20 March 2012

Jean Giraud "Moebius" (1938-2012)

On March 10, 2012 the comic and art world lost a living legend in prolific illustrator Jean Henri Gaston Giraud, more widely known as the singular moniker Moebius. Anyone with even a fleeting interest in fantasy and science fiction in the late 20th century has felt Giraud's broad influence. His film contributions alone are immense, contributing storyboards and concept designs to the films Alien, Willow, Tron, Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland, and The Fifth Element.

It is, perhaps, his comic work that defines him -- from co-founding Métal Hurlant which would translate into the long-running English science fiction magazine Heavy Metal, to his own ambitious independent titles: Blueberry, Azrach, The Incal, and the Airtight Garage of Jerry Cornelius. But it is perhaps his work on Marvel's own space philosopher that sealed his legend. In just two issues, Stan Lee and Moebius' Silver Surfer: Parable depicted a showdown between the Surfer and intergalactic devourer of worlds, Galactus, that has since defined the character on par with creator Jack Kirby himself.

Having read several obituaries and tributes over the past week, it seems that most fans in their early thirties and on have a similar story regarding their introduction to Moebius. I am no different. As far back as middle school, I had been fascinated with an illustration of late guitarist Jimi Hendrix eating a surreal bowl of soup floating out of its own dish in psychedelic appendages as smoke billows from Hendrix's own purple afro that graced the cover of a double album import of Are You Experienced / Axis: Bold As Love. Eventually I would discover the work credited to a single name: Moebius.

Already, I recognized his style on the screen (or rather, the video rental store), in Ralph Bakshi's animated science-fantasy Wizards and, of course, in comic books. The cover of SS: Parable was everywhere -- on ads and t-shirts -- and his detailed abstract style was so apparent in the works of Geof Darrow (Hard Boiled, Big Guy and Rusty the Boy Robot) and Frank Quitely (All-Star Superman, New X-Men) and in the anime of Hayao Miyazaki's Studio Gibli (Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke). It's no wonder blogs like Comic Twart and What Not are abundant with illustrated homages to the artist.

Brazilian author Paulo Coelho appropriately eulogized, "the great Moebius died today, but the great Moebius is still alive. Your body died today, your work is more alive than ever." Jean Giraud was 73. His work can be found in the collected volumes Moebius 0-9 and several editions and reprints of his comics and art.

Watch a bittersweet video of the master in action below:


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