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Literature / Fantômas

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The character of Fantômas was created in 1911 by Marcel Allain and Pierre Souvestre for a series of turn-of-the-(20th)-century French novels.

In the original version, Fantômas — the name comes from the French words "fantôme", meaning "phantom" or "ghost" and "as", meaning "ace" — is an anarchist whose crimes are (supposedly) a result of his disdain for modern civilization; he is chased by a police detective named Juve and a journalist, Charles Rambert/Jérôme Fandor, but in spite of a few close calls, he is never caught. The novels were adapted for film many times; ironically, the most popular adaptation by André Hunebelle being In Name Only.

The first few novels were co-written by Pierre Souvestre (1874-1914), and Marcel Allain (1885-1969). The early death of Souvestre resulted in subsequent novels written by Allain alone. The literal translations of the original French titles are based on the list of Jean-Marc Lofficier.

  • Fantômas (1911)
  • Juve vs. Fantômas (1911)
  • The Dead Man Who Kills (1911), also known as The Vengeance of Fantômas
  • The Secret Agent (1911), also known as A Ruse of Fantômas
  • A King Prisoner of Fantômas (1911)
  • The Apache Policeman (1911), also known as Fantômas Policeman
  • The Hanged Man of London (1911), also known as In the Hands of Fantômas
  • The Daughter of Fantômas (1911)
  • The Night Hansom Cab (1911), also known as The Hansom Cab of Fantômas
  • The Severed Hand (1911), also known as Fantômas in Monaco
  • The Capture of Fantômas (1911)
  • The Burglar Judge (1912), also known as Judge Fantômas
  • The Livery of Crime (1912), also known as The Livery of Fantômas
  • The Death of Juve (1912), also known as Fantômas Kills Juve
  • The Escapee from Saint-Lazare (1912), also known as Fantômas, King of Crime
  • The Disappearance of Fandor (1912), also known as Fandor vs. Fantômas
  • The Wedding of Fantômas (1912)
  • The Assassin of Lady Beltham (1912), also known as The Loves of Fantômas
  • The Red Wasp (1912), also known as The Challenge of Fantômas
  • The Dead Man's Shoes (1912), also known as Fantômas Prowls
  • The Lost Train (1912), also known as The Train of Fantômas
  • The Love of a Prince (1912), also known as Fantômas Has Fun
  • The Tragic Bouquet (1912), also known as The Bouquet of Fantômas
  • The Masked Jockey (1913), also known as Fantômas, King of the Turf
  • The Empty Coffin (1913), also known as The Coffin of Fantômas
  • The Queen Maker (1913), also known as Fantômas vs. Love
  • The Giant Corpse (1913), also known as The Spectre of Fantômas
  • The Gold Thief (1913), also known as Prisoners of Fantômas!
  • The Red Series (1913), also known as Fantômas Escapes
  • Crime Hotel (1913), also known as Fantômas Accuses!
  • The Hemp Necktie (1913), also known as The Servant of Fantômas
  • The End of Fantômas (1913), also known as Is Fantômas Dead?
  • Is Fantômas Resurrected? (1925)
  • Fantômas, King of the Fences (1926)
  • Fantômas in Danger (1926)
  • Fantômas Takes His Revenge (1926)
  • Fantômas Attacks Fandor (1926)
  • If It Was Fantômas? (1933)
  • Yes, It Is Fantômas! (1934)
  • Fantômas Plays and Wins (1935)
  • Fantômas Meets Love (1946)
  • Fantômas Steals from the Blondes (1948)
  • Fantômas Leads the Dance (1963)

Fantômas provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Hélène, Fantômas' daughter, has her moments.
  • Ax-Crazy: As sophisticated and suave as the man is, it’s clear that at least some of his crimes are motivated by little more than a lust for bloodshed.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: In A King Prisoner of Fantômas, Fantômas convinces the world at large that inspector Juve is just another of his own identities. Resulting in Juve facing prison time, and Fandor becoming a runaway fugitive. The situation is maintained in at least part of The Apache Policeman.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Fandor and Hélène have the hots for each other. They are respectively Fantômas' alleged son and daughter. Making them half-siblings. Fantômas may have a reason for keeping them apart.
  • Coat, Hat, Mask: Fantômas in his "true" form (i.e., not disguised as someone else) is almost always portrayed with a hat (usually a top hat), a large overcoat, and a mask of some sort.
  • Crossdresser: Hélène, Fantômas' daughter, wears masculine clothes, and frequently poses as a man. Though whether she is a villainous or sympathetic character depends on the novel.
  • Daddy's Little Villain: Toyed with in the person of Hélène, Fantômas' daughter. Hélène has her own criminal activities, though nominally loyal to her father. She spends many stories trying to equally avoid her possessive father and the long arm of the law. Though her mutual attraction with Fandor further complicates things. The writers made an effort to portray her as a bad girl, with her skull-shaped tattoo, habit of smoking opium, and cross-dressing tendencies.
  • Death of a Child: In The Hanged Man of London (1911), Lady Beltham and prostitute Nini Guinon are having an intense argument over the fate of a baby. Nini seizes the slumbering baby and drives a "dagger into his chest. Before baby Daniel drew another breath, a torrent of bright blood spewed from his wound. Immediately his lips went pale."
  • Detective Mole: In The Hanged Man of London (1911), Fantômas himself has infiltrated Scotland Yard and serves as one of its top detectives.
  • Escape Artist: Both Fantômas and Hélène escape arrest and/or death numerous times.
  • Everyone Is a Suspect: Fantômas himself, his daughter Hélène, and his main lover Lady Maud Beltham change disguises and identities with particular ease. Meaning that every character could be one of them in disguise. Fantômas was at some point revealed to maintain an identity as a top detective for Scotland Yard, and Beltham an identity as Mother Superior of a convent. And Fandor was shocked to learn that his athletic friend Teddy, was actually Hélène in disguise.
  • Faking the Dead: Fantômas has faked the demise of one or more of his identities at various times. Most notably when faking the death of Étienne Rambert. He boards (or appears to be boarding) the trans-Atlantic passenger liner Lancaster. Then arranges for the ship to sink in mid-voyage. Rambert is reported dead, among many other victims of the disaster.
  • Flaying Alive: Scalping variation. In The Escapee from Saint-Lazare (1912), Fantômas decides to kill Blanche Perrier, mistress of one of his previous victims. She has beautiful long hair. He catches said hair in a machine and scalps her.
  • Fright Death Trap: Toyed with in The Severed Hand (1911). Fantômas captures aristocrat Isabelle de Guerray. He keeps her blindfolded, and threatens to kill her, if she doesn't offer information on the safety measures protecting her fortune. At some point Isabelle feels a knife blade touching her arm and warm liquid, apparently her own blood, flowing down. She is literally scared to death. Juve later discovers that there is not a scratch on her body. The knife never really cut her, the warm liquid was mere water.
  • I Have Many Names: The real name of Fantômas is never revealed. But the readers learn that he has used many names over the years. Among them:
    • Archduke Juan North. A name he used while active among the German nobility c. 1892.
    • Sergeant Gurn. A name he used while serving as an artillery sergeant in The Second Boer War (1899-1902).
    • Étienne Rambert. Name of a former business partner of his, who was also father to Charles Rambert/Jérôme Fandor. He claimed the identity to further his own plots.
  • The Infiltration: Both Juve and Fandor at times pose as "apaches" (members of the Parisian underworld) to pass unnoticed among their numbers.
  • Inner Monologue: Used as exposition very often. Fantômas would also often "talk" to his cat to express his feelings. (The cat would sometimes be shown thinking, although this was a metafictional device; it was not shown to actually be intelligent.)
  • Karma Houdini: Fantômas never, ever pays for his crimes. Even death more often than not turns out to have been part of his plan.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: A variation. In The End of Fantômas, Fantômas reveals to Inspector Juve that they are twin brothers.
  • Luke, I Might Be Your Father: One of the major twists of Fantômas (1911) is that Fantômas had been posing as Étienne Rambert. But the duration of the ruse is left uncertain. The real Rambert might have been out of the picture for decades. Jérôme Fandor, supposed son of Rambert, may actually be a biological son of Fantômas. The series never gave a definite answer on the subject.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: Fantômas is sometimes depicted wearing a domino mask.
  • Master of Disguise: Per discription: "Fantômas is nearly always disguised as someone else, often several people in the same novel episode."... "One master criminal with a thousand faces".
  • Meaningful Name: Fantômas is quite fitting for one of the Trope Codifiers of Phantom Thief.
  • Nietzsche Wannabe: Fantômas
  • Obfuscating Disability: In The Death of Juve (1912), Juve spends months acting as if completely paralyzed, following an earlier encounter with his foe. When Fantômas finally pays him a visit, the villain is caught off-guard. Juve lunges from his bed, tackles him, and wrestles him to the ground. Juve had been exaggerating the extend of his injuries for quite some time.
  • Off with His Head!: The original novel apparently concludes with the decapitation of Fantômas at the guillotine. Until the Twist Ending reveals that the man executed was actually Valgrand, a theatrical actor who was playing Fantômas on stage. The real Fantômas had left an innocent man to die in his place.
  • Overlord Jr.: Vladimir, son of Fantômas. He is also a career criminal, and a ruthless murderer, but has little of his father's brilliance.
  • Papa Wolf: Fantômas seems to genuinely care for Hélène, and goes out of his way to protect her when needed. Though his love is "jealous and possessive", and he tries to keep Hélène and Fandor apart.
  • Phantom Thief: This guy is what happens when one of these characters goes very, very bad.
  • Red Baron: Fantômas has nicknames/titles such as Genius of Evil, Lord of Terror, Master of Crime.
  • The Starscream: Toyed with in The Death of Juve (1912). Juve manages to capture Fantômas and ties up the villain. He then summons the nearest police officer and goes seeking further help. Said "officer" is actually an agent of Fantômas, but is quite willing to betray his boss. But then a contingency plan of Fantômas pays off. A timed firebomb explodes elsewhere in the building. The double-crosser figures that Fantômas is the only one who could safely lead him out of the burning building. He unties Fantômas... and is then quickly murdered by his irate boss.
  • Villain-Based Franchise
  • Villain Protagonist