The IncalMetabarons

Alejandro Jodorowsky Prullansky (also written as Alexandro Jodorowsky) is mostly famous as a Chilean film director. With cult movies like  'El Topo' (1970) and 'The Holy Mountain' (1973) he became an icon of counterculture cinema. Jodorowsky was active in many artistic disciplines, among them poetry, novels, plays, music, mime, painting, sculpting, puppeteering and... comics! He drew his own weekly comic strip 'Fabulas Pánicas', but has been more productive as a comics writer for various renowned French, Spanish, Italian, Mexican and Argentine artists. All of Jodorowsky's work is sparked by his interests in alchemy, tarot, Zen Buddhism, shamanism and hallucinogenic drugs. They give his work a surrealistic and futuristic quality, with elements of mysticism, symbolism and spirituality.

Early life
Jodorowsky was born in 1929 in Iquique, Chile, as the son of Jewish-Ukrainian immigrants. Following an unhappy childhood, he found refuge in poetry, and began his professional life in several creative occupations. He started as a clown in a circus, and eventually focused on performing as a mime. He had his own theatre group, the Teatro Mimico, and wrote his first play in 1953. Jodorowsky spent most of the 1950s in Paris, where he toured as a mime with Marcel Marceau's troupe. Driven by anarchism and surrealism, Jodorowsky founded the performance art collective Panic Movement with Fernando Arrabal and Roland Topor.

Fabulas Panicas by Alexandro Jodorowsky
'Fabulas Panicas', drawn by Alexandro Jodorowsky

Early comics
In the 1960s, Jodorowsky settled in Mexico City, where he created his first comic book work. He debuted in 1966 as the writer of the futuristic saga 'Anibal 5', which was drawn by Manuel Moro for Editorial Novaro. He in turn also drew his own comics, such as the weekly 'Fabulas Panicas' feature in the Mexican magazine El Heraldo de Mexico, between 1967 and 1973. 

Early film career
In Paris Jodorowsky made his first film, 'Les Têtes Interverties' (also known as 'La Cravate', 1957), based on Thomas Mann's novel 'Die vertauschten Köpfe' (1940). This short was done entirely in pantomime and featured, apart from the director himself, also Belgian-French comedian Raymond Devos in a starring role. Inspired by Federico Fellini, Antonin Artaud and Luis Buñuel Jodorowsky shot various psychedelic and highly controversial pictures in Mexico, France and the UK. His reputation was made with 'Fando y Lis' (1967), based on a play by Arrabal. The picture evoked riots during its premier and was eventually banned in Mexico.

El Topo
Jodorowsky's next film, 'El Topo' (1970), was equally outrageous. Described as an "acid western" the picture follows a very loose plot thread. A cowboy dressed in black (played by Jodorowsky himself) roams through the desert. He encounters many bizarre people and experiences surreal and shocking events. Predictably the film was a huge flop with mainstream audiences. But theatre owners noticed that certain young adults liked it. Therefore they took the unprecedented decision to program the picture at a more exclusive hour, namely midnight. This gave the film a more mysterious appeal and was a surefire way to attract a different, younger and more enthusiastic audience. Numerous teenagers, twens and young adults gathered together and felt united in their bizarre taste. It helped 'El Topo' to build up a cult audience and launched the "midnight movie" phenomenon. Soon many film theaters in the West started programming unusual movies around 12 o'clock at night. Several pictures which didn't do well on their initial release found devoted fans who kept coming back for repeat viewings. Many owe their cult status to this programming schedule. 

The erotic, violent and blasphemous content of 'El Topo' fit perfectly within the counterculture movement. It was made outside the studio system and thus as anti-Hollywood as you could get. The picture broke several taboos and conventions. Teenagers and twens liked the mystic and occult themes, mirroring their own search for self-fulfillment. Naturally the trippiness made it a perfect stoner movie too. 'El Topo' attracted celebrity fans such as John Lennon, George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Roger Waters, Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda and later Peter Gabriel, Marilyn Manson, Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodríguez-Lópza (The Mars Volta). Directors like David Lynch, Nicolas Winding Refn and Samuel Fuller were all influenced by it. Lennon in fact tried to bring 'El Topo' to bigger theaters and actually succeeded, but after only a week it was removed and brought back to the midnight movie circuit.  'El Topo' remains a cult classic to this day. The fact that it wasn't commercially available on video until deep in the 2000s also added to its legendary reputation. A few laser disc versions were released in Japan, but even these had censored many scenes. As such the only way to actually see it in its entirety was finding a local theater who would play it. Only in 2007 did 'El Topo' finally receive an official, uncensored DVD release. Jodorowsky always wanted to create a sequel to 'El Topo' and at one point considered Marilyn Manson for the starring role. Unfortunately the project remained in development hell. In 2016 Jodorowsky therefore adapted his script into a comic book, 'Les Fils d'El Tope' ('Sons Of El Topo', 2016), illustrated by José Ladronn.

Later film career
In the following years Jodorowsky created other polarizing films, such as the mystical and mind-boggling 'The Holy Mountain' (1973), which was partially funded by Lennon and Yoko Ono. The film follows a thief and his seven spiritual advisors who want to climb a holy mountain in search of spiritual enlightment. He is guided by an alchemist, played by Jodorowsky himself. With a slightly higher budget and more satirical themes 'The Holy Mountain' became his second best known film and a cult classic too. The 1980s brought forth 'Poo Lorn L'Elephant' ('Tusk', 1980) and the cult horror film 'Santa Sangre' (1989). In 1990 he directed 'The Rainbow Thief' (1990), which could afford stars like Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif and Christopher Lee, but disappointed long-time fans by being more conventional in tone. It took two decades before Jodorowsky found the money to create new films. 'La Danza de la Realidad' ('The Dance of Reality', 2013) and 'Poesía Sin Fin' ('Endless Poetry', 2016) marked a return to his old form and received good reviews. 

Anibal 5Les Yeux du Chat

Collaboration with Moebius
Jodorowsky's comics career also gained notice in the 1970s. He really made his mark through his collaborations with Moebius in France. Their first collaboration was on Jodorowsky's ill-fated attempt at making a movie adaptation of Frank Herbert's epic sci-fi novel 'Dune' in 1975. H.R. Giger, Chris Foss and Moebius designed sets and characters, Dan O'Bannon provided special effects and David Carradine, Mick Jagger, Gloria Swanson, Salvador Dalí, Amanda Lear and Orson Welles would play major roles. The soundtrack would be composed by Pink Floyd and Magma. This ultimate geek's wet dream was however never realized. The project fell through when most of the budget was spent on pre-production. In 1984 the film would eventually be directed by David Lynch but with different contributors.A documentary called 'Jodorowsky's Dune', was made about Jodorowsky's failed attempt at an adaptation in 2013.

Jodorowsky and Moebius continued their collaboration with 'Les Yeux du Chat' at Les Humanoïdes Associés in 1978, but created a comics classic with 'The Incal', in which Jodorowsky introduced his own science fiction universe, later referred to as the "Jodoverse". The saga focuses on the P.I. John Difool, who receives the Light Incal, a crystal of enormous powers. After a first serialization in Métal Hurlant magazine, Les Humanoïdes Associés published six books under the title 'Une Aventure de John Difool' in the 1980s. John Difool's early years were later explored in 'Avant l'Incal', a prequel series that Jodorowsky made with artist Zoran Janjetov between 1988 and 1995. A sequel cycle called 'Après L'Incal' was started by Jodorowsky and Moebius in 2000, and completed by two more installments drawn by José Ladrönn in 2011 and 2014. Ladrönn also provided the artwork for the final cycle, 'Final Incal' (2008-2014).

Avant l'IncalCastaka

Other comics
Another famous creation set in Jodorowsky's space opera universe is 'The Saga of the Meta-Barons', about a dynasty of perfect warriors. Drawn by Argentinean artist Juan Giménez, the series was published in eight books by Les Humanoïdes Associés between 1992 and 2003. Two more cycles followed to complete the trilogy: two books of 'Castaka' were drawn by Das Pastoras in 2007 and 2013, while Travis Charest and Zoran Janjetov provided the art for 'Weapons of the Metabaron' in 2008. In addition, Jodorowsky and Janjetov, accompanied by colorist Fred Beltrán, cooperated on yet another sci-fi cycle, 'The Technopriests' ('Les Technopères') from 1998 to 2006.

TechnoperesAlef Tau

In 1982, Jodorowsky had teamed up with artist Arno to create the magical fantasy series 'Alef-Thau'. The duo made seven albums, while a final installment was drawn by Al Covial in 1998. Remaining in the fantasy genre, he wrote 'Le Dieu Jaloux' (1984) and 'L'Ange Carnivore' (1986) for Silvio Cadelo, two books that were later reprinted under the title 'La Saga d'Alendor'. Jodorowsky has worked on several projects with the artist Georges Bess, starting with 'Les Jumeaux Magiques' in Le Journal de Mickey in 1986, and then followed by the fantasy series 'The White Lama' ('Le Lama Blanc', 1988-1993), the graphic novel 'Juan Solo' (1995-1999), and a restart of 'Anibal 5' (1990-1992). Jodorowsky and Bess have returned to Tibet for an esoteric follow-up to their best-known collaboration, called 'La Légende du Lama Blanc' from 2014.

Lama BlancBouncer

From 1991, he started several stories serialized in magazine À Suivre, such as 'Face de Lune' (with François Boucq) 'La Passion de Diosamante' (with Jean-Claude Gal) and 'Le Coeur Couronné (with Moebius). Other notable creations are the hard-boiled western series 'Bouncer', that he makes with François Boucq at Glénat since 2001, and the historical fiction 'Borgia' in cooperation with Milo Manara from 2004 to 2010. He made a graphic novel about a mime player during World War II, called 'Pietrolino' (2007-2008), with Olivier Boiscommun, and a comic book sequel to his 1970 film called 'Les Fils d'El Tope' with José Ladrönn in 2016.

Pietrolino Borgia

Further collaborations include 'La Vérité est au Fond des Rêves' with Jean-Jacques Chaubin, the detective comic 'Gilles Hamesh' with Michel Durand (1995), 'Aliot' with Victor de la Fuente (1996), the historical 'Le Pape Terrible' with Théo Caneschi (2009-2013), the heroic fantasy 'Sang Royal' with Dongzi Liu (since 2010) and more sci-fi series like 'Megalex' with Fred Beltrán (1999-2008), 'Showman Killer' with Nicolas Fructus (2010-2012) and 'Ogregod' with Zoran Janjetov (2010-2012).

Recognition
Back in France since 1990, Alejandro Jodorowsky was named an Officer in the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettes in 2005. In that same year an asteroid was named after him.

Showman KillerLe Pape Terrible

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