Here's a little background information for you on Technopriests. First up, if anything you've heard, or anything you're about to read, interests you in the Technopriests, then be ready to pony up some dough. Some of the first volumes are easier to find in the original Humanoids publications that predate the DC/Humanoids collections while containing the same content, but tracking down the elusive volume two isn't the cheapest item to lust for. Unlike The Incal, which you can still get for relatively decent prices as long as you would prefer the original coloring (published by Marvel's Epic line) as opposed to the new "why the fuck did you do that" coloring, American reprints of Technopriests are in short supply. Why? Because it's bad, you're thinking. It must be really bad or else it would have been more popular than Secret Invasion, because the comics market is never wrong, and you can look at sales figures and see what's good, and if the Technopriests is out of print and Batman: Child of Dreams isn't, well whatever, Technopriests must suck some balls, because Kia Asamiya and Max Allan Collins' work on Batman: Child of Dreams is 29 pounds of shitbag retardation in a 3 ounce satchel, and you can still buy that anywhere, including newsstands.
Is that what you're thinking? Don't think that. That means you're stupid.
Oh wait--maybe you're thinking that because you've read this blog before, and you remember that I've actually hit these comics before and given them shit. Yikes, nevermind that whole "you're stupid" comment. You're awesome! Who sticks around that long? I've had at least seven concubines quit in the past six months because they got sick of my heavy handed metaphors. (The last one gave me crabs!) Have my feelings changed?
Written by Alejandro Jodorowsky
Art by Zoran Janjetov & Fred Beltran
Published by Humaonids/DC Comics
I'm not going to try to improve on Jog's excellent work on the coloring in The Incal series, but it should go mentioned here that the Technopriests, even more so than everything you've seen of what the Incal looks like now, is the furthest extension that is imaginable for Fred Beltran's digital coloring style. It's also probably the best example of it, even though it's not always to Zoran Janjetov's taste. There aren't "original" versions to point to as better--Beltran and Janjetov made it to look like this, and in a dream world, you can rest assured that Fred Beltran would have the entirety of the "Jodoverse" look just like this. (I imagine Beltran looks at Juan Gimenez' non-digitized work on the Metabarons and cries himself to sleep.) The Technopriests isn't complete in America, although it supposedly will be, and I haven't had a chance to track down the remaining untranslated volumes, although I recently wondered if they might have made some scanlations circuit a la Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou. I didn't find it, but I've always been a horrendous search engine wizard, maybe I'm wrong. (Although a torrent search doesn't show much either.) Either way, this is DC/Humanoids, and if we're going to stay focused--and god knows we should--then we've got to make do with what we've got, and what we've got is Technopriests Book One: The Initiation and Technopriests Book Two: The Rebellion.) We won't cover this guy, he's just being ironic.
I wouldn't go so far as to say "ah, look at this image, so indictative of the Technopriests aesthetic", mostly because that would just sound sort of tragic, as if teaming up with Jog had led me to think "why not try using words like aesthetic and indicative, people will get confused and wonder why the rape joke guy is trying criticism and then my wife will leave me", but this image--it is sort of like what you'll find in Technopriests. In a lot of places. Aesthetically. To save browser load time, I've brought it down to a manageable size, but know this: in the DC/Humanoids volume, this drawing takes up about 2/3 of the page, which means it also took 2/3 of the original, and larger, Humanoids release, which means: shit, that's a really big drawing of a space station built onto an asteroid that--yes, you're reading that sign correctly--is primarily a cheese factory. It's not the first time you'll see Zoran Janjetov's spaceship designs, many of which I'll admit to being quite charmed by--hell, Technopriests opens with weird and innovative spaceship designs, the first being one that looks like a giant engagement ring powered (apparently) by a glowing C-shaped...I don't know, something big and shaped like a C and it floats around, bisecting the giant engagement ring ship. Thanks to the text, we know the ship contains our primary hero/irritating pompous narrator, he-that-shalt-be-named-Albino and 500,000 of his most trusted (and, as we'll eventually discover) docile followers as they search for a promised land beyond the known systems, all Battlestar Galactica style. Interestingly enough, a space saga type story carrying the pretty wowzers name "Technopriests" dispenses with the notion of futuro-worship right away: Albino's goal is to "start a new society in which healthy human relationships will be valued more highly than scientific advances." Lofty goals, made a bit ironic by the next page, where Albino regales his traveling companion--a cutesy little animal the size of a rat who farts a lot--with the tale of his birth, brought about when his mother was raped by three pirates: one with skin of red, one with skin of gray, and one as pasty as Albino himself. It's always the kids who come from tragedy who hold "healthy human relationships" as the loftiest and most impossible prizes, isn't it? They sit around in therapy talking about how much they wish they were "normal", clearly never having read Grant Morrison's Doom Patrol and realizing that happy loving fathers sometimes stick sharp objects into their wife's eye sockets. Doom Patrol, oh, how you taught us so much, and saved us so much potential therapy money to spend on street drugs. And ah, street drugs. Street drugs, how you helped open our minds, lubricate our souls, filled us with wild fantasies of blood-crazy shark-man space pirates.
I love these guys. Don't get too excited, they aren't in the series for long, although this panel gets re-used in the second collection of stories, so maybe Jodorowsky and Janjetov have more planned for these lovable dudes and their plumbing wrench style weaponry. Fingers crossed!
Not knowing the process behind the creation of these comics, I'm not really sure who you give credit to for all the little touches like this--shark mutant pirates, the spaceships, etc. Either way, the Technopriests is chock full of them, and if that interests you, you can do far, far worse in the field of "weird and interesting shit to look at in space" genre. There's a lot of it to go around, and for my take--that's what makes the series fun to spend time in.
The actual plot? That's another ball game entirely.
Technopriests follows a very, very easy to follow structure, one that operates on such autopilot that it seems a shame to credit it solely to Jodorowsky, no matter how many of his noticeable tics come up. Really, he could have just handed the structural outline to Janjetov and said "repeat about 20 times, that's the best, I think" and then let Janjetov scribble out spaceship drawings for Fred Beltran to "digitize". The plot generator works like this: the elderly Albino and his spaceship of pals are en route to the promised land, and he's recording his autobiography for posterity. He'll tell his tape recorder about how he faced some unstoppable, insurmountable odds in his goal to go from unloved albino kid, product of rape, to the Supreme Technopriest, ruler of the game-creating controllers of the galaxy. Usually he overcomes the odds on the page following the page where he describes them, never by chance, always by design. (It's interesting to me that there's never any luck involved in Albino beating the odds. Not once. No faith either. He just does, like James Bond, or Batman.) Then they cut back to the present day, where the little animal thing that he hangs out with says something like "I remember that, that was awful, you were amazing" and Albino says "yes, it was awful, but things were much worse for my family". Then it's time for a story about his family, which consists of Albino's mother, his two half-siblings (one of whom has red skin, the other carrying gray, making his mother's zona pellucida the Penn Station of distinguishing rapist ejaculate). The family's initial goal, the one that his mother built a successful global cheese empire to fund, is the purchase of a totally awesome spaceship that a hired mercenary can use to help hunt down the three rapists who ruined her life. Her first mistake is hiring a mercenary who is one of the rapists--the red one--in disguise, who is just using them just to get the totally awesome spaceship. After dealing with that part of the story, it cuts back to elderly Albino, and the little animal thing says "Gosh, that was really awful for your mom" and Albino says "yes, it really was, but it got even worse later, but let's talk about me some more" and they start over again.
I'm not trying to be glib, and while I realize that Jodorowksy is a big deal, and yes, Technopriests isn't a "bad" comic per se, this is the formula that's used, and it's used over and over and over and over again, and the only thing that breaks it up is when the present day Albino has to fight off some kind of insurmountable odds, usually in the same two page length that it takes him when he's telling the stories about it when he was a kid and did the exact same thing. At a certain point--roughly around the end of the DC collection's first volume, you start getting to the point where you're looking forward more to the dynamic stuff that goes on in the flashback family stories, because at least their battles and woes produce a relative amount of drama and their status quo actually changes, quite drastically at times, whereas Albino's status quo only changes in the sense that his position in the empire of Technopriests goes up, as well as his power level and abilities. He's the equivalent of one of those Final Fantasy type video games--at first, it's hard to hack into this computer and he gets caught, but eventually he can just hack into computers by looking at them, and by the climax of the two available collected editions, he can turn himself into the poorly named "Super Albino" (who, like the poorly named heroes he's modeled upon, announces himself as if he's starring in his own late night talk show) and he's pretty much an unstoppable force of pure wish-fulfiment, capable of any and everything imaginable.
So it's bad, right?
Well, no, it isn't, not really. Technopriests is one of those thing that does end up succeeding on the strength of some of its ideas, the stuff that it throws away in the gutters of the story. It's not all stuff like the shark pirates, nor is it the "My race has retractable testicles" line, either--there's some really clever ideas going on here, like when Albino criticizes the gaming industry (an industry that pretty much controls the universe, old school 1950's subliminal messaging style.) How do they know they make successful games? How can they be sure the public will eat them all up like pudding?
They ask the fifty morons. It's the apex of test marketing, it's the culmination of advertising's soppiest wet dreams--the artist, which is a word you won't find used much in Technopriests, under the thumb of the mass fool biologically incapable of deceit, employed and plugged in to provide immediate, honest response to the work of the creator. It's impossible not to read into this, to hear the sounds of Alejandro Jodorowsky, a guy who has made it his business to make films that are uncompromisingly his own. For him, his view, this is the alternative--art by collective, engineered for profit and lazy pleasure alone--and that's why it's no surprise that those who control the profits of the Technoguild wreak out their firings with laser cannons. In Technopriests, you either succeed at making a salable product, or you get eviscerated. No retirement, no second chances. No one who supports the profit-viewpoint in Technopriests is depicted as anything less than a psychopath, monsters devoid of humanity, devoid of passion, black holes where artistic ambitions reside. The faith in marketplaces depicted here is one that is viewed by the hero--of which, truly, Albino is the only one--as pure lunacy, a disgusting prostitution of humanity's greatest ideals. So yes, you feel as if you're supposed to root for the guy and his weird dreams.
Of course, you'll eventually find out that he has long renounced physical intimacy and outlawed the drinking of alcohol and anything else that might be considered "fun", and if you disagree with him or want to bail out on the whole "go find the promised land" thing, he's going to suck your thoughts and memories right out of your skull and replace them with a placid acceptance of his own design. The shift isn't apparent, it's not even really clear to me when it occurs, when Albino goes from being the lord of all game-makers--which he is by the end of the second volume--to a cult leader with fascist tendencies. It's probably in the last volume, which DC never got around to publishing. Hopefully. That's a pretty big shift to get dumped in between panels.
Now, there's one major thing that occurs in the Technopriests that I haven't touched upon yet, and that's because it doesn't really make sense to me beyond it being A) quite similar to things that occur in The White Lama and B) extremely similar to the sorts of philosophy proposed by Descartes in his Meditations on First Philosophy, where he examines the notion that he can not be sure what is around him is real because he might just be under the thrall of an evil demon that...oh fuck it.
It's the shit they talk about at the end of the Matrix 2, fine. The guy that started the guild of Technopriests tells Albino that none of what has occurred, or will occur, is real and that the entirety of Albino's universe is a massive game, like a MMORPG game, that the guy invented. Kind of.* Either way, Albino incorporates the guy, White Lama style. It's very meta and takes up about six or so pages, off and on, throughout what's currently available. Problematically, it also doesn't seem to be that important to Albino beyond the pages where it's being directly addressed, which is exactly why I'm not really sure what to say about it. Drop a penny like that, you probably imagine that it's time to go in a new story direction, time to spend the remaining volumes figuring out how to get out to the real world and fight injustice or whatever, time for you to jump off a roof, Abre los Ojos style. Here? Not so much. Not so at all, actually. No, this isn't even a cliffhanger scene, it's just a couple of random passages, and then it's back to the farting animal sidekick, another "If you think that was bad, my sister's husband had just sacrificed himself so that their child could be dipped in the water that gave Clayface his powers."
*Kind of, in that maybe the third volume answers some of these questions, and considering the vast importance of them to the story, the sense that all of Albino's reality is only one of an infinite series of attempts to rectify corrupt universes, that's not too ridiculous an expectation. Of course, it's also a defensive statement, as I'm sure that the third trade is great, since the Technopriests is great, and blah blah blah I should just shut up and throw stones at Titans Hunt if I know what's good for me.
In the end--or maybe I should say, in the end America is currently provided--Jodorowsky decides that Albino needs to get old, and he does one of those "insurmountable odds" portions again, this time one where the main character turns into a snake, becomes evil for a while, fights losing his soul, and eventually emerges triumphant, the only sacrifice being that he's aged 50 years. That's pulled off in the shortest portion yet, an actual text box that comes after a big drawing of Albino the snake. Seven years of fighting occurs in between panels. After that? To be continued.
In retrospect, I'd imagine that part of the reason that the Technopriests is so well-liked--and, regardless of lack of availability in the US, it is a relatively well-liked comic--has less to do with its specific plot, and more to do with the idea of what that plot is. In comic, in story--it's just a space opera, epic in scope yet Macgyver in delivery, an engine that delivers moments in boiled down segmentation. But it's got enough random ideas that do speak to greater forces at work, ideas about the fear of whether or not human beings can keep up with the pace of technological advance, ideas about whether a life lived in service of great ideals while in practice of horrendous action can remain ethical, that it ends up becoming a story that opens up questions far more involving than those of a simple "everybody is created equal" or "don't judge a book by it's cover" or "Batman & Robin can never die". I still would hope for more--but then again, that's sort of okay. We'll always have the Metabarons.
-Tucker Stone, 2009
T1 Introductions & Miss: Better Living Through Crime by Joe McCulloch
T2 Fragile & The Horde here at TFO
T3 Sanctum & Transgenesis 2025 Vol 1: The Ancestor here at TFO
T4 The Incal (Preparations by Joe McCulloch
T5 Son Of The Gun here at TFO
T6 The Incal (Execution) by Joe McCulloch
T7 White Lama here at TFO
T8 The Technopriest here at TFO
T9 Bouncer, Megalex & Metal Hurlant by Joe McCulloch
T10 The Metabarons by Joe McCulloch
T11 Memories here at TFO
T12 The Chaos Effect here at TFO
T13 The Bilal Trilogy here at TFO