Monday, March 12, 2012

The Late Great Moebius

French comics artist Moebius passed on 10 March 2012 at the age of 73. The cause was cancer.

Moebius was born Jean Giraud on 8 May 1938 in Nogent-sur-Marne, Val-de-Marne, France. His parents divorced when he was only three years old and he was primarily raised by grandparents. When he was 16 he began studying at the École nationale supérieure des arts appliqués et des métiers d'art in Paris. It was there that he started creating Western comics. By the time he was 18 his Western comic strip Frank et Jeremie was being published in Far West magazine. From 1956 he was also published in Coeurs Valiants magazine. Among his comic strips published there was King of the Buffalo. It was in his early twenties that he apprenticed under Belgian artist Jije. Moebius assisted Jije on the Western comic strip Jerry Spring.

It was in 1962 that writer Jean-Michel Charlier and Moebius began the Western comic strip Fort Navajo for the magazine Pilote. In 1963 Moebius and writer writer Jean-Michel Charlier their most successful comic strip, Les Aventures de Blueberry. The hero of the strip was a United States Cavalry lieutenant whose nickname was "Blueberry." The comic strip proved enormously successful. The last edition was published in 2005. Moebius remained with Les Aventures de Blueberry until 1973, when he left the strip in the hands of Colin Wilson, Michel Rouge and later Michel Blanc-Dumont (Moebius would return to the strip a decade later).

While Moebius was most perhaps most famous for his work in Western comic strips in his native France, he may have been most famous for his work in science fiction and fantasy in the United States. From 1963 to 1964 he did 21 science fiction and fantasy strips in the magazine Hara-Kiri. It was here that he first used the pseudonym "Moebius." He would not use "Moebius" again for another ten years. It was in 1975 that Moebius, fellow artist Philippe Druillet,journalist-writer Jean-Pierre Dionnet, and financial director Bernard Farkas founded the magazine Métal Hurlant (literally "Screaming Metal"). Both of Moebius' serials The Airtight Garage of Jerry Cornelius (based on the work of Michael Moorcock)and Arzach were first published in Métal Hurlant. Métal Hurlant would inspire an American version of the magazine known as Heavy Metal, first published in 1977.

In 1977 Moebius and Mr. Charlier had a disagreement with their publishing company Darguad over Les Aventures de Blueberry. As a result they created the Western comic Jim Cutlass. In 1981 Moebius created the science fiction serial L'Incal with Alejandro Jodorowsky. When Jean-Michel Charlier died in 1989, Moebius tookk over the scripting duties on Les Aventures de Blueberry. From 2000 to 2010 Moebius published an autobiographical fantasy entitled Inside Moebius.

Moebius was also well known for his work in film. Starting with Alien (1979), he provided art and graphic designs for such films as Les maîtres du temps (1982), TRON (1982), Willow (1988), Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland (1989), and The Fifth Element (1997).

In many respects it is difficult to describe the style of Moebius as he used different styles over the years and his style could vary even on one given work (Les Aventures de Blueberry, for example). In fact, he used different styles for works created under his given name Jean Giraud and his pseudonym Moebius (he used a pen as Moebius and a brush as Jean Giraud). If one did have to categorise him to a single style (which might not be advisable), it would perhaps be nouveau réalisme. Indeed the at times gritty realism of Moebius' work (he did not shy away from sex and violence) was a sharp contrast to such earlier European comics artists as Hergé (Les Aventures de Tintin) and Albert Uderzo (Astérix le Gaulois).

While Moebius' work could be classed as nouveau réalisme, at the same time his work often had a touch of surrealism. This was particularly true of his science fiction and fantasy work, which often featured alien landscapes and strange technologies that could be positively bizarre. At the same time, such alien landscapes and strange technologies possessed a realism all their own. Moebius was truly a master of diverse styles and an artist who could make that which was unreal seem real and that was real even more so. His lasting influence on comics in Europe, North America, and elsewhere cannot be underestimated.

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