Conqueror of the Invisible

Sâr Dubnotal cover

Cover of Sâr Dubnotal no. 16, L’Affaire Azzef-Poloukhine, 1910.
Robert Desnos juxtaposes each a Fantômas and a Sâr Dubnotal cover in George Bataille’s journal Documents (no. 7, December 1929).

The Surrealists’ fascination with Marcel Allain’s and Pierre Souvestre’s pulp fiction series Fantômas of 1911-1913 is fairly well-researched (see for example Robin Walz, Pulp Surrealism); less known is their interest in the earlier dime novel series Sâr Dubnotal, created by Norbert Sévestre.

Its eponymous protagonist, endowed with supernatural, superheroesk powers such as levitation, telepathy and hypnotism, fights against a range of villains, including Tserpchikopf the Hypnotist (who is actually Jack the Ripper) and the Russian terrorist Azzef. A Rosicrucian and disciple of Hindu yogis adhering to occult powers, Sâr Dubnotal is appropriately nicknamed Great Psychagogue, Napoleon of the Intangible, Master of Psychognosis, Conqueror of the Invisible, El Tebib (meaning “the Doctor” in Arabic), or merely the Doctor.

I hope I’ll be able to get my hands on the series at some point (definitely next time I’m in the BNF) – dunno, but judging from the covers alone (a phosphorescent hand, suspended over a female body hovering above the ground!), I suspect Doctor Who and all of the Heroes heroes should be prepared to pack up and go home.

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