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Jean “Moebius” Giraud, 1938-2012

NOTE: Giraud’s astonishingly varied and lengthy career resists a simple, succinct obituary. I hope that I have managed to tame it into a coherent narrative, and have not let too many foolish mistakes slip in due to time pressure. (I feel Dan Nadel’s breath on my neck even as I finish this introduction.)

I met Jean only once, to conduct the interview that appeared (gah!) 25 years ago in The Comics Journal, and he was as sweet, modest, and affable as every other person who ever met him has reported. I have said for years now — in fact, probably since 2000, when Charles Schulz left us, and there were four — that the three greatest living cartoonists are Robert Crumb, Jacques Tardi, and Jean Giraud. In the last 48 hours, that number has shrunk to two.

Salut, Jean!

—Kim Thompson

Jean Giraud, the French cartoonist best known under his pen name “Moebius,” died Saturday in a Paris hospital after a lengthy battle with cancer, at the age of 73.

Like his namesake single-surfaced geometric figure, Giraud enjoyed two distinct careers that could be considered opposite sides of a coin, or a continuation of one another: As “Gir,” he co-created, illustrated, and eventually wrote the Western series Lt. Blueberry for over four decades, while as “Moebius,” he drew and often wrote some of the most revolutionary and dazzling science fiction comics ever created — as well as providing costume and set designs for such visually groundbreaking movies as Alien, TRON, and The Fifth Element.

Either career would have placed him at the forefront of his chosen trade; braided together into one astonishing life, the two made him indisputably one of the greatest cartoonists of the second half of the 20th century.

Giraud was considered a national treasure in his native country, and his death has been one of the major news stories there over the weekend, as virtually every practicing cartoonist joined together in mourning the passage of a true legend.

1. APPRENTICE

Born Jean Alphone Gaston Giraud on May 8th, 1938 in the Parisian suburb of Nogent-sur-Marne, the precocious Giraud, who had fed his childhood imagination with a steady diet of Franco-Belgian comics as well as (translated) Italian and American comics and strips, broke into comics before he’d turned 18 — appropriately enough with a Western strip created for the magazine Far-West. He spent his late teens and early 20s as a typical struggling cartoonist on the periphery of the field, selling the occasional story or short series to a variety of lesser publishers and magazines. (During this time he also enjoyed a nine-month stay in Mexico, whose desertscapes would have a profound impact on him, and served his mandated time in the military.)

Illustration by Jean Giraud circa 1958

In 1961, Giraud apprenticed for the great Belgian cartoonist Joseph Gillain (a.k.a. Jijé), among other jobs inking an entire episode of Gillain’s long-running Western series “Jerry Spring” for Spirou magazine. In later years, Giraud would always credit Gillain as a huge influence on his career and style (and Gillain would tip his hat to his student by painting the cover to his first published album).

 

A fan of satirical comics, Giraud kept his career simmering at the time by contributing regularly to the fledgling adult comics monthly Hara-Kiri, for which he created a handful of short, satirical strips heavily influenced by the Harvey Kurtzman MAD in its initial comics iteration) particularly as illustrated by Will Elder). But his first big success was about to drastically focus Giraud’s attention, driving him away from this type of work (and from the “Moebius” pseudonym he’d adopted for it).

2. GUN FOR HIRE

In 1963, Giraud walked into the offices of Pilote, an upstart comics weekly that had been created a few years earlier to challenge the hegemony of the Belgian powerhouses Tintin and Spirou, and then found itself perched atop a rocket when one of its features, René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo’s “Astérix,” began taking off. Giraud was greeted by Jean-Michel Charlier, the managing editor (and writer of two of Pilote’s other major series), who was, as it happens, casting about for an illustrator for the new Western series he had conceived: “Lt. Blueberry.” (Giraud would later joke that Charlier had probably accepted the editorial position in part so he could cherry-pick the most promising new cartoonists as they walked in the door.) Giraud’s portfolio, including the Gillain collaboration, proved enough of a reference for the young artist and the first installment of the first Blueberry story, “Fort Navajo,” debuted in the October, 31st edition of Pilote as the cover feature.

Thus Giraud, or as he signed himself, “Gir,” became the co-creator of what would soon be one of the landmark series of Franco-Belgian comics. Despite a few interruptions due to creative or contractual problems over the years, “Blueberry” would remain a constant in Giraud’s career, ending only four decades and 28 albums later.

As it turned out, the 1960s proved the perfect decade for an ambitious young French cartoonist to launch a Western strip. Previously a stodgy genre in which white-Stetsoned heroes bloodlessly shot revolvers out of the hands of grimacing villains, the film Western had begun to take on a darker, more violent and sexual edge beginning with Sergio Leone’s revisionist “Man With No Name” trilogy (Per un pugno di dollari, a.k.a. A Fistful of Dollars, 1964) to its full, bloody consecration with Sam Peckinpah’s groundbreaking The Wild Bunch at the end of the decade.

Combined with the 1968 liberalization of the previously strict rules governing Franco-Belgian kids’ comics that allowed them to slide into slightly more adult, or at least adolescent territory, Pilote editor-in-chief Goscinny’s willingness to push boundaries, and the general cultural ferment of the 1960s which had also penetrated the comics field (especially with Eric Losfeld’s groundbreaking releases of Jean-Claude Forest’s Barbarella and Guy Peellaert’s The Adventures of Jodelle in 1964 and 1966), the initially undistinguished “Blueberry” was allowed to morph into a relatively grubby, violent, even sexy series. (It didn’t hurt that Giraud had modeled Blueberry on the then-current icon of French cool, Jean-Paul Belmondo.)

Nor did it hurt that Giraud turned out to be one of the greatest natural talents in comics history. The first decade’s worth of “Blueberry” books showed dramatic gradual improvement, as Giraud’s drawing (unfailingly precise even as it seemed ever more effortless) was matched by a growing knack for design (especially the sophisticated integration of word balloons into the pages) and sheer narrative verve. By the end of the decade, with ten albums under his belt, Giraud was the indisputable master of the realistic adventure comic strip, and “Blueberry” the peak of the form — particularly as Giraud fought for, and eventually gained control of, the coloring of his work.

Even though he had been typecast as a Western cartoonist literally from his first strip, Giraud remained loyally devoted to science fiction and, as he continued to spend the bulk of his time on “Blueberry” (80% by his own estimate, he would say later) began indulging this taste with a series of SF-oriented illustrations and book covers, as well as contributing to a column on the subject in the pages of Pilote along with fellow aficionados Philippe Druillet (the creator of Lone Sloane) and Jean-Pierre Dionnet. This interest culminated in the watershed short story “La Déviation,” a Moebius-style fantasia that ran in a 1973 issue of Pilote (albeit still under the “Gir” signature) and signaled a radical stylistic and narrative departure for Giraud — and, indeed, for French comics in general.

Spread from La Déviation

3. HUMANOID

As flexible and dynamic as Pilote had become under Goscinny’s admirably catholic (with a small “c”) editorship — inspired by MAD magazine and recent innovations in the French comics field, he had initiated a section of satirical “current events” strips in Pilote and was introducing some startlingly contemporary cartoonists into the magazine — the tension between the cartoonists’ desires and the remaining strictures of a mass-market magazine geared at most for adolescents became intolerable.

Three of Goscinny’s star cartoonists — Claire Bretécher, Nikita Mandryka, and Marcel Gotlib — had left the magazine in 1972 to start their own underground comix-inspired adult magazine, L’Écho des savanes, and it was only a year later that another group of Pilote cartoonists, in a famously acrimonious group meeting, confronted Goscinny about their grievances. Even though Giraud would continue to draw “Blueberry,” the family feeling Goscinny had tried so hard to foster was irrevocably shattered, and a year later an embittered Goscinny stepped down from the editorship of the magazine, which soon went monthly and slid into a long decline over the next decade until it was cancelled. (Goscinny died in 1977 at the age of 51.)

And so the “Moebius” signature made its reappearance in L’Écho (in the story “White Nightmare”), and soon Giraud joined his friends Druillet and Dionnet, as well as a fourth founder Bernard Farkas, to create the similarly-formatted adult science fiction comic Métal Hurlant (and along with it its publishing arm, Les Humanoïdes Associés). For the rest of the 1970s, Giraud would divert much of his focus from “Blueberry” (which was still running in Pilote regardless of the Goscinny dust-up — in part because the series’ substantial royalties funded Giraud’s far less profitable alternative work) to focus on an astonishing run of wildly inventive series and stories for Métal, including the stunningly-colored, wordless surrealistic fantasy series “Arzach” and the whimsically disjointed, Michael Moorcock-inspired “Garage Hermétique de Jerry Cornelius,” both of which premiered, to the delight and frequent bafflement of readers, in the first issue of Métal.

Around the same time, Giraud was (along with fellow designers Chris Foss and H.R. Giger) roped into a madly ambitious and ultimately doomed project to film Frank Herbert’s Dune. But Giraud’s widely-circulated drawings for the aborted project not only provided an entrée for Giraud into the film world (Ridley Scott would later hire the same trio for his Alien movie — incidentally based on a story by Dan O’Bannon, who had written the SF noir detective short story “The Long Tomorrow,” one of Moebius’s Métal -era classics), but introduced him to someone who would turn out to be his most frequent and prized collaborator next to Charlier: The Chilean-French filmmaker, cartoonist, and all-around provocateur who had been supposed to direct this epic, Alejandro Jodorowky.

After they had collaborated on Les Yeux du Chat (published in 1978), Jodorowsky proposed to Moebius an ambitious story cycle: The Incal. Launched in 1980, the Incal saga would eventually run six volumes over the following seven years, making it the second longest of Moebius’s single works (behind “Blueberry”).

A cult filmmaker, Jodorowsky had seen his cinematic fortunes dim after the success of El Topo (he would release only one film between 1973’s The Holy Mountain and his 1989 semi-comeback Santa Sangre), but the Incal’s success allowed him to pivot to a successful and still ongoing career as the writer for a number of graphic album series, including several Incal spin-offs drawn by other hands. Giraud himself would re-team with Jodorowsky in the early 1990s for the cheerfully profane and sacrilegious three-volume La Folle du Sacré-coeur (The Madwoman of the Sacred Heart).

4. GLOBETROTTER

In 1984 Giraud moved to Los Angeles, in part to work within the film industry, and in part to oversee his work’s expansion into the American market. (Métal Hurlant had been spun off into the American Heavy Metal in 1977, where he immediately became the star artist along with Richard Corben). In particular, Marvel Comics’ Epic imprint had purchased most of Giraud’s work and released it in an expansive series of full-color albums over a period of five years from 1987 to 1991, including nine “Moebius” books focusing on his science fiction and a half-dozen more collecting all but the earliest, crudest “Blueberry” volumes.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Giraud seemed to flit from project to project, including a collaboration with Stan Lee on a Silver Surfer graphic novel; a revival of the “Garage Hermétique” world in collaborations with his agent/translator Jean-Marc Lofficier and the artists Eric Shanower and Jerry Bingham; new installments of the “Jim Cutlass” series (a short-lived Moebius-inflected Western created a decade earlier with Charlier as a replacement for “Blueberry” during a spat with Dargaud, shelved as soon as the spat was resolved) now drawn by Christian Rossi; a portfolio with the Moebius-inspired Geof Darrow; two episodes of a Little Nemo album series drawn by Bruno Marchand (inspired by the story and graphic work Giraud had provided for a full-length, Japanese-produced animated Little Nemo feature film; and more.

But Giraud’s main post-Incal work was the “Edena” cycle, a series of books spun off from Sur l’Étoile, a story initially intended as a full-length comic promotion for Citroën that became an entire cycle of graphic novels. These ecologically-minded stories showed a less cluttered, more “clean-line” style, and showcased Giraud’s increasing interest in nutrition, meditation, and crystals.

5. LEGEND

After Charlier’s death in 1989 and subsequent release of “Arizona Love,” the final Charlier/Giraud “Blueberry” album, it seemed, particularly given the sheer profusion of Giraud’s other interests and the erratic release schedule of the series in the 1980s (Giraud was well past needing the money from the series), that “Blueberry” might be dead, at least so far as Giraud was concerned. (The last few titles had taken on an undeniable air of imminent closure as well: “The Last Card” and “The End of the Trail.”) But Giraud (who had occasionally stepped in and ghosted sequences of the Charlier-era “Blueberry” when Charlier would fall behind deadline, and in fact had completed the last album after Charlier’s death) quickly returned to the series as the writer, working on a separate trilogy of “Marshall Blueberry” prequel albums with first the veteran artist William Vance (XIII) and then Michel Rouge. (The endlessly exploitable Blueberry was also featured in a still-ongoing “Jeunesse de Blueberry” spinoff in which Giraud was not involved. An intriguing-sounding “Blueberry 1900” series proposal featuring an older Blueberry which Giraud had developed for François Boucq to draw was shot down by Charlier’s heirs due to its focus on drug use and shamanism — elements that turned up again in Jan Kounen’s widely panned 2004 film Blueberry, l’expérience secrète which, perhaps not coincidentally, Giraud, although not part of the official creative team, supported and provided a cameo for).

But this turned out to be just a prelude to the five-volume “Mister Blueberry” storyline, which Giraud wrote and drew between 1995 and 2005 and which, aside from wrapping up his “Edena” and “Madwoman” cycles, turned out to be his major work in this period — a late-career return to the 1960s-era dominance of “Blueberry” on his drawing table.

Injecting Blueberry into the legendary “O.K. Corral” storyline already popularized by countless movies and books, Giraud delivered a surprisingly “classic” novel-length story, although he puckishly wrote the entire first volume with Blueberry sidelined from the action throughout, finally getting up from the poker table at which he had spent the entire album only to be shot down and (maybe) killed on the last page. It was a fitting last hurrah for one of the all-time great comics characters.

6. FULL CIRCLE

For what would turn out to be the last decade of his life, Giraud would, with the “Mister Blueberry” cycle behind him, mostly devote himself to Inside Moebius, a self-published (under the “Stardom” imprint run by his wife) six-volume series of loosely drawn, meditative diary-type albums in which Giraud himself interacted with his characters, his younger self, and the occasional real-world person such as Osama Bin Laden, set in endless desertscapes that were probably not far from the Mexican vistas he’d enjoyed a half century earlier. (Stardom had also brought forth, since 1996, a flood of art books and portfolios devoted to the artist.)

Although he also wrote a few books for other cartoonists (Icare a.k.a Icarus for the Japanese cartoonist Jiro Taniguchi and Altor for Marc Bati), and (somewhat inexplicably) drew a fill-in episode of the mainstream thriller series XIII, it seemed for a while that Giraud had created his last story — until the 2008 release of Major Fatal: Le chasseur déprime (again released by Stardom), a spectacular, black-and-white return to the playful, elaborate mythology of the “Garage Hermétique” world from the Métal Hurlant days. The signatures on the pages, which ran from 2005 to 2008 (with a handful of pages as far back as 1998), hinted at a long, meandering development, but the visually and narratively eclectic results dovetailed nicely with the “Garage” concept — and readers were grateful for the first real new “pure” Moebius narrative album since the somewhat disappointing end of the “Edena” cycle seven years earlier.

Even more striking, this was followed, in 2010, by Arzak: L’Arpenteur, a freewheeling, full-color science fiction adventure — his most narratively straightforward work to appear uder the “Moebius” credit in years — that brought back his iconic Métal Hurlant character and dropped him into an elaborate science-fiction potboiler. Arzak was intended to run for three annual volumes, and the first one ended on a cliffhanger, but 2011 came and went without the second installment (for what are now sadly obvious reasons); how far Giraud might have gotten on it before being sidetracked by his illness is not known yet. And it seems fitting that his obituary would end with, in essence, “to be continued…”

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59 Responses to Jean “Moebius” Giraud, 1938-2012

  1. Pingback: Rest in Peace: Jean “Moebius” Giraud (8 May 1938 – 10 March 2012) » Ragged Claws Network

  2. patrick ford says:

    Is there a definitive answer as to why there is almost nothing by Giraud in print in English?
    At this moment I think there is nothing in print except for the new “Madwoman of the Sacred Heart.”
    The two stories I hear most often are:
    Marvel controls the rights.
    Giraud and his wife control the rights.

    • michael says:

      a lot of the early and best stuff was published in Heavy Metal magazine. Arzac is silent, but the Airtight Garage was all translated. The first few years of Heavy Metal are a who’s who of the best seventies European panel art. You might think it a waste to have the whole magazine with only a few pages of Moebius, but one of the great things about them is seeing just how influential was Moebius’ style. Bilal and Manara’s early pieces in the magazine, to name just two, were basically rip-offs of Moebius’ style. worth wading through the dross.

  3. Tony says:

    Humanoids official statement from a few months back:

    http://marvelmasterworksfansite.yuku.com/sreply/484632/HUMANOIDS-SUPER-DELUXE-BOOKS

    “Many people have asked us during these past years why Humanoids hasn’t released the incredible works that Moebius created alone (without Jodorowsky) during his tenure at Metal Hurlant, and that are widely considered not only his best, but some of the most interesting work ever done in the European comics scene.

    Well, the answer is simple: unlike the rest of the world, in order to be able to publish these works in English (and in Japanese), Humanoids needs to get a formal approval by Moebius, or to be more precise by Moebius’ second wife, Isabelle Giraud, who acts as his business representative. It seems that despite repeated demands during these past years, the English speaking territories are not a significant concern of theirs. It is an unfortunate and very frustrating situation for us just as it is for many, many English language readers worldwide. There is nothing more we can do on our end, BUT we encourage you to launch a petition addressed to Moebius directly in order to get his attention to this real issue. Maybe with your help, we can make the english speaking territories a concern to all those involved.”

    • Lou Copeland says:

      Mr. Giraud’s wife has long held the blame for a lack of English language collections of his work, and there’s been accusations of greed and obstinacy flying around for quite some time. I’ve always given the couple the benefit of the doubt and held on to the impression that there are no works of his currently available in English because English language publishers won’t offer him a payment/royalty structure are above being just plain insulting. For whatever reason, I think Mr. Giraud has been exasperated with the American comics market for quite some time. Maybe someone not connected with publishing who has some of the facts could shed some light on this.

      • Tony says:

        Well, I don’t know if this guy has any fact or can shed any light, but…

        http://herocomplex.latimes.com/2011/04/02/moebius-on-his-art-fading-eyesight-and-legend-i-am-like-a-unicorn/#IDComment176519659

        Ray Zone (le Francé):

        “Here’s a compressed version of the dirt:
        M., the great artist, has been latched-onto by a notoriously wretched parasite (known all over France under a horrible nickname) whom he web some 15 years ago – she gradually began to tare away at ALL his business relations, as is frequently the case in bad clichés involving a younger bride, and that included the partners of his whom you mention, but many more. Because the parasite is incompetent, she did not exactly go into battle with savvy, and this has led her and her artist husband into some rather ridiculous, pathetic and often self-defeating lawsuits (including one against Luc Besson for plagiarism on the 5th Element, years after M. had signed and agreed to work on the same film). Also because she is uneducated, paranoid, and “manages” everything on her own, it is nearly impossible for anyone to deal with her (on this side of the pond, and all the more in France, where people are much more aware of the situation) – and THAT more than anything is why you are not likely to see any more reprints or translations of his work outside of France. No one in her circle is currently mentally able to negotiate anything in the English language, or in the ‘reasonable’ language…There is a lot of narrow-minded thinking at play, all told, and regrettably for the beloved master, he suffers and waffles through it all, sheepishly, until the bitter end. Or to quote him about it, “I know, I inspire only pity!” That’s the gist of it.
        I might close by saying that although I must sound biased in my description, I have no personal stake in any of this. I do not know any of these people personally… But should you visit any comic book store or setting related to the graphic art world in France, you will be amazed to see the unanimity you encounter, albeit perhaps less informed, regarding this terrible, terrible situation which is so ‘textbook’ it should be taught in school. Art School!
        He is a superb artist, but he is known to be utterly self-defeating in countless ways. “

    • patrick ford says:

      I saw that and find it curious Humanoids chose to publish their “official statement” at The Marvel Masterworks” site.
      That is a place where people using socks routinely claim to be attorneys, comic book professionals, former publishers, etc..

  4. Pingback: The Moebius Post for People Who Don’t Know Moebius | Blog of the North Star

  5. patrick ford says:

    BTW. If that is really the “Official Statement” from Humanoids the person who wrote it is an idiot.
    First it lays the blame on Giraud’s wife, who is stupidly described as his “second wife.” Assume it is Giraud’s wife who his managing the publication of Giraud’s work. What is to be gained by seeming to publicly pointing a finger at her, and what is the point of “second wife?”
    Second the phrase “despite repeated demands” is insulting.
    Third the idea mounting a petition directed at Giraud and his wife is equally insulting.
    In short the post sounds like some passive aggressive bullshit written by a typical comic book fan who is outraged at the thought all creative work isn’t owned by Publishers.

    • Kim Thompson says:

      It was not handled gracefully, no (to put it mildly). But I suspect also the Humanoids are being constantly barraged by a flow of “why aren’t you re-releasing this material?” questions. Speaking as a publisher I know it can get frustrating to be constantly harried and upbraided about one’s dunderheaded failure to publish something that everyone agrees needs to be published, or has been announced, when it’s really completely out of your hands at that point. There’s a note of trying-to-break-the-logjam desperation in the Humanoids’ statement for which I feel some empathy.

      • patrick ford says:

        Frustration I understand. Saying things which are bound to make matters more difficult I don’t and particulalry when it’s an official statement, not something dashed off in frustration.
        I still don’t understand why this “official statement” was published at The Marvel Masterworks” message board. How can we be certain it’s genuine?

      • Tony says:

        You’re being too suspicious. The “Collected Editions Discussion Forums” (that’s the official name) may suffer from sock-puppetry and tomfoolery like any message board, but there are many real people and even professionals from Marvel and other companies posting there, including the guy who did the Kirby Romance Fantagraphics book, who was involved in a kerfuffle with the editor of the Simon-sanctioned Titan Books over the promotion and legitimacy of the book:

        http://marvelmasterworksfansite.yuku.com/reply/506898/Young-Romance–Best–Simon-Kirby-s-1940s-50s-Romance-Comics#reply-506898

        On the topic at hand, a user called “Humanoids Inc.” registered there in a thread I started devoted to Humanoids super-deluxe books, and posted the aforementioned statement in response to a question from me. Before that, he introduced himself thus:

        http://marvelmasterworksfansite.yuku.com/sreply/484024/HUMANOIDS-SUPER-DELUXE-BOOKS

        “Hey guys

        I love the feedback a lot of you are giving. I came across this site when looking at the usage stats for the Humanoids facebook and noticed a lot of traffic was originating from here. Only thing I ask is if you’re linking to images directly from the Facebook page or main site, could you link to the album instead so people are actually checking out the facebook as we try to do a lot to interact with the fans there and hold promotional contests (We just gave away a free signed copy of the Tikitis this week) Obviously I can’t force anyone to do this, as it is the internet, but It’s just a request :-)

        I only browsed some of the threads but I will try to check here every few days and answer questions. You will always have a better chance of getting a quick response by posting on our FaceBook wall as that goes to my phone and the other admins who check that daily.”

  6. Kim Thompson says:

    Without going into detail (because this is hardly the time or place to complain about this) I can confirm from personal experience the Humanoids statement about the English-language bottleneck occurring as the Girauds’ level, and it was indeed frustrating. But in retrospect I don’t think anyone knows to what degree Jean’s illness may have monopolized the couple’s focus for the last several years, especially given how hands-on they were, to their credit I think, with quality control and oversight of how his work was presented.

    But the point is worth making that the otherwise baffling paucity of Giraud/Moebius work available in English definitely does not stem from a lack of interest among English-language publishers.

    • patrick ford says:

      It’s good to know Giraud and his wife control the rights.
      Again though, no matter the particulars, as Kim says there is no reason to air them in public, further this is just one more example of how many comic book fans think.
      If an artist doesn’t get top dollar for his work he’s a “poor businessman.” If an artist doesn’t protect is copyrights he’s a “poor businessman.”
      If an artist does try and negotiate the best possible terms for his work, or tries to protect his copyrights the artists is “greedy.”
      On the other hand is “Big Brother Publisher” aggressively protects copyrights they have obtained that’s just awesome.

      • Tony says:

        It’s difficult to know what kind of “control of the rights” Giraud and his wife have, because the “bottleneck” is only for the English-language rights of some, not all, of Moebius oeuvre.

        Humanoides France have been aggresively reprinting all the Moebius stuff in French for the last year or so, in different formats and configurations, and licensing the same stuff for other languages such as Spanish and Portuguese.

        America is the only exception to their extensive exploitation of these works.

      • Kim Thompson says:

        Not that difficult: They control the rights, period. Clearly at one point the U.S. (and according to the Humanoids statement, Japan) was separated out from the Humanoides’ overall ability to license out the material at will. (Whether this has to do with lingering Marvel Epic rights, Heavy Metal rights, or was just the Charliers wanting to keep this particular territory more tightly controlled, who knows?)

  7. Tony says:

    BTW, I don’t really know what’s “inexplicable” about the King of Franco-Belgian comics drawing not “a fill-in episode” but the Grand Finale, “the-big-mistery-is-finally-explained” episode, of the biggest smash-hit of Franco-Belgian BD.

    Specially, when he has nothing but high praise for the series and its creators:

    http://www.actuabd.com/La-Version-irlandaise-de-XIII-l-album-secret-de-Giraud-Van-Hamme

    «Jean Giraud a immédiatement mordu à l’hameçon : Il admirait cette série depuis longtemps. »

    «XIII est la première BD de ce genre. Jean Van Hamme a compris les ficelles de ce type de récit : cela ne peut fonctionner que si l’histoire se situe sur le continent américain et met en scène des organisations étatiques américaines, telles que la CIA ou la NSA. Dès que l’on sort de ce carcan, on perd en crédibilité ».

    «Jean Van Hamme, lui est un horloger du scénario. Il travaille dans le calme et avec méticulosité ».

    «J’ai essayé de me mettre dans les pas de William Vance»

    ________________________

    Jean Giraud has admired this series for a long time.

    “XIII is the premiere comic of this genre.”

    “Jean Van Hamme is a watchmaker of the script.”

    “I tried to follow in the steps of William Vance”

    • Kim Thompson says:

      Be that all as it may, I still find it an inexplicable use of Giraud’s talents and a weird insult to the integrity of the XIII series, mainstream pop-culture potboiler or no. If it were in a world (like American comics) where fill-ins and artist changes are par for the course, that would be one thing (a Moebius Silver Surfer is fine, Denzel Washington to the contrary notwithstanding), but this was just strange. I think it’s actually unique in the history of Franco-Belgian comics (which may be why Giraud found the idea appealing). But if Giraud, Vance, Van Hamme and the readers were all happy with it, it’s not like I’m complaining. I’m just saying it was strange.

      • Tony says:

        For good or worse, it’s not really that unique (Spirou, Lucky Luke, Black & Mortimer, Thorgal…), and increasingly less and less so in the French market (although I think still light-years apart from the American anything-goes model), but point taken.

        To me it was strange too, but in a good way, even as a kind of final treat/compensation for the decline of the series in its later instalments.

        Of course, they already had launched an spin-off prequel series and a continuation of the main book, so the integrity of the series will continue to be compromised in the altar of the €uro.

      • ant says:

        Explain Denzel Washington reference, please.

      • Rob Clough says:

        It’s from the film Crimson Tide, where there’s an argument on a submarine about who drew the best Silver Surfer–Jack Kirby or Moebius. Quentin Tarantino wrote that very odd scene.

      • Kim Thompson says:

        From CRIMSON TIDE, in a scene written by Quentin Tarantino.

        Hunter (Denzel Washington): Rivetti, what’s up?
        Petty Officer First Class Danny Rivetti: I’m sorry, Sir. It’s just a difference of opinion that got out of hand.
        Hunter: What about?
        Petty Officer First Class Danny Rivetti: It’s really too silly to talk about, Sir. I’d really just forget about…
        Hunter: I don’t give a damn about what you’d rather forget about. Why were you two fighting?
        Petty Officer First Class Danny Rivetti: I said, the Kirby Silver Surfer was the only real Silver Surfer. And that the Moebius Silver Surfer was shit. And Bennefield’s a big Moebius fan. And it got of hand. I pushed him. He pushed me. I lost my head, Sir. I’m Sorry.
        Hunter: Rivetti, you’re a supervisor. You can get a commission like that.
        [Snaps finger]
        Petty Officer First Class Danny Rivetti: I know, Sir. You’re 100 percent right. It will never happen again.
        Hunter: It better not happen again. If I see this kind of nonsense again, I’m going to write you up. You understand?
        Petty Officer First Class Danny Rivetti: [No answer]
        Hunter: Do you understand?
        Petty Officer First Class Danny Rivetti: Yes, Sir.
        Hunter: You have to set an example even in the face of stupidity. Everybody who reads comic books knows that the Kirby Silver Surfer is the only true Silver Surfer. Now am I right or wrong?
        Petty Officer First Class Danny Rivetti: You’re right, Sir.
        Hunter: Now get out of here.
        Petty Officer First Class Danny Rivetti: Yes, Sir.

  8. The Silver Surfer book is due for a hardcover release in May. Moebius’ story is inexplicably paired with something called the Enslavers, apparently. Three of his books with Jodorowsky being re-released in the past year by Humanoids is certainly an improvement, but even those seem to already be heading out of print fast at high prices. The Incal collection is also due to be reprinted in May, however.

    Otherwise. It’s a crime. Yes.

    Thanks for writing this Kim.

  9. Pingback: The Strips of Moebius Go On Forever | SVA Library Blog

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  11. bkmunn says:

    Kim, I think it was a black and white reproduction of that image of the falling John DeFool, accompanying your article on Moebius in CJ #71 I think, that sent me tumbling down the rabbit hole of his work when I was a teenager. Thank you for that early introduction and thanks for this lovely, thorough obit!

    Such a great artist. Loved watching that video of Moebius drawing with Hugo Pratt, Kubert and Neal Adams that Tom Spurgeon linked to the other day. Effortless facility with a sense of fun.

    Besides his disciples in American superhero comics and Heavy Metal, I think we can number the Hernandez Bros among those he influenced.

  12. This is the best Internet biography of Moebius I’ve seen. Kudos.

  13. Pingback: R.I.P. Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud « Wow Cool

  14. Eric Reynolds says:

    The Kirby / Moebius debate in that submarine movie always rung false to me. Why those two? Why not Kirby vs. Buscema? Or Ditko Spider-Man vs. Romita? It always seemed weirdly random to draw a line in the sand with those two references.

  15. Plamen Petkov says:

    At first I thought he was a fabulous artist, but lately I have found numerous examples of the photos which he swiped from. Many, many examples.

    here is 1 example:
    the original photo: http://i306.photobucket.com/albums/nn265/petkov00/hondo_ralph_taeger_lee_h_katzin_003_jpg_cxjj.jpg
    his swipe
    http://i306.photobucket.com/albums/nn265/petkov00/9782205043372_11.jpg
    I can provide many others

  16. Phillip Dokes says:

    If you find a photo ref for the world he created, i’ll bite. Keith Giffen he hardly is, sheissh…..

    • Kim Thompson says:

      It’s an utter non-scandal. If you’re swiping from other cartoonists you’re grabbing all the interpretation and stylization the artist came up with to transfer it into a different medium: That’s horse of a different color. A photo is fair game. And if you gave that same photo to 99 other cartoonists and Giraud, Giraud’s would be the best of the 1,000.

      (I understand some respected painters didn’t actually make up their landscapes, cityscapes, and portraits in their head, but stole them from the real world, too. Mona Lisa was a real person! Leonardo, you’re BUSTED.)

      • R. Maheras says:

        While I’ve always though photos were fair game (especially for accurately drawing inanimate objects or getting anatomical shadow references correct), early on I realized they could be a crutch — which is why I find so much of today’s photo-realistic comic book work unappealing. To be honest, mastering photo-realistic art is a skill most decent artists learn early on.

        The real trick for a good-to-great artist is to create people, things and environments that never existed, and do so in a believable way. Giraud was a genius at doing that, and even if he used some photos along the way, he blended such swipes into his work so well, the end result was beautiful — and seamless.

      • DerikB says:

        “The real trick for a good-to-great artist is to create people, things and environments that never existed, and do so in a believable way.”

        To think of all the great-to-genius artists that didn’t do that… to not even get into arguable names (and not all ones I love): Van Gogh, Monet, Hiroshige, Turner…

      • R. Maheras says:

        I was talking comics, but whatever — Hiroshige’s stuff is kind of comic bookish, so I’ll bite.

        Actually, as impressionists, ALL the artists you mention created environments that really did not exist.

      • DerikB says:

        “Actually, as impressionists, ALL the artists you mention created environments that really did not exist.”

        Geez, that Van Gogh show I just saw filled with paintings of the landscape in the French countryside must have made up all that stuff about how he painted from the landscape and plants around him.

        And that whole “en plain air” painting that the Impressionists popularized must be a myth.

        The point is that artists rely on reality. Even when you are making something up, it is rarely (if ever) not coming from some existing reality. It may be interpretation of reality, it may be altering reality, but it comes from reality. Kind of like using a photo as a reference and making a drawing of it. Now that can be done poorly, but that’s a separate issue. The elevation of “making stuff up” is as bad as the elevation of “write what you know”.

      • R. Maheras says:

        Tell that to an artist like Steve Ditko. His netherworld in Dr. Strange wasn’t based on any reality I’ve ever seen. Ditto for Kirby some of Kirby’s creations. It’s far harder for an artist to create the fantastic if they rely heavily on models for a crutch.

        And what you fail to realize about your impressionistic examples is that they are NOT examples of photorealistic art, which is what my original comment was based upon.

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  18. Pingback: RIP Moebius (1938-2012) « See Hatfield

  19. Mike Hunter says:

    —————————-
    R. Maheras says:

    …Actually, as impressionists, ALL the artists you mention created environments that really did not exist.
    —————————–

    Van Gogh’s Starry Night: http://images.fineartamerica.com/images-medium/van-gogh-starry-night-vincent-van-gogh.jpg

    A “real world” starry night: http://play2survive.files.wordpress.com/2008/09/night-sky.jpg

    Vincent’s Starry Night over the Rhone contrasted with a “similar view of the site” at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starry_Night_Over_the_Rhone , where we read “In reality the view depicted in the painting faces away from Ursa Major, which is to the north…”

    In all fairness, a brilliant blur of color by Turner might likewise have been inspired by real-world “people, things and environments,” but is so massively transformed it’d be barely recognizable.

    And, to further nitpick DerickB’s argument, Russ’ “The real trick for a good-to-great artist is to create people, things and environments that never existed, and do so in a believable way” was set up as a contrast to artists limited by the crutch of depending on photo references to create verisimilitude in settings, characters and costumes.

    Alas, even otherwise gifted artists who are called upon to create “things and environments that never existed” may run afoul of this particular lack in their imagination. There was a spectacularly, unintentionally goofy panel — with incredibly silly-ass “futuristic” clothing — from an EC comic in the original printed TCJ interview of the great John Severin (that panel missing in the online version, alas) to illustrate his saying that he wasn’t very good at doing science fiction. Much of that genre, of course, demanding an ability to create “things and environments that never existed.”

  20. Dana Mongoven says:

    Moebius’ painting of Jimi Hendrix eating some alien food is an all-time favorite image of mine.

    http://preamp.us/galaxy09/2008/08/236/

  21. John M. Simmons Jr. says:

    Hey guys, just give up on English translations and learn French OK! The stuff was written in French and should be read that way, or just look at the pictures and be happy – if that’s not good enough, I’ve created this cool tracing paper that you can overlay any page with and it will automatically translate the text into whatever language you want…be seeing you Jean!

  22. Pingback: Salut, Jean! | Thoughts on Everything under the Sun or I am a guilty Secularist

  23. Scott Grammel says:

    Well, I just read another over-the-top obituary for Moebius, and it once again made me regret that I didn’t (I recently realized) save the particular Funnybook Roulette column in which Fiore quite devastatingly took on some of Moebius’ later works. If memory serves, it was only a short paragraph, but it succeeded in putting any doubts I still harbored about those unread efforts to final rest. Or, until recently, anyway.

    Yes, getting the whole Incal together finally in a good — great, even, actually — hardcover collection has allowed me to scratch that one off my personal Grail Comics list (a small one and getting smaller, quickly, now that I just got a large tabloid Spirit section with his “Sound” story, for which I paid stupid money), but other than that, I can’t say I’ve otherwise found the lack of good hardcover collections of his work all that painful. I’d still like to read his last six Blueberry albums, both for the better, later drawing and for it being written by him as well. Now that I’ve heard about them, I’m intrigued by the six Inside Moebius and that last Arzack book. Plus that one orphan Incal follow-up, too, sure.

    But I have to say, seeing lots and lots of Moebius’ single images in the last few days, I didn’t find myself thinking of great artists like Picasso or Matisse as much as Peter Max and Folon, both artists whose work gave me real pleasure in their commercial heydays, but not, I’m afraid, momentous artistic geniuses.

    I don’t care that he was, it seems, a very nice man. Krigstein was assuredly a prick, but it doesn’t affect my reading of “In The Bag” one iota. As for the frequent and great emphasis put on Moebius work in films and/or his work’s influence on sci-fi films and books, etc., it would be hard for me to care less (I’m glad talented people work in films on sets and costumes and design, get recognition in industry circles, and get paid well for their efforts, but I don’t check tcj.com because of any particularly strong interest in same).

    Jean Giraud, aka Moebius, drew like a dream, and like so many others, my younger self feasted on the sheer dazzling and voluptuous beauty of his work when I first encountered it. Yet the stories that left a long-lasting and favorable impression were not the pantomimed Arzack shorts, the stream-of-consciousness “Airtight Garage” episodes, or the assorted shorter fantasy/sci-fi pieces, all of which were both written and gorgeously drawn by him, but “The Long Tomorrow,” scripted by Dan O’Bannon, and the Jodorowsky-penned Incal stories. I’m dealing in most cases here with pretty old memories, so it probably isn’t quite as completely cut and dried as I’m making it seem right now, but the evidence of that minimal memory is in itself somewhat telling.

    I should have quoted the unnamed blogger to begin with here, as it would’ve made it seem a little less like I was spontaneously picking a fight over the deceased during the memorial service, but it was late and I’d been cowardly putting this off too long. So.

  24. dutrey jacques says:

    The best overview of GIRAUD/GIR/GYR/MOEBIUS career in American English I’ve read so far. Congratulations, Kim!

    The first Blueberry picture, part of the cover of the first album, is by Jijé, his mentor. A nice touch for the cognocenti, Kim.

    There were rumors among the Gillain heirs that Isabelle Giraud would veto the reprint of the Jerry Spring story Giraud inked (with corrections by Gillain), on the ground that Giraud never got any royalties on it, but they found the old apprenticeship contract (Giraud got paid for his work, but waved future rights) and problems were solved.

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  26. Pingback: Goodbye Moebius… | Two Dimension Podcast

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  28. Hervé says:

    Hello!

    Great post from Jean Giraud/Moebius.Very impressive.
    A sad lost .Jean Giraud was a real master,a wonderful artist .A very kind person too.
    He realized one drawing for me in the past.It was so magical to watch his hand creating a face of Blueberry!

  29. Pingback: Federico Fellini, Born 94 Years Ago Today, Writes a Gushing Letter to Legendary Cartoonist, Moebius –

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