:: Article

Fantômas Takes Sutton

New fiction by Isabel Waidner.

Gaudy Cover_Waidner

To write through a character called Fantômas would be laughable. Coming from a 42-year-old novelist, and a lesbian at that. Infantile, also ill-advised. The self-infantilisation of the butch lesbian is proverbial as it is. (Picture a bale of butches watching a rerun of Back to the Future (1985), the science-fiction adventure comedy film.) I might boycott boy fictions like Fantômas. Already I have the appearance of a boy cusping the age of consent (from afar). I pass as a boy or a young man in Sutton. Only yesterday I accessorised my rolled-up carrot leg type of trousers with orange socks. I came in for suburban abuse (verbal, poof). Despite a recent resurgence or renaissance of all things butch, I am transgendered. I descend from a pretty genealogy. Between 1911 and 1913, 32 Fantômas classic volumes were published in France. I have not read them. Not one. They are available on Project Gutenberg and, elsewhere on the net, as audio files. Amazon UK lists 24 available copies of The Daughter of Fantômas/La Fille de Fantômas (1911) alone. Condition: Used very good. Allain & Souvestre, the original authors, wrote: “‘Fantômas.’ ‘What did you say?’ ‘I said: Fantômas.’ ‘And what does that mean?'” (1911, p. 1) I don’t know. I don’t know what that means. Of 32 classic volumes I have yet to read one.

Reading or not reading Fantômas is not a question of age, nor gender. If reading Fantômas were a question of gender (which it is not), I would be your man. I have previously owned and listened to the self-titled debut LP of the experimental metal supergroup, Fantômas. Fantômas are vocalist Mike Patton (Faith No More, Mr. Bungle), drummer Dave Lombardo (Slayer), guitarist Buzz Osborne (Melvins) and bassist Trevor Dunn (Mr. Bungle, Tomahawk). Fantômas are American and testosterone-fuelled. I had the T-shirt. Having listened to Fantômas’s LP in the past, repeatedly, I no longer invest in it. At 42, I have learnt not to invest in misogynist forms of masculinity as reproduced in the avant-metal genre and the avant-metal subculture. Quentin Crisp, Patricia ‘Bunny’ O’Rooley, Peggy Shaw, Moj of the Antarctic, Campbell X, The Divine David, Bird la Bird and Lisa Blackman, as gender nonconforming role models, outperform Fantômas’s band members hands down. In many respects, Sutton outperforms America hands down. Quentin Crisp (1908-1999) grew up in Sutton, for example. I wrote my novel Gaudy Bauble in Sutton (as well as in Cambridge, Clerkenwell and Crystal Palace). Like most Londoners, I am no longer in a position to live in London. I live in Sutton now.

In 2014, the American cult publisher Semiotext(e) newly translated and published Julio Cortázar‘s (1975) pamphlet Fantômas contra los vampiros multinacionales. Only yesterday Semiotext(e) requested an excerpt from Gaudy Bauble for their occasional intellectual magazine, Animal Shelter. During the 1960s, various Italo-Latin franchises reconfigured Fantômas as a Marxist superhero with homoerotic appeal. Issue 201 of the Mexican series included a Cortázar persona that “so amused the author that he produced a metatext/pamphlet utilizing the comic’s illustrations and plot structure” (Morse, 2014, Frieze Vol. 166). The author, Julio Cortázar, was rumoured to have been a closet gay or closet bisexual. He was rumoured to have died from AIDS on February 12th, 1984, foreshadowing my 10th birthday on the 14th. Were Julio Cortázar alive today, he might self-identify as transgender, postbinary or gender variant (preferred pronouns: she/her). She might migrate to Sutton. She might assimilate culturally, and acquire a British passport, a sense of humour, a limp wrist, and transfeminist politics. Together, Julio and I might inaugurate a global renaissance of postmodernist fiction and, crucially, the advent of a queer avant-garde. Qui était Fantômas? (1933) the people of Sutton might ask. (Sporadically, we might appear in public.) Mais non! Ceux-ci sont Fantôbel & Julio, international migrants. Purchasing a pack of wild clementines in Morrisons, Sutton, and a pack of spaghetti. They share a foreign publisher, the people of Sutton might say, Semiotext(e).

As an adult, I am resigned to the death of Julio Cortázar, his closeted life and his binary gender identity. I am resigned to the marginalisation of postmodernist fictions by conceptual forms of writing. I am resigned to my personal incompatibility with Fantômas 1 & Fantômas 2, the classic French villain and the American avant-metal supergroup. I am resigned to the absence of feral raspberries in Morrisons, Sutton, but I am invested in Fantômas 3. First published in 1975, Cortázar’s Fantômas contra los vampiros multinacionales takes as its theme the destruction of books, literature, libraries and humanity. Already libraries are decimated in Tory Britain, and global humanity is teetering on the brink. Only yesterday I wore a turquoise, yellow & beige Walter van Beirendonck poncho with thick fringe detail throughout. I wore the poncho with beige & pink trousers and chequered socks. I wore an oversized Philip Treacy hat and I coded ‘poof’ in Sutton. I am resigned to that, too. But Fantômas 3, a homoerotic, socialist superheroine, remains top of my suburban agenda.

Isabel Waidner (b. 1974) writes avant-garde fiction. Published novels include Frantisek Flounders (2011), & Bubka (2010). Most recently, Waidner contributed to the Dictionary of Lost Languages (Wood, 2015). If you like ‘Fantômas Takes Sutton’, ‘Avant-Ice’ will be published at minor literature[s] in July 2016. Waidner is Co-Editor of The Arrow Maker: Journal For Language & Experimentation (8fold). She is currently a doctoral candidate at Roehampton University, Department of English and Creative Writing. Waidner had a previous career as a musician. Lastly with the band Klang, she toured internationally and released records on UK Indie labels Rough Trade (2003) and Blast First (2004). Originally from the Black Forest, Germany, Waidner has lived in London for 20 years.



The featured artwork is a DIY cover design for Waidner’s Gaudy Bauble (A novel). It uses part of Hilma af Klimt’s Group IX/UW, No. 25, The Dove (oil on canvas, 1915).

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Tuesday, July 5th, 2016.