Superdupont was created in 1972, by Jacques Lob (a journeyman comics writer perhaps best-known internationally for Snowpiercer) and major (and hilarious) comedy comics author Marcel Gotlib. Superdupont is quite famous, and features in a half-dozen graphic novels.
- It uses the second degré style. A second degré text seems simple, but is packed with more complex meaning and allusions for the thoughtful reader. It’s a type of sarcasm you have to unpack.
- Likewise, the art can be packed with absurd little details and stealth narratives. This is a recurrent feature in Gotlib’s work, and later artists on the series drew a bit from that.
- The art also does curious mergers of super-dramatic “Marvel Age” framing, poses and angles (especially when things are rather pedestrian) with a more European, realistic and detailed comics art style.
- Much of the humour rests on nonsense and near-surrealism.
- The story is born at the end of a specific historical sequence in France. 1940, Vichy, the collapse of the Colonial Empire, the Fifth Republic, a partial revolt in 1968, and the sudden end of the post-war economic boom in 1972. Said sequence greatly weakened the old French societal order.
- Thus, the bulk of the sarcasm about the pompous, over-the-top, sentimental patriotism of Superdupont is about the unbearable, self-satisfied staidness of this old order.
- For instance, the family name “Dupont” is also a well-established shorthand for an everyman Frenchman. But over time it acquired connotations of mediocrity, chauvinism and small-mindedness.
This profile is based on the first five hardback collections (from Superdupont up to Superdupont et les âmes noires). These are what I personally consider the classic run.
- Real Name: Jean Dupont.
- Marital Status: Single.
- Known Relatives: The Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe (father, deceased).
- Group Affiliation: None.
- Base of Operations: His secret underground base.
- Height: 5’10” Weight: 165 lbs
- Eyes: Brown Hair: Dark brown.
Powers & Abilities
Superdupont is gifted with numerous powers. Essentially, he can do anything that’d be funny or convenient in the story.
This is reminiscent of early Superman. Back when Supes did all sorts of odd things such as super-ventriloquism or super-face-alteration.
His demonstrated abilities are :
- Telescopic (40x) and microscopic vision. The later is sufficient to examine bacteria. An ability to track by scent that seems roughly comparable to Wolfsbane’s. Low-powered X-Ray vision.
- The ability to land like a feather at the end of any fall.
- Peak human agility, strength and endurance.
- Mastery of French boxing.
- The power of flight (about as fast as a passenger airliner), but Superdupont must be able to run to take off. If he cannot, he can still perform super-jumps. And if he cannot do that either, Superdupont runs about as fast as a car.
- An extraordinary charisma, particularly when it comes to saying good things about France. Experienced French police officers will also intuitively recognize Superdupont as a force for good.
- Projecting beams of healing magnetism, which can instantly cure ordinary ailments. A variant over this results in long-term paralysis, as if suspending its targets in time.
- Super-breath. Notably, he can disarm his opponent by sucking in vast quantities of air.
- The ability to exert superhuman strength against objects and obstacles, if he focuses. Examples included chewing a pistol to bits, cutting a thick rope by using his fingers as scissors, breaking chains, bursting through a wall, etc..
- The ability to resist physical attacks by focusing and striking a dramatic “Superman” pose.
- Superspeed, but only for trivial tasks that an ordinary person could easily accomplish.
- Projecting light from his eyes, like a pocket flashlight.
- Superhuman pétanque (video) skills, allowing him to ricochet projectiles off each other with one eagle-eyed toss. Think snooker.
- Superman-level lifting ability, but it was only demonstrated once or twice for a quick gag. It’s not his normal level of strength.
- By focusing his super-brain, Superdupont can speak and understand any language in the universe… and beyond !
- Super-seduction (“the legendary romantic appeal of the Frenchman , amplified by a factor of 100 !”).
Superdupont has a secret underground base in Paris. It is hidden under a Moris column, and includes a full crime lab.
He can call upon the spirit of Marianne, the anthropomorphic symbol of the French Republic, for quasi-divine inspiration. Marianne can in turn call upon the spirits of the great Frenchpersons of History if she deems it necessary. She once summoned the ghost of Doctor Émile Coué . Coué taught Superdupont how to gain Atom-like shrinking powers for a short while, through self-suggestion.
Superdupont’s gear includes :
- A special beret, enhanced by CNRS researchers to allow him to access any of his memories with photographic quality. Any person wearing the beret can visualise Superdupont’s memories.
- Superdupont’s chest emblem is actually a soft vinyl record playing the Marseillaise .
- There’s a safety belt (just like one in a car) going from his shoulder to his sash, which he uses when carrying a passenger in flight. Superdupont is scrupulous about the law !
- A secret pocket in his cape can hold, say, a baguette and a bottle of red wine.
- His headquarters includes a full forensics lab, at least in 1970s terms.
He will experience great physical pain if subjected to an adulterated version of the Marseillaise.
He cannot damage anything bearing the pattern of the French tricolour.
He’s also unusually sloppy when it comes to DIY work.
Let’s get something Superdupont would undoubtedly remove his beret and shed a tear for… Mmm yeah, Yvette Horner.
In 1936, a 21-year old Frenchman named Jean Dupont came to Paris. During his first night there, a mysterious star shone a ray of light upon him. Entranced by the celestial phenomenon, he sleepwalked to the Arc de Triomphe . A cunningly hidden door opened in the monument. As the lad came to his senses, he was walking in underground secret chambers.
There, he was greeted by a tall man in a World War One French uniform. This trooper was the ghost of the Unknown Soldier , buried underneath the Arc. As he explained, this trooper had been killed at Verdun , in 1916 – shot right in the heart. He also was the father Jean Dupont had never known.
A superman is born
The spectre still had the bullet that had killed him. It held an enormous symbolic charge, and could thus be used in a sort of alchemical ritual. The Unknown Soldier sent his son to Verdun, to bring back some of the mud there. The lad did this journey in a taxi, of course .
Once back under the Arc de Triomphe, the bullet was melted, enchanted and infused with the mud. It was then reforged as a bullet-shaped talisman, capable of endowing the body of the sole descendant of the Unknown Soldier with great power.
With a deft rectal insertion, the courageous young man began his ordeal. He went through seven days and seven nights of great pain as the talisman dissolved within him. At the end of the process, the slight young man was gone. He now sported the powerful frame of national super-hero Superdupont, magically clad in his sacred uniform.
The early decades of Superdupont’s career are entirely undocumented. Perhaps there was a Captain Marvel (Billy Batson)-style incident where Superdupont was trapped in ice for decades ?
In 1972, the police did not recognise his uniform, so he clearly hadn’t been active in decades. Perhaps he was taken out of action in 1940 ?
Foiling the Anti-France
Superdupont brought to France his… specific kind of super-heroism throughout the 1970s and 1980s. In many cases, he was pitted against the iniquitous forces of the Anti-France. This nonsensical conspiracy, speaking a mishmash of European languages, engineered absurd schemes against the proud Gallic nation.
(Technically, Anti-French is a conlang , since the authors once published a one-page guide to it, with conjugations and stuff. Technically…)
Early adventures of Superdupont are closer to comedy skits, so this can fit into bullet points :
- Stopping the Anti-France from spraying micro-particles (*foreign* micro-particles !) that further degraded the famously surly Parisian character.
- Determining that the Anti-France had subtly sabotaged the official speaking clock, thus throwing the nation into disarray.
- Foiling a dastardly plot where valiant French call-girls had been replaced by artificial constructs infecting foreign VIPs with sexually-transmitted diseases.
- Responding when the prototype metre bar was stolen. Not only is the metre bar a shining example of French genius, but this meant that falsely-calibrated measuring tools could now spread, plunging the country into chaos. Superdupont was briefly captured and put into a deathtrap, yet he saved the very symbol of the great metric system.
- As he did, Superdupont was contacted by a cosmic entity, the Great Architect. This being revealed that the metric system was the intrinsically correct way to measure the universe. He also told Superdupont that France was the Chosen People to bear a message of light and truth about the metric system – first to lesser nations, and then throughout the Universe.
(This sequence even sneaked in an homage to Kirby’s collages ).
Superdupont also helped a hapless family whose son had become an antisocial punk. This was of course done by an Anti-France agent broadcasting despicable foreign music to a receptor hidden under the lad’s bed. After stopping the agent, Superdupont placed a new device playing proper French music under the bed, soon rehabilitating the young man.
(This is an example of the multi-layered jokes. The story features images of many popular French singers who came to fame during the 1960s. But of course Superdupont is utterly oblivious to the fact that most of these gained fame through adaptations of hit British and American pop songs .)
Of love and sedition
In 1981, the Anti-France started assaulting the Parisian police auxiliaries handling parking violations. These auxiliaries, almost all women, were considered part of the Parisian identity. Therefore, Anti-France agents would savagely rip their parking tickets notebook to shreds.
Yet, this revolting nefariousness was but part of plan to trap the mighty Superdupont !
Georgette Doublanski, a well-trained Anti-France agent, posed as one such auxiliary. She pretended to have been attacked. After Superdupont came to her help, she seduced him by playing a carefully calculated character. Whilst gathering intelligence, she discovered that Superdupont could be physically harmed by erroneous renditions of the Marseillaise.
The Anti-France thus attacked, capturing and torturing Superdupont by playing an adulterated national hymn. But Georgette had fallen in love with Superdupont, and rescued him. She then confessed her terrible secret. She was an hybrid being, half-French and half-foreign, with such powers as being able to learn foreign languages.
Georgette was sentenced to 15 years in prison. After two years she went on a hunger strike so Superdupont would come see her. Not wanting to see her suffer so, the super-Frenchman put her in a hypnotic trance. For months, she hallucinated a dream life where she had married Superdupont and they had founded a family.
In 1981, the Anti-France ensured that the quality of camembert cheese — a traditional symbol of rural French foods — plummeted. This was seen as a grievous attack on French prestige. After preventing the suicide of a master cheesemaker, Superdupont investigated.
Once he had analysed adulterated camemberts, Superdupont realised that this was a dastardly foreign plot. With the help of the Ministry of Camemberts, he intercepted tons of sabotaged cheese. Our hero destroyed them before they would be exported – thus preserving France’s cheesemaking reputation.
Superdupont then shadowed a selected truck to a decoy farm. Underneath was a gigantic, automated Anti-France industrial facility adulterating the camemberts. Seething with righteous rage, Superdupont overpowered the forces of the Anti-France and put an end to this monstrous endeavour.
Oui nide iou, part 1
In 1982, the French government called upon Superdupont to raise money. The super-hero volunteered to encourage his compatriots to massively participate to the traditional — and taxes-heavy — parimutuel betting on horse racing. This day of national betting was a triumph. Superdupont collected bets from those who couldn’t directly place them.
In so doing, Superdupont ran into an Anti-France agent, stealing betting money using a Superdupont disguise. The hero gave chase, but briefly lost his quarry. However, Superdupont asked a nearby fanfare to play the Marseillaise. He then apprehended the only person who didn’t stand for the hymn – the dastardly Anti-France agent.
The Anti-France then stole the Eiffel Tower, and demanded an exorbitant ransom. But Superdupont realised that the entire monument had simply gone up. It had been dismantled, and the parts were now hovering high above Paris, held by stealth balloons.
Thankfully, Superdupont soon restored the Eiffel Tower (if not quite in its proper shape).
Oui nide iou, part 2
A Communist conspiracy then adulterated red wines from certain American vineyards. President Reagan called upon Superman. In turn, Supes reasoned that for wine-related matters a true expert was needed. Superdupont thus came to California’s vineyards, and soon discovered the truth.
He and Superman destroyed the infected vineyards. Then Superdupont transfused his blood into the soil, regenerating it with the legendary virtues of French terroirs . The dastardly Communists attempted to strike back by sending a kaiju -sized bear against New York City. But Superdupont and iconic American super-heroes — drawn by Neal Adams — stopped this creature.
Soon after that, an alien spacecraft landed in Paris. Summoned by President Mitterrand , Superdupont acted as a translator. The aliens threatened to destroy the Earth if France did not stop the genocide of its colonies. It was thus realised that frogs were of alien origin, and the President promised that Frenchmen would stop eating frogs. This prevented an interplanetary war.
Guarding against all abjection
Further adventures of Superdupont involved :
- Exposing an Anti-France plot at the Vatican. Fake letters by Pope Paul VI had been sent to French prelates to exacerbate the dispute about saying the Mass in French or in Latin.
After stopping a savage kung-fu duel between French Catholic hierarchs, Superdupont helped the Pope uncover the Anti-France agent among his staff.
- Falling into an Anti-France trap. This redoubtable stratagem had been engineered by none other than Georgette Doublanski. The Anti-France had broken her out of prison, and convinced her that Superdupont had not been faithful to her.
Superdupont but narrowly escaped, and showed Georgette how they had duped her through photographic trickery.
Superdupont’s uniform is a nonsensical mishmash of clothing articles associated with old-fashioned France. These include a Onion Johnny -style beret, an old-fashioned sleeveless T-shirt (a “marcel”), comfy indoors slippers (“charentaises”) and a tricolour flannel sash held by a safety pin.
His regal bearing and aura of righteousness are oft-commented upon. Usually in improbably articulate ways.
His features are reminiscent of popular French images for a most average, mediocre Frenchman. The outdated moustache, bad combover, etc. further evokes actors known for playing mediocre everymen, such as Gérard Jugnot . He looks also a bit like a popular archetype drawn by Cabu .
Superdupont consumes five packs of Gauloises a day, seeing it as his patriotic duty to support the French government via tobacco taxes. However, he doesn’t actually light them up, as he sees it as his patriotic duty to respect the French government anti-smoking health policies. So he only pretends to smoke ’em as he got ’em.
Superdupont is an absurdly pompous and serious super-hero. His entire life is dedicated to protecting the glory of the motherland, and he shall know no respite from this most sacred mission. He is convinced that France holds true, universal civilisational genius. This is a sort of “white man’s burden” thing.
Everything about Superdupont is terribly outdated, clinging to a vision of “Eternal France” that hasn’t existed since the 1920s. Or ever, to be frank. He he. ”Frank”. That was a pun . Okay, anyway, everything that Superdupont upholds as French genius is hoary, cliché, has-been stuff. He makes dad jokes that stopped being funny circa 1962.
Most patriotic !
Another recurrent element is that *anything* French is clearly better than its foreign equivalents, no matter how little sense that makes. Furthermore, foreigners will often be criminally jealous of the shining French superiority and radiant prosperity.
Superdupont as a character isn’t racist or xenophobic. But it’s obvious to him that France is naturally the apex of human civilisation. A city upon a hill, or some such nonsense.
As a consequence, Superdupont is convinced that all French persons are noble, patriotic and moral citizens. Which is usually true in his world. And thus, any immoral behaviour must surely be done by foreigners… which is usually true in his world.
Frex, spotting two circus clowns in deserted streets at night seems normal for Superdupont. Surely French clowns are a hard-working lot doing long days of upstanding work ! But if said carnies ignore a red light, Superdupont will immediately know that they must be despicable Anti-France agents. No true Frenchman would be so incivic !
Of course, Superdupont scrupulously obeys all laws, mores and manners of France. He will always be civic-minded, chivalrous, help the authorities, etc.. It often looks a bit like he’s hypocritical, but he actually isn’t. He will occasionally cut corners (particularly when repairing the damage he wrought), but he’s not actually an hypocrite. He’s just drawn like one.
One of the recurrent gags of the stories is that nearly everybody speaks in an oddly stilted, formal, and articulate manner. It’s a curious mix parodying dialogue in older, non-naturalistic novels, and the French administrative writing style.
Thus, Superdupont fearlessly delivers impossibly overwrought, dramatic, pompous dialogue. But then so does everyone else in this strange reality.
“I am Superdupont ! This name holds no meaning for you this evening, and yet on the morrow it shall be all that matters ! But let’s cut to the chase ! I have found those you are looking for – the poisoners ! From the very summit of the proud Eiffel Tower, these miscreants spread to the winds the germs of gloominess ! Come with me ! We shall catch them red-handed and end their iniquitous machination !”
“This is merely the beginning of my mission, gentlemen ! For I shall not know rest as long as the Anti-France remains ! I hereby proclaim it my goal, before witnesses, to decapitate this sinister and redoubtable organisation ! Its leaders shall be unmasked and punished, this I swear ! Be confident ! We shall vanquish, for we are strong !”
“Parbleu ! *Foreigners* ! My suspicions are therefore confirmed !”
“Good God, madam ! Am I to understand that you were a victim of this haphazard maniac, whose nefarious exploits are disgracing the front pages of our quotidian press ?”
“Help me, Marianne ! Bolster my arm !”
“Woe and misery ! For hours I have been locked therein, powerless ! Whenever I charge these accursed walls to smash them to rubble, the sight of the sacred tricolour stops me cold ! Damaging any surface wearing France’s colours is an utter impossibility !”
DC Universe History
He did interact with the DC Universe, sort of (and this story also had parodies of Captain America and Spider-Man).
Game Stats — DC Heroes RPG
|Dex: 07||Str: 06||Bod: 06||Motivation: Uphold France|
|Int: 06||Wil: 03||Min: 06||Occupation: Super-hero|
|Inf: 10||Aur: 06||Spi: 07||Wealth: 004|
|Init: 023||HP: 050|
Attraction/repulsion: 04, Claws: 07, Analytical Smell/Tracking Scent: 10, Claws: 11, Comprehend Languages: 17, Gliding: 00, Flash: 04, Flight: 09, Gravity Decrease: 15, Hypnosis: 04, Jumping: 04, Microscopic vision: 05, Microscopic vision: 14, Omni-Power: 30, Paralysis: 05, Running: 06, Skin armour: 09, Superspeed: 03, Telescopic vision: 06, X-Ray vision: 02
Bonuses and Limitations:
- Attraction/Repulsion requires air, and being able to breathe.
- Several Powers (Analytical Smell/TS, Claws, Comprehend Languages, Flash, Gravity Decrease, Hypnosis, Medicine (Treatment), Omni-Power, Paralysis, Skin Armour) must be “armed” with an Automatic Action. They will always require a Dice Action to use for a Phase, even if that’s not normally necessary.
- Claws can only be used against small objects (ropes, chains, guns…) and stationary obstacles (walls, floors…).
- Flash is Steady Illumination only.
- Flight can only be achieved after running for a dozen metres or more.
- Flight’s landing are difficult to control (OV/RV 08 08 tested with DEX/DEX).
- Gravity Decrease has No Range. It’s tactile telekinesis of a sort.
- Paralysis is Minor Marginal, but receives a Special +6 Duration Bonus if it scores RAPs (after LDD).
- Paralysis is Contingent Upon Hypnotism, but has the Scattershot Bonus.
- Superspeed only for Physical Tasks of a trivial nature.
- The taboo substance for X-ray vision is unrevealed, but is no doubt foreign. X-Ray vision can be Combined with Telescopic Vision, and presumably Microscopic Vision.
Accuracy (Pétanque): 11, Acrobatics (Climbing): 07, Charisma (Persuasion): 08, Detective (Clue analysis): 06, Medicine (Treatment): 05, Scientist (Analysis): 06, Thief (Stealth): 05
Bonuses and Limitations:
- Charisma (Persuasion) only to convince others of the greatness of France.
- Medicine (Treatment) is done instantly, without supplies and in any conditions. It is a Powered Skill.
- Medicine (Treatment) and Microscopic vision can be used in combination to, say, recognise harmful bacteria.
Attractive, Expertise (French food, Oenology, French Catholic lore), Headquarters (Expansive), Local Hero (France).
French police forces (Low), the French President (Low), the spirit of Marianne (Low).
SIA toward Civic Spirit and Manners, CID of damaging anything painted as the French tricolour, CIA toward Upholding France, MIA toward Georgette Doublanski, Uncertainty (only if he sees a symbol of France being attacked, which shocks him), Fatal Vulnerability to warped renditions of the Marseillaise.
Beret [BODY 01, Recall: 13].
Source of Character: Superdupont graphic novels.
Helper(s): The radiant principles of Liberté, Egalité and Fraternité ! Also, Darci.
Writeup completed on the 28th of December, 2017.