The Wrath of Fantomas is a book I approached with extreme prejudice. It’s a graphic novel that seeks to present a new version of Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain’s Fantomas series, which proved so successful when it was introduced a scant 108 years ago. As a rule, I dislike the concept of rebooting a series.
When first discovering a book series as a kid, continuity was key. It made a property more meaningful if there were numerous volumes to find and devour. Scouring used bookstores for dogeared copies of the missing pieces in the narrative puzzle made such books far more valuable to me. It seemed there were always a half dozen series I was working on completing in those decades long before the internet. They form some of the happiest memories of my formative years.
The entire concept of rebooting a series as a jumping-on point for new readers (or viewers, in the case of films) is distasteful to me. It devalues the worth of the original works. It suggests a series can be boiled down to its lowest common denominator and elements juggled so that a name and basic concept are enough to move forward with renewed sense of purpose.
Generally, in these overly sensitive times of ours, it also means elements that are no longer fashionable or politically acceptable will be whitewashed, bowdlerized, and otherwise made acceptable for Stalin, Mao, or whomever else has the clout to say censorship is required when the past inconveniently reminds us people were always flawed, unfair, uncouth, or sometimes just bluntly honest.
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Jean-Claude Carriere is best remembered as the acclaimed screenwriter of Hotel Paradiso (1966), Belle de Jour (1967), The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie (1972), The Return Of Martin Guerre (1982), and The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988). Less well known is the fact that he also authored (under the house name of Benoit Becker) six very bloody sequels to Mary Shelley’s classic Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818) in 1957 and 1958 for a French horror-specialty imprint. Carriere’s books chronicle the exploits of Gouroull, as he christened the Monster, as he moves across Europe from 1875 to 1939.
Gouroull is portrayed very much in the mold of Mary Shelley’s literary original. He is a terrifying amoral creation possessed of superhuman strength and cunning. Truly the only one of his kind, he is a creation who has outlived his creator and knows not love or restraint. Gouroull is the ultimate sociopath. This Frankenstein monster is quite foreign to our pop cultural mindset. Gouroull uses his razor sharp teeth to slash his victims’ throats. He does not breathe. His skin is naturally flame-resistant. Ichor runs in his veins in place of blood. He is a monster like no other.
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Pulp historian Rick Lai is perhaps best known for his definitive chronologies of Doc Savage and The Shadow published by Altus Press. The comprehensive nature of these works has inspired more than one reader to wish Lai had dedicated his career to producing similar volumes for all other pulp series. While that particular wish may not be possible to accommodate, he has devoted much of his time and energy for the past quarter century authoring speculative articles on works of imaginative fiction. Some of his literary investigations fall within the Wold Newton framework established by Philip Jose Farmer, while others do not. Much like a dedicated theosophist indifferent to sectarianism, Lai seeks the truth regardless of where the path leads.
Altus Press subsequently published two volumes collecting all of Rick’s articles under the titles Daring Adventurers and Criminal Masterminds. The former features articles concerning the classic pulp hero, The Avenger; as well as more obscure characters created by Talbot Mundy and Robert E. Howard; and multiple articles concerning such well-loved characters as Peter the Brazen, Raffles, Professor Challenger, Arsene Lupin, and Jules de Grandin. The second volume shifts the focus to the villains readers loved to hate such as Fu Manchu and various Yellow Peril clones including Hanoi Shan and Sumuru; Jules Verne’s seminal super criminals, Captain Nemo and Robur the Conqueror; Guy Boothby’s highly obscure Dr. Nikola; Bulldog Drummond’s arch-nemesis, Carl Peterson; and the most famous criminal mastermind of all, Professor Moriarty from the Sherlock Holmes series by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
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