A SF “bande dessinée” Review: Paul Gillon’s The Survivor, 1 (1985, trans. 1990)

Story: 1/5 (Bad)

Art: 3/5 (Average)

Paul Gillon’s La survivante (The Survivor) (1985-1991) is a four-part erotic SF “bande dessinée” marketed as “ADULTS ONLY.” The first two volumes were translated into English by Dwight Decker and published in 1990. This is a review of volume 1. It’s sexually explicit, post-apocalyptic, and French. It’s Barbarella (1962-1964) 80s style, but the new 60s sexual liberation of the later is recast as campy exploitation… Other than the front cover below, I have not included images of the kaleidoscope of sexual acts and nudity–male, female, and andromorphic robot–included within the mere 47 pages. Take my word for it.

Aude Albrespy emerges from her aquatic escape from a nuclear war to a transformed world. Her partner “died trying to escape” and his skeleton greets her emergence from the depths (1). Ravenous and nude, she traverses the scarred landscape hunting for canned food and survivors. A few humorous interludes transpire.

While browsing a clothing store, she triggers an alarm system while carrying off her loot: “MADAME! MADAME! YOUR CASHCARD!” (10). She arrives in Paris and finds the snazziest hotel replete with robotic ushers with mechanical attachments that satiate her lonely despair. She goes through motions of her previous life–she visits a club (“Ohh… I’m completely Smashed!”) (16), watches films (“Video dreams, life in cans… The dead past will live again! Hey! They even have porno films!) (21), wanders the streets, browses for expensive jewelry (28)…

Her voyages across the deserted urban expanse are framed by the statues of the past. Her despair is manifested by an intense erotic loneliness and unending desires… there are all types of robotic love assistants in this wrecked world. But her erotic dalliances and sad daydreams are cut short by a subterranean terror. There seem to be other inhabitants below ground that are not entirely human that will emerge and reclaim Paris. And then one day a human man arrives. But her robotic hotel butler/lover (apparently programmed to be jealous?) wants her!

The best artistic sequence showcase a transformed Paris. Empty of humans, statues line the Parisian boulevards like ossified manifestations of the memory of humanity. There are film noir-ish touches as the rain douses the empty streets. The story itself falls completely flat. The two main “reveals” are but sad afterthoughts. I have no desire to know what happens in later volumes.

I am not sure what possessed me to procure a copy. While I find myself drawn to “visions that redeploy the language of the erotic as parables of collapse,” Gillon treads banal ideas and uninteresting ground. As is a constant refrain on my site, the act of exploring a landscape is often more exciting than what I discover–and that is okay! I am willing to explore more of Gillon’s earlier and less pornographic work in the future including the ten-part Les naufragés du temps (Lost in Time) (1978-1989), whose first four volumes were co-conceived with Jean-Claude Forest of Barbarella (1962-1964) fame.

As copies are somewhat scarce and expensive (~$20 with shipping) online and I suspect there are fans out there of this style of “bande dessinée,” I thought I’d go ahead and offer it to anyone in the US who might want it. Let me know in the comments. [already claimed via email]

This one is not for me.

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