Story | Alejandro Jodorowsky
Art | Nicolas Fructus
Publisher | Titan Books
There are graphic novels… and there are volumes of psychedelic effluence poured directly into each panel, sourced from the deepest recesses of an unsettled genius, whose sole passion is to elicit the tiniest spark of insight within the pages of his phantasmagorical dreamscapes.
In other words, this is something else.
From the mind of acclaimed director/writer/modern day shaman Alejandro Jodorowsky, Showman Killer: Heartless Hero continues the oft-repeated theme frequent in many of his graphic novels: the challenging and costly discovery of one’s purpose within a thriving yet fractured universe.
To know Jodorowsky is to either love or be utterly confused by him. Undoubtedly, his work no matter what media he uses is an acquired taste. From El Topo and The Holy Mountain to his famed adaptation of the Dune-that-never-was and library of prolific comic series under the Humanoids Publishing banner. The perplexity lives on in Heartless Hero, if only due to the pleonastic descriptions Jodorowsky regularly utilizes. Paleo-bitches, electromummification and omnimonarchs, oh my!
As with all of Jodorowsky’s works, the throughline of mysticism thrives throughout Heartless Hero. The series embraces the prevailing characteristics of his work: the horde of humanity long abandoned the qualities that propelled their species to unanticipated heights. As humankind continued to spread its presence across the cosmos, they abruptly reached their spiritual and intellectual plateau. After a handful of centuries, the hegemony brazenly assume they’ve reached the pinnacle of greatness, flaunting a hubris so incredulous it edges on ubiquity.
This universe is choked with life, so much that in order to ensure a place in the social stratum, one must be willing to step on the backs of others to maintain their footing. The result of which are wretched beings who look as terrible as they act, adorned in opulent wares so as to obscure their rotting features. All but two characters display any sense of humility and compassion during the first arc. An aspect that is difficult to accept but necessary to feature the universal corruption of mankind.
Despite this grotesquerie, Heartless Hero showcases a vibrant, spectacular realm painted with great ebullience by Nicolas Fructus (Thorinth, Kadath). His collaboration with Jodorowsky is essentially a match made in Heaven. Few artists are able to illustrate Jodo’s mad visions with devilishly meticulous design. Fructus’ art is an inspired rendition that adds whimsy to Jodorowsky’s penchant for unbeauteous, hypnagogic visuals.
Whereas the protagonists were on the discovery of self in Incal and a masochistic dedication to honor in The Metabarons, Jodorowsky’s latest space opera features a man that lacks a compulsion to discover his purpose in the universe, or quest to restore the soul of humanity. Veritably, Showman is entirely devoid of emotions. Thanks to his “father”, he was thoroughly programmed from birth to believe solely in his unrivaled abilities and covet the wealth he acquires for his services. In his latest assignment however, Showman comes in contact with a woman he’s only known within his recurring dream. Thus begins the examination of the master assassin’s motivations and legacy.
Underneath the many layers of intrigue and bloody rampage, Heartless Hero delivers a quiet and profound narrative that takes its cue from a smattering of ancient philosophies practiced for thousands of generations. Within Hindu culture there are innumerable practices and theories about the origin of the universe, the inclusion (or removal) of the self and the common elements all lives share. In Sāṃkhya philosophy, there is a theory that all living beings exhibit varying levels of guna, essentially a collection of similar qualities.
It could be posited that in his readings of varying religions and disciplines over the years, Jodorowsky unconsciously tapped into the concept of gunas during the formation of this terrifying creation. The dominion of man and Showman himself are severely imbalanced, establishing their status through raja (chaos, passion) and tamas (destructiveness, avarice). Early in Heartless Hero, our eponymous assassin actually has a considerable portion of his brain removed during a series of barbarous modifications. Having known only the aforementioned qualities, Showman achieves what little joy through these gana. Nonetheless something endures within a forgotten region of his psyche – sattva (compassion, harmony). Moreover, this revelation of self becomes significant when Showman assumes the unfamiliar role of protector for a newborn of great importance.
To become fully immersed in Jodorowsky’s vivid, quixotic, far-future philosophies is a journey few will seldom experience with other comic writers. If perused and accepted with an open mind, readers will begin to relish Jodorowsky’s unique discourse on metaphysics whilst enwrapped in a gaudy display of nihilistic violence.
Showman Killer: Heartless Hero was released on December 2.
For more information on the series and future releases, visit Titan Books!
Showman Killer: Heartless Hero
Showman Killer: Heartless Hero isn’t for everyone, but like everything off putting it may take a few tries before this book is fully appreciated. It doesn’t hurt that the graphic novel is the brainchild of a celebrated visionary who, time and again, created some of the most evocative and controversial films and comic books over the decades. One thing is for certain: It’s like nothing you’ve read all this year.