The second part of Paolo Eleuteri Serpieri’s Druuna saga, Creatura and Carnivora, is an expansion of the universe introduced in Morbus Gravis, setting the stage for the remainder of the series.
Creatura and Carnivora are interesting chapters in the Druuna saga for a number of reasons, the foremost being the fact that Druuna exists, at least for part of the story arc, as a background character. It’s mysterious in the same way as Morbus Gravis, keeping both the reader and Druuna in the dark as to the grander conspiracy afoot. Serpieri also inserts himself into the story this chapter, delving into the strange world he has created firsthand.
The first page of Creatura (in the Heavy Metal edition, reviewed here) opens with a narrative bubble underlining the title, stating, “In the beginning there was chaos. Then God created the supreme being… first among all creatures: Himself…” Bordering this text on all sides, an infant breaks from the womb and into a vast, dark ocean. The male baby, who matures at a steady rate each frame, floats out into the abyss, his left hand reaching just outside of the final frame as though to grip it, prompting the reader to turn the page.
Now a fully developed man, he reaches the surface in a panicked state, unable to break through the sickly yellow resign. Letting out an anguished gasp, the male succumbs to his fate, only to find himself awakened from the apparent nightmare by a woman. In this final frame of the page, the man (William) and his companion (Terry) are in a borderless box, whilst the nightmare sequence prior saw Will contained within bordered panels, stressing the claustrophobia of his dream state.
It’s then revealed that the two were entwined in a zero-gravity love-making session when Will fell asleep. Terry expresses her concern with Will’s wellbeing. Will is dismissive of Terry – hostile, even – stating he is merely lacking sleep and that he has no more interest in continuing their escapade.
The room’s gravity restored, we learn the two are crew members of a starship. They get dressed and move to the ship’s bridge at the request of their crewmate, Rogers. Will and Terry meet roughly a half-dozen other crew members on the bridge and begin discussing a nearby object they have discovered in space. The ship’s artificial intelligence system refers to the mass as a “paradox”, as the body seemingly emits a strange frequency; though some of the crew disagree, believing it to be nothing more than an asteroid. Will puts on a pair of headphones to listen to the AI’s feed of the signal, and it quickly causes him to fall under a trance, falling back into a dream.
Page 6 opens with Will slipping the headphones over his head. The following frame closes in from a bust shot to a portrait view. Will’s anguish upon hearing the noise is made evident by his tensed hands gripping the headphones, along with his eyes clenched shut and beads of sweat dripping down his forehead. Blue static radiates from around his hands, portraying both the sound and the sharp pain it seems to be causing. The static points even break slightly out of the lefthand frame, queuing the break with reality.
Will opens his eyes to see that he is no longer onboard his ship, but rather emerging from the body of water he found himself gasping for breath in a short while ago. His colouring now a ghostly grey, and his state of dress changed, Will emerges from the water towards a ruined city. Colour returns to normal as he breaches the shore on page 7, perhaps meant to communicate the move to the dream world is in fact indistinguishable from reality. He examines his surroundings, finding the buildings are being consumed by strange vegetation.
He then notices a reflection atop one of the towers. He moves into the city to investigate, only to find it is an unintelligible mess of stairs, pathways, and buildings linked together without rhyme or reason. Will theorizes he is having another nightmare, stating that only a “distorted human mind could come up with such a crazy building scheme.”
On page 9, Will approaches a woman in a red gown (soon revealed to be Druuna) as she gazes out the desolate scene below. She states that the city, sea, and everything else has died, and she believes she will soon die as well. She then lashes out at Will, labelling him as part of the illusion. However, she moves from recoiling in anger to falling into his arms over the course of a mere five frames, with Will none the wiser as to the reason he finds himself here, or who this woman is.
Druuna takes Will by the hand, leading him down a staircase and into her private quarters; a room, much like the rest of the city, in a state of disarray, though unaffected by the parasitic creep. The room is filled with décor and objects of, what Druuna assumes, are a world long past.
The final frame of the page showcases some remarkable muscle definition, with Will’s arching back flexed as he removes his shirt. Druuna too, laid back on the bed, is in a state of excitement, as highlighted by the flexed tendons in her neck as she gazes up to admire Will. Though the scene is scored by dialog and line of action, it is the muscle tension and flexing that communicates the pair’s lust strongest.
Their pleasure is short-lived, however, and before long the dream begins to fade for Will, just as the mysterious woman whispers her name: Druuna.
The frame breaks into small glass-like shards and the colour evaporates to a grey-black overtone as Will leans over top of Druuna, with Druuna delicately cusping Will’s head in her hands. Horizontal white lines cut overtop the frame like television static, and the page ends with Will back on the ship’s bridge, the headphones falling from his ears as his crewmates look on in confusion.
The crew informs Will that he lost consciousness for a few seconds and woke up mumbling “Druuna…” Will suggests they move closer to the asteroid. Rogers disagrees, prompting Will to leave abruptly to go and see the ship’s doctor (Doc). Will and Terry then exchange words, with Terry trying to defend Will while Rogers makes veiled accusations about her feelings towards him, and what Rogers refers to as her “genetic programming.”
We then follow Terry as she moves to the bottom levels of the ship, obviously upset by Roger’s taunting. She approaches a door labelled “Prolet”. She wrestles with her desire for whatever awaits inside, stating she hates what they do to her but is helpless to fight her urges. Naked and against the wall, she presents herself, terrified as the mysterious beings approach and ultimately rape her – only scant visions of the humanoids teased before the scene changes to Doc’s office.
Doc believes Will has experienced telepathic communication with a powerful being. Though Will dismisses the notion as absurd, their conversation is soon interrupted by a radio call from the bridge, stating they have reached the asteroid. Doc and Will gaze out the ship window to witness the object up close. The asteroid is a massive, seemingly organic or fossilized, object. A message then appears in the computer’s feed. Rogers communicates that the signal is six letters long, repeating over and over: D-R-U-U-N-A.
Grey and black overtones cast an eerie shadow over the scene, prompting Will to once again fall into a dream. He awakens in a cavern seemingly made of muscle. A voice calls out for help from the end of the hall. Will moves to investigate, noting how the walls seem to be pulsating, or breathing, like a living entity.
To his surprise, a little girl in white dress calls him forward, asking if he is her father. Will states he is not, but asks how he can help her. She brings him to a corridor leading to a massive open eye, staring directly at him. Will recoils in horror, pinning the source of his nightmares, and the telepathic communication, to this being.
The eye is among the most shocking scenes in the entire book. An open eye, revealing so much sclera, elicits an immediate startle response. The sickly tunnel housing it, coupled with the red flesh creeping atop it like veins in a bloodshot eye, make it appear in a perpetual state of horror, aggression, or pain; its only means to communicate being its focused pupil, as it is devoid of a lid with which to blink or otherwise express itself. It’s startling and pitiful, not letting the reader know its intentions, but rather just its state of distress.
Gazing into the eye with the little girl, Will comes to see an image of Druuna within the darkness of the pupil. The way Druuna is fit into the pupil, framed in the transparent black void, is interesting. The cross hatching around the iris focuses attention inward, with Druuna’s black hair reflecting a bit of light, framing her within the dark circle. As the next frame closes in, and Druuna awakens, she still appears to be behind the lens of the eye – or rather, inside the mind of the being.
Back on the bridge, Rogers shows Doc and Will that they have found an opening in the asteroid. Will and Rogers spar about whether to move closer or back away, with Will citing the mission objectives they carry, seemingly rooted in their species exploring the far reaches of the universe.
The page rounds out with Terry in her room. She begins in the shower, resting her head against the wall before moving to the bathroom mirror. Draped in a towel, she looks at herself, stating how she fears the “brutes” will kill her one day. She then moves to the bed to inject herself with a serum of some kind, continuing her mental flogging, stating, “Rogers is right… No amount of drugs will change what I am.”
These frames with Terry are notable as they capture a private moment of her life. Not posed in an erotic manner, nor engaged in a sexual act, she instead moves about her quarters, nude, lost in thought. It’s tantalizing insofar as she is bare, but not merely for the viewer’s pleasure. She doesn’t teasingly hide her breasts under the towel, but rather stands there in a moment of reflection. It’s a great example of how powerful, and intimate, Serpieri’s use of the nude body can be, eroticism aside.
In the next scene, Will orders Stephenson, Doc, and Terry accompany him to the surface of the asteroid while they await the computer’s analysis. On page 24, the shuttle begins its decent towards the opening in the asteroid. The crater appearing far deeper and narrower than the video feed seen before, the warped perspective gives this frame a sense of vertigo and speed, with the shuttle craft plummeting towards the surface, fighting the asteroid’s gravity as they hastily deploy the landing gear.
After a rough landing, the crew begins exploring the surface. Doc and Will look at the remnants of the structures, theorizing who could have built them and why. The pipes and mechanical infrastructure bear an uncanny resemblance to the machinery and equipment seen in the crew’s own ship. Curiously, they do not immediately recognize it as manmade.
Soon after, Doc and Will lose communication with their crewmates on the surface. They are then informed by Rogers that the computer has solved the “paradox”. In fact, the asteroid houses a living creature, and that creature is trying to fuse with the internal artificial core. The creature is, allegedly, God.
After this revelation, Will suddenly realizes that he is now all alone. The squishy resin coating the ground begins to swallow the shuttle before reaching up for Will with an array of tentacles. He is sucked underground, the page ending with a flash of light in the dark.
The following page opens with this same flash, though now we are in the company of Druuna instead of Will. She appears to be waking from the dream of the city shared earlier in the story. Druuna lays upon a pedestal, covered in a wrinkled and dirty white sheet. With no recollection of how she came here, she only discerns that someone else must have wrapped her in the sheet. As she sits up, the fabric crumbles away into dust, revealing her body. It’s yet another fascinating display of drapery by Serpieri, with the cloth not bending or wrapping around a body, but rather a body breaking through it, the threads collapsing and tearing around Druuna as she sits upward.
Cold and alone, Druuna tries to remember how she got to this place, but finds herself only able to remember her dreams in the ruined city. She remembers Lewis, and how he put her there, but cannot recall for how long.
She moves from the dark room towards an opening in the concrete and rebar wall, emerging into a ruined, but brighter and warmer, landscape. A series of domes like the one she had been housed in line the yard. She opts to enter another, only to find it leads to a sewer tunnel. A collection of leeches cling to Druuna’s bare skin as she tromps though the waterway, though things get worse from there, with a wave of water crashing down the tunnel towards her.
On page 32, Druuna grabs hold of a hanging line to save herself from being swept away by the current. Like the scene with Will and Druuna making love from earlier, the muscle tension and definition displayed on this page do incredible job of building suspense, scoring Druuna’s escape from the sewer by way of climbing a steep brick slope.
When Druuna emerges from the sewer in the fourth frame, where colour and light return to the scene, you can see the tendons in her left arm flex as she grips the wall while hoisting herself up via a thin platform. Her shoulders raised and tensed, Druuna looks like a natural rock climber, elegantly hugging the rock via the edges of the frame as though they were anchor points. The final frame shows her hands reaching over the ledge, and here too the tension in her muscles amplifies the stress of not only escaping from the crevasse, but by hiding vantage as to what awaits on the surface.
On the following page, her wrists are seized by an unknown individual. She is abruptly lifted out of the hole and into the company of three men and a woman, all wearing district and eclectic garb. The group lay claim to her, immediately stating their intentions to share and breed with her. The woman, Lornah, commands the pack, taking Druuna into her care and reminding the men what women are meant for in their community.
Druuna thanks Lornah for asking the man to let go of her wrists, promising she will not run away. Lornah responds by stating that she knows Druuna would not run away, as this side of the “wall” is far too dangerous. She then gifts Druuna a simple white top, long enough to cover her torso, hips, and pelvis. Druuna goes along with the group, begrudgingly, trying to work out a way to escape.
The group hikes across a landscape of foothills, similar to the forbidden zone seen in Morbus Gravis II, though all traces of manmade structures seem to now be lost beneath the creep. As they reach the top of a ridge, Druuna’s companions point out a mass of flesh in the distance, spitting out a stampede of giant insectoid creatures. Lornah states they refer to the being as a curse in their community, though someone named Sha calls it a God.
At the gates to the city, Druuna asks who Sha is. Lornah states he is the most important man in the community, and lives in the dome. Before Druuna can learn more, the doorman opens the gate (just as a pack of the creatures attempt to attack, with the men, Gall, Rohko, and Bugh, fending them off while Lornah and Druuna rush the door), who happens to be none other than Druuna’s old friend, The Gnome, giving some comic relief to an otherwise tense page of action.
Their reunion is short-lived, as The Gnome does not recognize Druuna. Reminded by Lornah not to speak to anyone inside the city, Druuna is ushered into the streets for the community to see. Men gawk and women gossip as Druuna passes through, Lornah informing her that coming into possession of a new woman is a sign of power within the community.
Page 36 ends with a wide frame of villagers all facing outward towards the reader while Lorna and Druuna pass in profile, left to right. At the far right, Will can be seen in the crowd, his face partly obscured by the hood of his cloak.
Druuna senses a familiar vibration which amplifies as she gets closer to Will. They exchange glances, with Druuna recognizing him from her dream, and Will repeating her name in his head. Rohko stands between the two, pushing Will aside by the shoulder, his forearm underlining their gazes.
Moving through the streets, Druuna sees the dome housing Sha in the distance. It is coloured with a grey and blue light – a colder tone from the tanned houses and buildings boarding it. An array of pipes and power lines jet out from the top of the dome as well, cracking through the concrete ceiling like roots.
Moved into a room, Lornah tells Druuna she will be back for her later on. Inside, Druuna finds Terry sitting on a bed. Terry has, it seems, lost her memory of life on the ship, but still remembers the purpose of her construction – to make love. Druuna takes a seat on the bed next to her while Terry recounts what she can remember, and offers a warning to Druuna about how women are treated here. Terry stares forward with a vacant expression and heavy eyes, inhaling opium. She curls in on herself, hand and head rested against her knee, while one of her shoulder straps falls down, stressing her depressed state. Terry claims they (the villagers) need women in order to procreate. Druuna stands up from the bed, nervously fidgeting her hands, recalling that she has yet to see a child anywhere in the city.
Page 41 opens with Lornah, Bugh, Rohko, and Gall entering the scene, blocking the lone door to the room. This first frame takes up nearly two-thirds of lefthand side of the page. Though the backdrop of the room’s archway is visible, the floor is absent, replaced by a blank white plot. Speech bubbles from the surrounding frames break into this frame, touring the eye around and down as Druuna is restrained and injected with a mysterious serum. The final two frames are punctuated with Lornah’s rear and breasts, displayed by way of corset, hinting at the group’s intentions with Druuna.
The first frame has Druuna, still dressed, restrained by Bugh and Lornah, her body forced into an awkward zig-zag pattern while Lornah and Bugh bracket her on either side. In the second frame, Druuna’s face is pressed into Lornah’s bosom. Lornah holds her in a firm, almost motherly, grip as though to comfort her.
The drugs Druuna had been injected with kick into effect soon after, and Druuna becomes a willing participant. Like the opening frames on the page, Druuna is surrounded, trapped, between the group in every subsequent pane. In the fourth frame, where Druuna begins to feel the effects of the drugs, she is viced between Bugh’s arching body and Lornah’s breasts and head at the top and bottom of the frame, respectively. The next frame, Druuna is surrounded by all three men, with Lornah bordering the bottom of the frame. Even in the final frame, where Druuna performs fellatio, Lornah watches (approvingly) from above, keeping Druuna surrounded.
This structure continues onto the next page, with Druuna constantly framed by the three men and Lornah. For the entirety of the scene thus far, Druuna has been kept below the other members as they tower over her. On the final frame, however, while mounted atop Rohko, she is raised to the top of the group, the pile of bodies forming a triangle, with Druuna’s head making up the point. The drugs fully in effect, Druuna takes control of the scene, not just partaking in the acts, but commanding them.
Page 44 picks up some time after, with the group sprawled out across the bed, asleep. Druuna wakes up first, dressing herself and slipping out before the others notice. She stops to touch Lornah, reflecting on the pleasure she gave to her, but commits that she cannot stay in this place and must move on. Terry stops Druuna at the door, stating she wants to escape with her. The vibrant colours and bright light of the previous scene gone, Druuna and Terry slip out in the muted grey and yellow landscape and head towards the dome.
As they ascend the stairs to the dome, Druuna notes the sculpture of an eye. She recognizes it from her dreams, stating she remembers seeing it as a child. As Druuna reflects on her dreams, Terry voices her suspicions of the temple. Her rejection of the legends involving the man who lives inside, contrasted against Druuna’s reconciling of her dreams, is further reflected on page 46.
In the first frame, Druuna stands facing the eye while Terry lags a step behind, one foot still off the landing. In the second frame, both women are portrayed in profile looking left. Druuna, in thought, has long dark hair, while Terry, speaking aloud, has short blonde hair, emphasizing the dichotomy between the two. The third frame has both women entering the dark hallway of the temple, where Druuna is cloaked in black shadow, leaning right, while Terry remains in the light, hesitating, and leaning to the left.
Once inside, Druuna is greeted by a zombified man seated upon a throne. His skin is a sickly green, and metal plates and goggles are affixed to his head. He mumbles to Druuna without moving his lips, and is unable to get up due to lack of energy. He reveals himself to be Schastar, and though he can barely sense her presence, he tells her she is just as beautiful as he remembers. Kept alive by the crude machinery, it is confirmed that a substantial amount of time has indeed passed since Morbus Gravis, and that this is still in fact the same ship, though it has transformed into such a different place that Druuna could not recognize it.
Schastar tries to explain his condition, though Druuna is so overwhelmed that she throws herself upon him. Soon, his speech cuts out, and Druuna is greeted by another familiar voice: Lewis. As he explains it, Lewis merged himself with Schastar in order to keep him alive. After centuries, however, their minds conformed into one, with Schastar’s proving dominant, but soon thereafter the vessel was taken over by what Lewis refers to as the “living God.”
Lewis gives Druuna a brief telepathic glimpse of the eye from her nightmare, stating it belongs to a temporal being attempting to break into their world. The sickness seen in Morbus Gravis was only its first attempt to enter into their realm. In order to save Druuna, Lewis put her in a deep sleep and transferred her mind and body into an alternate dimension while he and Schastar stayed behind.
Before Druuna can comprehend the information revealed, two decrepit robots stumble towards her. Lewis states that there is no escaping their fate, and thus he has arranged for Druuna to meet with this entity. The robots escort her up towards a pedestal, undressing her and restraining her on the stone platform.
A horrific, almost liquid, mass crawls up over the end of the pedestal, moving from a rounded blob before forming into a fleshless humanoid. Druuna screams in fear as the beast moves up between her legs, entering her while still only partially formed. Page 51 opens with three concurrent frames, showing the creature’s face morphing into Lewis’. This transformation is stunning, with the first frame being an unreckonable face twisted in anguish, the muscle definition being nothing more than a collection of red blobs and stringy tendon. In the second frame, flesh begins to cover the mass, and the look softens to one of relief, with the third frame forming into a healthy, young Lewis. He has come to form this illusion in order to help Druuna through the process with the “living God”, and to uphold his and Schastar’s end of the deal with the being, allowing Druuna to live.
Druuna falls into Lewis’ arms and the two begin to make love. In the middle of page 51, Druuna is atop Lewis, legs spread apart. A warm orange glow illuminates the righthand side of her body, while a grey light covers her left, telegraphing the realities she unknowingly straddles.
She then awakens with Lewis on the familiar beach from Morbus Gravis. She moves to stand, reaching out to the sea with her right hand while Lewis holds her left, anchoring her down. A flock of birds fly above her outstretched hand, showing the freedom that awaits.
They move into the water at Lewis’ protest. Druuna dives beneath the surface, with Lewis following thereafter. While they float underwater, he tells her that he is fading away. The one he called to take her away and keep her safe (Will) will soon come. With that, Lewis sinks into the abyss.
The top frames of page 53 all flow between one and other by way of broken boarders, the water moving between them like currents, directing the reader’s gaze. The first frame has Druuna and Lewis breaking the surface, moving towards the frame’s bottom right corner which opens to them floating, hand in hand, in the ocean. Druuna’s body is angled slightly left, leading the gaze into the bottom two frames as Lewis says goodbye before sinking into the dark water.
The page ends with Druuna collapsed upon the pedestal in the temple of Sha, clothed. The temple has begun to crumble, implying yet more time has passed since Druuna was taken by the “living God” and ushered away into the dream by Lewis. When Druuna sits up, she realizes the creature must have impregnated her while in the dream. She moves to leave the temple, stopping to check on Schastar, only to find him degraded to a mere skeleton. As Lewis had promised, they are now gone.
Druuna reflects on Lewis’ final words, regarding how the past, present, and future don’t exist. She questions whether she really is pregnant, and why she is alive and everyone else gone. Page 55 shows Druuna deep in thought, moving between close-ups of her face in reaction to these revelations. In the first frame, Druuna grasps at her head, communicating her confusion. In the fourth, she takes a seat, one hand on the ground and the other under her chin. Finally, she stands up, one hand on her hip and the other resting to the side, looking confidently out to the tunnel before her. It’s an interesting tiering of frames, adhering to more of a comic book layout than the illustrated compositions in many of Serpieri’s other pages.
Venturing down the tunnel, Druuna hears the faint chatter of voices over a radio. One of the crew’s space suits lays on the ground. As she approaches, Will reveals himself, now back in his usual garb. Rogers tells Will (via radio) to get back to the shuttle. Druuna and Will reconvene, with Will revealing he was sent to find her, and Druuna recognizing him from her dream. The two rendezvous with the rest of the crew, and though Druuna recognizes Terry, Terry has no recollection of their time together with Lornah.
As the crew moves to board the ship. Druuna theorizes that the creature is letting them escape because Lewis had tricked him into thinking she was pregnant. On board the shuttle, the men work to get the ship off the ground before it is consumed by the creep, while Terry takes the opportunity to question Druuna about her race and genetic makeup. Druuna responds by confirming she isn’t a primitive, and can in fact talk, though teases that her favorite food is human flesh (Not a full lie. See page 43.)
The ship breaks free of the creep’s hold and moves back into space. Druuna looks back, saying her goodbyes to Schastar, Lewis, The Gnome, and The City. The computer suddenly interrupts, stating that the son of God has been conceived. Will dismisses the transmission as delirious. Doc on the other hand picks up that it is from old scripture. Druuna sinks in on herself, crossing her arms across her stomach in a dramatic end frame, doubting whether Lewis’ supposed plan had in fact worked, and questioning whether she is carrying a child.
One of the most evident changes in tone from Morbus Gravis to Creatura is in its graphic and (nearly) unapologetic depiction of sexual acts. I say nearly only to highlight that Serpieri (and/or the editors of various editions) have used balloon placement as a means to cover genitalia and penetration, instead of the more careful framing methods seen in Morbus Gravis. Page 3 is an early example of this censorship style, as seen with Will’s tagged on “?” bubble used to cover up his penis. This bubble (and others) are not present in all versions.
Though framing is still used to cover up some bits of full-frontal nudity, like on pages 12 and the scene on 42 through 44, Creatura seems intentionally more graphic than its predecessor. Page 50 is a curious example of full-frontal nudity and insertion that seemingly escaped censorship, perhaps because the creature has not yet fully formed into a human – though that in itself seems more horrifying and worthy of censorship than Will’s zero-G penis.
The translation, balloon placement, and lettering are worth noting as a whole when comparing the Heavy Metal edition (translated by Michela Nonis, edited by Julie Simmons, and with lettering by Adam Kubert) with the more recent Lo Scarabeo edition (with lettering and translation done by Studio Manfont). The two English publications differ throughout the franchise, though because of the aforementioned censorship outlined above, it’s worth touching on here, if only for interest’s sake.
Though the Heavy Metal edition was subject to more censorship scrutiny, that’s not to say it’s an inferior translation. Text formatting in the balloons is less refined in the Heavy Metal edition of Creatura, with text often being off-centre or leaving large portions of the balloon space blank. The contrast between the lettering ink and Serpieri’s ink is also notable, and it’s evident that the original text was simply whited out for Kubert to replace. That’s not necessarily a criticism, it’s just how they had to work. Kubert’s italicised lettering fits the work nicely, and though not as well spaced and sized as the Lo Scarabeo print, his style fits nicely with the tone of the book.
That said, the formatting of text in the Lo Scarabeo version does look a bit cleaner, and the contrast between the lettering and balloon ink is more harmonious. There are a few odd translation choices between the two books, like when Druuna is being toured through the village by Lornah. In the Heavy Metal edition, she states, “Who are these people? What’s the matter with them?” In the Lo Scarabeo edition, she states in the same speech balloon, “Who are this people? What’s the matter with them?” In the final frame of the book, she states, “Hey… What if Lewis was wrong… What if the monster had me… Oh my god! No!” in the Heavy Metal edition, whereas in the Lo Scarabeo edition, she states, “Hey… What if Lewis was wrong… What if the monster made me… Oh my god! No!” Druuna’s moans of pleasure also vary between versions, sometimes being a “Hhhh…hh…” instead of a “Ahn… hhh…” Most of these differences are trivial, aside from the above cited extra balloon placement, but are none the less interesting to note (Email message to author 2021).
In Morbus Gravis, the attire worn by the populous was ragged and dirty, but resembled more or less what sort of practical scraps would be left behind in such a world. Druuna, for example, had a few pieces of denim wear and even sneakers. Schastar wore a trench coat – suitable attire for a man with secrets to hide. The security forces wore matching uniforms, Ottonegger wore a lab coat, etc. Point is, it was easy to discern what era this mysterious place had emerged from. In Creatura, time is a central theme, and the location in which the book takes place isn’t clearly established until late in the book. Will and his crew wear work gear, like thick jackets and cargo pants. The computer terminals are big – a messy collection of input boards and displays. It’s a similar brand of the angular, CRT, retro-future tech seen in the likes of Alien. The space suits they wear on the expedition to the asteroid too look like traditional 20th century space suits, albeit slimmed down a bit, though still with a notable amount of equipment tagged on.
Druuna’s gown from Lewis’ illusion is an obvious highlight, and is even featured on the cover of the book. It accentuates her body’s natural form, framing her head with vibrant frills and revealing much of her back, echoing her movement by way of a train. Back turned to the viewer, Druuna appears to rest her face in her hands, striking a contrapposto pose as she gazes out to the ruined landscape, the sight seemingly weakening her. She is perhaps the only bit of life left in this decaying place, the vibrant red colour, frilled straps, and plunging neckline contrasting a vitality against her crumbled surroundings.
Further on in the book, when Druuna is taken captive by Lornah, the fashion takes a curious turn. Druuna is clothed in a simple white garment, perhaps in reference to her innocence (or at the very least ignorance) of the situation she finds herself in. Gall, Rohko, Bugh, Lornah, and the rest of the community, have no definitive style of clothing aside from the unifying factor of “old stuff”. Cowboy attire, plate armor, and simple shawls are worn by the populous. Unlike the citizen of The City in Morbus Gravis, these people seem far worse off, hailing from a more primitive era, their dress being evocative of peasants.
Speaking in regards to his work on western comics, specifically depicting the attire of Indian tribes, Serpieri stated, “I try to get as close as possible to the truth.”(Serpieri 2020). Serpieri goes on to elaborate on the specifics of different peoples’ attire and hairstyles, how they changed with time and circumstance, as well as how he has taken great care in building, or adapting, them into his comic books. While the garments displayed in Creatura aren’t solely built from North American Indian fare, this revelation does highlight how much care and research has gone into each and every character’s attire. This attention to detail is spurred not just from necessity, but from a genuine love and appreciation of culture.
In the context of the attire seen in Creatura, the collection of garments plays well into the dreamlike existence of The City in an increasingly temporal state. This is something Druuna reflects upon after being separated from Lewis in the dream world, discerning that time does not exist in the continuum she had once thought. The village then, and the people populating it, are perhaps a manifestation of this conundrum. Out of time and out of place, how the men and women of The City are bound to Druuna is thought-provoking, and a curious hint to the author’s mind state. Serpieri revealed that when first conceptualizing Morbus Gravis, Druuna “had the body of a Native American.” (Serpieri 1993). His fascination with the western genre and Indian culture is well documented, and Creatura is perhaps the premier example of this fascination bleeding into the science fiction universe of Druuna. It’s no surprise then that Creatura is also the introduction of Doc – a vessel by which Serpieri is able to explore his own inspirations, processes, fears, and mind. In Druuna X, Serpieri revealed:
I must say that I like to go as far as I can in search of my own fantasies. I like to work that way. To maintain a certain honesty, I look deep within myself, into my fears, my anxieties, all the way to my fantasies. I think this is a leftover from the time I used to be a painter. I used to paint what I felt. This could be considered an overly ridged attitude, but I did not want to gloss things over. As I said earlier, in the ‘80’s I drew westerns. But I drew them the way I saw them, with the obvious compromise to the literary western stereotype: gunfights, stampedes, the perennial cowboy, all the Hollywood archetypes. Images that show up again in popular literature and finally, in comic books. With this science fiction series, I wanted to go way down into my inner self and discover my dreams, my nightmares and my hidden phobias.Serpieri 1993
Druuna, it could be theorized, is more than a muse; she is a guide Serpieri has used to explore himself. This, perhaps, is what separates Serpieri’s work from other “pornographic” comics. It is a raw and frightening delve into the artist’s mind. Not everything depicted is meant to be erotic – at least to the author – but rather a sifting through his psyche.
In Morbus Gravis II, some of Druuna’s facial details appeared fluid, perhaps a result of Serpieri’s numerous references. In Creatura, her depiction is more consistent, and he even goes the extra mile to give readers a glimpse of Druuna as a young child. Serpieri’s depiction of young Druuna is not only notable as being the first time we see a child in the series, but in how well he has transcribed her looks into a much younger form. She is immediately identifiable as Druuna (in part because of her signature long black hair and white attire) because her facial features are instantly recognizable, and this believable reduction in age is an incredible feat. Transforming facial features are seen throughout the series – like on page 51 when the living God morphs into Lewis – but the subtle note of young Druuna is a highlight of the book.
The book ends, as mentioned, on a similar note to Morbus Gravis I, with part of the mystery solved, though with the ramifications of the greater plot still unknown. In Morbus Gravis I, the last page reveal was a grand shot of the ship floating through space, the frame taking up half of the page. In Creatura, the final frame is small and abrupt, with Druuna leaning in on herself uncomfortably, eyes wide in horror at the realization that she may in fact have been impregnated. The rest of the crew is busy talking amongst themselves, trying to discern the computer’s new message, while Druuna sits in the dark, ignored, and terrified of what she may have brought onto the ship. This abruptness leaves the intended dramatic effect, with the reader flipping the page expecting more, only to find they have reached end of the book.
Aside from being an absolutely bonkers love triangle, Creatura is, like its processor, a horror story. However, though violence and body horror are still prevalent, Creatura bends more towards surreal horror. Time lapses, dream worlds, alternate dimensions, and the implied splintering of the human species make this a far more complex plot than the first two chapters.
Though Morbus Gravis had no shortage of dialogue, more time is spent on exposition and inner monologue here. Entire pages, like Doc and Will’s conversation on page 17 and Druuna’s analysis of her situation on page 55, fill the space with speech and thought bubbles in order to help explain to the reader what has transpired. This dedication to exposition is arguably necessary, thanks to the numerous twists and jumps in time as told from the perspective of multiple characters.
Like Morbus Gravis, Druuna is once again used as a pawn here. Though her situation is confusing and often frightening, she is less oblivious to the happenings this time around, in-spite of their complexity. Serpieri stated that he considers Druuna to be intelligent, sensitive, and curious (Serpieri 1993), and she certainly proves herself to be here. Though guided by Schastar and Lewis, their role is more in the background this time, and the trickery they submit to in order to fulfil their deal with the otherworldly entity is undoubtedly sinister, though not done without love for Druuna (even if sacrificing her as a vessel). It perhaps speaks to the types of controls put upon women by their male counterparts, trying to have a hand in something innately feminine, like birth.
Perhaps the most interesting theme of Creatura is, broadly speaking, the repetition of organized civilization, and asking what it means to be human. This is explored in the aforementioned dress and style of the human settlement Druuna and the crew come to be trapped in, but it’s not just in these “barbaric” people that we see inequality and patriarchal themes. On the ship, it is established from the first scene that Terry is seen as an outsider. She, like Druuna, is free with her love, and obviously has feelings for Will. Will does not reciprocate her feelings, and on pages 14 and 15, Rogers berates Terry, insinuating he and the rest of the crew know about her promiscuity and judge her for it. As she tries to walk away, he continues to push her, stating she cannot go against her role, or the programming of her genetic makeup.
What exactly he means by this isn’t clear in Creatura, though Terry soon after succumbs to her temptations, visiting the chamber labeled “Prolet”. Here, she begrudgingly submits to the primitive humans inside, though not without hesitation. Torn between her “programming” and the judgement of others, she falls victim to rape from these beings, with their appetite for her seemingly being the only source of intimacy she can attain without rejection or judgement.
As explored in the scene with Druuna and Terry escaping to the temple of Sha, there is a sort of mirror between the two women. Both want the same thing, but are born of different worlds and have very different personalities. Terry carries the shame of judgement with her, and in the later part of the book when she and Druuna reach the shuttle, focuses her efforts on questioning Druuna with skepticism rather than compatriotism. Druuna on the other hand, though more often than not a willing participant in sexual acts thrust upon her, is drawn to the same intimate connections as Terry, though carries no shame. In spite of her objections to Lornah’s demands, she ultimately leaves with a respect, or at least understanding, of her situation. Terry on the other hand is, understandably, angrier with the pain she has had to endure. How these two women navigate the groups they are in proves an interesting exploration and rectification of how women are treated in this horrifying universe (whether or not Druuna and Terry pass the Bechdel Test is debatable given their short conversations, but is still food for thought in such a sexually-charged narrative).
A point worth mentioning about Doc is when he and Druuna first meet on page 58. Druuna thinks to herself, “Hey, I know him!”, after which Doc responds to Will and Druuna with, “Yes, but I only remembered what you looked like… If you didn’t exist, we would have to invent you…” Perhaps a comical nod to his search for Druuna in real life.
Doc – Serpieri’s self-insertion into the storyline – should not be considered a Gary Sue, for reasons discussed above. Bits of Serpieri are likely already scattered throughout the cast, including Schastar, Lewis, and even Will, with all of the men enamored by her anomalous beauty, and power.
Doc’s inclusion in Creatura serves as something of a conduit for the reader to examine the broader happenings in the plot. He, like the other characters, is oblivious to the outcome of the events, though as a “scientist and philosopher”, he offers theoretical explanations of the universe presented, while also struggling to navigate his way through it. He is directly attached to the plot – more so in the following volumes. Docs isn’t a love interest or hero. He is a protector and problem solver, sure, but ultimately Druuna is the one who traverses the void of this dangerous universe, and Doc is beholden to the results wrought by her. He is, perhaps like he suggests in real life, in search of this mysterious woman who is always just slightly out of reach.
You can purchase Paolo Eleuteri Serpieri’s Creatura – Carnivora, here.
Serpieri, Paolo Eleuteri. 1993. Druuna X. New York: Diva Graphix.
Serpieri, Paolo Eleuteri. 1993. Creatura. Massachusetts: Heavy Metal.
Serpieri, Paolo Eleuteri. 2010. Creatura – Carnivora. Torino: Lo Scarabeo.