By Joann Sfar
First Second, Paperback, 9781596430938, 192pp.
Publication Date: May 2, 2006
Meet Ferdinand, a vampire who bites his victims with only one tooth in order to pass as a mosquito, who loves the music of dead singers, and who has no end of trouble trying to make sense of his relationships--some with the living, some with the undead. Vampire Loves follows the strange and comically romantic adventures of Ferdinand and his friends as they flirt with, seduce, cheat on, break up and make up with all manner of strange creatures, including ghosts, other vampires, tree-folk, and golems. Edgy, charming, and filled with Joann Sfar's inimitable blend of tenderness, comedy, melancholy, and philosophy, the four stories in this volume are drawn as much from the Jewish mysticism of eastern Europe as from twenty-first-century Goth culture.
At once silly and serious, wild and poetic, Joann Sfar's disquieting tales are filled with intelligence and rich humanity. Vividly illustrated and sensitively written, Vampire Loves is alive with color, wisdom, and humor.
Review in 3/15/06 Booklist
Gr. 10-12. Sfar's Little Vampire books revolve around an almost cute, cuddly cast, including ghouls, animals, and a little boy, that has adventures and discussions appropriate to middle-schoolers. In this book Ferdinand is Little Vampire all grown up, and his story is for an older audience. Ferdinand is a hopeless (literally) romantic, who bites with only one tooth so he won't damage his (willing) victims or become addicted to their blood. Along with his catlike paramour, a tree maiden, and some nasty humanoids, he cavorts and philosophizes his way through tales set in mansions, aboard ship, and in the forest at night. The patter is clever, thoughtful, and as gentle (for the most part) as Ferdinand's nips. The lush, painterly colors Sfar uses are beautifully produced, and the hand-drawn text amplifies the story's mood: élan tempered by ennui. Older graphic novel fans with a sophisticated sense of humor will be the most appreciative audience here.Review in 4/3/06 Publisher's Weekly
Ferdinand is a vampire who lives in Lithuania, wears three-piece suits and receives regular visits from an adoptive "grandmother" witch who looks after his Siamese cat when he's off on trips to Paris. But none of this is any protection against the more mundane realities of being a newly single guy stuck forever in that period of new adulthood when hormones meet emotions and confusion results. Ferdinand's exploits, as detailed by award-winning French artist Sfar (Little Vampire Goes to School, The Rabbi's Cat), read like a classic slacker tale—when he isn't sleeping in his coffin, Ferdinand carries his favorite records around in a messenger bag. Ferdinand's adventures and companions are at once otherworldly and oddly familiar. A tree-man has a crush on Ferdinand's ex-girlfriend, Lani, a girl/plant who cheated on Ferdinand with his best friend. Ferdinand alternately longs for and is angry at Lani, finds himself the object of a teenage vampire crush and cruises bars for new love. Just when the troubled relationships seem too commonplace, Sfar slips in a magical detail about a golem or a crying tree. As usual, Sfar's artwork is effortlessly charming, filled with classically stylish ink hatching and lettering, for a story that is funny and unpredictable.Review in June 2006 issue of VOYA
4Q/4P. French comics creator Sfar, best known in America for the Little Vampire children¹s graphic novels, gives us another tale featuring the Grand Vampire Ferdinand. When Ferdinand breaks up with his cheating girlfriend, he starts to look for love in all the wrong places. Chance encounters, near misses, and pickup lines combine to detail one failure after another with woman both alive and undead.
As Ferdinand tries to navigate his way through a variety of relationships, readers encounter the mixture of strange creatures that inhabit Sfar¹s universe. Readers of Sfar¹s other works will see many familiar faces among this motley crew of characters, from the traditional ghosts to the distinctive tree-folk. The viewpoint and humor of the four independent but interconnected stories will certainly resonate with older teens who will have experienced the same trials and tribulations in their own searches for love. Even with its wisdom and wit, the dialogue, which may have been affected by its translation from French, is slightly flat. The small and extremely detailed graphics filled with alternating bold and dark colors, however, are vivid and alive. Edgy and creepy but at the same time universal and normal, Vampire Loves is a unique study in contrasts that will be a pleasurable discovery for graphic novel enthusiasts.Review in August 2006 issue of School Library Journal
From the author of the delightful "Little Vampire" books (S & S) comes an inexplicably grown-up version of the same character, thirsty for both blood and love. Ferdinand is a sweet, charming bloodsucker who considerately sips from his victims with one fang so they will only think it is a mosquito bite and not panic. When not quenching his thirst, he spends much of his time either with his pet cat or flying around town trying to pick up women. Great characters, weird plot twists, and fantastic drawing and coloration make for a terrific graphic novel that will appeal to Goth teens and vampire aficionados. There are references to implied promiscuity and drug use-this is, after all, a story about an undead creature who gives away his conscience because it is annoying him. An excellent choice for public libraries.-Dawn Rutherford, King County Library System, Bellevue, WAReview in September 2006 issue of Rain Taxi
If you want a perspective on how a supernatural being, hundreds of years old and removed from the ordinary spectrum of emotions, would respond to romantic entanglement, Joann Sfar's Vampire Loves is not the place to look. If, however, you don't mind your undead struggling with familiar human failings, then you have no reason not to adore the sad and witty (albeit adolescent) vignettes that make up this prolific French comic artist's newest graphic novel.
Sfar, known best in Europe for his Little Vampire books, has produced a more grown-up version of the world he established in these children's comics—a look at the life of Ferdinand, a vampire with a great record collection and a hopelessly complex love life. The episodic narrative follows the shy Ferdinand, recently jilted by a capricious tree spirit named Lani, as he drifts from one affair to another. Sfar's strength lies in the way he mixes the gothic atmosphere with a cast of characters who, by comparison, seem very real. In one sequence, Ferdinand encounters a Japanese tourist wandering the Louvre at night; she stuns him with the flash from her camera and, after Ferdinand recovers, the two go on a bittersweet tour of the museum. The vampire explains that, looking at certain paintings, he can almost remember what the world feels like during the day. Although the next panel shows Ferdinand and the Japanese woman sitting chastely in front of a sunrise scene, its caption reads: "We basked in the sunlight and kissed." Sfar drives home the poignancy of the short-lived romance through understatement, contrasting the restrained quality of the panel with Ferdinand's melancholy courtship.
But Vampire Loves never dwells on tragedy overlong. Sfar has a light touch and good sense for when to leaven sentiment with a dry, almost satirical humor. The result is a book that feels melodramatic and frothy at the same time, much like a heartsick teenager with a precocious sense of irony. In a way, that dichotomy drives the characters, as in the case of two whimsically named immortal sisters, Ritaline and Aspirine, who involve Ferdinand in their lives. "Aspirine," Sfar writes, "shouldn't constantly poke fun at her older sister's old age, because the two of them are only eight years apart. And when you were born in the 18th century, that shouldn't make too big a difference. Except that for all eternity, Aspirine will be seventeen, and that's a painful age to be. The older sister is probably luckier."
Sfar's art, complimented by Audre Jardel's saturated coloring and Alexis Siegel's translation of the original French, is full of whimsy and sly references to European adventure comics from previous decades. If Sfar occasionally relies too much on narration, it's not because his art doesn't do a significant amount of work in its own right; the well-paced panels propel the vignettes forward without overpowering the ambiguities of the dialogue and characterization. Love after death, in Ferdinand's world, means floating through an eternity of small, laughable stories in which you can never manage to act your age.