This isn’t the column I’d planned to write this month, and although I had planned on writing about the author at some point, I didn’t think it would be under this circumstance.
Just a month ago, 10th of March 2012, one of the legends, one of the gods of the comic book world, passed away. The man known sometimes as Jean Giraud or Gir– but most commonly to English-speaking fans as Moebius– was a towering influence on European comics during the last 5 decades. I can think of only 2 other artists who have had similar impact on world comics since the inception of the art form: Jack Kirby and Osamu Tezuka.
I could make this column a list of his achievements, but you can go to wikipedia or a number of other sites for a history lesson. In common with my last article, I’d like to reflect on what Moebius meant to me and how I discovered his work.
To start we have to travel back to 1990, during an atypical idyllic summer. Ireland had qualified for the World Cup for the first time and everyone was football crazy (that’s soccer crazy for American readers). I was watching late night TV around 12.30am when a programme called Comics the 9th Art came on. The show featured French comics, something I knew very little about. Having read UK and American comics exclusively to that time, my eyes were well and truly opened to a wider world of comics.
Fortunately, I’d had the sense to start taping the show a couple of minutes in so I could watch it again and again (which I did, many times)… Until, unfortunately, the tape was lost around 1995 or so. By that time, though, I had searched out the works of a number of artists from the programme whose work had blown my mind– the foremost of these being Moebius. (I’m sure you all saw where I was heading with that one. Perhaps I should have said Hergé for the laugh and gone on a completely different tangent altogether.)
In any case, I just had to get some of Jean Giraud’s stuff– and it was imperative that I do so as quickly as possible. Luckily, a branch of Forbidden Planet had opened on Dawson St in Dublin (now on Crampton Quay, fact fans)… So I took a trip the next weekend and picked up my “normal” comics (Uncanny X-men, Avengers, etc, etc) I usually bought– then ventured into the further recesses of the shop (back where the unkind might say “the stuff that didn’t sell” was put) and found a small, dark shelf of brightly coloured graphic albums.
Even now, thinking about the joy of that discovery is odd. The feeling happens less and less as one goes through life, especially in this internet age where just about everything can be ordered at the press of a few buttons… Where one doesn’t really have to strive to find something. Perhaps this is why comic fans seem so jaded these days…
Anyway, enough musing. That day I purchased The Incal Book 1…
… And Moebius Book 1 – Upon a Star.
Both books were issued by a Marvel imprint called Epic Comics that used to issue high-quality comics back in the late 80s and early 90s. The versions that I bought were printed by Titan Books in the UK, but for all intents and purposes are identical to the Marvel books. The Incal starts as a sci-fi detective story and grows into a tale of insane political and religious intrigue. Upon a Star began life as a brochure for a car company and grew to become a journey into the soul of its protagonists, Stel and Atan— who would go on to appear in another 3 Albums in a series called The Aedena Cycle.
The art in both books was simply stunning. I had never seen any other artist use the simplicity and precision of line that Moebius did but yet, when necessary, have pictures filled with complexity and incredible detail. When you look at a Moebius panel it’s like every line is where it should be, nothing is extraneous. The colours used were incredibly vibrant. Even though these books were published in the pre-computer colouring era, they are equal or superior to any colouring job accomplished today.
Over the next 2 or 3 years I made several trips back to that dark shelf at the back of the store, purchasing a dozen or so of these albums. Yet my collection wasn’t complete, as there were some books they just could not get in stock.
Fast forward to 1994. I had taken a trip to visit my uncle (the one I mentioned in my last column) in San Francisco. Again it was another balmy summer (expected in California but, rather rare in Ireland).
I was staying in the Sunset district quite near the Pacific Ocean when I happened across a small, rather dank and dark comic shop in the ground floor of a house– your proto-typical Androids Dungeon. (I can’t remember the name of the shop but I’m sure it must be long gone at this stage.) Luckily the owner was incredibly friendly. Once he found out that I was into Euro-comics, he reached under his counter and brandished a number of carefully preserved Moebius volumes– including the ones that I was missing… And he was charging cover price for them!
I went in expecting nothing and came out clutching five volumes, including Arzach, the story that was instrumental in transforming Moebius from an illustrator of the Blueberry cowboy series to a full-blown sci-fi comics genius.
Unfortunately, the San Francisco finds more or less marked the end of my hunt and the swan song for my Moebius collection– as Marvel Comics closed the Epic imprint (still absolutely one of the most stupid actions they’ve taken as a company, imo) and very little Moebius work has been published in the English language until the last couple of years. One can only hope that more will come from Humanoids or other companies in the near future.
If you haven’t experienced any Moebius comics yet, I hope you get the chance to do so soon. Jean Giraud may be gone but his work lives on.
I leave you now with two questions: Is there any comic book artist or writer who has truly blown your mind… And how did you come about discovering them?
The following is a list of the Moebius Volumes published during the late 80s and early 90s. To hopefully aid clarity, I have split them up into Science-Fiction/Fantasy and Western volumes. All were published by Marvel/Epic unless otherwise noted. I have included only the large format French-sized albums that were published during this time. There were some other reprints published in a smaller format that I didn’t purchase as they were mainly repackaging work that came from the books in the list below. Also I have left out the artbooks that were published during this time by Marvel and other publishers.
Moebius 0: The Horny Goof *
Moebius 1/2: The Early Moebius **
Moebius 1: Upon a Star
Moebius 2: Arzach
Moebius 3: The Airtight Garage
Moebius 4: The Long Tomorrow
Moebius 5: The Gardens of Aedena
Moebius 6: Pharagonesia
Moebius 7: The Goddess
Moebius 9: Stel
The Incal Volumes 1-3 (Story by Jodorowky, Art by Moebius
The Magic Crystal Volumes 1-3 *** (Story by Moebius, Art by Marc Bati)
Moebius 8: Mississippi River
Blueberry 1: Chihuahua Pearl
Blueberry 2: Ballad for a Coffin
Blueberry 3: Angel Face
Blueberry 4: The Ghost Tribe
Blueberry 5: The End of the Trail
Lieutenant Blueberry 1 – General Golden Mane
Lieutenant Blueberry 2 – Steelfingers
Lieutenant Blueberry 3 – The Golden Horse
Marshal Blueberry – The Lost Dutchmans Mine
Young Blueberry #1: Blueberry’s Secret ***
Young Blueberry #2: A Yankee Named Blueberry ***
Young Blueberry #3: The Blue Coats ***
* Dark Horse, ** Graphitti Publishing, *** Catalan Communications