The cult section of the literary world

Moebius: A Retrospective

by David W Barbee

RIP Jean Giraud, aka Moebius
(click on images to enlarge)

French artist of the weird Jean Giraud died about a week ago.  His work isn’t known very well in America but his influence is felt.  Along with several other French cartoonists, Giraud founded Metal Hurlant, which would go on inspire Heavy Metal here in the U.S., which in turn was a gigantic influence on me.  I discovered Moebius’ work a few years ago and was struck by its influence on cyberpunk and fantasy in the seventies and eighties.  Giraud got his start with a gritty French western comic called Blueberry, which ran for decades, but he also did a lot of epic genre work, especially the beautiful sci fi strip Arzach:

By now Giraud was going by his pseudonym Moebius.  Instead of a gritty western, Arzach was a sweeping wordless fantasy full of wonder, adventure, and even humor.  It’s hard to find in America.  The serialized story was published in Metal Hurlant in 1976, and was later cannibalized into a sequence in the Heavy Metal movie.  Speaking of movies, Moebius did a lot of concept art for movies like AlienTron, and this pic for the movie Willow

This piece reminds me of Hayao Miyazaki, who was also a great fan of Moebius’ work.  Another collaborator was Alejandro Jodorowski, who scripted Moebius’ psychedelic comic Incal.  Moebius even did concept art for Jodorowski’s version of the Dune movie.  Here’s his rendering of Baron Harkonnen, which I’m sure would have flown over wonderfully with audiences back in the Reagan days.

Moebius also did some mainstream comic books.  In the late eighties he collaborated with Stan Lee to create Parable, one of the best Silver Surfer stories Marvel’s ever produced.  Moebius’ grand scifi sensibilities fit in with Lee’s story of cosmic titans, and his understanding of panel layout produced beautiful scenes like this

But my favorite Moebius work is probably The Long Tomorrow.  Though it’s hard to find in America, I hope to own copy some day.  It’s a crazy cyberpunk noir comic that’s been hailed by William Gibson as an inspiration for his classic novel Neuromancer, and its soaring hovercars and sprawling urban dystopia was a clear inspiration for Blade Runner.  I want this book so badly because of images like the one below, where detective Pete Shoe realizes he’s having sex with a disgusting shape-shifting alien.

That’s awesome.  It’s also in French, so I have no idea what they’re saying.  But I’m grateful that such beautiful and fucked up images exist thanks to Moebius.  I’ll always consider him an influence on my personal taste, and hopefully his death will lead to more of his work being published stateside, so more people can appreciate his art.  We’ve lost a true weirdo, so from the world of bizarro: thank you, Moebius.

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David W Barbee is the author of A Town Called Suckhole and Carnageland. You can stalk him at  davidwbarbee.wordpress.com

6 responses

  1. was sad to hear it when he passed. a truly great artist who was largely overlooked by many.

    April 4, 2012 at 2:35 pm

  2. Brain Burst Writing

    Great article. We’ve lost an incredible talent, though at least he’s left behind a legacy that has inspired many people.

    April 4, 2012 at 2:42 pm

  3. Thanks! Moebius was a great worldbuilder. I really hope that his work gets published in the American market now, but I’m not sure how realistic that is.

    April 4, 2012 at 3:07 pm

  4. I have and treasure the original Heavy Metal Magazines, including the Airtight Garage…he was unparalleled and I will miss his art. Thank you Moebius for all the amazing trips you took us on.

    April 5, 2012 at 9:09 am

  5. I feel like a dick for saying this, but that first pic actually isn’t from Arzach; it’s from City of Fire, a collaborative print series Moebius did w/ Geof Darrow (another godlike artist). Darrow penciled, Moebius inked and colored.
    Superb little article.

    April 5, 2012 at 9:16 pm

  6. david w barbee

    That’s okay! You’re no dick. Researching this was a bit hard. I read that the story that pic is from ended with the protag meeting a princess of some sort who turns out to have the face of a dog. I found out just yesterday that a Blueberry MOVIE was made in the last few years.

    April 5, 2012 at 10:15 pm

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