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Comic Book / The Metabarons

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The Metabarons, also known as The Saga of the Metabarons (French: La Caste des Méta-barons) is a tragic Space Opera comic book series written by Alejandro Jodorowsky and illustrated by Juan Giménez. It expands on a supporting character who appeared in The Incal to flesh out the backstory of his entire family. Like the rest of the Jodoverse, The Metabarons draws heavily on ideas Jodorowsky developed for his failed Dune film project.

The series follows the five Metabarons of the Castaka family — perfect warriors sworn to victory at all costs. Each Metabaron (after the first) is maimed, usually by their father, has the maimed part replaced or technologically altered, and eventually kills their father in single combat.

The Saga of the Metabarons provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Absolute Xenophobe: In "Oda", the kangaroo-like Pthagureans hire Anghar to wipe out all other sentient life in the galaxy so that they can take over.
  • Anti-Hero: All the Metabarons. Steelhead in particular tends more towards Villain Protagonist in his darker moments.
  • Antimatter: Among the Metabarons's abilities, they all gain incredible insight in inventing new weapons that are beyond the standard technology of the setting. Among these weapons are the tiny Ock-ock bombs. These antimatter-based explosives are so small that three of them can fit in the palm of Aghora's hand. But the matter-antimatter explosion from these three are powerful enough to blow up a planet.
  • Another Dimension: In the world of the Metabarons, the universe is finite in space and borders other universes. Sometimes inhabitants from these other universes come to visit ours.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: The robot Lothar asks this of fellow robot Tonto, "If I'm a robot, why do I feel so much anger!!" Tonto is terrified to answer, it's because Lothar isn't a robot. He's a mindwiped Steelhead.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Techno-Admiral Wilhelm has massive bionic arms that end in four-pronged power claws. They are devastating in combat, but they're so heavy that it takes a massive injection of anti-gravity fuel Epiphyte just so that he can move his arms.
  • Badass Creed: The Castakas practice Bushitaka, a warrior code that only allows victory or death in any conflict.
  • Badass Family: The Castakas generally.
  • Badass Transplant: The Castakas take to grafting cyborg parts into their bodies which grants them greater combat skill. The Metabaron Steelhead stands above them all by getting his head shot off, and having a metallic head transplanted on him.
  • Brother–Sister Incest:
    • Sisters Nan Nan and Ohouya have an incestuous relationship after Othon von Salza loses his genitals in combat. Othon "allowed them the right to satisfy each other's desires as long as they never spoke another word..."
    • Technically No-Name was a product of Aghora and her brother, the latter's DNA from Aghora's brain being used to impregnate herself.
    • The info source book for the Metabarons tabletop rpg mentions that the Emperor and Empress are siblings descended from the ancient astrologer Nostradamus.
  • Byronic Hero: All the Metabarons are these.
  • Came Back Wrong: In his efforts to atone for his crimes as Steelhead, Melmoth clones the dead Don Nicanor Rosamel de Rokha, but fails to completely restore the Don's memories, and thus Nicanor does not realize that Vicenta is his daughter and tries to rape her in a frenzy of lust.
  • Captain Ersatz: Concepts that Jodorowsky recycled from his aborted Dune adaptation include the following:
    • The Shabda-Oud hooker-nuns are based on the Bene Gesserit (and the Honored Matres from the later books), while their name borrows from "Shai-Hulud", the Fremen name for the Sandworms.
    • The Techno-Pontificate is the Spacing Guild.
    • Mentreks are Mentats.
    • The Maganats are the Landsraad.
    • The Ekonomat is CHOAM.
    • The Endoguard are the Sardaukar.
    • Epiphyte is a highly sought-after type of Unobtainium like the spice melange.
    • The Metabarons' rite of passage, where their fathers maim parts of their bodies while they must show no pain under penalty of death, is reminiscent of the Bene Gesserit test of humanity.
    • The requirement for the Emperoress to be a physical "sacred androgyne" may be derived from the Kwisatz Haderach's ability to draw from both the male and female aspects of his mind.
  • Compensating for Something: Othon himself cheerfully acknowledges that his personal Space Fighter, the long, cylindrical Metacraft, was designed as a replacement for his lost penis and it even links with his nervous system via a cable plugged into his cybernetic pelvis.
  • Conjoined Twins: Janus-Jana, the Sacred Androgyne and Emperoress of the Galaxy.
  • Cool Starship: Metabunker, the impregnable fortress which serves as mobile headquarters for the Metabarons. Few things can damage it, and just mere mention of it scares Metabarons' enemies shitless.
  • Cyborg: All of the Metabarons are cybernetically enhanced after being ritually maimed. Many other characters appear to have other cybernetic enhancements, but the Metabarons seem to have the most powerful augmentations. Steelhead has been augmented to the point of having only a few organs being biological (and no his brain isn't one of them).
  • Cute Monster Girl: More sexy than cute, but Queen Diophante is an attractive giant bug woman with Non-Mammalian Mammaries.
  • Diabolus ex Nihilo: The battle of the story is between Nameless and Steelhead, after that resolution out of nowhere comes a giant louse that's going to devour our universe. This is a threat that only the Metabarons can handle.
  • Evil Is Petty: The Techno-Techno cult/Technoclergy. They blew up the Castaka family's homeworld out of pure spite, because the leaders refused their offer of installing a protonic defense system on the planet (which would also conveniently provide the Techno-Techno cult with political influence over the planet's ruling government).
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: House Castaka's original homeworld Ahour bears a strong resemblance to Feudal Japan. People follow a warrior code known as "Bushitaka", the warring noble houses used red and white banners like those of the Taira and Genji clans during the Genpei War and their isolationism and use of primitive weapons is based on the policies of the Tokugawa shogunate.
  • Framing Device: The saga of the Metabarons is told by a robot named Tonto to another named Lothar. The parts of the book featuring the two interacting is where most of the humor comes from.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: Queen Diophante's species evolved from Earth's common head lice, and they are a threat to the whole universe.
  • Future Slang: The prefixes paleo- and bio- are frequently attached to words without any real rhyme or reason, resulting in absurd terms like "Paleo-Christ!", "bio-crap," "paleo-wedding," and even "bio-infant". Tonto and Lothar attach robo- to the beginning of many words when they're referring to each other.
  • Generational Saga
  • Grand Theft Me: Honorata transfers her consciousness into the body of Oda, her son Aghnar's wife. Aghnar isn't aware of this until after Oda-Honorata already bears him a son. Things get worse from there.
  • Guardian of the Multiverse: It's the phoenix that quietly watches over our universe, when something awful comes over to invade it, the phoenix sends out its champion, the Metabaron to save the day.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: After losing to Nameless, Steelhead happily sacrifices himself to kill the cosmic louse that is threatening to eat the universe.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Othon von Salza takes terminal damage to his lungs when he destroys the Shabda-Oud cetacyborg. He coughs up blood for the rest of the issue until he dies.
  • Last of His Kind: The Metabaron who appears in The Incal is this, voluntarily. At least until a child was conceived between him and a Techno-Cardinal, Orne-8, in the 3rd issue of Meta-Baron 2015 volume.
  • Mighty Whitey: In a sequence borrowing heavily from Paul Atreides among the Fremen, Aghnar befriends an ape-like alien while hiding from the Shabda-Oud on Perdita and eventually becomes head of their tribe by defeating their cruel patriarch. In a rather absurdly blunt acknowledgment of the cruel, exploitative worldview behind this trope Aghnar promptly feeds the entire tribe to a cetacyborg to distract it long enough for him to ambush the crew (though most of them do avoid getting digested and later help Aghnar defeat the Shabda-Oud).
  • Mood Whiplash: The robots in the framing device often make unintentionally humorous comments on the tragic or dramatic events in the actual story of the Metabarons. They also use ludicrous robo-slang, giving us gems like "bio-crap", "robo-idiot", and "meca-gulp".
  • Motifs: Physical gender combinations or changes, including androgyny, hermaphroditism and castration. Othon is castrated by a laser blast. The galaxy is ruled by conjoined male and female twins. Honorata is supposed to give birth to a hermaphrodite to usurp the Empire. Aghora is a male brain in a female body.
  • Naked First Impression: Honorata first appears before Othon wearing nothing but a flimsy cloak and a veil that hangs in such a way that her face and crotch are obscured while everything else is exposed.
  • No Name Given: The last Metabaron actually doesn't have a name at all.
  • Not Quite Dead: Aghora defeated Steelhead by entombing him in ice and dumping him into space. This isn't even close to being enough to kill him. As such Steelhead has the right to still proclaim himself as a Metabaron, so No-Name has to fight him for the title.
  • People of Hair Color: All of the Metabarons either have silver hair or no hair.
  • Physical God: What the Metabarons actually are. They are endowed with powers of the Guardian of this universe.
  • Power Fist: In the first Metabaron volume "The Techno-Admiral and the Anti-Baron", Techno-Admiral Wilhelm has his arms replaced with power claws so large that they reach the ground.
  • Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Pops up frequently throughout the series, including things like a "hospital-planet" and of course the standard Planet Ville and Single Biome Planets. Sometimes played for self-aware humor, especially during the robot storytelling Framing Device.
  • Sharing a Body: Steelhead shares his body with Krleza the poet. Implanting Krleza's head creates a composite personality that they name Melmoth. Melmoth refers to himself as "I/we," and combines Steelhead's warrior ethos and skills with Krleza's poetic genius and ability to love. Of course, since Steelhead is a Metabaron, this does not end well at all.
  • Shout-Out: In addition to the various Dune references, Steelhead's origin is heavily inspired by the story of how Ganesha got his elephant head.
  • Showy Invincible Hero: Starting with Aghnar, the Metabarons become godlike in their powers. They are able to win against impossible odds, like when Aghora slaughters an entire universe in a mirror dimension. The dramatic tension of the series comes largely from the horrible tragedy that continuously befalls the Metabaron clan.
  • Single Line of Descent: Very much the case with the Castakas. A couple of Metabarons actually end up having more than one child, but no collateral family lines are ever formed. Othon's first son, Bari, is accidentally killed by him when still a teenager, and Steelhead's son (Aghora's twin) dies at birth.
  • Space Whale: The Shabda-Oud cetacyborgs. They're no peaceful beasts, though, but Weapons of Mass Destruction able to raze a planet singlehandedly.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: Lothar really is Steelhead.
  • Truly Single Parent: Aghora, to the last Metabaron.
  • Touched by Vorlons: When Othon declares it better to leave him to die than reveal the secret of Epiphyte, his father-in-law officially declares him worthy of being a Castaka and mystically transfers the phoenix marking from his chest to Othon's. This is the beginning of the empowerment that makes the Metabarons so mighty.
  • Unobtainium: Epiphyte, an anti-gravity oil and the original source of the Castaka family wealth.
  • Woman Scorned: Honorata is nearly killed by Nan Nan and Ohouya, who are jealous that Honorata managed to give Othon a son.
  • The Worf Effect: The Endoguard exist to get slaughtered en masse by the current Metabaron to show off how powerful he is.
  • World of Buxom: The planet of Ulkmar-Eight-Moon is a literal example. The females of the local proto-anthropoid species all have huge breasts.
  • World's Best Warrior: From the moment the Emperor and Empress knighted Othon, each Metabaron is the greatest warrior in the universe.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: The long-suffering robot Tonto, servant of the Metabarons, specifically says that the Metabarons are fated to never be happy.
  • You Kill It, You Bought It:
    • Each Metabaron must kill his father in ritual combat to succeed him as the next Metabaron.
    • Also, Aghnar kills the patriarch of the space monkeys to become their leader and raise an army against the Shabda-Oud.