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The Incal 2014 hardcover trade collection

The Incal is a six issue graphic novel, which is part of The Incal saga, and served as the basis of the Jodoverse.

It was originally released as Une aventure de John Difool (A John DiFool adventure) in the science fiction and horror french magazine Métal hurlant and published by Les Humanoïdes Associés, between 1981 and 1988. It was written by Alejandro Jodorowsky and illustrated by Moebius (Jean Giraud). The 1st issue was colored by Yves Chaland, the 2nd, 3rd & 4th by his wife, Isabelle Beaumenay-Joannet, and the 5th & 6th by Zoran Janjetov.

The Incal follows the story of John DiFool, a class "R" private detective from City Shaft that one day comes into contact with the Luminous Incal, a mysterious object that grants him powers, and which different factions -such as the Bergs and the Techno-technos- are after. The Incal guides John (and his pet Deepo) first to the Center of the Planet and then to distant worlds in outer space, meeting different companions along the way. He eventually returns home, where all started, to face the Darkness, a metaphysical being threatening the political stability of the Empire and the universe itself.



At the Doorway of Transfiguration.

The Incal is composed of six issues. The writing process consisted of Jodorowsky dictating the story while Moebius took drawing notes and occasionally suggested dialogues. Jodorowsky wasn't interested in doing a long series without a clear ending in sight (like Moebius' Blueberry), so he proposed a more novelesque structure: a five chapter story, with the fifth and final chapter divided in two parts.

Each issue is supposed to be paired with its double (the first one with the second one, the third one with the fourth one, and the fifth with the sixth one), mirrorring the way in which the six main characters are paired with each other in the Doorway of Transfirguration, with Solune serving as the accumulation of all of them.

  1. The Black Incal (1981)
  2. The Luminous Incal (1982)
  3. What Lies Beneath (1984)
  4. What is Above (1985)
  5. The Fifth Essence: The Dreaming Galaxy (1988)
  6. The Fifth Essence: Planet DiFool (1988)

Main characters[]


The Seven Companions entering The Mirror.


The Incal’s universe was influenced by different sources. The american science fiction writer Philip K. Dick, who often wrote about alternative universes, authoritarian governments, and altered states of consciousness, as well as theology (VALIS trilogy) is a clear inspiration. In fact, the term “conapt” (a contraction of condominium and apartment) was invented by him, although The Incal also has its own share of original vocabulary, such as “kublars” and "homeo-whores”.

Other science fiction authors, such as Robert Sheckley, Cordwainer Smith and Norman Spinrad (especially his novel Bug Jack Barron) were also influential in the world-building of The Incal, and Mickey Spillane's crimen novels inspired the pulpy, hardboiled detective feel.


Dune storyboards that were repurposed for What is Above.

However, the biggest influence is, without a doubt, Frank Herbert’s Dune, which Jodorowsky, attempted to make into a film in the 70’s, financed by Michael Sydeoux, with Charlotte Rampling (Zardoz), David Carradine and Dalí being at one point considered for different roles. The project was ultimately aborted, but during the making of the film Jodorowsky came into contact with many different artists, like Douglas Trumbull (2001: A Space Odyssey), Christopher Foss (illustrator of science fiction covers), H. R. Giger (painter who eventually went on to work in Alien), Dan O’Bannon (Dark Star), and most importantly Moebius (before he made Le Garage Hermétique), who made over 3.000 drawing which served as the stylistic basis of the massive space opera.

During the production of Dune Jodorowsky also came into contact with alchemists, a specialist on South American guerrilla warfare, and was introduced to gipsy magic medicine through his friend Paul Derion, and to hallucinogenic mushrooms and miraculous healings through a witch named Pachita.

According to Jodorowsky “everything that I had created for the script of Dune was turned into The Incal”.


Duplication & Identity[]

Images of duplication are common throughout The Incal. In fact, most characters are doubled or paired with another one, in the same way that each issue is thematically paired wih the next. The Incal itself is divied into the Luminous and the Black Incals, which in turn are guarded by Tanatah and Animah, two sisters representing opposite values, while Barbarah is merely an imitation. Solune, as a "perfect androgyne" also representes the two sexes, the two faces of reality, spirit and matter, which seems to give him a superior power. In The Fifth Essence: The Dreaming Galaxy, Solune replaces another "perfect androgyne", the Emperoress, by turning into an Energy Egg, the opposite of the Dark Egg. Other instances of duplication include: Before entering the Forest of Singing Crystals the Seven must harmonize with The Mirror, in which they're reflected. Raimo's crew is also made up of seven people, like the main group of protagonists. The Prezident also makes copies of himself transferring his spirit into different bodies through cloning.

John Difool is also duplicated. In The Black Incal the Incal separates John into four elements or inner essences, representing his personality and fears. Later, in The Fifth Essence: Planet DiFool, John meets billions of copies of himself, making him question his own self. The Bergs themselves are also an exact copy of the previous Protofather, Trilys. In fact, the question of parentage is also a recurring theme, initially the Metabaron is presented as Solune's father but then the father's real identity is revealed: John DiFool, who also fathers all the "jondiffs" on Orgargan. In the short story In The Heart of the Impregnable Metabunker, the Metabaron wonders if his relationship with Solune wil mirror his relationship with his father.

The ending of The Incal also mirrors its beginning: with almost two identical images of John DiFool falling down Suicide Alley.

Messianism & Religion[]

Upon swallowing the Luminous Incal Deepo gains the ability to speak and starts preaching and healing people, and is briefly worshipped by the citizens of City Shaft, even performing a miracle to make Raimo "believe". DiFool himself also acts as a sort of messiah when he fulfills the Berg's prophecy of entering their golden age. Later, when he returns to Orgargan he tries to bring the "message" of the Theta Dream but he's ignored, a recurrent trope in messianic literature. At the end, Orh seems to choose him as The Chosen One, a witness of Orh's transformation (the term "martyr" comes from the greek word for "witness"). Like other messianic figures, John DiFool is eventually resucitated in What is Above.

The way Animah hands Solune to the Metabaron is reminiscent of angelic apparitions and the way other messianic figures were adopted at birth, such as Moses. Animah could also be seen as an allegory of the Virgin Mary or Mary Magdalene (at one point Animah takes the role of a prostitute).

In The Incal, we're also introduced to the Techno-techno society, a cult who worshippes technology, while the other gods are referred as "paleo-gods" (that is, ancient gods from the pre-technology era). The aristos have halos above their heads, despite not being saints.


Rebis Theoria Philosophiae Hermeticae 1617

Rebis from Theoria Philosophiae Hermeticae (1617) by Heinrich Nollius, featuring a similar design to the Emperoress.

Jodorowsky was influenced by different spiritual and mystical traditions, and considered esoterism an "element of beauty" for the series. The concept of the Incal was inspired by the Great Work, that is, "the process of working with the prima materia to create the philisopher's stone", the first two phases (nigredo and albedo) correlate with the Black Incal and the Luminous Incal.

There are also references to the Rebis, the end product of the alchemical Great Work. According to the legend, after "one has gone through the stages of putrefaction and purification, separating opposing qualities, those qualities are united once more in what is sometimes described as the divine hermaphrodite, a reconciliation of spirit and matter, a being of both male and female qualities as indicated by the male and female head within a single body". Indeed, in The Incal the Seven Companions first go through the "putrefaction" of the garbage dump in Center Earth and then they must go through a process of purification to enter the Interior Sun, where Solune becomes the "pefect androgyne".

The concept of the "fifth essence" is taken from ideas about the four classic elements: Fire, Air, Water and Earth. In The Black Incal. DiFool is also separated into these four elements. The titles of the third and fourth issue (What Lies Beneath, What is Above) serve as a reference to a line from the Emerald Table: "That which is below is like that which is above & that which is above is like that which is below to do the miracles of one only thing".

Social Commentary []

The Incal falls within the cyberpunk subgenre of science fiction, setting most of the action in Shaft City, a futuristic and dystopian metropolis organized along literal class lines, with the powerful and wealthy living in the superior levels of the city and the poor living in overcrowded spaces on the lower levels, among toxic waste and crime. Objectification has been taken into the extreme, with brothels being substituted by banks of “sexual credit” where clients are free to choose the look and attributes of their “homeo-whores”. Meanwhile, the elite live in the Floating Palace, a gigantic spaceship that hovers above the city, and is used to “seal” the Shaft City in moments of social unrest.

The goverment in Shaft City resembles an absolute monarchy. Instead of elections the Prezident simply clones itself every few years, maintaining power indefinitely. Alongside him, the aristocracy (the aristos) and the clergy (the Techno-priests) have a powerful influence over the population, which is pacified through TV game shows and spectacularized news.

The Imperial General Assembly satirizes political chaos in decadent empires, with different political factions constantly conspiring against each other. Greyfield’s coup, Raimo’s rebellion against it and the Berg invasion could be seen as commentaries on the various coup d’états, anti-colonial struggles and inter-imperial wars common throughout the 20th century, (Jodorowsky has condemned American imperialism and neo-colonialism in Latin America in several of his films). Towards the end of the fifth issue, a minor character sentences that “Maybe this time it is dreaming that’s revolutionary!”


220px-RWS Tarot 00 Fool

DiFool and Deepo are a reference to The Fool and his pet.

The mythology of the Tarot also shows up in The Incal. John Difool is an obvious reference to The Fool trump, his surname being a play on words. Deepo also mimics the dog which always accompanies The Fool, and which symbolizes John’s animal spirit. The Fool, like John, represents chaos, infinite possibility and the beginning of a journey.

Solune is a combination of the Sun and the Moon trumps, the Emperoress is a combination of the Emperor and Empress trumps. The Techno-Pope is also meant to correspond with the Hierophant trump, the Technos' tower with the Tower trump, and the Red Ring (and the Daredevil Club) with the Devil trump.

According to Jodorowsky, Tocopilla (the Chilean village where he grew up), also has a deeper significance. “Toco” means “double square”, which Jodorowsky ties to the proportion of the cards of the Tarot de Marseille (two equilateral squares joined) and the Luminous Incal; and “pillo” means "devil", therefore a reference to the Black Incal. Also, he claims that Tocopilla is in the parallel 22, like the 22 cards of the Major Arcana. Tarot decks have 78 cards in total, a number that is referenced in the 78 billions of children John Difool fathers.


Jodorowsky was inspired by ideas about consciousness and the concepts of a square Earth and round Heaven featured in the I Ching. According to Jodorowsky the Earth represents the unconscious and Heaven the supraconsciousness. In The Incal, when the characters visit the Center Earth they must face their inner feelings, while in outer space (Heaven) DiFool becomes the closest to the Incal and his facial features change, becoming more youthful and attractive.

Moebius, who had a very improvisational way of drawing his characters and used different head models for them, explains the changes in the protagonist's look: when DiFool acts based on his genuine immortal nature and he lets himself be pierced by the universe’s energy, he transforms, his appearance changes: his hair loosens like the one of an angel, but when it ceases he goes back to his ordinary self.

All of The Incal’s story seems to be a journey towards enlightenment, towards achieving a superior consciousness. At the end of the story DiFool meets “god” himself (Orh), however, he’s denied pure consciousness, being transported back to Suicide Alley at the beginning of the story, in what appears to be a loop. According to Jodorowsky, DiFool reaches the highest stage of knowledge, but then he must go back to the beginning endlessly. This could be inspired by the Buddhist understanding of the Vijñāna (a person's consciousness), which through evolving, exists as a continuum and is the mechanistic basis of what undergoes rebirth, re-becoming and re-death.

Art Style[]

The Incal was illustrated by Moebius, who was inspired by artists like Philippe Druillet, Hergé and Joost Swarte. While usually artists like Albert Uderzo (Astérix) illustrate a couple of pages a week, Moebius had a particular schedule: he did one page per day. It was stressful but it also permitted him to work more freely and intuitively. Due to this self-limit one can observe how Moebius' art style changes throughout the series, and the characters change with him. Since Moebius didn't do many sketches and the ones he did were very basic, he didn't have a definitive look for each character, often having different head models for one person. At times this helped to accentuate a character's growth. For example, when John shows Barbarah the Incal his facial features are more polished, and he stops resembling Blueberry's partner, Red Neck (from the Pilote magazine).

Still, Moebius felt like the time restriction he had set himself hindered his ability to be more precise and had a hard time "feeling" some of the characters. For instance, he thought the way he had drawn Animah was cute, but she was meant to be more beautiful and tender. In The Fifth Essence two-parter he was determined to give the illustrations more dynamism.

Regarding the coloring, when Isabelle Beaumenay-Joannet was working in the 3rd and 4th issue, she didn't receive many instructions from Moebius once she had done her first issue. According to Isabelle, Moebius didn't talk about colors, he discribed things in terms of enviroment (he once talked about "vaginal enviroments"), light and atmosphere, like a filmmaker.



Recoloring of a page from the chapter Inhuman! from the The Fifth Essence: The Dreaming Galaxy.

Between 2002 and 2004 the six issues were digitally recolored by Valérie Beltran (Studio Beltran), significally changing its aesthetic by favoring a more "modern" look. Nowadays these editions are out of print, and the original coloring (restored by Léonor Pardon) is used instead.


The story of The Incal was continued in the form of a prequel,  Before the Incal (1988-1995) and two sequels, After the Incal (2000) and Final Incal (2008-2014). In 1989, Jodorowsky wrote a short story, In the Heart of the Impregnable Metabunker, to accompany the release of Les Mystères de l'Incal, which would later serve as the basis for the Metabarons franchise of graphic novels.