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Jodorowsky, aka “Jodo,” is a producer-director of avant-garde Latino and European plays and films. Mexican censorship rules got him blacklisted in 1967. His theater classes and planned events were canceled. Jodo agreed to produce a cartoon series with the help of his friend Luis Spota, editor of El Heraldo de Mexico. Three months of cartoons were planned. They were so popular that the series continued for six and a half years, from June 1967 until December 1973.

This book is the first presentation of the entire collection of 284 cartoons in English. They were called “The Panic Fables”, a name derived from Jodo's avant-garde theater work in France in the early 1960s.

The collection is remarkable on several levels. The cartoons begin with a negative, pessimistic tone but soon become a depiction of Jodo's philosophical inquiries and personal spiritual growth. The series gains purpose, focus, and strength over time. Although Jodorowsky was not an artist, his cartooning style gains increasing authority and coherence as the series continues. Each panel has its print date.

Jodo includes himself as one of the characters. Some panels show Jodo asking questions of a spiritual guru. Reproductions of older cartoons are shown with spiritual interpretations by the guru. Some panels make use of clip art to create purposeful collages. Other repeating characters include “gragrofes” (funky cubes with arms and legs) and animated microbes enacting the trials and tribulations of collective situations.

Sometimes the week's cartoon is presented in a single panel. At other times, the cartoon is divided into numerous panels. The conversations are typeset in English. While typical cartoonists print text in capital letters, the all-cap typesetting is somewhat difficult to read at times. In a few instances, the text bubble is so small a magnifying glass had to be used to read the text. But this is fairly rare.

Overall this is a unique and historically valuable presentation of a long-term Jodorowsky project. Jodo is noted for his attempt to write a screenplay and assemble a team of actors and artist-designers to create a film based on Frank Herbert's novel “Dune.” While the film was never made, the assembled actors and artists (including the Swiss artist, H. R. Giger) went on to do great things in other projects.  Giger's designs for the creature in the sci-fi Alien films are particularly notable. Jodo continued to make films, including “The Rainbow Thief” and cult classics like “El Topo” and “The Holy Mountain.” More recent films include “The Dance of Reality” and an excellent documentary called “Jodorowsky's Dune” (both in 2013). Jodorowsky has authored over 20 books on spirituality and tarot and over 30 comic books and graphic novels. He lives in Paris, France.

“The Panic Fables” are deep and rich, and not light reading. Some are more ponderous than others, but most readers will find that reading five or ten at a sitting is about enough! The thought-provoking conversations take time to absorb and process. It's well worth the effort. While some of the panels present what might now be considered arm-chair philosophy (particularly by readers with an extensive background in philosophy and comparative religion), the series tackles issues and questions that are eternally relevant to individuals on the path of spiritual growth. The cartoons are nicely presented in a large-size paperback format. This collection is an exciting release for Jodorowsky fans and an accessible introduction those readers who would like to learn more about him. The cartoons outline a major psychological and spiritual turning point in the life of this unusual person, making the collection exceptionally relevant to young seekers on the path of their own evolution.

~review by Elizabeth Hazel

Author: Alejandro Jodorowsky
Park Street Press, 2017
290 pages, $29.95 paperback

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