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.