Saturday, March 10, 2012

Moebius, 1938-March 10th, 2012

My First Embarrassing Encounter with the Great Jean Giraud (AKA Moebius)

Moebius had more influence on me than any other artist in my teens. He died today before I got a chance to redeem myself for a very embarrassing meeting when I was 13, at The San Diego Comicon, back when Comicon was actually about comics. I just couldn't help myself. I waited in a line to get him to sign my book, and when I got to the front of the line I had a complete nerdgasm. My friend Josh's mother was there with her camera, and I posed for a picture with him, and so somewhere there's this picture of me pointing at Moebius with an ecstatic smile, looking like I'm about to have a psychotic break. I wish I could take it back, but I went completely nuts. My fantasy was that the two of us would meet for coffee some day, and I would show him my work, and he would admire it, and I would tell him how I felt about his work, and I would tell him about that first meeting, and we would laugh about it, and we would find that the two of us shared a deep inner connection, that we two walked the same spiritual plane. Of course that will never happen now. Not that it ever would have. 

This was the book I had him autograph:

I loved everything about it. The simplicity of the drawing style, the fluid line, the colors. It was this wistful fantasy story originally written to promote a French car called the Citroen. Here's a page where Stel and Atan, the two bald-headed protagonists, have driven their Citroen across the desert of the planet they call "pool ball" to encounter a group of aliens from different worlds who have all formed a shantytown around this huge crystal pyramid, that, for some magical reason, they have all been drawn to:

I still have my copy. It has ink stains on it, and is a little worse for wear, but it still has Moebius' signature next to a sketch of his signature character, Arzach. He drew a drawing for every single person in line. Here's Arzach:

Le Garage Hermetic

My second discovery was a book called, The Airtight Garage:

In French, it was called, Le Garage Hermetic, "hermetic" meaning both airtight, and esoteric in French, so that part was lost in the translation. The Airtight Garage was this completely improvised story that Moebius started kind of on accident while trying to meet a tight deadline. He simply made it up as he went along, page by page, each time giving himself some impossible challenge, having no idea how he was going to tie up all the loose threads. And believe it or not, somehow he managed. It all made an odd kind of sense in the end. It has got to be my Favorite Moebius story by far.

I have another well worn book called, The Art of Moebius. The center spread had an image he did in collaboration with an artist named Geof Darrow.  Darrow did the drawing and Moebius Moebiusified it. I looked at this thing for hours.

Moebius Owns Science Fiction in Hollywood

You may not realize it, but just about every science fiction movie in hollywood since Blade Runner has been inspired by Moebius in some way. Including Blade Runner. I don't mean to downplay the contribution of Syd Mead, who may well be just an influential, and who did design much of the look of Blade Runner, but first there was a story by Moebius called "The Long Tomorrow" that looked like this:

And was written some time in the late 70s. Moebius, in the French Magazine, Metal Hurlant (Heavy Metal in the US) made the future that has dominated sci-fi for the last thirty or forty years. Everything new and novel about science fiction movies and imagery of today started with Moebius.

Moebius also designed much of the look of Tron though Tron might have looked a little cooler if they stuck to Moebius' original designs:

The recent Sequel to Tron not only borrowed everything from the original, but it missed the point. They took Moebius' elegant simplicity and turned it into, well, Blade Runner. 

The French Avant Garde director, Jodorowsky, gathered together some of the best designers and illustrators of his time in the late 70s, with the intention of making a film based Frank Herbert's Dune. It fell through, but this is how it might have looked with Moebius' costume designs:

Instead of the black Jumpsuits and sepia palette that they ended up with in the Lynch film. Here's one of Moebius' many contributions to the otherwise mediocre The Fifth Element:

And he kept working, and inventing. This is from a book that features a series of drawing inspired by the New Mexico dessert. This is Moebius putting his pen to paper and just letting it do his Moebius thing. Like The Airtight Garage, no sketches ahead of time, just a pen and paper:

But I'll never get to meet him as a less spazzy adult. I'm positive he couldn't have possibly remembered me anyway, but still, I wanted to impress him, and impress upon him, that I was no longer that kid. But now it will never happen. I can't believe he died. He's younger than my dad. It's simply not fair.  He will be very, very missed.

Edit: I forgot to mention the very sweet and modest thing that Moebius AKA Jean Giraud told me at the San Diego Comicon. I told him he was my favorite artist, and he responded, "Then you must not know very many artists." And he was right. With so many egotistical artists out there, (particularly cartoonists) the remark was honest and generous. Speaking of artists less than modest, I once read a cartoonist's remark about how he was affronted when someone told him that he was their second favorite writer. To me, it sounded like a high compliment. We can't all be Van Gogh, or Picasso. We can't all be Dostoevsky. But Moebius remains close to my heart. 


  1. I had him sign the same book, too, at a comic book shop in Beaverton, Oregon run by the brother of the publisher of Dark Horse Comics. I asked him as he was signing what he was working on next and he said he was working on a movie for George Lucas called "Wheel." I only realized later that this was the French pronunciation of "Willow!"

  2. Josh Brown3:33 AM

    Thank you for sharing this Jed. I remember the day we met Moebius very well. He had a very kind way about him and he seemed to genuinely appreciated your enthusiasm. He will be missed.

  3. Jeremy: I remember seeing some of those Willow designs in a magazine somewhere, but I had no interest in seeing the movie, even then, even though I loved Moebius. It looked THAT awful. For a movie written by George Lucas with a cast almost completely composed of what appeared to be everyone in Hollywood under five feet tall they could scrounge up (and Val Kilmer), it's amazing how well forgotten that movie is. I just looked at the movie poster again, and it was just as embarrassing as I remember. Maybe he just wanted to keep all those guys employed who played ewoks in Return of the Jedi? Val Kilmer, to this day, is a deal breaker for me. I simply can't watch a Val Kilmer movie. But that happened some time after The Doors...

    Josh (who is in fact the Josh whose mom took a photo of me in the story above) was the one who invited me to Comicon in the first place. Um, the less said about that trip the better. We'll talk about it when we have coffee.

  4. Great post Jed! The point that you have missed here is that your unbridled childish enthusiasm, that you feel embarrassed about, is the driving force behind Moebius' work! He never lost touch with that inner force of nature and you need not be embarrassed by it either. It's what drives us to make art.. that unexplainable feeling in the gut that sends us spazzy! ;-)

    I envy you meeting him too. Closest I got was painting matte paintings on Fifth Element. Funnily enough, one of them was the cityscape behind the floating Thai Restaurant!


  5. Thank you for the kind words!

    I should say that while I didn't care much for the story, the Fifth Element looked great! And it sounds like you had at least a small part in that. It was a very original looking film and there were obviously many many hands that went into making it. I checked out your website and you do some great work! Thanks for reading.

  6. Jed- Thank you for sharing. I didn't even know he'd passed away. I remember your San Diego visit and going to Comicon. I only had a few dollars to spend and, bored of waiting in line with you guys, I found some quiet booth with a young female artist. I bought her comic full of unicorns and woodland fairie folk...typical little girl. Years ago in some tiny remote town in Idaho, I ran across some Moebius collector cards (the kind with five cards and a hard powdery stick of flavorless pink gum). I remembered being drawn to his work, and purchased as many as they had. I was so excited to bring them home to my dad and Josh. We called around and found out we could order a case through Bonanza Books in the Roseburg Square. I now have an entire collection in a binder made for baseball cards. Loved his work...and I love your work too! I'm sure your enthusiasm upon meeting Moebius stayed with him all his days. Maybe one day, far far away, you two can have a cup of coffee in the clouds.

  7. I think I remember you showing me those cards! And of course I remember Bonanza Books. Do you remember the artist you were talking to? I might know of her. You were the sweetest kid. I can't believe you're a grown-up now! And thank you so much for the compliments. As for the having coffee in the clouds thing--I think that requires me to be dead, and I'm trying to hang on for as long as I can, but I appreciate the sentiment. Maybe one day in the far far far future. I'm going to be 40!