druuna morbus gravis Serpieri comic
Alexandre Rodrigues da Costa
13 min

“Nothing is true. Everything is permitted”: the sexual journey of Druuna, by Paolo Eleuteri Serpieri

13 min

What to say about Druuna, created by Paolo Eleuteri Serpieri? That she is the dream-woman incarnation of every nerd, geek and otaku? Since her first appearances in Métal hurlant and Heavy Metal magazines, Druuna entered the erotic imagination through stories that mix science fiction and pornography.

Druuna eroticFig.1.

Druuna X SerpieriFig.2.

Druuna erotic comicFig.3.

Druuna X

In the album Druuna X, Serpieri explains that he created Druuna from a series of personal experiences, such as watching a woman emerging naked from the sea on the beach he was on, using the body and features of Valerie Kaprisky, an actress in the film La Femme Publique, as a model for his heroine's anatomy, as well as using the Native American facial features he was used to when drawing western stories.

Druuna SerpieriFig.4.

Druuna erotic comic artFig.5.

Druuna nudity comic bookFig.6.

Non-Consensual Sex

If the creation of Druuna can be seen as a montage of several female references, we can observe the same principle applied to the narratives, which include influences from films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Alien, The Abyss, Terminator, Total Recall, and science fiction authors like Bradbury, Asimov, Anderson, Heinlein, Herbert, Simak and Zelazny. Hence, the dystopian character that characterizes the saga of Druuna, whose sexual content only becomes explicit from volume 3, Carnivora, on, where we can see some scenes with almost explicit sexual penetration. Thus, throughout her adventures, Druuna is exposed to various types of sexual acts, ranging from consensual to non-consensual. Focusing only on non-consensual sex, some critics tend to claim that Druuna is aestheticizing rape, since Serpieri uses his skill in drawing anatomy to associate beauty with sexual violence. Such a statement focuses only on the character Druuna, forgetting that male characters are also represented as beautiful and almost always suffer a brutal death associated with sex.

erotic comic DruunaFig.7.

Druuna erotic comic bookFig.8.

Druuna beach eroticFig.9.


As Druuna is the heroine, she has to survive - unlike some of her partners - with resilience and, at times, with pleasure, the obstacles that arise in front of her. And let us keep in mind that she doesn't have any superpowers, except those of her femininity and beauty, as Serpieri himself explains: “All the contrast comes from the psychology of (…) Druuna, the only true human being in the story. She is used to describe what human beings are: tormented indeed, but possessed of values. They are people, not anonymous entities, numbers. Druuna is not a heroine. She is a woman, with her complexities, an ordinary woman, a contemporary woman. (…) The woman, psychologically, represents the future of the man. But it is also another side of humanity, just like man.

beach scene erotic DruunaFig.10.

Druuna comic book art eroticFig.11.

Druuna comic artFig.12.

Druuna comic art eroticFig.13.

Death and the Maiden

That said, for me [the woman represents] the carnal, erotic dimension, the symbol of the impetus of life that drives us. If I had to draw a man under the same conditions, I wouldn't be able to convey that feeling.” In addition, Druuna 's beauty can be associated with the memento mori, which can be seen in the works Death and the Maiden (1515) and the painting Death and the Woman (1518-20), by Hans Baldung Grien and the woodcuts Young man Attacked by Death or The Violent (1495) and Young couple Stalked by Death (1496-7), by Albrecht Dürer.

Druuna SerpieriFig.14.

Druuna Serpieri comicFig.15.

Druuna Serpieri comic artFig.16.

Druuna Serpieri comic artistFig.17.

Dominion of Violence

The fact that Druuna survived the Morbus Gravis, an allusion to the AIDS epidemic, which broke out in the 1980s and claimed some of Serpieri 's personal friends, unscathed, makes clear the relationship between sex, death, violence and beauty, which Georges Bataile synthesized thus: “the domain of eroticism is the domain of violence, the domain of rape”. Under the dominion of violence, “death pulls us out of the obstinacy that we have to see the discontinuous being that we are, endure. Only violence can thus bring everything to light, violence and the unspeakable disorder that is linked to it!” Now, in the pages of Druuna, there is a lot of sex and violence and, thanks to the naturalistic way Sarpieri drawings are almost porographic, the reader is hypnotized and excited by the Drunna’s curvilinear forms.

druuna morbus gravisFig.18.

druuna morbus gravis SerpieriFig.19.

druuna morbus gravis Serpieri eroticFig.20.

druuna morbus gravis Serpieri erotic comicFig.21.

Your Little Devils

In this context, the non-consensual sex to which Druuna is subjected to and from which she emerges triumphant, with statements such as “Forgive me, maybe we could live together. Your little devils gave me a lot of pleasure, you know? I don't know how much drugs were responsible for that... But I can assure you that it was a wonderful experience”, causes controversy among critics, who see in these actions a relativization of rape and, therefore, blame Sarpieri 's work for a possible harmful influence on the male readers of the magazines the work was published in.

druuna morbus gravis Serpieri comicFig.22.

Druuna comic art erotic SerpieriFig.23.

Serpieri DruunaFig.24.

Serpieri Druuna eroticFig.25.

Plato's The Republic

Before stating that art can generate serious results in a mind that is not very stable, it is necessary to reflect that any situation, regardless of whether or not it belongs to a work of art, is likely to have some influence on this type of human being. If we hold art responsible for the evils that occur in the world, we will follow the principles that Plato defended in the tenth book of The Republic, which proclaimed the expulsion of poets from the city for lying and not contributing to the good education of young people. We will, therefore, not be in a democratic society, but in a totalitarian one, where the right to expression belongs only to those in power.

Paolo Eleuteri Serpieri DruunaFig.26.

Paolo Eleuteri Serpieri Druuna comicFig.27.

Paolo Eleuteri Serpieri Druuna comic bookFig.28.

Paolo Eleuteri Serpieri Druuna comic book artFig.29.

Everything is permitted

The rapes that Druuna suffers and rejoices in, of course, can only occur in a world of fiction, where, according to William S. Burroughs, quoting Hassan I Sabbah, “Nothing is true. Everything is permitted”. To be shocked by the joy of a heroine who is raped is to forget, therefore, that what one reads is a work of fiction and to defend the exclusion of works where similar situations occur, it is to embrace the ideology of totalitarian regimes.

Paolo Eleuteri Serpieri Druuna comic bondageFig.30.

Paolo Eleuteri Serpieri Druuna comic eroticFig.31.

Paolo Eleuteri Serpieri Druuna comic erotic artFig.32.

Ricky Gervais

Ricky Gervais' defense of the right to joke about topics such as rape is not just justified by the fact that jokes are meant to overcome bad things, but by some cultures being able to differentiate the tragic that occurs in everyday life from the tragic that is represented in an engraving.

Druuna rape artFig.33.

Druuna wave nudeFig.34.

Object of Desire

According to Patrick W. Galbraith, “if the otaku perceives that the object of desire is fictional, and desires it precisely because it is fiction”, this happens because he is able to conceive “a totally imagined space with no correspondent in the everyday world”, a space of perfect fiction... deliberately separated from everyday life” (Saito Tamaki, Otaku sexuality, 2007, p. 227). Thus, laughing at or being excited about what is grotesque or what goes beyond moral parameters is not something restricted to Druuna.

Druuna wave nude artFig.35.

Druuna sex on the beachFig.36.

Druuna sex on the beach comicFig.37.

Druuna fellatio comic artFig.38.

Druuna fellatio comic SerpieriFig.39.

Utagawa Kuniyoshi

As Higuchi Kazutaka: “The 1837 color printed book Hana ikada by Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1797-1861) is one of his most famous erotic works, alongside titles such as Chinpen shinkeibai, of 1839, and Hana goyomi (Flower Calendar), of 1835. In one image in this book (Fig.40), a man has lured an innocent young woman to an assignment at a teahouse, where he tries to seduce her. Although the young woman is shown as resisting, neither her expression nor the way she pushes the man away has the power of complete refusal and we are led to imagine that sexual intercourse will follow.

Kuniyoshi Hana Goyomi Flower Calendar

Fig.40. A design from the 'Hana Goyomi (Flower Calendar)' series (c.1835) by Utagawa Kuniyoshi

Closer to Shunga

In pictures such as these, although there is coercion in evidence, at the time, they were considered to be comically erotic stories and, therefore, fell within the then permissible boundaries of 'laughter'”. In the Western world, we could cite the work of Martin van Maële, which is based on the ambiguity between condemnation and laughter. If ambiguity is one of the traits that allows defining the fictional, Druuna 's pleasure in being raped confirms this characteristic, as it leads us to bring Serpieri 's work closer to shunga who have rape as a theme, and to artists such as Martin Van Maële (Fig.43), at the moment when the artist's right, far away from Plato's The Republic, treads the lands where "Nothing is true. Everything is permitted”.

Kunisada rape designFig.41. 'Shunga" (c.1829) from the series 'Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter: Prospects for the Four Seasons'  by Utagawa Kunisada

chokyosai eiri shunga rapeFig.42.  Plate 12 depicting 'A raping lackey' from Chokyosai Eiri´s ‘Fumi no kiyogaki (Models of Calligraphy)‘ published in 1801

martin van maele rape sceneFig.43. Supernatural rape fantasy by Martin van Maële (1863 - 1926)

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