Fantômas by Marcel Allain, Pierre Souvestre
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 movies that came out in quick succession anticipate current production methods of Hollywood, in two respects: 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." This approach allowed the authors to produce almost one novel per month. Second, the movie 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 movies directed by André Hunebelle in the 1960s. The trilogy, which started in 1963 with Fantômas, departed considerably from the novels by giving the story a more comedic tone, and by making Fantômas (played by Jean Marais) more of a James Bond enemy. Despite these discrepancies, the blue-masked Fantômas is arguably the one that is most easily remembered.