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 Alien, Tron, 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.