To Dream is to Live –

Reading “The Incal” by Alexandro Jodorowsky & Moebius.

No one can be told what The Incal is . . .

Least of all a class ‘R’ licensed private investigator and archetypal fool. What is required is a recursive hero’s journey through the mind of a Chilean madman illustrated by a French genius. That is perhaps the best way I know to describe something of what is happening in this legendary graphic novel.

There is Tarot, Jewish mysticism, psycho-analytic theory (and that’s just the easily identifiable stuff!) all wonderfully woven together in a science fiction tour de force.

Perhaps I should back up though.

My own encounter with this pop-culture property began in a most derivative fashion – very much unbeknownst to myself. You see, The Incal and its fascinating origin has been credited with something like a foundational influence on such science fiction tent-poles as Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner and Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira. Beyond this, it’s ethos (and art style) is felt explicitly in the Fifth Element film and it has been cited as essential to the existence and eventual form of such beloved cultural touchstones as The Matrix and even the great pop-culture amalgam that is Star Wars.

So, I felt something of the influence of this work – as I suspect most good Western consumers have – in these ubiquitous Hollywood blockbusters and mass-marketed Sci-Fi properties. It takes a personal connection (at least it did for me) or perhaps better – an invitation – to truly travel down the rabbit hole into this most influential, yet paradoxically somewhat (certainly compared to its spiritual successors) obscure work. I was blessed to have both a personal connection and an invitation.

The personal connection came in the form of a man who seems to embody the artistic sentiment itself (you can see what I mean in the ‘Artabillies’ link under the contributor section of this site). The life of my wife and I fatefully intertwined with that of he and his partner when we reluctantly found ourselves displacing them from what had been their home (though mostly hers). Their grit, grace, and resolve in the face of this personal upheaval was truly magnanimous and inspiring. We have been fortunate to call them friends (though usually at a lamentably great distance) ever since.

De’Jahn introduced me to Jodorowsky through the seminal surreal-fantasy film The Holy Mountain – a profound influence on his own creativity. Another good friend of mine – and cinephile – would generously lend me his hard-bound Humanoids edition of all six installments of The Incal in English translation (it is a French comic). So it was that I – somewhat fittingly – fell into this very particular rite of passage for so many devotees of graphic novels, science fiction, and even the art of creativity itself.

For the yet uninitiated, I suggest the wonderfully produced documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune as a good way to orient yourself in the, often remarkably complex, origin of this cultural phenomenon. It was this – never completed – project that would lead directly to The Incal and have such an enduring influence on science fiction and film. Many of the themes, settings, visuals, etc. developed for the aforementioned Chilean madman’s ill-fated adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune constitute the infrastructure of this original story.

So, that documentary may not be the most personal connection – However, allow me to provide you with a personal invitation. It is in the form of a person. Jean (Moebius) Giraud is the artist bringing Jodorowsky’s story to life. This BBC 4 feature In Search of Moebius documents something of his unassuming genius.

To paraphrase the ‘new media star’:

“May he dazzle you, galvanize you, and intoxicate you! May he teach you that to dream is to live!”

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