The Marion Duval series are French comics about a tween sleuth.
It started in 1983, as written by Yvan Pommaux.
These stories were originally published as episodes in Astrapi, a children’s magazine. They’re intended for kids of about the heroine’s age.
TMK, no translations exist.
Pommaux modelled the heroine after his daughter Jeanne – much like with, say, Dan Brereton’s Halloween Girl. Amusingly, Jeanne became a colourist. And thus ended up colouring comics featuring herself as a child.
To avoid a sprawling writeup, this profile only covers the first 7 GNs. These correspond to the first ten years of her career (1983-93).
- Real Name: Marion Duval.
- Notes: In French “Marion” is a feminine given name. But in other languages it can be unisex. “Duval” (“from the valley”) is a generic, common family name.
- Known Relatives: Alexandre Duval (father), Aline (aunt).
- Group Affiliation: None.
- Base of Operations: 13 rue Gustave Doré, 75017 Paris.
- Height: 4’8″ (1.42m). Weight: 80 lbs. (36 Kg.).
- Eyes: Brown. Hair: Brown.
Powers & Abilities
Marion is an ordinary but healthy lil’ girl. However, she also is smarter and more observant than most adults.
Her visual memory is also above average. She can replay scenes in her mind and reach new conclusions. Or recognise faces she only saw briefly, in an entirely different context. Or memorise glimpsed licence plates.
She can play the violin… a little bit. She can also roller-skate.
Marion enjoys a remarkable degree of luck. Apparently, the universe likes her and her friends. Something will always happen to save her or nearby innocent people, or to make her daring gambits ultimately succeed.
Despite her smarts, she seems to be an okay but not great student. This might be because of boredom in class.
The stories take place in the real world. For instance, the earliest pages are faithful renditions of the Place Wagram area circa 1982, complete with electoral posters for the 1981 Presidential election still clinging around.
However, it employs a common genre convention – also found in, say, Yoko Tsuno adventures. That is, the world is always the contemporary-as-of-publication real one, but the characters barely age or change over the decades.
(Though there’s a clear maturation arc over the first three GNs, with Marion seeming to go from 9-ish to 11-ish.)
The stories are generally non-violent. Early on they’re akin to the sort of tales that would be told as bedtimes stories for a 9-year-old. So it’s not real thrillers – more like adventures a lil’ girl would like to have.
But as the series quickly gains in confidence, the stories become more like sleuthing stories. There are more adventure elements (such as travelling abroad) and the plots become more colourful.
Marion’s relationships and emotions also become much more lifelike, and take an increasing part of the page count.
This is in large part because the series doesn’t have toys to sell. Therefore, it doesn’t have to be marketing-siloed as being “for boys” or “for girls”, as many 1980s children’s shows were.
The series also increasingly features proper research. In part as a way to sneak in educational content.
Picking something to evoke the 1980s in France, that doesn’t require being Francophone, that didn’t age horribly *and* that is suitable for the profile of a child is… curiously tough.
Let’s go with some light, subdued new-wave-ish synthpop from 1984. Etienne Daho’s Week-end à Rome did a nice, clean work of capturing a zeitgeistThe essence of an era for that era. And the chiptune-ish synth patterns are *so* early 1980s.
(This song was also a hit in the UK, after a joint localisation with British band Saint Etienne).
Alexandre Duval is an investigative photo reporter, working for (the fictional) Super-Hebdo.
His odd hours, and him being a single father, mean that Marion frequently functions alone. Which doesn’t bother her in the least.
(Back then, latchkey kids were a big thing in the West. As a moral concern over middle- and upper-class women no longer being full-time homemakers).
Marion doesn’t have a mother – which *does* bother her. However, this absence is never explained in the early GNs.
The blue scarab
On a dare, Marion tries to play her violin in the subway. But a man comes running, chased by the police. He throws something into her violin case before he’s arrested.
After she and her dad are kidnapped, Marion must deal with the strangely sympathetic mastermind Esther, Esther’s lonely son Fil, and what was hidden within the scarab centuries ago.
Abduction at the Opera
Marion is determined to go to the Opéra de Paris . Her violin teacher will be playing in a performance of the Ulysse et Pénélope opera, with the celebrated Elisa Beauchant singing.
While he can’t afford tickets, her dad manages to get a reporter’s backstage pass.
However, the obsessive Duke Henri of Prémonchêne kidnaps Beauchant so she’ll sing for him. Alexandre Duval being nearby, he gives chase to take photos of the kidnapping.
Alexandre discovers that the Duke is the half-brother of the mysterious Esther. This in turn means that Marion is reunited with her friend/puppy crush Fil. The four then deduce that the Duke has taken Elisa Beauchant to Ithaca , in Greece…
Attack in Ithaca
Marion and Alexandre Duval are still vacationing in Ithaca. However, their friend Alain Caudex — a French historian who’s been living in Greece for years — is beaten unconscious.
Alain had been narrowing down where the mythical palace of Odysseus might be located.
Marion, jealous of her dad spending too much time with the beautiful Esther, intuits that the amoral Russian adventuress is about to raid the tomb. And indeed, Esther has vanished…
Will Fil betray his mum out of friendship with Marion ? Will Alexandre finally realise that he’s absolutely not an action hero ? And why does aged local Georgios know so much about ancient ruins ?
A crocodile in the Loire
Fil calls Marion, who had been missing him. Though his words are incomprehensible, there’s something about a crocodile in the Loire – a large river bisecting France.
As it happened, Alexandre has recently received a call about such a crocodile. Though he had dismissed it as a prank from a drunk, Marion convinces him to investigate.
They leave for a small, traditional Tourangeau village.
Marion soon deduces where Fil is held captive, and daringly frees him. But meanwhile, Alexandre is captured by Esther’s ex-husband’s thugs.
And though she learns some fascinating facts about Fil’s childhood, Marion has to flee into the notoriously treacherous sands of the Loire, chased by a five metres crocodile…
Storm over Saint-Roch
The descendant of Saint-Roch, a major (fictional) poet, has reportedly found a trove of unpublished manuscripts.
But historian Alain Caudex, back from Greece, contacts Alexandre Duval. He’s certain that this lucrative discovery is but forgeries. Alain is soon kidnapped.
Attempting to warn her father about Caudex’s warnings, Marion ends up in the village of St. Roch. There she meets a boy her age, the rebellious Gaël.
As it happens, Gaël too knows that the “discovered” poems are fakes. He even determined their author – an eccentric local schoolteacher.
Alexandre, the schoolteacher and Alain have been kidnapped by the Saint-Roch descendant. Only Marion can free them. But she is crushing hard on Gaël – and is learning the hard way that the sea in Northern Brittany gets rough when the wind rises…
Goddess on a train
Esther has stolen an ancient Mexican religious statuette from a Paris museum. Her first husband, Boris, kidnapped their son Fil to force her to purloinSteal. this artefact.
Esther asks Alexandre for help. But he gets kidnapped too. Boris is now running with a strange, fanatical cult – and the statuette belonged to their ancestor.
The spying Marion realises that the cult is going to sacrifice both Fil and her dad. She therefore has to ally with an odd, possibly mythomaniac private detective who is also after the statuette.
Marion and the detective manage to board the same train as the cultists, the abductees, and the pursuing Esther. Thankfully, nobody realises yet that it’s Marion who’s got the statuette, hidden in her cat carrier…
Man feeding seagulls
Gaël has accidentally filmed men who seem related to a large bills forgery operation. He comes to Paris so he and Marion can investigate.
Determined to continue on their own, the two kids then shadow the criminals back to Brittany. Marion leaves a message behind to inform her father of her adventures.
But upon receiving the message, Alexandre and the police immediately realise that the kids are facing far more dangerous gangsters than they think…
The GN keep a relatively small cast, as the stories organically flow into each other. Plus, the heroine is 11 – she doesn’t have a huge Rolodex .
Esther Egonovna Babakina
I was pulling a Rucka and her data was thus taking over the entry. So I ended up spinning off Esther’s profile, da ?
Philibert “Fil” Babakin
Esther’s son is about Marion’s age. He’s a languid, daydreaming, thin kid. Marion has a crush on him.
Fil does get derided as a ninny, to Marion’s furore. But it’s more that he’s a quiet, artsy boi.
Though he doesn’t look like much, Fil is smart and received an extensive education from high-end tutors (and then from his mother). This includes some physical skills such as staff-fighting.
However, he’s also lonely and has little real-world experience.
Marion’s other crush. He lives in the fictional, sleepy village of St. Roch in the Côtes d’Armor (that’s in Northern Brittany). Mirroring Marion, Gaël has a mum but no dad.
He’s an independent, outgoing, outdoors-and-action-loving Breton kid. Like Ms. Duval, he likes justice and good deeds.
He’s not the best student in the world (his spelling is awful). But he likes comics – so there’s that.
Gaël eventually decides that he wants to film. Perhaps some sort of video reporting, or cinéma vérité .
Raymond Ballu & René Mallarmé
Two Parisian police detectives, who often stumble on the Duvals’ adventures.
They’re no Winston Croft, but they are generally competent and helpful.
Mallarmé later becomes a Commissioner, making him a useful contact for Alexandre Duval.
Marion originally sports a normcore, shoulder-length 1980s kids’ haircut.
As the art style progresses and the third story begins, she switches to her signature side swept short bob and shaved neck. I guess her dad was a hairdresser before he became a reporter…
(Oddly enough, this bob is what makes Marion gel as a character. The young readers thought it looked cool, it makes her immediately recognisable, and it corresponds to the point where she gains her agency.)
There’s some dither about her age. She’s stated as being 9 in the second GN, but she soon looks and behaves more like an 11-year-old. Part of the dither is presumably because her real-life model was growing up as the stories were being made.
She usually wears a pair of pink, large plastic earrings. These complete her visual signature.
Marion much prefers trousers, unless she’s dressing up – or not planning to leave her home.
Early on her personality isn’t well-defined. She just likes typical kid stuff, such as eating sandwiches, watching TV, kitties, not having to do chores, and, mmm, opera. She also loves reading.
(The latter is unsurprising. The children’s magazines she appeared in were built as a path to encourage children to read books.).
She even reads the daily press, being a journalist’s daughter.
She’s portrayed as self-reliant, social and engaged with the world.
But, with the stories being realistic, it’s still her dad who is the main driver in early stories. And though Marion has a certain boldness, she’ll get scared when imperilled.
A key character trait is that Marion has a strong sense of fairness and justice. This becomes clear by the end of the second GN, and drives her subsequent “career”.
At this point, Marion’s agency as a character suddenly grows. She starts disagreeing with her father, having her own inner life and priorities, and her emotions play an important role in the story.
At the same time, her father starts becoming portrayed as overconfident and not that smart. That leaves Marion to actually solve the mysteries.
Gets things done
By the fourth GN, she becomes capable of daring strategies.
Being chased by a crocodile still scared her poopless and made her cry. But she did bluff out the bad guy by threatening to have photos delivered to the police.
Marion also gets sassier as the series evolves.
DC Universe Adaptation
(This section proposes ways of using this character in DC Universe stories).
Marion normally does low-stakes, small-scale stuff. So she’s unlikely to show up on the superheroic radar.
Still, three possibilities :
- Leaning into her amazing luck, and depicting it as full magical or psionicPsionics are sci-fi style psychic powers probability manipulation.
- She becomes for a little while a superhero’s sidekick, à la Snapper Carr or Rick Jones. Or maybe redeems a villain as their sidekick for a while. Or becomes more of a more-cunning-but-less-powerful partner, like Angel O’Day.
- She grows up and becomes a journalist, a detective, a spy or something along those lines. Perhaps she joins Département Gamma, like André Chavard did.
DC Heroes RPG
|Dex: 02||Str: 00||Bod: 01|
|Int: 03||Wil: 03||Min: 03|
|Inf: 02||Aur: 03||Spi: 03|
|Init: 007||HP: 015|
Probability control: 05, Shrinking: 02
Bonuses and Limitations:
- Probability control is Form Function and Minimal Marginal.
- Probability Control can only be used to prevent harm to people.
- Shrinking is Always On, Form Function and Already Factored In.
Acrobatics (Climbing)*: 02, Artist (Violin): 02, Charisma (Persuasion): 03, Evasion (Ranged): 04, Thief (Stealth)*: 02
Bonuses and Limitations:
Evasion is a benefit from her Shrinking.
Familiarity (Baroque opera, Roller-skating), Language (French), Sharp Eye.
Fil & Esther (Low).
Age (Young), Dependent (her dad, 5 pts), Misc.: Land speed is 0, and body mass is 1, Misc.: doesn’t speak English, though that’s never a hindrance in these stories.
Early on, Marion has maybe 005 Hero Points. But that total suddenly rises with the fourth GN.
Still, with her low AP values, HPs can’t take her far.
Probability Control models her luck. She’s just a small kid, and having her remain unharmed and winning does require multiple strokes of luck per story.
Remember, the Luck Advantage only allows for a small bit of OV/RV manipulation. It doesn’t cover strokes of luck such as “the bad guy happens to be superstitious, and the cards reading he receives neatly aligns with your plan”. Or “the WWII blockhaus on a crumbling cliff picks just that day to fall into the sea”.
Environmental modification rules can cover that, but that’d require just too many HPs for the character to have.
Source of Character: Marion Duval graphic novels.
Writeup completed on the 8th of August, 2020.