The comics world lost one of its greatest visionaries with the passing this morning of the French artist Jean “Moebius” Giraud. One of the most influential artists of the last 40 years, Moebius died at his Paris home after a long illness at age 73. According to this interview from earlier last year, in recent years his eyesight had been failing, making working very difficult.
Under his own name, Girard drew the famed Western comic Lt. Blueberry, a masterpiece of the idealized West. As Moebius, he stretched the boundaries of both comics and consciousness with a series of mind-stretching fantasies such as Arzach, The Airtight Garage, and L’Incal, the last his collaboration with fellow explorer Alejandro Jorodowsky.
Among his most lasting achievements, Moebius co-created the French magazine METAL HURLANT, which, as HEAVY METAL in the US, blew the minds of impressionable youngsters around the world with both naughty Euro-sex and expansive science fiction.
It was mostly through this that he got his best-known work as a designer for films, including TRON, ALIEN, THE ABYSS, and THE FIFTH ELEMENT. It was through the first two alone that Moebius’s refined, lyrical vision of the universe became part of the cultural heritage of imagineers everywhere.
Just recently, the work of Moebius and his METAL HURLANT contemporaries has become a touchpoint for more recent generations of American cartoonists, led by Brandon Graham. Or as Tom Spurgeon wrote just this week:
If you’re paying close attention to what’s being written on the Internet about comics and by whom — and why wouldn’t you be? — you might process the piece as the latest by those writers and cartoonists under 35 or so to forge a connection with the strongly-crafted fantasy comics of the 1970s and 1980s, which you might then be able to interpret as something these folks are doing to craft a meaningful comics history for themselves that’s more about those comics and cartoonists and less about things like RAW and the undergrounds.
In recent years, very little of Moebius’s work has been published in English, reportedly due to contract difficulties. Here’s a rough guide to some of what is available. In the US, his best known work was probably his 1992 Silver Surfer graphic novel, written by Stan Lee and argued about in the submarine film, CRIMSON TIDE.
As soon as his death was announced, both Moebius and Jean Giraud were trending worldwide on Twitter. The outpourings of condolences have come from every sector of the comics industry, and the next few days will see more and more. Perhaps no cartoonist aside from Kirby has had such a huge visual impact on the last 50 years.
Moebius was the subject of an amazing retrospective in Paris last year. Here’s the art.
The Comics Journal has reposted Kim Thompson’s 1987 interview with the man.
Miyazaki – Through Arzach, which dates from 1975 I believe. I only met it in 1980, and it was a big shock. Not only for me. All manga authors were shaken by this work. Unfortunately when I discovered it, I already had a consolidated style. So I couldn’t use his influence to enrich my drawing. Though, even today, I think he has an awesome sense of space. I directed Nausicaä under Moebius’ influence.
Moebius – It’s true that when I saw Nausciaä… It proves that influence doesn’t matter much, what matters is that there was a community, a like-mindedness of inspiration that predated the conscious meeting, that, beyond cultures and beyond time and space, lets a person meet another one and feel synchronized with her. I was stricken not by what makes us look alike, but that people could see resemblances while so many things separates us. Mr. Miyazaki struck me because he was almost an executive, an industry director; because I know that animation cinema is an industry that demands a lot of power, since you have to lead 100, 150 or 200 people. And I’m amazed by the continued inspiration, the quality of inspiration, despite all this heavy machinery, over so many years. This I find absolutely incredible, and admire immensely. For I work alone, I am solitary.
“THE LONG TOMORROW”—a short story by Dan O’Bannon (Alien) and Moebius that much influenced BLADE RUNNER.
Ah, Moebius joins McQuarrie. I wonder what God has in pre-production, since He appears to be really stepping up His art direction.
— Dan Curtis Johnson (@dcurtisj) March 10, 2012
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.