I was genuinely very upset when I heard that Moebius, aka Jean Giraud, had passed away a couple of days ago. It’s always sad news when you hear that someone respected or well known, an entertainer or a celebrity whose work you particularly enjoyed, has died. But it rarely actually upsets me. After all, I didn’t know them. They were great for whatever they did and it’s a loss that they’re gone, but it has no literal personal emotional effect on me.
But with Moebius it did.
For those of you that don’t know (and I doubt there are many) Jean Giraud was (and still is) a comics legend. He is one of the big names, a dude you would mention in the same breath as Jack Kirby, Will Eisner or Katsuhiro Otomo. He created the rich and gorgeous Blueberry, a western that was vast in scope and length under the pseudonym Gir. He illustrated the epic saga The Incal written by Alejandro Jodorowsky which remains in my top 3 comic books of all time. He then went on to create genre-defining artwork in the sci-fi/fantasy/dreamscape domain and quite literally has shaped and defined every aspect of modern sci-fi and space opera that you think looks cool. He worked on Tron and Star Wars, Dune and Alien. He created worlds, characters and designs that blew everyone’s minds at the time and whose influence are still filtering through in modern media.
But at the same time he was creating his own stories, his own worlds. Reading these works such as The Airtight Garage or The Gardens of Aedena is like an inspiration overload. Every panel explodes enough concepts for a hundred films. His nonsensical, dream logic approach makes everything both make sense and appear like utter nonsense. But never ANYTHING except brilliant and expertly drawn. Literally anything goes. He drew like a poet, wrote like a sculptor, and told stories like a madman genius and he never put a line wrong.
When I first discovered Moebius I did not know what to do with myself. I was completely knocked for six.
One not so involved in comics would be forgiven for thinking that inside a medium so defined, it would be nearly impossible to do something particularly different or special. After all, we all have to use panels, lines and colours right? But as those in the business know, the world of comics is nearly as rich and varied as the world itself.
So if we were to imagine that the entirety of comics, all of its wide stylistic spectrum and incalculable layers of influence, is the world. The immensely exciting, hugely differentiated world we live in today with its amazing wildlife, geography, laws of physics and cultural variety. The world we know and love right now.
In that analogy, Moebius would be a wizard. In a world without magic, constrained by what we know of science and the laws of the universe, Moebius is the only man in that world who could manipulate light with his hands, bend time and space with a thought and lived on the moon in a bungalow on legs… called Eric.
A spike of astonishing genius in an already incredible and awe-inspiring world.
That was the effect he had on me when I first discovered his work. It was sheer wonderment; it was a lack of belief of what he was able to do with the page, with his lines, with MY MIND! He broke rules and made new ones in their place, he created windows into places that shouldn’t exist and he made worlds that you never got sick of exploring.
I first discovered him by buying The Airtight Garage on a whim off Ebay. I got a really old battered copy but still ended up paying about £30 for it in a vicious bidding war. I knew at that point that I was onto something good. I put it straight in my bag as I was going on a long train ride in a couple of days and I wanted to get lost in it as I travelled. As the bag sat in the corner of my room before my trip, I could feel it radiating a strange energy. It wanted me to read it, it was the closest thing to real magic I’ve ever felt. A sort of coalesced anticipation and excitement that I could have cut into slices and served to my cats.
I will never forget that train ride. The book blew me away; I was the kid in the never-ending story. There were pages between the story that were written by Jean talking about his process. How he would draw a couple of pages and set up a ridiculous circumstance or cliff-hanger and then put them away for a couple of months. Then when he came back to them he had to story-craft his way out of this crazy narrative challenge he’d built for himself. It kept the story dynamic and changeable and made it impossible to put down. Awesome.
I was lucky enough to get to a huge exhibition of his work about a year ago in Paris. What turned out to be the last major exhibition of his before his death. I wasn’t to know that, at that point of course. I heard about it rather late from a magazine and wanted to go more than anything but living in the UK with barely a penny to afford a holiday, however small, put doubts in my mind about how possible it would be. But that anticipation magic was at work again and I knew I was going to go. My awesome lady found a way to get a super cheap coach to and from Paris. It was a ridiculously long ride and incredibly uncomfortable. We were in and out of Paris inside 24 hours. No hotel. No weekend of relaxation or enjoyment. It was COACH MOEBIUS COACH. It was the only way we could do it. We were knackered but it was amazing. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life.
I will never forget that.
All of this is why I was genuinely upset when I heard the news. My work, the comics I draw and the art I create is more ME than anything else. Even my face! I pour so much of myself into what I do, that my head is a maelstrom of my stories and worlds… and my influences.
Moebius had such a profound effect on my art and my work ethic that he has become emotionally entwined into my artwork, into my process, into my outlook on life, as all of that is influenced by and serves to influence, my work.
To me and my small perspective he is massive. He was a great man, a phenomenal artist and I am genuinely gutted that I will never meet him so I can tell him all of this.
However, I’m pretty confident that on the crystal beach he is now chilling out on, at the edge of the time disc, he has fired up the Laser Accelerated Spectro View, and he is reading all the amazing tributes from all the people whose lives he has had an incalculable amount of influence on.
Mine is now amongst them and so… I salute you sir! Your influence will last forever. The Moebius strip really is infinite.