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Comic Book / The Incal

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Top: Difool, Animah; Middle: Deepo, Metabaron, Tanatah; Bottom: Kill

The Incal (L'Incal) is a sci-fi comic series by writer Alejandro Jodorowsky and artist Mśbius and is the center-piece of the former's Metabarons Universe. The project was born out of, and recycled many concepts from, the two's failed attempt to make a film adaption of Dune. Despite Jodorowsky having every major event of the comic planned out beforehand, and the series only being 6 volumes long, it took 8 years to complete.

John Difool is a low-ranking private investigator in the slums of the dystopian planet Terra 21. After escaping the aftermath of a butchered job, he encounters a Berg, a member of an once imperial alien race that has now passed into myth. The Berg reveals that it had been looking for him and entrusts him with a mystical object, the Light Incal. This naturally makes Difool the target of multiple interplanetary factions that seek to use the artifact's powers for their own goals, not the least of which include the Incal itself.

A 6-part prequel Before The Incal (Avant l'Incal), detailing episodes from Difool's life prior to the events of The Incal, was published between 1988 and 1995. It was illustrated by Zoran Janjetov in a style very similar to Moebius'. (Although the recoloring of the first, censored English release gave it a more distinct look). A sequel to both the original Incal and Before, entitled After the Incal (Après l'Incal), began in 2000 with Moebius back as artist, but the series only lasted one volume before it was discontinued. The project was rebooted with Mexican artist José Ladrönn (Elephantmen) in 2008 as Final Incal and finished with 3 volumes in 2014.

In November of 2021 it was announced that a live-action film of The Incal was in the works, to be directed by Taika Waititi.

For other spin-offs and related media see: the Metabarons Universe.

    The Incal 

The Incal provides examples of:

  • Bird People: The Bergs. It's later revealed that they're all duplicates of their father. The next wave of Berg's look like Difool.
  • Body Backup Drive: The president can have his spirit moved into younger cloned bodies if he's dying or alien bodies idlf the mood takes him.
  • Book Ends: Starts and ends with John falling from Suicide Alley.
  • Butt-Monkey: John Difool, subject to injuries both comical and horrific.
  • Chummy Commies: The Troglosocialik Bloc is one the the few major factions of The Empire to be usually presented in any sort of positive light in the Metabarons Universe, often fighting the others politically or militarily for the rights of the common people; here, they're the only ones to stay loyal to the legitimate Emperoress until a virus corrupts them (the Emperoress, that is) into a monstrous servant of the Darkness.
  • Clipped-Wing Angel: The President's final Necrobot form. Although it still has its uses.
  • Crapsack World: Difool's homeplanet Terra 2014 (especially in Before) and Technogea. The rest of the universe too, to some degree.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The Black Incal. While it's used to construct the Shadow Eggs and was originally in the possession of the brutal Tanatah, it's a necessary component to form the complete Incal with its Light twin.
  • Deus ex Machina: In-universe. The Incal has a tendency to bail the heroes out when their task proves insurmountable, though it's quite iffy on when it lends its help.
  • Ditto Aliens: The Bergs all look like their father. Their Protoqueen gave birth to billions of duplicates of their father, bird person called Trilys. She later gives birth to billions of John Difool copies.
  • Driven to Suicide: Difool lives and grew up near a suicide spot so popular it has just been named Suicide Alley.
  • The Empire: The human empire rules our galaxy and is at war with the extragalactic alien Berg Empire.
  • Eternal Recurrence: The comic ends with John in a new universe falling from Suicide Alley like he did in the beginning. It was implied he lived through several versions of his life before.
  • Evil Makes You Ugly: Difool's natural handsomeness faded over the years along with his innocence and nobility, leaving the reader with the pointed, scowling private detective they are introduced to in the first book.
  • Extinct in the Future: Deepo impresses Rsimo by using his power to create a rose which was extinct for generations.
  • The Fool: John emphasises the less rosy aspect of this archetype. In that, he manages to progress through the story and triumph in spite of how he essentially stays the same all throughout and barely has (or wants) agency.
  • Future Food Is Artificial: John's drink of choice is synthetic whiskey.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Outside of Deepo, most of the allies Difool picks up are people who have exploited or tried to have him killed in the past.
  • Holographic Disguise:
    • The aristo John takes to the rough area turns out to be an old woman using one to look young. It wears off after a while hence she wanted John to get her home by a certain time.
    • John later uses one to mimic Luz's father to get sneak into a hospital with her.
  • Honey Trap: How Animah keeps compelling Difool to stay and help the Incal. To his chagrin, he's always aware that he's being played, but is too infatuated with her to refuse.
  • I'm Dying, Please Take My MacGuffin: John gets the light Incal off a dying Berg.
  • Jerk With A Heartof Gold: John Difool,Luz.
  • Meaningful Name: John Difool. Yes, his name alludes to the fact that he's kind of a dumbass, but in the Tarot, the Fool is the first of the Major Arcana, and symbolizes chaos, infinite possibility and the beginning of a journey, which are all motifs that apply to John.
  • Mind Screw: Gradually becomes this toward the end of the original series, and pops up from time to time in the prequel and sequels.
  • Mutants: Difool gets chased by a race of large ones living in his planet's lower levels.
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Deepo, Difool's talking "concrete seagull".
  • Not the Fall That Kills You…: John gets rescued by some Cybo-cops just before he hits the acid lake.
  • Red Light District: John frequents one on his home planet called the Red Ring.
  • Religion of Evil: The Techno-Technos (short for the Techno-Technocracy, formally the Church of Industrial Saints) after they start worshiping the Darkness. They are a more neutral Corrupt Church otherwise.
  • Remember the New Guy?: A number of important cast members in Final Incal appear to come out of nowhere despite being familiar to Difool, as they were introduced in Before the Incal.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Attempted by John multiple times.
  • Shapeshifting Seducer: The Berg Protoqueen reads John's mind and shapeshifts into Animah.
  • Small Universe After All: The setting comprises two galaxies, the Human Galaxy and the Berg Galaxy. Each ruled by their titular race/empire.
  • Spiritual Predecessor: Like its inspiration, a lot of this series' ideas ended up being reused in other works, most notably Warhammer 40,000 and The Fifth Element.
  • Subspace or Hyperspace: Some Berg ships are mentioned leaving hyperspace early on but afterwards subspace is mentioned as the method of Faster-Than-Light Travel.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Technology: Some of the tech is really out there in terms of what it can achieve, like the "interior exterior", a chamber that, when you enter it, you end up on the outside of a big sphere surrounded by a seemingly endless black void.
  • Suicide as Comedy: In-Universe people find it hilarious to watch people dive off Suicide Alley.
  • Tarot Motifs:
    • According to Jodorowsky Difool (and Deepo) is the Fool trump, Solune is a combination of the Sun and the Moon trumps, the Emperoress is a combination of the Emperor and Empress trumps. The names said it all really. The Techno-Pope is also meant to correspond with the Hierophant trump and the Technos' tower with the Tower trump. Strangely the Themed Tarot Deck based on the original series was a French-style one and thus didn't utilize the symbolism Jodorowsky based the characters on. There was however an Italian-style one based on Final Incal, but it was only available as a promotional item at Comic-con 2014.
    • He also described thinking of the series as corresponding to a triptych-layout as used in tarot divination.
      "You first look at the central picture (the present / The Incal). Then you look at the picture to the left (the past / Before the Incal). Then to the right (the future / After the Incal)."
  • Uplifted Animal: Deepo, after being the Incal, becomes intelligent, talkative and very opinionated.
  • Used Future: On of the earlier examples of this. Used to contrast the gritty conditions of the lower classes and the ancient coldness of the Technos with the aristocratic upper classes and the vibrant new age aesthetics of everything related to the Incal itself. Especially noticeable in Final Incal due to Ladrönn's more realistic style.
  • Wolf Man: Kill Wolfhead, who resembles a dog despite his name in the English translation, and a few others. The sequel and prequel reveal that they are actually genetically modified humans.

    After The Incal 

After The Incal provides examples of:

  • All Just a Dream: Starts with John falling to his death before waking up in bed.
  • Amnesia Missed a Spot: The Laser-Guided Amnesia from the prequel is quickly undone with John now remembering Luz and Kolbo-5.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: John nearly gets eaten by a giant insect in the battle between bios and technos.
  • Canon Discontinuity: The Final Incal retells a new version of this story.
  • Cut Short: Only lasts one issue, ending with John going into space to look for Luz.
  • Immediate Sequel: Starts with John falling from Suicide Alley muttering that he must remember just like the ending of the original series.
  • I'm Melting!: The Biophage 13X virus makes people melt.
  • I Want My Mommy!: John says "Mommy save me!" when a techno soldier grabs him.
  • Last of His Kind: One of the people in line to be roboticised says they hope their Arcturan cat gets converted as it's the last in the galaxy.
  • Unwilling Roboticisation: The Benthacodon wants to turn the population of the universe into robot spiders.
  • Villainous Harlequin: Diavaloo is dressed and painted to be more like a clown but the story isn't long enough for him to be any more than Kent Brockman News.

    The Final Incal 

The Final Incal provides examples of:

  • 42: The number appears twice on the side of a building in the beginning.
  • Angelic Abomination: The white archangels are white lights with several tentacles.
  • Angelic Transformation: Seraphim, a version of John who became an angel after reincarnating millions of times.
  • Alliance of Alternates: John teams up with three future or Alternate Universe versions of himself:
    • A handsome version of himself who has just completed a variation of the original series.
    • An enlightened Zen master.
    • A version of him who has become an angel after living millions of lives.
  • Asteroid Thicket: The space pirate base, Tortuga Island is situated in one.
  • The Corruption: Kaimann's mutation which originally gave him a prehensile lizard tail has now turned him into an anthropomorphic crocodile and will Rob him of his sentience on a few months.
  • Defiled Forever: Angel John declares himself a Fallen Angel with no powers after being raped.
  • Deflector Shields: Kaimann activates multiple "hyper-shields" around Tortuga Island to defend from the Gounas but they eventually get through. The Gounas' shields were impenetrable.
  • Dude Looks Like a Lady: The angel John gets mistaken for a woman on Tortuga Island. When they realize their mistake they decide to close their eyes and pretend he's female.
  • Enlightenment Superpowers: Sami Siri Johnanda Difool can hypnotize Deepo to apparently be invincible.
  • Extreme Omni-Goat: A goat on Tortuga Island tries to eat Sami Siri's clothes.
  • Eye Beams: Deepo asks the Incal for help saving Luz from Gorgo and ends up shooting lasers out of his eyes at him.
  • Fallen Angel: The seraphim John declares himself one after being raped.
  • Feel No Pain: Sami Siri hypnotizes Deepo not to feel lain so he can be swung as a weapon.
  • Fungus Humongous: The Johns find Tortuga Island overgrown with giant mushrooms.
  • Fusion Dance: The Incal let's the ugly John absorb the other incarnations, making him smarter, faster and stronger.
  • Future Badass: Two of the alternate Johns due to reincarnating countlessly more times;
    • Sami Siri has become a Zen master with Enlightenment Superpowers.
    • The angel is vastly more powerful again due to living millions of lives.
  • Genesis Effect: All organic life gets restored to Terra 2014 by the Tree Of Life at the end.
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: Sami Siri hypnotizes Deepo to make him as hard as a rock so the main John can swing him at pirates.
  • Not the Fall That Kills You…: Some Cybo-cops catch John just before he hits the acid lake like in the original comic.
  • Percussive Prevention: Luz knocks Kaimann out and goes to negotiate with the Gounas in his place.
  • Performance Anxiety: When the other Johns ask the angel why he can't use his powers to fight off his rapists, he says he's paralyzed with fear.
  • The Power of Love: John and Luz's restores the tree of life.
  • Rodents of Unusual Size: John and Luz ride one of the giant psychorats in Center Earth.
  • Stop, or I Shoot Myself!: Luz hold a knife to her own throat when negotiating with the Gounas saying she'll slit it if they try to rape her.
  • Virgin Power: The angel John complains that he's lost his powers after being gang-raped.
  • World-Healing Wave: At the end, the Tree Of Life restores all organic life to Terra 2014 and converts the robots back into humans.