity.
Then, an almost anti-Julesvernian message, which brings back to the fore a fantasy rooted in traditions and forgotten folklore, unlike Verne and his fantastic machinist and scientist.
Thus, far from being anachronistic or old-fashioned, Bram Stoker’s novel is still a fascinating literary object, reflecting an era and a Victorian golden age about to end, but above all an epic tale mixing Gothic and fantastic, having influenced a whole section of the imagination and whose ramifications still extend.
And comics, then?
After detailing the qualities of the original work, it is interesting to take a look forward to see if, even today, the icon of Dracula still fascinates. After all, thirty years after Coppola’s Dracula (and only ten since Dario Argento’s!), one is entitled to wonder what could still be said about the famous Count of Transylvania, so much does the myth seem to have been treated under all angles.
The French designer George Bessa long-time collaborator ofAlejandro Jodorowsky from the sagas of White Llama and John Solomay have an answer, hidden in the cold lands of the Carpathians…
The idea, with his comic strip, is to offer a neat graphic tribute to the original work, while knowing how to amputate the dated elements, the heaviness (indeed, by Bess’s own admission, having discovered the novel in the process before adapting it, the novel was unreadable, badly written and outdated!). Farewell to the long sentimental tirades, the aimless peregrinations, the artificially elongated epistolary exchanges… The essential is thus preserved: the characters and their torments, and Stoker’s exquisite prose. With an impressive use of brush and Indian ink, Bess delivers a horrific tale combining the beauty of black and white and the frightening menace of Dracula, still intact so many centuries later.
It offers us what is surely the most sublime graphic love letter to the novel, with a brushstroke reminiscent of the illustrations of Gustave Doré. Bess knows the masters, and he draws inspiration from them through long double pages filled with details to the point of vertigo in order to better understand the horror that Count Dracula inspires for the whole world.
How not to see what a threat he represents, when Bess affixes traits that are both bestial and mystical, and that he gives him a threatening aura worthy of the greatest scourges of our time?