Album cover of Path of the Warrior.
|Publisher||Les Humanoïdes Associés (French)
Arboris B.V. (Dutch)
'Norma Editorial, S.A. (Spanish)
DC Comics (English)
|Main character(s)||Othon von Salza
Aghnar von Salza
The Metabarons or The Saga of The Meta-Barons is a science fiction comic series relating the history of a dynasty of perfect warriors known as the Metabarons. The Metabarons series was written by creator Alejandro Jodorowsky and illustrated by Argentinian artist Juan Giménez. The series, published by Humanoïdes Associés, is complete, the last volume having been released at the end of 2003.
The first appearance of a Metabaron (chronologically the last of the Metabarons) was May 1981 in the Incal comic book series as a supporting character. This was followed by a series of prequels that concerned this character's origin, presented as the narration of the droid Tonto to the droid Lothar, of his masters' achievements. The series takes place over the course of several generations, and chronicles the life of each of the five Metabarons. The stories are characterized by science fantasy on an epic scale, a background against which a space opera reminiscent of Greek tragedy plays out. The stories are also heavily influenced by Frank Herbert's Dune novels. In the script Jodorowsky wrote for a movie adaptation of Dune before David Lynch's version, most elements were recycled in Metabarons, i.e. Othon's castration matches Duke Leto's, same for Aghnar's conception, and the Shabda-Oud Order is a nod to the Bene Gesserit
Every Metabaron is in his youth mutilated by his father so that his endurance to pain is tested, and that he receives a powerful mechanical body part as a replacement for the destroyed limb - making every Metabaron a cyborg. The rite of succession is equally as cruel and uncompromising. In each generation, the son and heir must eventually face his father in a battle to the death. These battles have taken many forms, from hand-to-hand combat to dogfighting space duels. The rite of succession is only achieved once the cursed son succeeds in killing his father.
The Bushitaka is the strict code of honor followed by the Metabarons, profoundly influenced by the Japanese bushido. It demands that the practitioner dedicate themselves to victory in all things at any cost. Compromise is never an option, and the only alternative to victory is death. Bushitaka demands that the practitioner stifle all emotion, even to the point of sacrificing their own family members in the pursuit of total victory.
Each Metabaron draws upon an array of advanced weaponry. These include cybernetically-implanted lasers, nanotech nuclear warheads implanted in the body, swords which can disintegrate in bursts of flame, and advanced spaceships. Many of the Metabarons also exhibit powerful psychic abilities.
||This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. (October 2008)|
The story of the Metabarons begins on an isolated world, Marmola, a world full of marble. A small tribe, ruled by Berard of Castaka, lives there. Their main export are huge blocks of marble, which they cut with manual hyperlasers. Other than marble, the planet possesses a material far more valuable: It's a blue, jelly-like substance, called epiphyte, whose properties defy the laws of gravity. The existence of the substance has been a sacred secret of the Castaka's for many generations, until an accident happens and the secret must be sacrificed to save the life of Othon von Salza, the son-in-law of Baron Berard of Castaka. Shortly after being saved, Othon expressed his dismay as the secret was sacrificed to save his life. With this, Berard knew Othon was worthy to inherit the spirit living in every Castakan. Not long after the news got spread about the epiphyte, the planet's orbit becomes a battlefield with the treacherous Imperial Black Endoguard as the victors. Eager to seize the epiphyte for themselves, they drop their ground troops. The tribesmen are outnumbered, yet they fight rather than surrender. Othon breaks his son Bari's legs so he won't get himself killed in the fight. When the battle comes to its end, Othon is the only one still standing and, together with Bari, the only survivor of the Castaka tribe. The Imperial couple, rulers of the known galaxy, are astonished by the achievement of Othon and rewards him. Othon shows them where the epiphyte was hidden in exchange for a reasonable percentage of the new market for anti-G Technology, a new planet to which their palace would be transferred to stone by stone and most importantly a gift for his son intended to restore the joy his broken legs took away. The emperor gives him a horse, an extinct species brought back with genetic manipulation. The gift did not go unnoticed. On their new planet, pirates invade and steal the horse. Othon goes after them and kills them one by one. But due to the fog, he accidentally kills his son. In his grief and carelessness, he is shot from behind, which leaves him castrated. Now Othon is without an heir and apparently shall remain so forever.
Othon, devastated, turns his back on pure martial arts and invests a large part of his fortune in the development of the first metabaronic weapons. He also began the tradition of cybernetic implants, by incorporating a multi-protonic pelvis. Othon becomes a mercenary of extraordinary skill and power. By destroying 100,000 pirate vessels by himself he and all of his descendants are rewarded with the title of Metabaron, the greatest warrior in the galaxy. The Imperial couple vow that they will search throughout the galaxy to find a gift that will make him feel like a man again. Later, a woman named Honorata arrives at his palace, giving herself to Othon. Honorata says she can bear him a child if places a drop of his blood in her uterus. Two of Othon's servants get jealous and try to commit suicide, taking the pregnant Honorata with them. They jump off a tower but Othon is quick enough to inject a potion of epiphyte into Honorata with a dart gun, letting her hover away. The potion hit her in her belly, infecting the baby, Aghnar von Salza. Othon is disgusted as he thinks his son will never be a good warrior, being weightless. He exiled him and lets Honorata train him by herself. When Aghnar is seven years old, he comes back to his father to show he has what it takes to be a true warrior. Othon made him a machine to fight with. When Aghnar defeats it Othon accepts him and continues his training. Honorata then confesses she was meant to give birth to a hermaphrodite instead of a son. She was sent to this planet by the priestesses of Shabda-Oud, as it was prophesized that she would bear a perfect being. Because she didn't comply, the Shabda-Oud triggered the micro-H bombs implanted in her heart, destroying the whole planet with her. She warned Othon and Aghnar soon enough for them to escape. Othon was dying from a lung infection. For him to be sure his son was strong and worthy enough to avenge his mother, he forced Aghnar to fight him to death. Hereby Aghnar seized the title of Metabaron for himself. Unbeknownst to him, Honorata had saved herself using her psychic abilities.
The sole human in a hostile world, Aghnar rescues and befriends a single ape creature, and becomes its tribe's messiah. He then proceeds to take over a passing Shabda-Oud cetacyborg battleship with which to carry out his vengeance. However, he is sidetracked by the Cetacyborg's crew's original objective: to capture Princess Oda, in order to use her for the sisterhood's breeding experiments. Awed by a single hologram of the royal heir, as well as seeing an opportunity to better infiltrate their stronghold, the young metabaron successfully set out to conquer her heart. After a spectacular psychic confrontation with the sisterhood, Oda suffered debilitating injuries. Honorata revealed herself to her son then, and offered to use her psychic abilities to heal Oda. Oda, apparently healed, conceived with Aghnar a son. However, it was eventually discovered that Oda's soul was destroyed, and Honorata had transferred her consciousness into Oda's body. Disgusted with his act of incest, Aghnar shot his child in the head.
Oda/Honorata could not bear to see her son/grandson slain. She fashioned a cybernetic head for the child, who would then be known as Steelhead. Like Aghnar, she trained Steelhead to become a perfect warrior. Steelhead was cruel and merciless, and returned to confront and kill his father Aghnar, in the process murdering his mother. When he attended the imperial court to claim the title of Metabaron, Steelhead was confronted by the Princess Doña Vicenta, who claimed that a soulless machine who did not know love would never be able to conceive children worthy of the title of Metabaron. Angry, Steelhead took on this insult as a challenge, and set out to discover the meaning of love. His quest took him to the disembodied head of Zaran Krleza, the last poet in the galaxy. United in body and head (but somehow maintaining individual personas), Steelhead and Zaran become Melmoth. This new being declares Doña Vicenta as the object of his affections, and promptly resurrects her father along with a rare, titanic tree (both of which had been destroyed by steelhead himself in a contract). Dona was wooed, but the clone of her father, mad and taken over with a furious, incestuous desire for Vicenta, attempted to violate her. Melmoth interceded, but then was confronted with the whole army at the behest of the clone-king. Vicenta, in a self-sacrificing symbolic gesture, tore out her eyes and handed them over to her father-replica. Reminded of who he is, he backs down and calls off his troops, and Melmoth and Doña Vicenta marry. On their wedding night, Melmoth discovers that Tonto, his robotic servant, repaired her eyesight by vulgarily implanting her with horrid cybernetic sensors. Disgusted, Melmoth shunned her, and Steelhead reasserted himself, taunting and accusing Zaran of being little else than a horny old goat. Frustrated, Zaran took a plasma pistol to his head, and thus Melmoth was no more. Steelhead, however, was fine, and nevertheless took care of his bride. She was pregnant with twins, but they were deformed in the womb and would both die unless Steelhead intervened. Even then, he could only save one. Vicenta was adamant about allowing the girl to live, believing that she would be the host to Melmoth's spirit, but was only too aware of steelhead's need for a male heir. Out of love and duty, Steelhead compromised: He removed the male twin's brain and implanted it in the female child's skull, and both parents would have the heirs they desired.
The androgynous Aghora would be trained as a warrior by Steelhead, and eventually faced his/her father in single combat. After taking his/her place as Metabaron, Aghora became a mercenary warrior, as his/her fathers had been. Aghora eventually wished for an heir, but was unwilling to mate with another man. Instead, he/she extracted the male cells from his/her own brain and implanted them in his/her womb, thereby creating a male clone, in a procedure that Tonto described as 'autoincest'. It was this child who would eventually become the Nameless Metabaron who continues to reign in the "present" issues of Incal.
In the last chapter of the saga Sans-Nom, le dernier Méta-Baron, Lothar, the faithful droid to whom Tonto is relating the Metabaronic lore in the frame narration is revealed as Steelhead himself: due to his purely mechanic nature, he had replaced every single organ in his body with syntethic equivalents, becoming able to survive in the open space when Aghora jettisoned him. Recovering his personality, but not his full memories, after a brief confrontation in which he gives Nameless the iconic scarring in his eyebrow, he allies himself with a vampiric creature to enact his vengeance over his nameless descendant.
Ultimately, he repents, sacrificing his life for the Universe's sake: however, his machinations are enough to drop Nameless into a deep state of depression. Realizing how his whole ancestry was trapped into a spiral of hatred and death, he has himself sterilized, unwilling to raise a son to follow in his cursed footsteps, and wallows in self-pity until the Spirit of the Castaka family, embodied by the mark on his chest, appears to him in a vision, prompting Nameless to become a force for good, protecting life whenever he can.
With this new mission the Metabaron, now the last of his kind, becomes the unstoppable mercenary featured in the Incal.
The series has been published in French as follows:
La Caste des Méta-Barons
- Othon le Trisaïeul - (Othon the Great-Great-Grandfather) (1992)
- Honorata la Trisaïeule - (Honorata the Great-Great-Grandmother) (1993)
- Aghnar le Bisaïeul - (Aghnar the Great-Grandfather) (1995)
- Oda la Bisaïeule - (Oda the Great-Grandmother) (1997)
- Tête-D'Acier l'Aïeul - (Steelhead the Grandfather) (1998)
- Doña Vicenta Gabriela de Rokha l'Aïeule - (Doña Vicenta Gabriela de Rokha the Grandmother) (1999)
- Aghora le Père-Mère - (Aghora the Father-Mother) (2002)
- Sans Nom, le Dernier des Métabarons - (Nameless, the Last of the Metabarons) (2003)
A special volume, containing interviews with Jodorowsky and Giménez as well as sketches, unseen art, and a short story concerning one of the Metabaron's ancestors, called La Maison des Ancêtres (The House of the Ancestors) was released in 2000.
- Dayal, le Premier Ancêtre - (Dayal, the First Ancestor) (2007)
- Les Jumelles Rivales - (The Rival Twins) (2013)
Les Armes du Meta-Baron
- Les Armes du Meta-Baron - (Weapons of the Metabarons) (2008)
Another spin-off by Travis Charest and Zoran Janjetov.
All the main French albums were reprinted in English in their original version by Humanoids. These include:
- Othon & Honorata (136 pages, 2004, ISBN 1-4012-0362-0)
- Aghnar & Oda (136 pages, 2004, ISBN 1-4012-0381-7)
- Steelhead & Doña Vicenta (136 pages, 2005, ISBN 1-4012-0642-5)
- Aghora & The Last Metabaron (128 pages, 2010, ISBN 1-59465-001-2)
Humanoids Publishing released 17 issues, published in 2000-2001. All were collected into censored trade paperbacks, with a fifth volume containing 4 short stories.
- Path of the Warrior (collects #1-5, 152 pages, 2001, ISBN 1-930652-47-X)
- Blood and Steel (collects #6-10, 136 pages, 2003, ISBN 1-930652-24-0)
- Poet and Killer (collects #11-14, 112 pages, 2002, ISBN 1-930652-23-2)
- Immaculate Conception (collects #15-17, 80 pages, 2003, ISBN 1-930652-93-3)
- Alpha/Omega (One-shot; collects The Crest of Castaka, The Last Metabaron, Incal: The Lost Pages, and a reworked version of Incal: The Lost Pages), 48 pages, 2002, ISBN 1-930652-41-0)