Helen Vaughan (later Mrs. Herbert/Mrs. Beaumont) was the child of Mary, a mad woman and … something else. Mary was mad as the result of a surgical experiment that allowed (forced?) her mind to see and experience “the Great God Pan” i.e. the vast realms of reality of which the human senses are not aware.
Helen is the focus of the story The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen but the reader only meets her second hand through accounts that one character tells another. She seems to be evil and have the ability to drive men to suicide but the details of her evil and why the men actually kill themselves is left to the reader’s imagination. The story’s protagonists take it upon themselves to convince to hang herself but whether she does so or whether the protagonists kill her themselves is never stated. The story suggests that she hung herself but, to me, that seems unlikely. Why would she?
Helen is a fascinating character, all the more so because the reader learns so little about her. I rather surprised that no one has written an expansion/sequel/prequel of The Great God Pan from her point of view.
Morgo was a boy, traveling with his family in the Himalayas, when they were killed. He became trapped in the caverns of Surrilana. Because he was a white man (in a pulp novel written by a white American male in 1930) he grew up strong and powerful and a ruler of the other beings in the caverns.
Sometimes an author picks the wrong character to be his protagonist. For his novel Morgo the Mighty, Sean O’Larkin chose the pilot Jerry McRory. Jerry isn’t necessarily a bad character. I imagine O’Larkin figured that he needed an ordinary guy to lead his ordinary guy readers through the underworld of Surrilana. He is not, however, as dynamic as Morgo. Morgo fights the giant chickens, negotiates with the giant ants and does all the primitive man heroic stuff. Poor Jerry is a lost guy with a gun who knows that when he runs out of bullets he’s screwed.
My exposure to the character of Fu Manchu is pretty limited. I’ve had to two experiences with him.
I first encountered him in the original Master of Kung Fu comic book series. The protagonist, Shang Chi, is the son of Fu Manchu. He discovered that his father was evil and so turned against him. Fu Manchu is THE villain for most of the early issues in the series and, frankly, I got tired of him. He was a bad guy who wore out his welcome.
I met him again a few years ago when I watched The Mask of Fu Manchu. I watched the movie because Boris Karloff was playing Fu Manchu and I wanted to see how he pulled it off. A friend of mine describes the film as “charmingly racist” and, from my whiteboy viewpoint, I would agree. Fu Manchu is portrayed as evil but, it seems to me, he had a good reason to hate white folks. The white protagonists are dull, smug and sure of their superiority. Fu Manchu might be a bad guy but he had style and imagination. I got the impression that Fu Manchu had once tried to fit in with Westerners and was rejected merely because he wasn’t white. I enjoyed the movie.
Neither version of Fu Manchu, however, was compelling enough to me to make me want to seek out the original novels or see any other films. As far as I know, the character has only been gotten yellowface portrayals by white actors. Maybe if an Asian actor played him, in a film written and directed by Asian, I’d give the character another try.