The old Mexican comic from the seventies and the recently finished Japanese manga share more than the alliteration in the name of the main characters: they share a kind of humor that is almost unique to them.
First some background info. Hermelinda Linda was a comic published between the early seventies and late eighties in Mexico by Editormex based on characters created by Oscar González Guerrero , José Cabezas and Fausto Buendía, about a witch from the Bondojito slums neighborhood. Hermelinda would perform black magic spells and prepare potions and cast hexes for anyone with the money to pay for them, although the results were not always what her customers expected. Full of black humor , macabre mischief, beautiful women and innuendo jokes, the “witchcraft jobs” performed by Hermelinda for her customers almost always had something to do with some of the Deadly Sins (from wikipedia).
Franken Fran (フランケン・ふらん Furanken Furan?) is a comedy horror manga series by Katsuhisa Kigitsu. It began serialization in Champion Red magazine in September 2006 and is now completed. Fran is a girl created by Dr. Naomitsu Madaraki, the world’s top biologist and former war criminal (some medical experiments conducted on human beings). Fran was originally intended to be his assistant, but she has overtaken his work and home while he is away. Her work consist of odd medical procedures ranging from resurrection to aesthetic surgery to cloning of human beings. There is a fair amount of black humor, nearly each story ending with Fran having created some sort of gruesome monstrosity or misfortune at the expense of her patients (sorry… no refunds), specially a certain very unlucky policewoman.
There’s a lot of common themes between the 2 series: the clones/cuijes zombies, the foolish/selfish/sinful request and motives of the customers, the light sexual situations, the seemingly nice but actually nasty amoral nature of Hermelinda and Fran and the horrible ends that await those who deal with them.
However the biggest common thread is the particular sense of humor that flavors both comic book series. It’s a cruel and dark humor based upon comeuppance for those foolish enough or sinful enough to dare and do a deal with the demon-light entities Hermelinda and Fran.
Don’t get me wrong, both Hermelinda and Fran are deadly funny and oddly gripping reads, but what sets them apart from other similar comic books is the way that they retell the Faust legend where a foolish/greedy human being deals with the devil and gets his or her comeuppance at the end. This theme lends itself to endless variations (other decidedly not funny examples of this theme and variations include the entire run of the Japanese manga Hell Girl or many of the Tales from the Crypt episodes).
This dark and justice based kind of humor was a shocking experience to me when I first encountered these two series and I cannot recommend that flavor of comedy enough to those adventurous and not easily disgusted readers out there. Because there is plenty of gore in them, but there is also a warning in them that might be helpful in a future where our Faustian bargain with nuclear power and cheap oil brings our comeuppance in the form of many more Fukushima-like incidents and deep sea oil spills.