"God sometimes allows His Infallible Justice and Rightful Wrath
to manifest themselves upon the face of this Earth...
...And you are that manifestation... You, the Nyctalope!"
(Mathias Lumen - L'Antéchrist)
Created & Written by: Jean de La Hire (1878-1956)
Jean de La Hire (Adolphe d'Espie de La Hire)'s Nyctalope is a French pulp hero who did not gain the recognition of the more famous Rocambole, Rouletabille, Arsène Lupin and Fantômas, nor to be honest, did it deserve to. Nevertheless yet, the Nyctalopes deserves to be remembered as the first, full-fledged super-hero in the history of French pulp literature, anticipating larger than life crime-fighters such as Doc Savage by more than ten years.
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The Nyctalope is Léo Saint-Clair (or Sainte-Claire depending on the edition), a crime fighter who can see in the dark with his eerie eyes whose irises shift colors and, as it is revealed later, sports an artificial heart.
According to the internal chronology of the series, the Nyctalope was born circa 1878 (even though one of the later books updated it to 1892). His adventures roughly take place between 1898 and 1943.
Saint-Clair made his first appearance in Le Mystère des XV (The Mystery Of The XV) (1911) in which the villainous Oxus tries to conquer Mars and breed a new race of supermen. This book features a fictional crossover with H. G. Wells' Martians.
Oxus had previously appeared in L'Homme qui peut vivre dans l'eau (The Man Who Could Live Underwater) (1908), which took place 25 years before and featured Leo's father, Jean Sainte-Claire, as a supporting character. In that novel, Oxus and the mad monk Fulbert, grafted shark gills onto a hapless victim, turning him into the Hictaner, a waterbreathing man.
After an interval of ten years during which La Hire wrote other novels, the Nyctalope returned in Lucifer (1921). There, he was challenged by Baron Glo von Warteck who, from his citadel in Bermuda, tried to enslave humanity with his Omega Rays.
More novels followed, introducing grander villains and more incredible perils, such as Leonid Zattan, evil incarnate, Red Princess Titania, Queen of the Hashshashins, her son Belzebuth, and Gorillard the Mastodon. In Les Mystères de Lyon (The Mysteries Of Lyon) (1933), the Nyctalope fought the life-stealing Alouh T'Ho, a Chinese Empress born in 1852.
In the 1943 Le Roi de la Nuit (The King of the Night), the Nyctalope flies to Rhea, a heretofore unknown planet, in an anti-gravity-powered spaceship and there, settle a war between its winged daysiders and ape-like nightsiders.
The last Nyctalope story was the novella Rien qu'une nuit (Only One Night) (1944), taking place in 1941, in which the Nyctalope appears to have succumbed to the charms of collaboration with the Nazis. Two more uncompleted Nyctalope novels were finished and published by La Hire's son-in-law in 1954 and 1955.
The Nyctalope, even more than Rocambole, Arsène Lupin and Fantômas, was the first, full-fledged superhero in the history of French pulp literature.
1878 - Birth of Léon (Léo) Saint-Clair (the Nyctalope) from Jean Saint-Clair and ?.
1886 - L'Homme qui peut vivre dans l'eau. Léo's father, Jean, serves in the French navy as ensign under Lt. Louis de Ciserat. Oxus and Fulbert use the water-breathing Hictanel to try to take over the world but are defeated by the Hictaner's father, engineer Charles Severac. The Hictaner marries Oxus' daughter, Moisette.
1891 - A tornado kills the Hictaner and Moisette; Jean adopts their daughrtr, Christiane.
1892 - Jean is tranferred to the diplomatic service and he and his family move to Russia.
1898 - L'Assassinat du Nyctalope. Léo gains his powers and an artificial heart after torture and an assassination attempt. (In 1933, Léo asked La Hire to write this story, claiming that it had taken place in 1912 in order to distract attention to his lack of normal aging.)
1900+? - Unrecorded adventures of Léo in Central Africa and Tibet. At one point, Léo has an affair with German agent Wanda Stielman.
1901 - Death of Jean Saint-Clair.
1911 - Le Mystère des XV. Léo fights Oxus on Mars, then allies himself with him and the good Martians to defeat Wells' evil Martians. Léo marries Xavière de Ciserat, daughter of Louis. Christiane gets married.
1912 - Death (?) of Xavière.
1913 - La Croisière du Nyctalope. In Russia, Léo prevents Wanda Stielman from stealing Pricess Irena Zahidof's fortune. He would marry Irena but she dies in July.
1914-18 - World War I
1918-20 - Unrecorded adventures: subduing rebel tribes in Morocco, freeing the King of Spain kidnapped by terrorists and fighting a trio of super-villains in China.
1921 - Lucifer. Léo defeats Baron Glo von Warteck. He marries opera singer Laurence Païli. Submariner Raymond de Ciserat, a son of Louis.
1922 - Le Roi de la Nuit. Léo travels to unknown planet Rhea and settles a war between day-siders and night-siders. He has an affair with Veronique d'Olbans.
1922-25 - Léo and Laurence have three boys, then she divorces him and gets custody of the children. Unrecorded adventure in Central Africa.
1925 - L'Amazone du Mont Everest. Léo discovers a hidden civilization of Amazons in Tibet. He returns with their Queen Mizzeia Khali. Captain Jean de Ciserat and his cousin, Gaelle de Ciserat, accompany him.
1926 - More unrecorded adventures.
1927 - L'Antéchrist. With the help of Jewish wizard Mathias Lumen, Léo battles evil incarnate, Leonid Zattan, Lord of Issyk-Koul, a forbidden city located in Tien-Chan, and Red Princess Diana Ivanovna Krasnoview. Léo meets Japanese Ambassador Marquis Gno Mitang and his young ward, Sylvie Mac Dhul, whom he marries. Léo creates the C.I.D., a private crime-fighting organization of which he is the master. He acquires two Corsican bodyguards, Vitto and Soca.
1928 - Leo and Sylvie have a son, Pierre.
1929 - Titania. Diana, a.k.a. Titania, returns and kidnaps Pierre. She is now allied to evil engineer Korridès. They try to take over the world, but fail. Diana is killed by a young gypsy girl, and Korridès commits suicide.
1930 - Belzébuth. Hughes Mézarek, a.k.a. Belzébuth, the son of Korridès and Diana, kidnaps Sylvie and Pierre and takes them with him through hibernation to the year 2100. The Nyctalope follows and defeats him.
1931 - Les Mystères de Lyon. The Nyctalope fights the beautiful Chinese Empress Alouh T'Ho, the leader of a pseudo-satanic cult, the Blood Worshippers, headquartered in Lyons.
1932 - Gorillard. The Nyctalope fights Dominique de Soto, a.k.a. Gorillard, who has become the master of the Seven Living Buddhas and uses their psychic powers to threaten the West.
1934 - Le Sphinx du Maroc. Léo stops a rebellion in French Morocco.
1934 - Leo divorces Sylvie?
1935-39 - La Sorcière Nue? Alouh T'Ho returns, up to her old tricks in the Languedoc region.
L'Enigme du Squelette? Léo must find who killed one of his guests and kidnapped the man's daughter.
1940 (June) - L'Enfant Perdu. Léo and Gnô Mitang during the Exodus.
Le Mystère de la Croix du Sang. Léo fights an evil warlock in the Perigord region.
1941 (January) - Rien qu'une Nuit. Léo and Gnô Mitang save a young girl from the clutches of evil hypnotist.
"Marguerite" (by Jean-Marc Lofficier, in Tales of the Shadowmen 2). Léo saves a French Resistant from the Milice.
* 1. L'Homme Qui Peut Vivre dans l'Eau [The Man Who Could Live Underwater] (1909) (features only Léo's father)
* 2. Le Mystère des XV [The Mystery Of The XV] (1911) (first adventure)
* 3. Lucifer (1921-22)
* 4. Le Roi de la Nuit [The King Of The Night] (1923)
* 5. L'Amazone du Mont Everest [The Amazon Of Mount Everest] (1925)
* 6. L'Antéchrist [The Antichrist] (1927)
* 7. Titania (1929)
* 8. Belzébuth (1930)
* 9. Gorillard (1932)
* 10. L'Assassinat du Nyctalope [The Assassination of the Nyctalope] (1933) (origin story)
* 11. Les Mystères de Lyon [The Mysteries of Lyon] (1933)
* 12. Le Sphinx du Maroc [The Moroccan Sphinx] (1934)
* 13. La Croisière du Nyctalope [The Nyctalope's Cruise] (1936)
* 14. Le Mystère de la Croix du Sang [The Mystery of the Cross Of Blood] (1941)
* 15. L'Enfant Perdu [The Lost Child] (1942)
* 16. Rien qu'une Nuit [Only One Night] (1944)
* 17. La Sorcière Nue [The Naked Sorceress] (written c. 1940+; publ. 1954)
* 18. L'Énigme du Squelette [The Enigma of the Skeleton] (written c. 1940+; publ. 1955)
Jean de La Hire was also the author of numerous oher novels and series which loosely fit in the "Nyctalope" universe. We have selected a few that we believe could be fully integrated in the continuity of the French Wold Newton Universe:
-- La Roue Fulgurante [The Fiery Wheel] ("Le Matin"/Tallandier, 1908; rep. under the title Soucoupe Volante [Flying Saucer], Jaeger, 1952), a classic space opera in which five Earthmen were abducted in the eponymous "fiery wheel" (a proto-flying sauce) and taken to Mercury by aliens who looked like columns of light;
-- Le Corsaire Sous-Marin (The Undersea Corsair) (serialized as 79 issues, Ferenczi, 1912-13), a Jules Verne-inspired serial, starring another Captain Nemo character. (For more on this character, read our article, Who Was Nobody?).
1. Le Vol du Sous-Marin [The Stealing Of The Sub-Marine]
2. La Nuit Tragique [The Tragic Night]
3. L'Exploit de Jean l'Anguille [The Amazing Feat Of John The Eel]
4. La Grotte d'Épouvante [The Cave Of Terror]
5. Le Radeau Fantôme [The Ghost Raft]
6. Le Monstre Vengeur [The Avenging Monster]
7. Dans les Abîmes [In The Abyss]
8. Le Camp des Coupe-Têtes [The Camp Of The Head-Cutters]
9. Le Trésor du Corsaire [The Corsair's Treasure]
10. Les Aéroplanes contre le Cyclope [The Airplanes vs. The Cyclops]
11. La Conquête de l'Île [The Conquest Of The Island]
12. Les Traces de Sang [Traces Of Blood]
13. La Première Victoire [First Victory]
14. La Revanche du Pavilion Noir [The Revenge Of The Black Flag]
15. Le Combat sous les Eaux [Underwater Battle]
16. La Disparition des Forbans [The Villains Disappear]
17. La Découverte de Jean l'Anguille [The Discovery Of John The Eel]
18. La Potence Infernale [The Hellish Gallows]
19. L' Exploit de l'Homme-Torpille [The Amazing Feat Of The Torpedo-Man]
20. La Terreur du Pacifique [The Terror Of The Pacific]
21. Le Corsaire et l'Américain [The Corsair And the American]
22. L'Eau qui Monte [Rising Waters]
23. L' Évasion d'Archibald [Archibald's Escape]
24. La Trombe de Feu [The Fire Vortex]
25. Mort ou Vivant?... [Dead Or Alive?]
26. L'Escadre Monstre [The Monstrous Armada]
27. Le Père de Jean l'Anguille [The Father Of John The Eel]
28. L'ldée du Corsaire Noir [The Black Corsair's Idea]
29. Perdus dans l'Air [Lost In The Air]
30. Les Robinsons de l'Air [Robinsons Of The Air]
31. L'Étreinte du Serpent [The Hug Of The Serpent]
32. La Voix de l'Honneur [The Voice Of Honor]
33. La Locomotive Infernale [The Infernal Locomotive]
34. La Poursuite Folle [The Mad Pursuit]
35. La Fusillade Invisible [The Invisible Gun Battle]
36. Et Jean l'Anguille? [What About John The Eel?]
37. La Rencontre Fatale [The Fatal Encounter]
38. La Monstrueuse Bataille [The Monstrous Battle]
39. La Marche à l'Abîme [Marching Towards The Abyss]
40. Le Capitaine Ouragan [Captain Hurricane]
41. La Courte-Paille [The Short Straw]
42. Les Glaces du Pôle [The Ice Of The Pole]
43. Les Naufragés du Montroë [Shipwreckd On The Montroe]
44. Des Pas dans la Neige [Footsteps On The Snow]
45. Le Mystère de la Banquise [The Mystery Of The Ice Shelf]
46. Le Cercle de la Mort [The Circle Of Death]
47. Le Truc de Jim [Jim's Trick]
48. L'Aéro-Fantôme [The Air-Ghost]
49. Le Supplice du Feu [The Fire Torture]
50. L'X Mystérieux [The Mysterious X]
51. Le Précieux Otage [The Precious Hostage]
52. Les Ruses Tragiques [Tragic Ruses]
53. Le Mort Vivant [The Living Dead]
54. Rires de Démons [Demons' Laugh]
55. La Montagne Creuse [The Hollow Mountain]
56. Les Indiens Banivas [The Banivas Indians]
57. Le Feu des Chiquitos [The Fire Of The Chiquitos]
58. Oeil-de-Vautour [Eye-Of-Vulture]
59. Le Fils Vengeur [The Avenging Son]
60. Dave Smith and Co.
61. L'Effroyable Revanche [The Awful Revenge]
62. La Sorcière du Trou-d'Enfer [The Witch Of The Hell-Hole]
63. Le Drame du Fortin [The Tragedy Of The Fort]
64. L'lnsaisissable [The Uncatchable]
65. Le Calvaire Sanglant [The Bloody Calvary]
66. Fin d'Aventure [End Of An Adventure]
67. Mission Dangereuse [Dangerous Mission]
68. Le Serment du Corsaire [The Corsair's Oath]
69. L'Île aux Perles [Pearl Island]
70. Enlevez l'Amiral! [Capture The Admiral!]
71. L'Expiation [The Punishment]
72. Le Corsaire Noir contre Santa-Fe [The Black Corsair vs. Sante Fe]
73. La Contre-Mine [The Anti-Mine]
74. La Mort Prévue [The Planned Death]
75. Le Triomphe du Mal [The Triumph Of Evil]
76. Le Mort Parle [The Deadman Speaks]
77. Vers le Drame [Towards A Drama]
78. Le Drame final [The Final Drama]
79. La Fin du Corsaire Noir [The End Of The Black Corsair]
Note: The series was serialized again by Ferenczi
as 75 issues with variant titles in 1936-37.
-- Joe Rollon, l'Autre Homme Invisible [Joe Rollon, Another Invisible Man] (using the seudonym of Edmond Cazal) (Ed. Fse. Ill., 1919; rev. as La Hire, L'Invisible [The Invisible], Jaeger, 1953), a variation on H.G. wells' Invisible Man.
-- Les Aventures de Paul Ardent [The Adventures Of Paul Ardent] (serialized in 6 issues, VLAE, 1927-28), the tribulations of a Doc Savage-like hero.
1. Le Sphinx du Labrador [The Labrador Sphinx]
2. La Marque des Deux Tigres [The Mark Of The Two Tigers]
3. L'Énigme des Pôles [The Mystery Of The Poles]
4. L'Homme aux Hélicoptères [The Helicopter Man]
5. Le Monstre au Coeur d'Acier [The Monster With A Heart Of Steel]
6. Les Démons de l'Apatcha [Demons Of The Apatcha]
Les Grandes Aventures d'un Boy Scout [The Great Adventures Of A Boy-Scout], a serial that features the adventures of boy scout Franc Hardi in underground realms, other planets, etc.
(serialized as 30 issues, Ferenczi, 1926):
1. La Volonté de Franc-Hardi [The Will Of Franc-Hardy]
2. Le Prodigieux Voyage [The Prodigious Journey]
3. Le Mystère des Souterrains [The Mystery Of The Tunnels]
4. La Révolte des Ziouits [The Revolt Of The Ziouits]
5. La Lutte Formidable [The Formidable Clash]
6. Les Hommes de Mars [The Men From Mars]
7. Franc-Hardi et les Martiens [Franc-Hardy And The Martians]
8. Les Martiens Capturés [The Martians Taken Captives]
9. Dramatiques Mystères [Dramatic Mysteries]
10. Chasses Martiennes [Martian Hunts]
11. Le Rayon-Ardent [The Fiery Ray]
12. La Pierre Tournante [The Turning Stone]
13. Les Cyclopes à Trompes [The Cyclops With A Trunk]
14. La Vengeance des Kolops [The Revenge Of The Kolops]
15. Vers le Tour du Monde Saturnien [Across The World Of Saturn]
16. Le Drame des Hommes-Taureaux [The Tragedy Of The Men-Bull]
17. L'Île aux Embuches [The Island of Traps]
18. Tentative Suprême [Suypreme Attempt]
19. La Mer Visqueuse [The Viscous Sea]
20. Jours Tragiques [Tragic Days]
21. Les Kalooniens [The Kaloonians]
22. L'Avionnette [The Mini-Plane]
23. L'Abominable Piège [The Abominable Trap]
24. L'Impitoyable Kalap [Kalap the Merciless]
25. L'Enlisement [The Sinking]
26. Le Grand Naufrage [The Big Shipwreck]
27. Contre les Yamurs [Against the Yamurs]
28-30. [no information available]