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Fantomas 1911.jpg
The cover illustration for the first volume of Fantômas, anonymous artist, 1911. A "classic image of the Parisian oneirology", according to the French poet Robert Desnos.
First appearanceFantômas (1911)
Last appearanceFantômas Mène le Bal (1963)
Created byMarcel Allain
Pierre Souvestre
Portrayed byRené Navarre
Edward Roseman
Jean Galland
Marcel Herrand
Maurice Teynac
Jean Marais
Helmut Berger
Voiced byPaul Bernard
Raymond Pellegrin
Roger Carel
Philippe Clay
Med Hondo
In-universe information
AliasArchduke Juan North
OccupationSerial killer
Criminal mastermind
ChildrenVladimir (Last name unknown)

Fantômas (French: [fɑ̃tomas]) is a fictional character created by French writers Marcel Allain (1885–1969) and Pierre Souvestre (1874–1914).

One of the most popular characters in the history of French crime fiction, Fantômas was created in 1911 and appeared in a total of 32 volumes written by the two collaborators, then a subsequent 11 volumes written by Allain alone after Souvestre's death. The character was also the basis of various film, television, and comic book adaptations. In the history of crime fiction, he represents a transition from Gothic novel villains of the 19th century to modern-day serial killers.

The books and films that came out in quick succession anticipate current production methods of Hollywood, in two respects:[1] First, the authors distributed the writing among themselves; their "working method was to draw up the general plot between them and then go off and write alternate chapters independently of each other, meeting up to tie the two halves of the story together in the final chapter."[1] This approach allowed the authors to produce almost one novel per month. Second, the film rights to the books were immediately snapped up. Such a system ensured that the film studio could produce sequels reliably.

The popular depiction of Fantômas as wearing a blue mask, black gloves, and using technological devices did not originate in the novels, but is a result of the popularity of the trilogy of Fantômas films directed by André Hunebelle in the 1960s. The trilogy, which started in 1964 with Fantômas, departed considerably from the novels by giving the story a more comedic tone as preceded by the first two Pink Panther films, and by making Fantômas (played by Jean Marais) more of a James Bond enemy by likewise borrowing from the first two Bond films. Despite these discrepancies, the blue-masked Fantômas is arguably the one that is most easily remembered.


A poster for the third Fantômas serial by Louis Feuillade. Fantômas wears his iconic black hood and black leotard, more sinister features than the traditional gentleman thief's domino mask and tuxedo.
A poster for the third Fantômas serial by Louis Feuillade. Fantômas wears his iconic black hood and black leotard, more sinister features than the traditional gentleman thief's domino mask and tuxedo.

Fantômas is a criminal genius, ruthless and particularly elusive. As described by Schütt (2003) in her analysis of French crime fiction literature, Fantômas is the cause of almost any unsolved crime, a merciless criminal who can get away with his evil deeds by impersonating pretty much anyone. He is obsessively chased by Inspector Juve, who is generally the only one able to see Fantômas's tracks.[2]

Fantômas was introduced a few years after Arsène Lupin, another well-known thief. But whereas Lupin draws the line at murder, Fantômas has no such qualms and is shown as a sociopath who enjoys killing in a sadistic fashion.

He is totally ruthless, shows no mercy, and is loyal to none, not even his own children. He is a master of disguise, always appearing under an assumed identity, often that of a person whom he has murdered. Fantômas makes use of bizarre and improbable techniques in his crimes, such as plague-infested rats, giant snakes, and rooms that fill with sand.

Fantômas's background remains vague. He might be of British and/or French ancestry. He appears to have been born in 1867.[citation needed]

In the books, it is established that c. 1892, the man who later became Fantômas called himself Archduke Juan North and operated in the German principality of Hesse-Weimar. There he fathered a child, Vladimir, with an unidentified noblewoman. In circumstances unrevealed, he was arrested and sent to prison.

C. 1895, Fantômas was in India. There, an unidentified European woman gave birth to a baby girl, Hélène, whose father might be Fantômas or an Indian prince who was Fantômas' acolyte. The girl was raised in South Africa.

In 1897, Fantômas was in the United States of America and Mexico. There, he ruined his then business partner, Etienne Rambert.

In 1899, he fought in the Second Boer War in South Africa under the name of Gurn. He fought in the Transvaal as an artillery sergeant under the command of Lord Roberts. He became aide-de-camp to Lord Edward Beltham of Scottwell Hill and fell in love with his younger wife, Lady Maud Beltham.

Upon their return to Europe, soon before the first novel begins (c. 1900), Gurn and Lady Beltham were surprised in their Paris love nest, Rue Levert, by her husband. Lord Beltham was about to shoot Maud when Gurn hit him with a hammer then strangled him.

Fantômas then impersonated Etienne Rambert and framed his son, Charles, for a murder he had committed. As Etienne, he persuaded Charles to go into hiding, but the young man was soon found out by French police detective Juve, who was truly obsessed with the capture of Fantômas. Juve knew that Charles was innocent and gave him a new identity: journalist Jerôme Fandor who is employed at the newspaper La Capitale. Juve later arrested Gurn and, at his trial, brought forward a convincing argument that Gurn and Fantômas were one and the same, though the evidence was too circumstantial to make a real case. On the eve of his execution, Gurn/Fantômas escaped from custody by being replaced by an actor who had modelled the appearance of his latest character after him and was guillotined in his place.

Lady Beltham remained constantly torn between her passion for the villain and her horror at his criminal schemes. She eventually committed suicide in 1910.

Fandor fell in love with Hélène and, despite Fantômas's repeated attempts to break them up, married her.

Fantômas's evil son, Vladimir, reappeared in 1911. Vladimir's girlfriend was murdered by Fantômas and Vladimir himself was eventually shot by Juve.


  • Fantômas: A criminal genius, known by many nicknames, such as "the "master of everything and everyone", the "torturer" or the "elusive", and whose face and true identity remain unknown, Fantômas is a ruthless criminal who'll torture and kill to achieve his goals.
  • Juve: An inspector in the Sûreté of Paris and the sworn archenemy of Fantômas, whom he pursues obsessively. The intelligent and stubborn Juve is completely devoted to capturing or killing Fantômas.
  • Jérôme Fandor: A former victim of Fantômas, he was originally named Charles Rambert until Fantômas killed his parents and framed him for the crime. Juve, the only one to understand his unjust accusation, provides him with the identity of journalist Fandor so as to save him from going to jail and to use his help in capturing the murderer. He falls in love with Hélène.
  • Hélène: The beautiful stepdaughter of Fantômas, whom he protects jealously. She falls in love with J. Fandor, and is engaged to marry him, eventually helping her fiancé to fight the criminal.
  • Lady Maud Beltham: The wife of Lord Beltham and the lover of Fantômas, towards whom she feels both passionate love and repulsion for his many heinous crimes.
  • Bouzille: A streetwise tramp who often helps Juve and Fandor, and even Fantômas on occasion, and provides comic relief in the series.
  • The Beadle: A thug and companion of Fantômas who earns his nickname after his custom of taking the money of passersby by smashing their heads against the pavement, he is the most notorious of Fantômas' gang of Apaches.
  • Mother Toulouche: An old woman who is a sort of leader among Fantômas' Apaches. She is portrayed as an equally ruthless killer and thug.


By Allain and Souvestre

  • 1. Fantômas (1911; transl. 1915; retransl. 1986)
  • 2. Juve contre Fantômas (1911; transl. 1916 as The Exploits of Juve;[3] retransl. 1987 as The Silent Executioner)
  • 3. Le Mort qui Tue (1911; transl. 1917 as Messengers of Evil;[4] retransl. 2008 as The Corpse who Kills)
  • 4. L'Agent Secret (1911; transl. 1917 as A Nest of Spies)[5]
  • 5. Un Roi Prisonnier de Fantômas (1911; transl. 1918 as A Royal Prisoner)[6]
  • 6. Le Policier Apache (1911; transl. 1924 by Alfred Allinson as The Long Arm of Fantômas [UK title: The Limb of Satan])
  • 7. Le Pendu de Londres (1911; transl. 1920 as Slippery as Sin)
  • 8. La Fille de Fantômas (1911; transl. 2006 by Mark P. Steele as The Daughter of Fantomas) (ISBN 1932983562)
  • 9. Le Fiacre de Nuit (1911)
  • 10. La Main Coupée
  • 11. L'Arrestation de Fantômas (1912)
  • 12. Le Magistrat Cambrioleur (1912)
  • 13. La Livrée du Crime (1912)
  • 14. La Mort de Juve (1912)
  • 15. L'Evadée de Saint-Lazare (1912)
  • 16. La Disparition de Fandor (1912)
  • 17. Le Mariage de Fantômas (1912)
  • 18. L'Assassin de Lady Beltham (1912)
  • 19. La Guêpe Rouge (1912)
  • 20. Les Souliers du Mort (1912)
  • 21. Le Train Perdu (1912)
  • 22. Les Amours d'un Prince (1912)
  • 23. Le Bouquet Tragique (1912)
  • 24. Le Jockey Masqué (1913)
  • 25. Le Cercueil Vide (1913)
  • 26. Le Faiseur de Reines (1913)
  • 27. Le Cadavre Géant (1913)
  • 28. Le Voleur d'Or (1913)
  • 29. La Série Rouge (1913)
  • 30. L'Hôtel du Crime (1913)
  • 31. La Cravate de Chanvre (1913, transl. 2017 by Sheryl Curtis as The Death of Fantomas)
  • 32. La Fin de Fantômas (1913, transl. 2017 by Sheryl Curtis as The Death of Fantomas)

By Allain

  • 33. Fantômas est-il ressuscité? (1925; transl. 1925 by Alfred Allinson as The Lord of Terror)
  • 34. Fantômas, Roi des Recéleurs (1926; transl. 1926 by Alfred Allinson as Juve in the Dock)
  • 35. Fantômas en Danger (1926; transl. 1926 by Alfred Allinson as Fantômas Captured)
  • 36. Fantômas prend sa Revanche (1926; transl. 1927 by [Alfred Allinson as The Revenge of Fantômas)
  • 37. Fantômas Attaque Fandor (1926; transl. 1928 by Alfred Allinson as Bulldog and Rats)
  • 38. Si c'était Fantômas? (1933)
  • 39. Oui, c'est Fantômas! (1934)
  • 40. Fantômas Joue et Gagne (1935)
  • 41. Fantômas Rencontre l'Amour (1946)
  • 42. Fantômas Vole des Blondes (1948)
  • 43. Fantômas Mène le Bal (1963)


  • The original covers by Gino Starace are often considered works of lurid genius in themselves and may be seen at the "Fantômas Lives" site.[7] The first Fantômas book cover, showing a contemplative masked man dressed in evening dress and holding a dagger, boldly stepping over Paris, is so well known that it has become a visual cliché.
  • The novel The Yellow Document, or Fantômas of Berlin by Marcel Allain (1919), despite its title, is not a Fantômas novel.
  • The last novel written by Allain was published as a newspaper serial, but never appeared in book form.
  • During the 1980s, the first two novels of the series were published in revised English translations: Fantômas appeared in 1986 with an introduction by American poet John Ashbery; and Juve contre Fantômas appeared in 1987 under the title The Silent Executioner, with an introduction by American artist Edward Gorey.


A poster for the first Fantômas serial by Louis Feuillade. In the original illustration for the first Fantômas book cover, the character holds a bloody dagger in his free hand.It was also used for the DVD box cover, but this time Fantômas stamps over a photo of modern-day Paris.
A poster for the first Fantômas serial by Louis Feuillade. In the original illustration for the first Fantômas book cover, the character holds a bloody dagger in his free hand.
It was also used for the DVD box cover, but this time Fantômas stamps over a photo of modern-day Paris.

Silent serials

  • 1. Fantômas (1913)
  • 2. Juve Contre Fantômas (1913)
  • 3. Le Mort Qui Tue (1913)
  • 4. Fantômas Contre Fantômas (1914)
  • 5. Le Faux Magistrat (1914)

The silent film pioneer Louis Feuillade directed five Fantômas serials starring René Navarre as Fantômas, Bréon as Juve, Georges Melchior as Fandor, and Renée Carl as Lady Beltham. They are regarded as masterpieces of silent film. His later serial Les Vampires, which concerns the eponymous crime syndicate (and not actual vampires) is also reminiscent of the Fantômas series.

There was a 1920 20-episode American Fantômas serial directed by Edward Sedgwick starring Edward Roseman as Fantômas, which bore little resemblance to the French series. In it, Fantômas's nemesis is detective Fred Dixon, played by John Willard. It was partially released in France (12 episodes only) under the title Les Exploits de Diabolos (The Exploits of Diabolos). A novelization of this serial was written by David Lee White for Black Coat Press under the title Fantômas in America in 2007.[8]

Other films

Jean Marais as Fantômas in the 1964 film.
Jean Marais as Fantômas in the 1964 film.


A Fantômas [fr] series of four 90-minute episodes was produced in 1980 starring Helmut Berger as Fantômas, Jacques Dufilho as Juve, and Gayle Hunnicutt as Lady Beltham. Episodes 1 and 4 were directed by Claude Chabrol; episodes 2 and 3 by Luis Buñuel's son, Juan Luis Buñuel.

The French movie version of Fantômas appears in the Czechoslovakian 1979-1981 children fantasy series Arabela as well as its sequel series Arabela se vrací, performed respectively by actors František Peterka and Pavel Nový. In this version, he does not perform a villain's role, but becomes an ally and friend of the protagonists. Fantômas also has a cameo appearance in the Czech children's series Lucie, postrach ulice as a TV character, where he resembles his original 1911 book serial covers' depiction.

Comic books


  • "Fantômas contre les Nains". A weekly color page written by Marcel Allain and drawn by Santini was published in Gavroche #24-30 (1941). This series was interrupted because of censorship; a sequel, Fantômas et l'Enfer Sous-Marin was written but not published.
  • A daily "Fantômas" strip drawn by Pierre Tabary was syndicated by Opera Mundi from November 1957 to March 1958 (192 strips in total), adapting the first two novels.
  • Seventeen Fantômas fumetti magazines adapting books 1, 2, 3, and 5 were published by Del Duca in 1962 and 1963.
  • A new weekly "Fantômas" color page, written by Agnès Guilloteau and drawn by Jacques Taillefer, was again syndicated by Opera Mundi in 1969 and published in Jours de France.
  • Finally, a series of Fantômas graphic novels written by L. Dellisse and drawn by Claude Laverdure were published by Belgian publisher Claude Lefrancq: L'Affaire Beltham (1990), Juve contre Fantômas (1991), and Le Mort qui Tue (1995).


During the 1960s the Mexican comics publisher Editorial Novaro produced a Fantomas, La Amenaza Elegante (Fantomas, the Elegant Menace) comic book series that became popular throughout Latin America. This was apparently meant to be the same character, although rewritten as a hero. Perhaps as a way to make the original French character more attuned to Latin American audiences who crave justice avengers in fiction and national politics. It is not known if this was done with or without legal permission.

This Fantômas was a thief who committed spectacular robberies just for the thrill of it, and wore a white skintight mask all the time or a variety of disguises so his true face was never shown to his nemeses. The character was also pursued by the authorities, in his case mainly by a French police inspector named Gerard. His mask in the Latin American version – which was clearly inspired by the black mask worn by the Italian comic book criminal Diabolik — and his use of it, seems to have been influenced by the popular images generated by Mexican wrestling.

Apparently the series was also influenced by the James Bond movies, as Fantômas, equipped with advanced technology created by a scientist called Professor Semo, had all kind of adventures around the world, and even fought other, more cruel criminals. The Latin American Fantômas, created in Mexico, encompassed the aesthetic of both the British James Bond and American Hugh Hefner, who created Playboy magazine, with a necessary dose of traditional Latin American machismo. A mixture that immediately gained traction with vast Latino audiences, mostly prepubescent and adolescents males.

Latino Fantômas also was a millionaire, owning several corporations under assumed identities, had secret headquarters outside Paris, and was assisted by several secret agents, including the 12 "Zodiac Girls", beautiful women who assisted him personally and dressed provocatively, known only by their codenames – the signs of the zodiac. The attractive female element was another concession to Latin American audiences familiar with beautiful women as part of male-dominated environments playing key roles without hiding their femininity and preceding Charlie's Angels by decades.

Although cancelled years ago (Novaro folded in 1985, and a character revival by rival Grupo Editorial Vid in Mexico in the 1990s did not last long), it is from this Mexican comic that the character is best known in both Central America and South America. Fantômas continues to be one of Latin America's favorite comic characters. For more information on this version of the character check the link to the Fantomas Lives website below.


A Fantômas short story by Paul Kupperberg and Roy Mann appeared in Captain Action Comics No. 1, published in 2009 by Moonstone Books.

New Fiction

"Yes Virginia, There is a Fantomas" by William Patrick Maynard was published in Tales of the Shadowmen Volume 6, published in 2009 by Black Coat Press. Fantomas has appeared in several stories in the series.

The first third of the novella, "Reign of Terror" by R. Allen Leider was published in Awesome Tales No. 3, published in 2016 by Bold Venture Press. The second third of the novella was published in Awesome Tales No. 9, with the final third coming.

Cultural influence

The Fantômas novels and the subsequent films were highly regarded by the French avant-garde of the day, particularly by the surrealists. Blaise Cendrars called the series "the modern Aeneid"; Guillaume Apollinaire said that "from the imaginative standpoint Fantômas is one of the richest works that exist." The painter René Magritte, the surrealist poet and novelist Robert Desnos and the cubist painter Juan Gris produced works alluding to Fantômas.

The films were also popular in the Soviet Union. After their success Fantômas had a short appearance in two popular Soviet comedies: Seven Old Men and One Girl (1968) and Grandads-Robbers (1972). In 2007, Russian author Andrey Shary published the book Sign F: Fantomas in Books and on the Screen, dealing in particular with this phenomenon.

In October 2021, Kanye West was seen wearing a Fantômas-style mask while at the Berlin Brandenburg Airport. West's wearing of the mask brought attention to Fantômas, particularly internationally in circles outside of France. West's cultural power and fame has inspired many to revisit Fantômas and French film history more generally.

Pastiches, homages, and related characters


  1. ^ a b c "Getting away with murder, A region 2 partial DVD review of Fantômas by Slarek". DVD Outsider. March 19, 2006.
  2. ^ Priestman, Martin (2003). The Cambridge Companion to Crime Fiction. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-00871-6.
  3. ^ Souvestre, Pierre; Allain, Marcel (December 14, 1917). "The exploits of Juve; being the second of the series of the "Fantômas" detective tales". New York : Brentano's – via Internet Archive.
  4. ^ Souvestre, Pierre; Allain, Marcel (December 14, 1917). "Messengers of Evil: Being a Further Account of the Lures and Devices of Fantômas". Brentano's – via Google Books.
  5. ^ Souvestre, Pierre; Allain, Marcel (December 14, 1918). "A nest of spies". New York, Brentano's – via Internet Archive.
  6. ^ Souvestre, Pierre; Allain, Marcel (December 14, 1918). "A royal prisoner". New York : Brentano's – via Internet Archive.
  7. ^ "Fantômas Lives". Retrieved 2010-07-28.
  8. ^ "Fantômas in America". Archived from the original on 2010-02-21. Retrieved 2010-07-28.
  9. ^ Fantômas (1964) at IMDb
  10. ^ Fantômas se déchaîne (1965) at IMDb
  11. ^ Fantômas contre Scotland Yard (1967) at IMDb
  12. ^ Chiti, Roberto & Poppi, Roberto The Films: All Italian films from 1930 to 1944 Gremese Editore, 2005
  13. ^ "Marcel Allain - Tigris - Fatala - Miss Téria". Retrieved 2010-07-28.
  14. ^ Bertetti, Paolo (Winter 2013–14), "Uomini meccanici e matrimoni interplanetari: La straordinarissima avventura del cinema muto italiano di fantascienza", Anarres, 2, retrieved 21 November 2016
  15. ^ Xavier Fournier, Super-héros : une histoire française, Huginn Muninn, 2014, p. 69-73
  16. ^ "Fantômas Review". February 26, 2008. Archived from the original on 2009-02-15.
  17. ^ "Les Hommes Mysterieux 1910s". Archived from the original on 2011-03-14. Retrieved 2010-07-28.
  18. ^ Arabela (1979 TV series at IMDb
  19. ^ Arabela se vrací (1993 TV series) at IMDb

Further reading

External links

This page was last edited on 19 January 2022, at 03:40
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