The Professor’s Daughter

The Professor’s Daughter
The Professor's Daughter graphic novel review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: First Second - 978-1-59643-130-0
  • Release date: 1997
  • English language release date: 2007
  • UPC: 9781596431300
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no

The Professor’s daughter is Lillian, an intelligent young woman who feels stifled by her father. In this whimsical tale of the late 19th century she’s an adventurous sort, not above escorting the Mummy Imhotep for a night on the town in London and certainly unconcerned when the law comes calling afterwards.

A monumental dose of the absurd is served up Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert as Lillian’s escapades eventually bring down more trouble than she’s capable of handling. However, Sfar treats the entire story as if staged farce with every scene played with a knowing wink, so we don’t need to worry too much about her. Guibert adapts to the script, contrasting the staid formality of the era with comedy scenes of mummies rushing about town, and neat watercolour panels, expressive and taking each preposterous turn in his stride.

Sfar strings together a selection of recognisable aspects of Victorian Britain, some clichéd, some still relevant well over a century later, along with some glorious attitudes on behalf of the mummies. Yes there’s more than one, and after all, they were the absolute rulers of a nation, their merest whim enacted. What makes this more than just an enjoyable pastiche, though, are the many imaginative small touches and the complete unpredictability. There’s not a single page ending where the reader will have an idea about what’s likely to follow, and the pleasing small touches include the mummy’s dreams, the comical lack of dignity about how Queen Victoria is treated and the police investigating mummies.

The romp is sustained as light and breezy until the end, and is followed by Guibert’s 1997 research sketches.