The vampire of Barcelona gets her own graphic novel
In the early 20th century, a woman was accused of kidnapping dozens of children to make potions with their blood for the city’s bourgeoisie
It is almost like a Catalan version of Jack the Ripper: in the first years of the 20th century, dozens of children were kidnapped, prostituted and murdered by a woman known as the vampire of “El Raval” — the poverty-ridden neighborhood in Barcelona where the series of crimes seemingly occurred.
The story, deep-rooted in Barcelona’s collective imaginary as one of the most mysterious and macabre legends of the city, has inspired countless articles, books and even TV shows and movie characters. It will now be at the center of a graphic novel, written by Miguel Ángel Parra and Iván Ledesma and illustrated by Jandro González, to be published on November 17: La Vampira de Barcelona (“The Vampire of Barcelona”).
The authors set the legend aside and focus instead on the true story behind it — that of Enriqueta Martí, a woman arrested in 1912 for kidnapping a girl who shortly thereafter died in jail. Authors used historical documents in order to be as accurate as possible. “We did not want to portray a parody of the character,” Ledesma said.
"What we did is use a graphic novel to portray the story of the era and we don’t judge whether it was true or false. But it is clear that there was something strange behind it"
Miguel Ángel Parra · Co-author
“What we did is to explain what happened around the case,” said Parra. For instance, news reports that would later suggest that Martí had kidnapped dozens of children to make potions with their blood and fat and then sold them to the city’s bourgeoisie.
Yet, this version has subsequently been disputed. “The character has been totally distorted,” wrote Elsa Plaza in Desmontando el caso de la vampira del raval: misoginia y clasismo en la Barcelona modernista (“Dismantling the case of the vampire of El Raval: misogyny and classism in modernist Barcelona”). The book, the author's second on the subject, portrays Enriqueta Martí as a scapegoat in a city where there was systematic sexual and labor exploitation of working class boys and girls.
Regarding the veracity of the legend of the vampire, the comic book authors prefer to keep their opinions to themselves. “What we did is use a graphic novel to portray the story of the era and we don’t judge whether it was true or false. But it is clear that there was something strange behind it,” Parra said.
Almost all of the characters are based on real photographs, included the main character. Although people might expect a darker style, the illustrator, Jandro González, said he instead preferred one that was more “soft, luminous and colorful.”
The graphic novel is also a thorough account of Barcelona life in the early 20th century. “It’s not a coincidence that Barcelona is in the title of the comic book. To me, it was one character more,” González said.