The Nyctalope, real name Léo Saint-Clair, is a pulp fiction hero created by French writer Jean de La Hire in 1911. He may be the first cyborg (an individual with both organic and mechanical body parts) in literature and is seen as a significant precursor to the superhero genre. The character has an artificial heart and powers such as excellent night vision, which is the source of his name.
Jean de La Hire (the pen name of Adolphe d'Espi) began his series involving the Nyctalope in 1908 with the novel L'Homme Qui Peut Vivre dans l'Eau (The Man Who Could Live Underwater). The Nyctalope himself does not appear in the story, which stars his father. Léo Saint-Clair, alias the Nyctalope, debuted in the 1911 novel Le Mystère des XV, later translated as The Nyctalope on Mars. The Nyctalope has an artificial heart and other organs, which give him powers and improved senses. Most notably, his enhanced eyes give him excellent night vision, hence the name "Nyctalope".
Stories typically depict the Nyctalope fighting threats to humanity such as dictators, mad scientists, and aliens. Following Le Mystère des XV, La Hire wrote a number of other books and stories featuring the character into the 1940s. The 1933 story L'Assassinat du Nyctalope (The Assassination of the Nyctalope) includes his origin story. The Nyctalope predated comic book superheroes like Superman and Batman by three decades, and is sometimes seen as an early superhero or "proto-superhero". In addition, the fact that he has both mechanical and organic body parts may make him the first cyborg character in fiction, prefiguring characters like Iron Man, who similarly has an artificial heart.
- L'Homme Qui Peut Vivre dans l'Eau [The Man Who Could Live Underwater] (1909) (features only Léo's father)
- Le Mystère des XV [The Mystery Of The XV] (1911) (first adventure) (translated into English by Brian Stableford as The Nyctalope on Mars ISBN 978-1-934543-46-7, Black Coat Press)
- Lucifer (1921–22) (translated into English by Brian Stableford as Nyctalope vs Lucifer ISBN 978-1-932983-98-2, Black Coat Press)
- L'Amazone du Mont Everest [The Amazon Of Mount Everest] (1925)
- La Captive du Démon [The Demon's Captive] (1927)
- Titania (1929)
- Belzébuth (1930)
- Gorillard (1932)
- Les Mystères de Lyon [The Mysteries of Lyon] (1933)
- L'Assassinat du Nyctalope [The Assassination of the Nyctalope] (1933) (origin story)(translated into English by Brian Stableford as Enter The Nyctalope ISBN 1-934543-99-3, Black Coat Press)
- Le Sphinx du Maroc [The Moroccan Sphinx] (1934)
- La Croisière du Nyctalope [The Nyctalope's Cruise] (1936)
- Le Mystère de la Croix du Sang [The Mystery of the Cross Of Blood] (1941) (adapted into English by Jessica Sequeira as The Cross of Blood and included in The Nyctalope and The Tower of Babel ISBN 978-1-61227-701-1, Black Coat Press)
- L'Enfant Perdu [The Lost Child] (1942)(translated into English by Jean-Marc Lofficier & Randy Lofficier and included in The Nyctalope Steps In, ISBN 978-1-61227-028-9, Black Coat Press)
- Le Roi de la Nuit [The King Of The Night] (1943)(translated into English by Brian Stableford and included in The Return of the Nyctalope, ISBN 978-1-61227-211-5, Black Coat Press)
- Rien qu'une Nuit [Only One Night] (1944)(translated into English by Jean-Marc Lofficier & Randy Lofficier and included in Night of the Nyctalope, ISBN 978-1-61227-102-6, Black Coat Press)
- La Sorcière Nue [The Naked Sorceress] (written c. 1940+; publ. 1954)
- L'Énigme du Squelette [The Enigma of the Skeleton] (written c. 1940+; publ. 1955)
- The Return of the Nyctalope (2013; by Jean-Marc Lofficier & Randy Lofficier, ISBN 978-1-61227-211-5, Black Coat Press)
The Nyctalope remained obscure for years after La Hire's death in 1956. In the 21st century, several of the original Nyctalope stories were anthologized and translated into English.
- In Volume 2: Gentlemen of the Night (2006) in "Marguerite" by Jean-Marc Lofficier,
- In Volume 5: The Vampires of Paris (2009) in "The Heart of a Man" by Roman Leary
- In Volume 6: Grand Guignol (2010) in "Out of Time" by Emmanuel Gorlier, and "The Children of Heracles" by Roman Leary,
- In Volume 7: Femmes Fatales (2010) in "Fiat Lux!" by Emmanuel Gorlier, "Death to the Heretic!" by Paul Hugli, and "The Mysterious Island of Dr. Antekirtt" by David Vineyard.
The Nyctalope also stars in two collections of new stories written by other writers, The Nyctalope Steps In (2011) and Night of the Nyctalope (2012).
Shadowmen: Heroes and Villains of French Pulp Fiction: Published in 2003, by Jean-Marc Lofficier and Randy Lofficier, published by Black Coat Press is an encyclopedic guide to some of the most important characters from French Fiction, including Nyctalope.
The Nyctalope is one of the main characters in Serge Lehman's Chimera Brigade comic book (2009-2010), set just before World War II. He is also mentioned in volumes 2 and 3 of the graphic novel The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen by Alan Moore.
- Zehr, E. Paul (2011). Inventing Iron Man: The Possibility of a Human Machine. Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 5. ISBN 1421402262.
- Vuillermet, Maryse (2004). "Les Mystères de Lyon". In Le Juez, Brigitte. Clergés et cultures populaires (in French). Université de Saint-Étienne. pp. 109–118. ISBN 286272324X. Retrieved March 1, 2016.
- Clute, Johne (February 12, 2016). "La Hire, Jean de". In John Clute, David Langford, Peter Nicholls, and Graham Sleight. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. Gollancz. Retrieved March 1, 2016.
- First volume of this six-issue comic book is planned to be published in English by Titan Books in 2014.