The second creative death worth noting this last week was that of French comic artist Moebius, 1938 – 2012.
Moebius was a key figure in bringing comic art out from a juvenile market and into a more sophisticated artform, worthy of appreciation beyond adolescence.
His style and background is very European. European comics are rooted in a French style that spans French speaking Belgium and Switzerland as well as France and has played a pivotal influence on the rest of Europe. We’ll get into this in greater detail tomorrow, but suffice to say that during and after WWII American comics were either banned or extraordinarily difficult to get for many years, and so a completely different style emerged.
Jean Giraud, or Moebius began working the 1950s, when comics were still oriented solely towards a youth market, although stand outs like the wonderful Tintin were an inspiration to show the medium could be far more than silly gags and simple, plodding stories. Moebius’ first stories in the 50s were Westerns. Eventually in 1963 Moebius and writer Jean-Michel Charlier created the very successful Western character Blueberry. During his work on Blueberry through the 60s Moebius’ techniques grew in leaps in bounds and by the 70s he was ready to branch out and stretch his wings.
In 1975 Jean Giraud stopped being Jean Giraud and became Moebius, a pseudonym he had used briefly in 1963. It was the name under which he would do his science fiction and fantasy work which would explore and push the boundaries of panelled storytelling. He and a group of other comic visionaries began the famous Metal Hurlant (Heavy Metal) magazine which blew the confines of the medium wide open during the second half of the 70s and into the 80s.
American readers may be familiar with Heavy Metal magazine. However, it must be stated strongly, that the American version is not completely identical with the French. The American one was started several years after the French one when publisher Leonard Mogel saw Metal Hurlant in Paris and begged them to let him publish a licensed American version. At first the American one published mostly reproductions of the French version, but soon went its own way and became quite a different entity in terms of style and content.
Many fans of Metal Hurlant are dismissive of the US Heavy Metal or at least it’s later 80s incarnation, and while at first the US counterpart was a major breath of fresh air in the US market, the magazine grew a bit base and overindulgent in being “adult” vs. excellence of story and art. Heavy Metal did spawn Marvel comic’s absolutely astounding Epic magazine, which was more in the spirit of what the French version had been trying to do and featured vastly more inventive comics, including plenty of selections from Moebius himself, which is where i first stumbled across him.
Moebius went on to produce a long stream of sci-fi/fantasy graphic stories. His work is enormously influencial on all European comics that have come since. Euro-comics are far more sci-fi, fantasy based, with elements of visual surrealism and nary a superhero in sight. Much like Moebius’ signature work.
He did storyboards for several big movies including Aliens, Tron, The Fifth Element (always really liked that movie, ever sure why it doesn’t get more respect) and The Empire Strikes Back.
Farewell Moebius. You float through a surreal landscape now. Let’s sit back and enjoy a bit, shall we?