Fantomas

The Fantômas website is devoted to the Lord of Terror, the anti-hero of the French detective thrillers written by Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain.
Who Is Fantomas

Who Is Fantômas?

Fantômas is the Lord of Terror, the Genius of Evil, the arch-criminal anti-hero of a series of 32 pre-WWI French thrillers written by Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain. He carries out the most appalling crimes: substituting sulfuric acid in the perfume dispensers at a Parisian department store, releasing plague-infested rats on an ocean liner, or forcing a victim to witness his own execution by placing him face-up in a guillotine. Fantômas is the master of a thousand disguises and the leader of a vast army of "apaches" (street thugs). His spies and henchmen are everywhere, spreading the seeds of chaos and terror. Fantômas is anyone and no one, everywhere and nowhere, waging an implacable war against the very bourgeois society in which he moves with such ease and assurance.

Fantômas's crimes are scenes of sublime horror: a rebellious henchman is hung in a huge bell as a human clapper, smashing from side to side and raining blood, sapphires and diamonds onto the street below. Masked bandits brandishing revolvers crash a city bus through the walls of a bank, sending money flying everywhere. Under grey Parisian skies, a horse-drawn cab gallops down the road, a wide-eyed corpse as its coachman. Fantômas strips the gilded gold from the Invalides dome each night; he poisons his victims with deadly bouquets; he crashes passenger trains and destroys steamships. And he escapes justice every time.

Some of the other recurring characters in the Fantômas novels:

Inspector Juve: Fantômas's nemesis, carrying out a lonely crusade against a menace the extent of which only he suspects. His Fantômas monomania makes his superiors wonder about his sanity, or occasionally suspect him of being Fantômas himself!

Jérôme Fandor (Charles Rambert): Juve's partner in his war on Fantômas, a journalist for the daily newspaper La Capitale. He may, in fact, be Fantômas's son!

Lady Beltham: Fantômas's longtime mistress, she is also the widow of one of his victims. She is deeply ambivalent about her liaison with Fantômas but is irresistably drawn back to him each time she tries to break away.

Hélène: The opium-smoking, male-drag-donning, death's-head-tattooed daughter of Fantômas, Hélène is a bad girl at least half a century ahead of her time. She and Fandor harbor an unrequited passion for each other, but since he is the sworn enemy of her father her loyalities are forever divided. Fandor's association with the stiff-necked Juve doesn't help, either. And if Fandor is indeed the son of Fantômas, their love is incestuous!

M. Havard: Juve's superior at the Sûreté. In the fifth novel in the series, Un Roi Prisonnier de Fantômas (published in the US/UK as A Royal Prisoner), Havard has Juve himself jailed on suspicion of being Fantômas!

Bouzille: A tramp, he aids both Juve and Fantômas, depending on which will profit him more. To add to the confusion, both Juve and Fantômas occasionally disguise themselves as Bouzille.

More on Fantômas, his nemeses Juve and Fandor, his creators Souvestre and Allain, the artist Gino Starace who created the memorably lurid covers for the books, and the marvelous silent film serial by Louis Feuillade:

For introductions to the world of Fantômas: The First Pulp Fiction and Geoffrey O'Brien's review of the 1986 reissue of the first novel.

For synopses of the novels and Starace's original covers for the series, go to The Fantômas Novels.

For synopses and stills from Feuillade's silent films, go to The Fantômas Films.

For Fantômas's impact on the Parisian art and literary worlds, go to Fantômas and the Avant-Garde.

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