Written and Illustrated by Joann Sfar
Since I liked The Professor’s Daughter so much, I was in the mood for some more Sfar. Conceptually, Vampire Loves comes from the same place as The Professor’s Daughter, since they’re both more or less romance books featuring classic monsters. I say “more or less” though because The Professor’s Daughter is a traditional romance with a star-crossed couple we’d like to see get together, but Vampire Loves takes more of a Jeffrey Brown approach.
This is to say that it’s romantic in its own way, but that way is kind of sad and pitiful. It’s also more relatable since most people I know have had way more experience with sad and pathetic love lives than they have with successful, happily-ever-after ones. And that’s the essential difference between The Professor’s Daughter and Vampire Loves. The Professor’s Daughter puts our lovers through the ringer, but we never doubt they’ll end up together. Ferdinand, the nosferatu protagonist of Vampire Loves, doesn’t inspire that kind of confidence. In that way, he and his stories are much more real.
Sfar takes us through several kinds of relationships as Ferdinand meets and dates different women. We open with his getting a visit from Lani, his last girlfriend who cheated on him with his best friend. Lani wants to come back, but as they rehash why they broke up it turns into a big fight and she leaves in a huff again. Anyone who keeps revisiting the same, bad relationship will relate.
In order to make himself feel better, Ferdinand goes out for a while and meets a younger vampire named Aspirine. She’s not nearly as mature as Ferdinand, but she clearly likes him and he takes comfort in that for an evening. Everything’s going fine until they go back to her house and Ferdinand meets her hotter older sister Ritaline, with whom Ferdinand has a lot more in common.
The book is divided up into four stories, but they feature most of the same characters and they all go basically this way as Ferdinand meets various girls and is unsuccessful in truly connecting with any of them. There’s a human girl with whom he shares a mutual attraction, but they can’t seem to work out their schedules. There’s a potential one-night stand that ends up dumping him before they even leave the bar. There’s a hot ghost he meets on a cruise, but who isn’t really into him. And there’s her less-hot, but more interesting friend who likes Ferdinand, but he doesn’t really care about her.
I swear I’ve been in all of these situations before and that’s what I love about this kind of book, but it’s made even better by the gothic art style and well, just the fact that it’s all happening to vampires, ghosts, witches, werewolves, and mummies.
Speaking of mummies, Imhotep’s dad from The Professor’s Daughter makes a guest appearance, as does the Professor himself. Apparently, Sfar does that a lot, which – as a fan of shared universe kinds of stories – I really like. In fact, one text page announces that Ferdinand is also the main character from Sfar’s Little Vampire series.
What I also like is that the Halloween characters aren’t just dressing for otherwise mundane stories. It would be easy enough to just write some navel-gazing love stories and change out the characters for spooks, but Sfar’s gone deeper than that. Being a vampire is who Ferdinand is and his story wouldn’t work if he were human. He doesn’t have the same issues that a human does, so though he’s relevant, he’s also real. He’s horribly flawed, but undeniably likable. I ended up rooting for him to find love and that’s what makes the book a success.