Ten Years of PopCult

Today is the tenth anniversary of The PopCult Blog, written by Rudy Panucci. Every hour, on the hour(sort of), we’re going to bring you one of our favorite posts from the preceding decade. Some are significant “firsts,” while others are deeply touching or overwhelmingly goofy. We’ll leave it to you to figure out which is which.

In January 2013 I added two more regular weekly featurs to PopCult, The PopCult Toybox and The PopCult Bookshelf. With these regular features added to Sunday Evening Videos, Monday Morning Art, and The PopCulteer, and soon to be joined by The RFC Flashback on Saturdays, it didn’t take much to ramp up PopCult to having fresh content every day. Since August 18, 2013, we haven’t missed a beat. This is one of my favorite book reviews from October of that year.

The PopCult Bookshelf

“Madwoman of the Sacred Heart”
madwomsacheartby Alexandro Jodorowsky and Moebius

Imagine a wicked satire of philosphy academia with a lot of sex, violence, surreal psuedo-Christian imagery, geo-political intrigue, a dash of Carlos Castaneda-style mysticism plus a mid-life-crisis and wish fulfillment thrown into the mix. Welcome to the world of Alexandro Jodorowsky.

“Madwoman of the Sacred Heart,” written by Jodorwsky with art by the legendary, Moebius, collects and translates three graphic albums originally published in France in 1992, 1993 and 1998. This is a superb work. That it has a cinematic quality is no surprise, given the extensive film work of both Jodorowsky and Moebius, but the disparate elements that blend so seamlessly make most attempts at describing in sound like a train wreck.

“Madwoman of the Sacred Heart” most assuredly is not that, but it does require a bit of a synopsis to explain. We meet Alan Mangel, a very popular philosophy professor at La Sorbonne University who seemingly has everything a man could want…until his 60th birthday.

Not the best birthday party ever.

Not the best birthday party ever.

His wife leaves him for another man, at his birthday party, and they proceed to have loud sex in the next room during the party. Then his wife takes all his possessions, leaving him with an empty house. His students lose all respect for him. He is plagued with chronic bowel issues. And a beautiful young student proclaims her love for him.

That last part doesn’t seem like a bad thing. It even borders on old-man/young-girl fantasy, but then we learn that the young lady in question believes that she is the reincarnation of Elisabeth, mother of John The Baptist, and that Professor Mangel is the reincarnation of Zachariah, who will impregnate her with second coming of John The Baptist.

Alan gives in to temptation.

Alan gives in to temptation.

After they encounter the reincarnation of Joseph and Mary, things get a bit stressful. “Joseph” may have killed two nurses when he was helping “Mary” escape from a mental institution. It turns out that “Mary” is actually Rosita, the daughter of a South America drug kingpin.

The two couples spend a few weeks living peacefully in hiding in a beach village before the money runs out. In a sudden burst of gunplay, they are almost apprehended before being rescued by agents of Rosita’s father, who fly them to the jungle in South America where they again live an idyllic life waiting for the birth of Alan and Elisabeth’s son while Joseph and “Mary” hole up in a room in the villa.

Alan's inner demon.

Alan’s inner demon.

Without spoiling too much of the ending, the story unfolds with a Hermaphrodite Saviour known as “Jesusa” leading a revolution and Alan experiencing his own rebirth before he, Elisabeth and their son, John, return to France to live a relatively happy and peaceful life.

The amazing thing is not only how well it all fits together, but how completely compelling the story is. I picked it up to casually flip through on a Saturday morning and wound up reading it all in one sitting. The 190 pages flow and fly by and it’s just too hard to put down.

All the while, “Madwoman of the Sacred Heart” makes the reader think. You are drawn in by the believable yet unpredictable characters. The twists and turn of the plot could give you whiplash, but the heavy and clever social satire grounds the story.


La Sorbonne

“Madwoman of the Sacred Heart” is a brilliant work by two legendary creators working at their peaks. Moebius employs a style here that seems a cross between his more ornate science fiction work, and the gritty realistic style that he used as “Gir” when drawing the Western series, “Lt. Blueberry,” but his cartooning skills perfectly encompass the action, tenderness and action of this story.

Jodorowsky’s story is just flawlessly constructed. It’s provocative, hilarious and touching all at the same time. His wry satirical commentary on human nature permeates the book, skewering academia, politics, the war on drugs, the media and religion. Even after major characters seem to be totally redeemed, he makes it a point to show that they haven’t really changed at all.

“Madwoman of the Sacred Heart” is a terrific, mature work that is a shining example of what can be accomplished with graphic storytelling.

Note:This is a new edition of a previously-sold out collection of three graphic novels, with the original coloring restored and a new cover.