Notes from Friends of Fantômas

Francisco Guerrero writes: I LOVED the old Mexican Fantomas; my mom used to have what probably amounted to at least 90% of all the Fantomas comic books published by Editorial Novaro from the 1960's to the 80's. I grew up reading Fantomas comics and the reason I loved those comics is because Fantomas was both elegant and so cultured. The first round of writers did not only provide an entertaining comic, but also a first-class education in references, quotes and historical lessons (check all those WWII references about Nazi Germany when Fantomas fights the son of Hitler, or even better, all Egyptian gods are there when Fantomas fought Anubis, the Egyptian god of the dead). How many robbers do you know that can quote Shakespeare, Plato, Garcia Marquez and Luis Buñuel? The Mexican comic version of Fantomas was an exquisite comic, with plots that were truly engaging and illustrative as well.

I would like to add some information. The first Mexican Fantomas comics were one-issue stories, they were preciously printed in hard covers and high quality paper, there were even 3 different sizes of the Fantomas magazine during the early 70's. In the late 70's, the format started to change into a story contained in about 17 to 20 issues (Fantomas was a weekly, so the magazine had 3 stories per year, more or less). The format went back to one-issue stories by the mid-eighties, right before its demise. Here's a list of "adventures" of the Mexican comic version, I'm sure other admirers can complement my list:

The 12 Labors of Fantomas: Fantomas fights an insane rich Greek weapon salesman à la Hercules: each of Fantomas' 12 labors liberates one of his 12 assistants that were kidnapped by the Greek guy.

The Son of Hitler: Fantomas fights the son of Hitler, who grows in Paris and tries to take over Europe again. Ironically, he falls in love with Fantomas' black assistant, Libra.

The Scorpion Sect: Fantomas fights a group of "devil worshippers" trying to take control of France.

Fantomas vs. Papa Mango: Fantomas fights an African voodoo priest trying to take over by killing and replacing French government figures with his own people.

Fantomas in the XXV Century: Fantomas, Professor Semo and the robot are held as heroes of the future. The story goes that after a great war, Fantomas and Semo managed to re-populate the world. He also fights some alien invaders.

Fantomas vs ?????: I remember Fantomas fighting an old Aztec warlord, who controlled Mexico with the help of a few rich families.

The Akhenaton Medallion: Fantomas finds evidence of Akhenaton, the Egyptian ruler whose existence was attempted to be erased from history. However, he has to fight Anubis in the land of the dead.

Those are just some of the adventures I remember. There are also single issues with one story per issue.

The newer Fantomas from Editorial Vid is not only vastly inferior, is just a cheapened version of the Mexican Fantomas of the 60's and 70's. Less plot and culture, more miniskirts and dumbed-down action. I don't think the publication has stopped, but I may be mistaken since I haven't been to Mexico in about two years.

Many thanks for the synopses of these wonderful-sounding Fantomas adventures. Unfortunately it does appear that Editorial Vid has ceased publication of the new Fantomas comic. However, Fantomas has seemed to be finished off more than a few times in the history of his various incarnations, and I'm sure that he will reappear in a new guise before too long.

You've also cleared up something that was puzzling to me: some fans of the Fantomas comic book reported that it featured a single story per issue, while others said that the stories could be spread over fifteen or twenty issues. As it turns out, at different times in its publication history the comic was issued in both formats. Thanks again for writing!

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