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One You Want 001: Incal Classic Collection HC

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Each week a lot of comics hit the stores.

Some you’ve heard of. Some you haven’t.

Some have superheroes. Some don’t.

They might be comic books, they might be graphic novels.

This is the One You Want.

THIS WEEK:  INCAL CLASSIC COLLECTION HC, written by Alejandro Jodorowsky and illustrated by Jean “Moebius” Giraud, Humanoids Publishing, 308 Pages, $44.95.

I love all comics.

That’s not to say I love every single comic to hit the stands – far from it – but I’m in love with the fact almost every single region of the world is doing comics of every single genre in just about every single format. Everything has potential. Nothing is impossible.

If there’s one person who proves to me this with every project he does, it’s certainly Jean “Moebius” Giraud.

Jean Giraud is a French artist who kick-started his career by doing a mix of cowboy comics under his own name and a number of humor and later sci-fi comics under the pseudonym “Moebius.” He’s covered just about every genre out there – from westerns to romance to superhero to sci-fi to horror to … well, everything. If he hasn’t done it already, I’m sure he’ll get to it, despite the fact he’s in his 70s. Do a Google search for “moebius, aedena”, “moebius, arzak”, “moebius, long tomorrow” or “moebius, blueberry” to find out more about his greatest works.

All this said, being a Moebius fan has been pretty hard times in the American market since the mid-90s. Before then, you had Heavy Metal reprinting the majority of his work from the French anthology, Metal Hurlant, then Marvel reprinting a lot of that material and then some through their Epic line, which led to him working on projects like Silver Surfer: Parable and loads more. Since it was the 90s and since he wasn’t drawing big dudes with bigger guns fighting other big dudes with bigger guns, the line didn’t do so well. Thankfully, Dark Horse picked up the baton with their own reprints, but they were released in an odd, digest format which I wasn’t a huge fan of. Not exactly the best way to repackage his hyper-detailed artwork. It just got worse from there – Humanoids starting republishing some of his work with filmmaker and comics writer Alejandro Jodorowsky in a co-publishing deal with DC Comics… but man, was it ugly!

Not that it was meant to be, though.

You see, back when Giraud teamed up with Jodorowsky to create the science fiction epic, Incal, they initially turned to none other than modern ligne claire master Yves Chaland to work his magic on the colors. This guy was a cartooning and design genius and his work didn’t disappoint. I truly feel Moebius’ work never looked better.

That said, when it was repackaged through DC, they had someone take Chaland’s flat colors and over-render them until the line art was unrecognizable. This was the comics equivalent of the Titantic – taking what was supposed to be a groundbreaking undertaking and turning it into one of the greatest disasters of its time. Hyperbolic? Sure, but it was pretty devastating to a fan who wanted these stories to be accessible in his native language.

Moebius’ comics in the US dried up after the DC attempt. The Marvel Epic reprints skyrocketed in price on the secondary market with the Dark Horse reprints soon following. It became clear that if you wanted a Moebius project, you had to pay big money for it… or get it directly from France.

So, like a lot of other fans, I did the former. It took years for me to piece together the Epic line, paying a pretty penny for each volume. I’m still working on the Dark Horse reprints. My trips to France have mostly taken care of the rest.

However, it’s been extremely frustrating to discuss a guy who’s become my absolute favorite artist in any medium and not have anything easily accessible for the person I’m talking with to check out.

About a year ago, Humanoids relaunched in the US on their own, under the guidance of Bob Silva. Their plan included reintroducing a number of books to the American market that either have never been seen here before or should have been packaged better, like the John Cassaday illustrated I Am Legion (I should note its paperback version is also available this week). From the outside in it seemed to be working very well. While they didn’t see a lot of success with their single issue reprints, their collections went through print runs rather quickly, print runs they predicted would last for quite a long time.

Then they announced the big ones: those Jodorowsky/Moebius collaborations? The ones that haven’t been properly in print for almost two decades? They were coming back the way they were always meant to. It started with an edition of Madwoman of the Sacred Heart, but it was quickly followed up by an Absolute-edition-like version of Incal.

Incal’s a comic which definitely deserved the prestigious format. Moebius’ linework always benefits from having a larger format, but the sheer scope of Incal warrants as large a presentation as possible. It’s not a small story – it begins with detective John Difool making a run-in with a giant monster who bestows him with the titular Incal, which eventually leads him to become something of a messianic figure. That all just barely scratches the first twenty-two pages. Throughout the entire saga, you’re faced with sprawling metropolises without an end, alien assassins, genetically spliced creatures, religious crusades and flying cars aplenty.

Sounds like something you’ve already read before? That’s because you probably have in one form or another. Incal’s had a tremendous impact on the science fiction genre in just about every medium it comes in. Flip through the pages and you’ll immediately spot a number of clichés it created.

Due to how long it had been since the previous DC editions came out and bombed, the $100 slipcased hardcover had a limited print run. Humanoids figured the run would at least last a couple of months.

It barely lasted hours.

On the one hand, I was thrilled to read a Moebius title had such huge success in the US; on the other, I was disappointed this once again meant it would be unavailable for the majority of readers.

Thankfully, Humanoids learned from past mistakes and expedited plans for a more affordable, widely-printed hardcover edition. For the first time since the early 1990s, Incal will finally be released this week in a widely available edition preserving the artists’ original intentions.

It’s a huge deal – not just for comics as a whole, but for me personally. It’s a massive relief to finally have a somewhat affordable volume for potential Moebius fans to check out. Sure, $44.95 isn’t a price to sneeze at, yet considering the amount of care and quality Humanoids has been putting into every book they produce, it’s well worth it. Don’t forget the tome is over three hundred pages, so you’re getting an awful lot of comics for your dollar, especially since it’s presented at 10 ½ x 7 ½ inches.

If my word’s not enough, you can take it from some of the most popular creators working in the medium today, from Brian Michael Bendis’ introduction to Mark Millar’s pull quote touting Incal as, “quite simply one of the most perfect comics ever conceived.”

I can’t disagree.

INCAL: THE CLASSIC COLLECTION, a 308-page full color hardcover for $44.95, is available in-stores on June 29th, 2011. Look for your local comic shop by going to http://comicshoplocator.com/.

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Joe Keatinge is the Eisner and Harvey award-winning co-editor of POPGUN and writer of the upcoming Image Comics series, BRUTAL, with illustrator Frank Cho.

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Comments

  • Bart Croonenborghs

    Bart Croonenborghs Jun 28, 2011 at 3:33am

    This is indeed, a must have! Liked your column, very insightful.

  • Andy Oliver

    Andy Oliver Jun 28, 2011 at 6:14am

    To my great shame I've read very little in the way of Moebius offerings. I'm fairly sure I read some through Epic at some point, although memory is hazy as to what. Certainly read the SILVER SURFER miniseries. My interest is piqued. Pre-ordered on Amazon UK...

  • Bart Croonenborghs

    Bart Croonenborghs Jun 28, 2011 at 6:28am

    Stan Lee vs Jodorowsky ... I guess you could say they both have a way with words :p BTW have you seen Jodorowsky's El Topo yet? One of my fave movies of all time.

  • Andy Oliver

    Andy Oliver Jun 28, 2011 at 6:42am

    I'll check LoveFilm Bart and see if EL TOPO is available there...

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