Favorite Female Characters in Literature # 12: Fantomette
Three Fantomette book covers. I love the simplicity of design. I'm afraid I'm often a bit irritated at how American comics have this unstoppable juggernaut of an opinion that MORE art means BETTER art.
It's interesting how many times my favorite comics remind me of Tintin. That would lead to a conclusion, I suppose, that I'm a big fan of Tintin. Incidentally, I'm a big fan of Tintin.Â
Of all the characters that are on this list, Fantomette is probably the one least familiar to American readers. Fantomette lives in the fictional city of Framboisy, , and is the alter ego of 12(ish) year old FranÃ§oise Dupont. She's a crime-fighter, but has no superpowers. Despite this, she's often matching wits with, and taking down the world's worst villains, such as the superbly nefarious Silver Mask. She's rather a Batgirl character, I suppose. She even has a scooter. I love characters like this... Nancy Drew characters that have to go on nothing but pluck and perserverance. And... I admit... some of my love for the character stems from one of my all-time favorite costume, designed by the artist Joan Hives.
Good costume designs are important to me, which is why Saturn Girl nearly made this "top 25" list. And I'm speaking of her original costumes, which I think are some of the best ever designed. She would later go on to star in some of the worst costume catastrophes this side of Hawkeye.
This is the opening from a live action Fantomette television show from the 1990’s. Like any long lasting character, there have been many incarnations of Fantomette… in books, comics, cartoons, television, etc… but her costume and her attitude have always remained largely the same.
Georges Chaulet (1931 - to date) along with his creation, Fantomette. Beginning in 1960, Georges wrote basically everything for Fantomette, fifty episodes in all. Interestingly, he wrote 49 episodes, and then took a break of 18 years before being persuaded to write the 50th, in 2006.
And yes, it's all in French for the most part.
Hey! Even though it's in French, I can read this page!
A nice Fantomette montage video, doubly awesome because it uses one of my favorite theme songs… the theme from the excellent Cowboy Bebop anime.
Because not everyone is familiar with this character, I'm going to quickly introduce some of the main cast. The first and foremost, of course, is FranÃ§oise Dupont, a high school student who fights crime in the guise of Fantomette. Her name, incidentally, is a loving homage to Fantomas.
A wartime Fantomas comic strip. Fantomas rather kicks ass. He is also, rather obviously, the inspiration for the Fantomex character running around in X-Men these days.
A quick look at some of the characters in Fantomette, including both Fantomette herself, and Francoise, her other identity.
Joining Francoise are Boulotte, who has a cooking / food obsession.
And there's Ficelle, who is a bit of a troublemaker.
Mademoiselle Bigoudi, the teacher, also seen above yelling at Ficelle.
Uh-oh! It's a bad guy. Le Masque d'Argent.
Fantomette and her cat, Mephisto.
And this somewhat shady looking man is Oeil de Lynx, Fantomette's crime-fighting partner, a journalist who works at France Flash.
Probably my favorite image of Fantomette, because it's MINE. This is a watercolor that Colleen Coover made for me.
Three more Fantomette covers. I think these three show that, while there HAVE been changes to her look over the years, the designs have remained fairly true to the initial costume.
I love the design of this cover. So much information presented in understated ways. And the colors are perfect.
"Fantomette Risks All!"... another comic page of the girl detective. "Flotch" is such a wonderful sound effect.
More art from various places. I love the bright colors, and how the young girls are young girls. Too often, I think, in American comics... young girls (and young boys, too) are depicted as physically much older than they are claimed to be. A fourteen year old girl in American comics is often drawn as if she was in her early twenties. Robin, the Boy Wonder, looks like he's in college. I remember when Kitty Pryde was first introcuded, though... and I can remember thinking it was very well done. Byrne's art had her as some gangly teenager, rather than a blistering seductress, as so often is the case. .
Blessed as she was, with all the MIGHTY MUSCLE of a young teenage girl, FranÃ§oise often found herself VERY QUIETLY sneaking around.
More covers and art... coming down in parachutes, soaring upwards in chairs, and revealing secret identies... usual life for a teenage girl in France, I'm assured.
EPIC battle. This ranks up there with Hulk vs. Thor.
I have no idea what this art is from, but I find it charming as all hell.
——- DOWN BELOW IS JUST A REHASH OF WHY I’M DOING THIS LIST ———
I’ve been thinking about women, lately. Women characters in comics. Women creators in comics. Female characters in literature. And pretty girls riding around on bicycles or walking along the sidewalk, etc, etc. Because of this, I’ve decided to make An Entirely Useless List. Why is it entirely useless? Because it’s my top 25 female characters from comics and literature, and such lists change at whim and at a breakneck pace. It’s IMPOSSIBLE to quantify favorites… the term favorite is far too malleable. A list of my best friends from high school, for instance, would not include anyone with whom I’m currently in contact. Times change. Still… I’m making the list. Why? I suppose I just like thinking about women.
Paul Tobin is a New York Times-bestselling author living in Portland, Oregon. He has written books, comics, and short stories for children, adults, and everyone in between–in genres that vary from raucous comedy to chilling horror.