Phillippe Druillet's NOSFERATU, given that it's a hymn to irony and solipsism, is in some ways the Frenchiest of French comics. In this it diverges from the works that popularized the word "Nosferatu" for modern audiences-- both Bram Stoker's DRACULA and F.W. Murnau's arty knockoff-adaptation NOSFERATU-- for both of these are melodramas in which an evil undead preys upon the living, only to be defeated and destroyed by the righteous actions of good people.
Druillet's narrative takes place in an unexplained post-apocalyptic world, implicitly Earth, though the word "Nosferatu"-- applied to the main character by persons unknown-- is one of the few touchstones with Earth's real-world history. This Nosferatu was apparently an ordinary human at some time, but the catastrophe mutated him into a science-fiction vampire, with the ability to fly and to feed off the living (although Druillet shows him eating flesh as often as drinking blood). From what the reader sees in the story, all other humans have also been mutated into weird non-human creatures.
For several pages, Nosferatu-- who has only a nodding resemblance to the vampire in Murnau's film-- wanders his wreck-of-a-world, looking for prey. He makes brief reference to how he and others escaped the brunt of the catastrophe by hiding underground, but the reader never sees any of Nosferatu's companions. At first he's also hunting for a female companion named Imma, making plans to carry food back to her, since she's immobilized by gangrene. But since he seems to forget her rather quickly, it's possible that she's either dead from the start of the narrative, or that she exists only in his imagination. Indeed, no explicitly female humanoids are seen in the story.
Nosferatu does find a little prey among a tribe of mutants he calls "the Cripples." These characters look like hairy dwarves, but the only thing "crippled" about them is that some of them have spikes in place of hands, while the others have just one spike and one human-looking hand. The Cripples are as eager to devour Nosferatu as he is to prey on them, but he manages to chomp off one dwarf's human-looking hand, which sustains him for the next few pages.
Nosferatu continues to roam the world, moaning about his solitary status as "the last vampire." He muses that "the important thing in life" for an individual is to conform to the image that one's society has of said individual, but that even this doleful conformity is beyond Nosferatu, because "I'm both individual and society." He then stumbles across what he mistakes for a living female, but which turns out to be a metal dummy used for some advertising display. Despite this, he carried the dummy around with him for a while, talking to it, naming it "Lilit" (after Lilith, the reputed first wife of Adam), and wondering, "What were you selling, Lilit? Toothpaste? Shoes? Food?" He conceives the notion that, given his status as the sole intelligent life on the planet, he ought to become a poet, so he spontaneously spouts assorted free-verse from the works of Baudelaire (whose translators are duly credited in the comic). He comes across another tribe of mutated humanoids, but they show no intelligence, and one of them displays its lack of social skills by biting off the dummy's head, ending Nosferatu's amour fou.
Deprived of even this pitiable companionship, Nosferatu remarks that he's "tired of life." He "aspires to purity, with no hunger, no thirst, no breathing." However, after a little more soliloquizing, he does stumble across something that tests his alleged desire for fellowship. He falls in with a tribe of carrion-eaters that he conceives to be his kindred, and though most of them look more like werewolves than vampires, at least some of them can speak. However, the werewolves have their own problems, like a big serpent-creature that perpetually preys on them. (In an odd choice of real-world references, the creature is named for the San Andreas Fault, apparently just because the beast comes out of the ground.) Nosferatu devises a weapon to kill the beast. However, the stratagem fails and Nosferatu runs away from the conflict, so that he becomes an object of scorn to the werewolves.
Disgusted with his lot, Nosferatu decides to build a space-ark and depart the corrupt world for the stars,. He does so within the sight of the werewolves, which has the effect of making them his audience, even if they're cast in the role of "Noah's scoffers." During the construction of the ark, Nosferatu's single-mindedness has a salutary effect on his biology: he mutates further, becoming a being who derives nourishment from the air. However, when he finds he can't power his ship, all of the werewolves laugh at him. This puts the nail in the coffin, so to speak, of the last vampire's desire for society. He transforms into a mutant with mental powers, destroys both the werewolves and his own ship, and then flies off to the stars under his own power, though he continues to make ironic remarks to the readers like "Closing credits. Fade to black"-- which I suppose serve the same purpose as Baudelaire's famous address to his "hypocrite lecteurs."
NOSFERATU shares with other Druillet works its creator's imaginative prolificity, but this one-shot work is much better organized (and hence hyperconcrescent!) than most other Druillet works I've encountered. And, unlike a lot of French comedic works, it's actually funny. I think it was Durgnat who said that watching French comedy films was like watching a bear trained to dance: the pleasure of the spectacle is not that the bear dances well, it's that he can do it at all.
SUPERHEROES ARE DAMN-NEAR EVERYWHERE #196
2 hours ago