Comic Book / Iznogoud
Translation : I want to be Caliph instead of the Caliph!

Iznogoud (1962-) is a Franco-Belgian Comic book series created by René Goscinny of Astérix fame and illustrated by Tabary. The title character is the scheming, ambitious and power-hungry Grand Vizier of the fictional Caliph Haroun El-Poussah. His obsession is to depose the Caliph by hook or by crook, and to set himself up as the new Caliph in his stead.

In order to achieve this goal, he tries every dirty trick, but fails every single time.

The comic was given a 52 episode Animated Adaptation in 1995, along with a live-action film entitled Iznogoud: Calife A La Place Du Calife starring Michaël Youn and Jacques Villeret in 2005.

Iznogoud provides examples of the following tropes:

  • 0% Approval Rating:
    • In one episode, Iznogoud actually manages to become the Caliph by changing bodies with him. However, due to his tyranny, he's overthrown by the people of Baghdad, who think that "everything's been worse since he threw the Grand Vizier in jail". After overthrowing him, the "Grand Vizier" (really the imprisoned Caliph in Iznogoud's body) becomes the new Caliph, thus restoring everything to normal (except the two now have swapped bodies and Iznogoud is in jail, together with Wa'at Alaaf, who now has the body of the Caliph's food taster).
    • In Iznogoud Finally Caliph, a conspiracy is formed by the inhabitants of Bagdad to get rid of him. When asked who is in this conspiracy, Wa'at replies to Iznogoud that everyone in Bagdad is, since except for the Caliph, they all hate him.
    • Similarly, when he travels to a Mirror Universe (literally on the other side of a mirror where everything is reversed), he is delighted that every single citizen wants the Caliph's head... except that in the Mirror Universe he is the Caliph.
  • Adipose Rex: Caliph Haroun El-Poussah, the jovial and benign ruler.
  • Anachronism Stew: Space rockets in the 9th century?
  • Animated Adaptation: Ran for one season in 1995.
  • Arabian Nights Days: The Baghdad in which the series is set owes more to an Affectionate Parody of Arabian Nights than to historical accuracy.
  • Arbitrary Scepticism: Played for laughs with Wa'at, who outright says that while flying carpets and magicians are perfectly acceptable facts to him, a woman able to freeze people with her face is ridiculous.
  • Artifact of Doom: Once per Episode, Iznogoud acquires a bizarre magical artifact which the vendor assures will arrange a Fate Worse Than Death for a victim of his choice. No points for guessing ahead of time that it will backfire horribly on Iznogoud himself.
  • Bad Luck Charm: One story revolves around the vizier obtaining a cursed diamond that brings very bad luck (your chair collapses, the doorknob snaps off in your hand, rooftiles fall on you in the middle of the desert) to the holder as a gift to the caliph. Of course, it's a Clingy MacGuffin, and things only get worse.
    • In another episode he buys a lucky charm medal from a vendor who has suffered horribly mutilating bad luck streaks, claiming "only his medal could save him!" Thinking the vendor out of his mind, he buys one from him to give the calife as a gift... not realizing that the medal does work exactly as advertized (the vendor got all his mutilations before he was given his medal) and the Calife has already been wearing one for years!
  • Barely Missed Cushion: In one story, the titler great vizier and the Caliph both wind up on a sled, descending a slope at high speed towards a building.
    Narrator: Fortunately, there is a door. And fortunately, it is open.
    (next panel: sled crashes to the right of the door, Iznogoud cushioning for the Caliph)
    Narrator: Unfortunately, it's a little to the left.
  • Beard of Evil: Iznogoud
  • Big Shadow, Little Creature: The opening of the Animated Adaptation of shows a large, menacing shadowy figure climbing the steps of the sultan's (Yes, he's a caliph in the comics, but a sultan in the cartoon) palace while a voice says 'Good... Good... Good'. Then when it reaches the top, it is finally shown that the figure is actually the short but menacing titular Grand Vizier, and the voice finishes by saying 'Iz No Goud'.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Iznogoud tries to be this toward the Caliph. He is terrible at it, but the Caliph is so oblivious it still works anyway.
  • Captain Oblivious: The Caliph. A well-meaning and debonair ruler, he never suspects a thing.
  • Catch Phrase: "I want to be Caliph instead of the Caliph!"
    • This has even become a common phrase in France to refer to someone who is overly ambitious.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: When the series were taken over by Tabary after Goscinny's death; while the stories remained mostly comical, they started having more coherent adventures with Iznogoud occasionally switching from Villain Protagonist to Anti-Hero.
  • Characterization Marches On: The Caliph's chambellan introduced in Iznogoud's Birthday was initially not specifically aggressive to Iznogoud and starts acting antagonistic toward him as a reaction to his angryness and obnoxiousness. When the same chambellan is reintroduced in later comics, he is portrayed as being basically Iznogoud's Arch-Enemy who is trying to protect the Caliph against his overthrowing attempts. Being jailed at the end of Iznogoud's Birthday didn't help as well (although Iznogoud had good reasons to do that, to be fair).
  • The Chew Toy: Iznogoud
  • Comedic Sociopathy: Iznogoud's cruelty and Mean Boss tendencies towards Wa'at Alaaf are entirely played for laughs.
  • Devil in Plain Sight: Comically inverted; Iznogood looks, acts and IS definitely Obviously Evil, and people of Bagdad are perfectly aware of his desire to overthrow the Caliph... but the Caliph himself never suspects a thing, instead seeing Iznogoud as a devoted, good, trustworthy friend. He even once admitted he often received anonymous letters trying to warn him about it, but never believed them. Ironically, the Caliph is the only person Iznogoud bothers acting good with.
  • Eureka Moment: Evil characters also can have this, as Iznogoud proves:
    Iznogoud: Do you have an idea how I could get rid of the Caliph, Wa'at Alaaf?
    Wa'at Alaaf: Sir, I'd rather feed my tongue to a cat!
    Iznogoud: (thinking) Tongue to a cat... the cat is a predator... the tiger is also a predator... the tiger is a man-eater... the Caliph is a man... so the tiger is a Caliph-eater!`
    Iznogoud: (loud) That's a great idea of you, organizing a tiger hunt!
    Wa'at Alaaf: A tiger hunt? Me? What?
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Iznougoud might be a cruel, petty, greedy and ambitious Evil Chancellor, but he is disgusted when he catches his executioner trying to get himself paid for mercy, and delivers a speech saying mercy should never be bought.
  • Evil Chancellor: Iznogoud is a quintessential example of this trope.
  • Evil Is Petty:
    A beggar!? I thought I'd outlawed begging, it encourages charity!
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Iznogoud. It even gets lampshaded in the theme song for the animated adaptation.
    Iznogoud the Grand Vizier. He never wins, this much is clear.
  • Fat Idiot: Haroun El-Poussah. Obese and slow-thinking.
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: The artist himself was killed or petrified several times while drawing the magical effect of that week's Artifact of Doom.
  • "Freaky Friday" Flip: In an episode, a wizard invents a magic bowl: whenever two people drink consecutively from it, they exchange souls. Hilarity Ensues when this new invention gets tested by several patrons in an inn, just for fun. One of the catches is that it doesn't have to be actually people who drink: animals count too. (The wizard himself ends up in the body of a parrot.) Or even inanimate objects, for that matter.
  • Genie in a Bottle: In a shoe, actually. And a pretty shoddy genie it is.
  • Genre Blindness: How long will it take for Iznogoud to understand that the problem in his quest for power is not Wa'at Alaaf, but himself?
  • Genre Savvy: Wa'at Alaaf, Iznogoud's henchman, has long since realised that Iznogoud will be Hoist by His Own Petard. One story has him going on a quest for an unknown item as soon as Iznogoud devises a plan for turning the Caliph into a statue; the item is revealed at the end to be a commemorative plaque in Iznogoud's memory, that Wa'at applies under the statue his master has become.
  • Good Is Dumb: The Caliph. He might be the nicest person on Earth, but God is he stupid.
  • Gratuitous English
    • "Iznogoud" = English "is no good". Also a Meaningful Name and a Punny Name.
    • In Les Cauchemars d'Iznogoud, he has a son named "Izveribad".
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: The Guards ARE Crazy!
  • Heavy Sleeper: The Caliph spends much of his time contentedly asleep. His advisors know he's worried when he turns in his sleep more than twice a day.
  • Helping Granny Cross the Street: The Caliph encounters an old man who wants to get to the other side of the street. The Caliph helps him, then the old man wants to get back to the starting point because that's now the other side of the street.
  • He Went That Way: A variant. In one story, the evil vizier tries to use the cursed water of a swamp djinn to becom Caliph instead of the Caliph; anyone who touches the water disappears into it. Of course, while trying to get the water to the Caliph, more and more people (and a camel) touch or even drink the water, and Iznogoud keeps repeating the name of this trope when people wonder where they went. Finally, the Caliph's goldfish keeper tries putting his charge in the water, and when he wonders where the goldfish went... Actually, both Iznogoud and his henchman say this. While pointing in the opposite directions. Of course, this being Iznogoud, no one notices.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Iznogoud could be considered one of the historical and legendary figure Ja'far ibn Yahya al-Barmaki, vizier to Harun al-Rashid (notice the similarity with the Caliph's name).
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Almost every story ends this way.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: The Caliph has Iznogoud as a vizier. You do the math.
  • Human Chess: In one story, Iznogoud finds out that there is an island inhabited by two man-eating giants. He tricks the Caliph to come with him to the island, and they find out that the giants are vegetarians. Then Iznogoud asks the giants what they do to the people who come to the island. Guess what they do to them?
  • Hurricane of Puns: Iznogoud, by the same writer as Astérix, has an even higher pun-to-panel ratio, starting with the title of the comic (and main character). That's only the tip of the iceberg; the comic is full of puns in almost every page, which is often lampshaded by Iznogoud, who cannot stand them.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Wa'at Alaaf, Iznogoud's henchman. While he acts and looks dumb most of the time, he tends to have sudden Let's Get Dangerous! moments where he reveals he can be very competent when needed. He's also far more lucid than his master about the fact they can't win.
  • Identical Stranger: One of Iznogoud's many schemes involved using a merchant, who looked just like Caliph. In the end of the story, we see the partner of the merchant, and he looked exactly like Iznogoud.
  • Impossibly Compact Folding: In Iznogoud's Birthday, he opens a very small box and extracts a small piece of paper and proceeds to unfold it (it's so small that he needs a magnifying glass to start to unfold it). When completely unfold, the paper is several metres large. Of course, the box had been given to him by the guild of mages...
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Iznogoud the Infamous, the ever-scheming but hapless Grand Vizier to the Caliph, who merely wants "to become Caliph instead of the Caliph."
  • Jerk with a Heart of Jerk:
    • Often played for laughs, where the title character, an Evil Chancellor trying to overthrow his Caliph and possessing seemingly no redeeming qualities, often willingly saves his assistant Wa'at Alaaf from certain death, only to reveal when thanked by him that he did so because he required his help for things such as carrying important files or cleaning his shoes. In contrast, he often is willing to use Wa'at as a lab rat for his various plans.
    • In "Iznogoud's Childhood", Wa'at Alaaf asks him his motivations for being Caliph in the place of the Caliph:
      Iznogoud: To make reforms! For example, this law to cut off a fruits thief's hand is totally absurd! That will never stop him from stealing fruits: we need to cut off both of his hands!
    • During "Who Killed the Caliph", Iznogoud seems to actually care for Wa'at and saves him from execution after he has been mistaken for a spy. He catches the Executioner trying to get Wa'at to pay him for mercy, and angrily states that mercy should not be bought. He then notices a tortured prisoner and orders the Executioner to release him, causing Wa'at to wonder if he's having pity after all... then he appoints the prisoner new Executioner, and orders him to torture the former one.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: The three Caliph's brothers that Iznogoud made disappear. While Troiround wasn't really developed enough to say if he was evil or not, Dheround was truly a bully that kept making deadly pranks to Iznogoud and mocking him for his small size and big nose. Katround was even worse, being a crazy man obsessed with making people disappear and attempting to literally erase Bagdad (including his well-intentioned older brother).
    • A more obvious example in Who Killed the Caliph, where he has the Executioner (a greedy, sadistic man asking his childhood friend Wa'at Alaaf a bribe for his mercy) tortured by his own previous victim.
  • Klingon Promotion: This is Iznogoud's entire motivation and modus operandi: as Grand Vizier, he'll take over if the Caliph dies, hence his oft-repeated Catch Phrase "I want to be Caliph instead of the Caliph!".
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Happens to Iznogoud in almost every episode.
  • Leader Wannabe: Iznogoud and his "I want to be caliph in the caliph's place!"
  • Legacy Vessel Naming: One story revolved around a sailor whose ship was named Shipwreck XXVII. Iznogound booked a cruise for the Caliph, who embarked on the Shipwreck XXVIII the next day.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Unless he makes a point of wearing a disguise, Iznogoud is always depicted in the same outfit.
  • Literal Genie: There is an episode with a genie which is summoned by rubbing a pair of slippers. He fulfills not only every wish, but every statement that the summoning character would pronounce. Hilarity Ensues, especially if the statement is a curse of surprise.
  • Magic Carpet: Such a common means of transportation that the Caliphate has an entire air force of 'em.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Iznogoud is a phonetic spelling of "is no good" in French.
    • Wa'at Alaaf, a.k.a. Dilat Larat, i.e. "dilate la rate", refers to laughing uproariously in French — for an extremely Deadpan Snarker character.
    • The Caliph's brothers Dheround, Troiround and Katround translate to "Two-round", "Three-round" and "Four-round" respectively.
      • Note that the Caliph's first name is "Haroun"; since you don't pronounce the "H" in french, it sounds like "a-roun(d)" and is also an example of Family Theme Naming
    • In the German translation, the henchman is named Tunichgud (do-no-good).
  • Misleading Package Size: In Iznogoud's Birthday, Iznogoud is given a box that contains a chain of boxes, the key point being that each box is bigger than the one containing it.
  • The Napoleon: Iznogoud is vertically challenged, and overcompensates with his ambition and bad temper.
  • Negative Continuity: Many, many stories end with Iznogoud seemingly irrevocably ruined, like being thrown into the dungeons, trapped in the far East, erased from existence or sent to another planet. It never stops him from trying again. In a notable exception, the album Les Retours d'Iznogoud (Iznogoud's Returns) tries to explain how things returned to normal after some of the vizir's most infamous adventures. It does not always work, as many of those returns end with Iznogoud in an equally uncomfortable situation. That just raises further questions!
  • Noble Demon: Sultan Pulmankar is mostly known as a ruthless conquerer and a terrifying enemy, but he has a lot of rules (including always sparing his enemy's generals), is very affable to the Caliph when they are allied, and is shown to be a pretty good father.
  • Not Right in the Bed: A guy who can impersonate others (he changes his face whenever he puts on one of his magical masks). Subverted because the wife of the real guy actually prefers him.
  • "Not Wearing Pants" Dream: Iznogoud once had a naked dream. While sleeping in a bed that makes all his dreams come true. And then, the irascible sultan Pulmankar enters.
  • Obviously Evil: Guess who.
  • Opposite Day: The animated adaptation did not feature an episode where Iznogoud attempted to take advantage of the Opposite Day to permanently take the Caliph's place.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Iznogoud's idea of disguising himself as a pumpkin seller is to carry a pumpkin around. And it works, too. It works so well his own guards won't let him back into the palace until he drops the pumpkin!
  • Pillow Pistol: One story had the title Evil Vizier but a set containing a pair of magic shoes, a gun that would make their wearer run in a straight line when fired and a "finish" flag that was the only thing that could stop the shoes. The night before the big day, Iznogoud slept with the gun under his pillow, and bound with a wrist strap.
  • Pinball Zone: Extremely rare comic book example: one chapter has Iznogoud trapped in a pinball-machine wasteland.
  • Punch Clock Villain: Wa'at Alaaf
  • Punny Name: Pretty nearly all of them, most of them in French (Iznogoud being a notable exception).
  • Selective Enforcement: In a story, the eponymous evil vizir tries repeatedly to have the Calife commit a diplomatic faux-pas with the Sultan Pulmankar which would force him to either step down, resign his position or possibly even be killed on the spot by the outraged sultan. No matter what the vizir suggests, however, results in the Calife getting a cheerful, happy response for somehow following some bizarre and obscure tradition of his visiting guests. Then Iznogud says "drat" in response to the last one, which results in the sultan angrily taking offense to that word and demanding the vizir's life in slavery lest war be declared on the spot. The Calife gleefully agrees, insisting that "his good vizir would surely agree in the interest of peace." Gilligan Cut to Iznogud jailed and angrily trying to escape.
  • Sinister Schnoz: Just look at him.
  • The Starscream: Grand Vizier Iznogoud, who wants to become "Caliph instead of the Caliph" (although the Caliph isn't really that much of a Big Bad, more of a Big Naive).
  • Status Quo Is God: Whatever happens to Iznogoud — even being blasted into orbit — he's back safe and sound in the next story. There was made a "The Returns of Iznogoud" album, which adds via Retcon epilogues to many of the "bad endings" of past stories, explaining how Iznogoud each time manages to return to normal status quo. With some exceptions. Some of these epilogues have him trying to escape the bad situation and ending in a worse situation. For example Iznogoud escapes the complex maze to end up in the inescapable dungeons. Iznogoud has been there before (in a much older story) but doesn't remember any way out. While there he meets an older incarnation of himself, still searching for the way out after all these years.
  • Stupid Evil: Iznogoud, while displaying intelligence occasionnally (and being much smarter than both most people around him and the Caliph) occasionnally falls in this trope: a lot of his plans backfire precisely because he made idiotic mistakes, or couldn't resist the temptation to Kick the Dog at the wrong time.
  • Super Smoke: Various genies use this to enter/exit a bottle. Or a lamp. Or a shoe, in one case.
  • Superstition Episode: In an comic, Wa'at Alaaf breaks a mirror over his head to free a guy from a curse. As a result, the guy is blessed with seven years of good luck and Wa'at is cursed with seven years of bad luck (that only last for the remainder of the comic).
  • Surrounded by Idiots: Or, more often than not, by crazies. Special mention to the palace guards. Iznogoud even lampshades this several times:
    Iznogoud: Can't we just fire all crazy people from this palace?!
    Wa'at Alaaf: Sure, boss, but who would be in charge of doing this?
  • Symbol Swearing: A story had him asking Wa'at Alaaf for a rope, when he was down a cliff. Wa'at dropped the entire length of rope. Iznogoud began cursing, with bombs, bones, axes etc. Then a lot of these items began falling from above, seemingly dropped by Wa'at who thought Iznogoud was asking for them.
  • Take That, Audience!: The passworded dungeon. Of course it ends with Iznogoud forgetting the password, being trapped in there, desperately testing all permutations and snapping at the reader: "So do YOU remember it? And no turning back pages!"
  • Timey-Wimey Ball: In Iznogoud's Childhood, Iznogoud experiments a type of time travel in which the present and the past happen at the same time for a while, which he tries to exploit by attempting to get rid of the Caliph's younger self. The whole thing eventually end up being a Stable Time Loop, in which Iznogoud's time travel is what causes his younger self (who Used to Be a Sweet Kid) to transform into the Jerk Ass we're familiar with. However, earlier in the comic, Iznogoud stabs younger Wa'at Alaaf to test the time travelling nature, and that case works on a Ripple Effect basis, in which adult Wa'at Alaaf shows up with a scar he'd never had.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Iznogoud in some stories.
  • Two-Headed Coin: Subverted: all the coins are two-headed. Iznogoud forgets it, ridiculing himself.
  • Unknown Rival: Everyone know that Iznogoud want to be Caliph instead of the Caliph... except the Caliph.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Iznogoud verges from this to a Type VI Anti-Hero.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Amazingly, Iznogoud. Iznogoud's Childhood reveals that he actually once was an adorable, good tempered, sweet kid who got along pretty well with Haroun and Wa'at.
  • Use Your Head: Once, when he tells this to his lackey... he didn't mean it literally, but Wa'at Alaaf did.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Like all villains created by Goscinny, Iznogoud is particularly susceptible to it. The fact he lives in a Palace where he (a megalonaniac aggressive Evil Chancellor) seems to be the only one with some degree of sanity doesn't really help.
  • Villain Protagonist: Iznogoud is a thoroughly despicable character.
  • We Didn't Start the Führer: The comic has Hitler be an emissary of the Devil who was sent to our world to create destruction and terror.
  • Wretched Hive: Baghdad, especially from the Tabary era onwards, but already in the Goscinny era. Not only it's governed by the oblivious Caliph and the evil Iznogoud, but Humans Are Bastards in that city, and most citizens are hypocrites who complain all the time about Iznogoud's ruthlessness but are willing to help him for a few bucks, despite knowing the consequences if he's ever successful. In the story mentioned above where Iznogoud becomes the Caliph for a short time by changing bodies with him, after he starts unleashing his tyranny, one guy berates the wizard who helped him, but the latter doesn't seem to regret it.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Iznogoud occasionally wins... very briefly.