My nomination for this is Fantomas.
The series of books over Fantomas (the character)....written by Marcel Allain (1885-1969) and Pierre Souvestre (1874-1914)....two French gentlemen.
Fantomas was this bad-ass character, who got himself into various jams.....with dying left and right as his effort of cleaning up a mess. There was nothing left to the imagination. Fantomas was a nutcase who could have killed anyone just for the enjoyment of the act.
These two guys teamed up to write 32 total novels on their character....Fantomas. As Souvestre passes away in 1914 (not from the war, but from a lung ailment).....there is a twelve-year period where Fantomas is finished, and then in 1925....Fantomas will reappear for a couple of books.
If you'd asked any Frenchman in the 1890s to 1914 about a good decent book....most of them had read at least one Fantomas novel and could cite the general story and evil nature of Fantomas.
All of this kinda remains to history, until 1964....when a French producer picked up the novels and developed a comical science fiction piece with a police chief in the midst of a chase of Fantomas. The comedy side of the movie went onto appealing to a large audience in France, and throughout all of Europe. The evil nature of Fantomas? Basically gone. He was just a bad guy......nothing much beyond that. None of the murders and terrible stuff.
I've watched the 1964 movie at least ten times and always enjoy the police chief (similar to the Peter Sellers character of Inspector Clouseau of Pink Panther fame). Compared to the book? No.
There's a rumor in France of an effort to turn the Fantomas novels back into a realistic movie....going to the serious nature of the book, rather than reusing the 1964 comical story. It might happen.....but I doubt if it's ever made.