Fantomas

Notes from Friends of Fantômas

Enrique Acosta writes: I stumbled unto your site while looking for information on the origin of the old super hero the Black Terror. I must admit to being more than a little intrigued by this anti-hero. Have you noticed, however, a similarity between Fantômas and Matt Wagner's modern comic book creation Grendel? Grendel had more of a noble heart (certain moral lines in the sand he would not cross) but both characters have a grand sense of theatre and odd aesthetic values. Do you know if Mr. Wagner ever cited Fantômas as a source for his character? His costume is actually very similar to the movie Fantômas. Grendel was a child prodigy who mastered anything he set his mind to and consequently turned to crime out of boredom. He began as a flamboyant hitman, capturing the public's imagination with his daring exploits, and by his early twenties controlled the entire eastern seaboard. The story of Grendel was Mr. Wagner's exploration into the very nature of good and evil, whereas I take it Fantômas was more of an existential exercise into defining oneself in a meaningless universe. The original Grendel run was collected into a trade paper back called Devil by the Deed.

I'm not familiar with either the Black Terror or Grendel; thanks for the information on the character. You're right to point to a certain aristocratic bearing in Fantômas, and he frequently disguises himself (with complete success) as various members of the ruling classes in Europe. However, one of the remarkable things about the character is his absolute lack of moral compass. His crimes have only one motive: to create the greatest havoc possible. Though I like the idea of Fantômas as an existential (anti-)hero. Any other Friends care to follow this thread?

There may be another connection to both comicbook characters: Fantômas has become a superhero in a series of Mexican comic books that have been published for at least the last 30 years. He wears a white hood and cape (the Mexican equivalent of the black one he wears in the French novels and films, since in Mexican culture white can signify death), and while he doesn't seem to possess super powers, he does have many high-tech gadgets that enable him to defeat evildoers throughout the world (quite a change in orientation for him). For more information, see The Mexican Comic Book.

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