COMIC REVIEW: Humanoids' The Incal
Jodorowsky and Moebius' Classic Sci-Fi Comic Collection Available Again...
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Before there was the fan-favorite Heavy Metal Magazine, which began in 1977, there was the French publication called Métal Hurlant. First published in 1974 by Les Humanoïdes Associés, the sci-fi and fantasy magazine's success inspired the publisher to continue to bring hard-hitting, gritty, and violent comics to the marketplace. Now, thanks to the publisher's American counterpart, Humanoids, fans of the classic old and modern new sci-fi, fantasy, and hardcore comics can pick up a variety of graphic novels and unique hardcover books.
The Incal Classic Collection
If you’ve read any of my previous Humanoids reviews, you know I’m a fan of Alexandro Jodorowsky. A mad genius of creative oddity and amazing bizarre, Jodorowsky has created some of the best sci-fi comics, including The Metabarons, Megaplex, and Technopriests. Thankfully, Humanoids recently re-released the writer’s now-classic sci-fi comic series that started it all: The Incal.
The acclaimed comic series originally began in 1981 but didn’t end until 1989. While it took more than 8 years to complete, The Incal is less famous for being written by Jodorowsky and is instead best known for its outstanding artwork by none other than the award-winning, influential and recently deceased artist Moebius (Jean Giraud).
A Frenchman whose work has inspired creators the world over – including the likes of Mark Millar, Brian Michael Bendis, J.O. Ladronn, Federico Fellini, Stan Lee, Ridley Scott, William Gibson and Hayao Miyazaki – Moebius is considered by most to be the quintessential sci-fi and fantasy artist. In fact, Moebius’ influence has affected not only comics, but film and video games design as well. Moebius helped storyboard and visually design for numerous classic sci-fi and fantasy films, including Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic Alien, Disney’s 1982 special-effects laden Tron, George Lucas’ fan-favorite 1980 film Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas’ 1988 fantasy film Willow, and Luc Besson’s 1997 sci-fi favorite The Fifth Element.
With Jodorowsky's creative writing and Moebius’ detailed art, The Incal is considered by many to be one of the greatest sci-fi comic masterpieces ever published. The Incal features a plethora of bizarre characters, unusual settings, and odd plot devices which, when combine together, help create the Jodoverse, a fictional plane of existence in which a majority of Jodorowsky’s comic stories find structure.
Though the story finds itself filled with adventures across a galaxy that’s preparing for ruination, The Incal finds its focus in protagonist John Difool, a private investigator and our story’s everyman. Difool is every bit the fool his name makes him out to be as he’s sometimes unreliable, often scared, and always unattractive. In fact, Difool is the least heroic of the all the book’s characters, not excluding his talking concrete seagull Deepo. And yet fate finds it possible – or maybe necessary – to gift Difool with the Incal, a source of great power and the key to the Universe.
It doesn’t take long before readers are introduced to other Jodoverse characters like the Metabaron, the galaxy’s most skilled and able bounty hunter/mercenary (and my personal favorite). The Metabaron is sent by Tanatah, guardian of the Dark Incal, to kill Difool because Tanatah wants nothing more than to possess the Light Incal. The Light Incal, currently in the possession of Difool, was previously guarded by Tanatah's sister, Animah, who has formed a relationship with Difool. Difool and Animah will eventually have a child together, Solune, who will become the Metabaron's adopted son.
Not to worry - The Incal gets even crazier.
There’s the Berg, the featherless bird-like aliens who give Difool the Incal; the Technopriests, which worship the Dark Incal; and Kill Wolfhead, a (you guessed it!) wolf-headed warrior who’s out to kill Difool. Thus, with these and other characters in the cast, readers follow Difool the private dick on one galaxy-spanning adventure after another as he explores his sudden access to vast amounts of power while avoiding those who are hunting him and trying to take the Incal. As odd as it all sounds, Difool simply wants what every guy in his situation wants: a decent meal, a woman in bed, and less responsibility.
Sci-fi comic fans who’ve yet to delve into this surreal collection can now find it in stores and pick it up thanks to Humanoids’ re-release. There’s nothing like taking a trip to a place and time where futuristic cities filled with mutants and technopriests collide with modern metaphysics and the ancient mystical to create an engaging and entertaining story.
There are so many unique and creative ideas in The Incal, it’s impossible for any sci-fi fan to pick up the book, read it, and not realize the book’s influence on the genre over the last 30 years. And while there’s no doubt The Incal is convoluted, it’s the kind of confusing that makes one’s mind jump for joy and one's soul pray for answers. It is, after all, the craziness of The Incal in which readers will find the book’s success.
Sadly, considering many American comic readers haven’t heard of Jodorowsky, Moebius or The Incal, there’s no doubt some will see this book on the shelf and consider it simply another French comic by another couple of foreign creators they’ve never heard of. They’ll pick it up, look at it ever so briefly and – maybe not realizing its age, origin or influence – criticize The Incal for being unoriginal and unworthy of their money. They’d not only be wrong, but idiots.
Don’t be an idiot.
The Incal Classic Collection is available from Humanoids now wherever fine graphic novels, comics, and books are sold.
Be sure to check out an assortment of Moebius' artwork from random pages of The Incal, below.
- Jess C. Horsley
Re: BOOK REVIEW: Humanoids' The Incal
Moebius is the man. GREAT stuff.