Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I ♥ Moebius.

-By Dan dos Santos

If you asked me what my favorite movie is, I would likely have to give you a 'top three'.
If you asked me who my favorite musician is, I would again have to give you a 'top three'.
But if you asked me who my favorite artist is, I would say without a moment's hesitation that it is Jean 'Moebius' Giraud.

I heard about Jean's death the day after it happened, and the whole experience honestly took me by surprise. Obviously, I considered writing a blog post about it immediately, but then decided otherwise. I just wasn't in the mood to simply 'report' his death solely for the sake of promptness. It seemed inadequate. His work means so much more to me than that.

I confess, I've always thought it was kind of lame when I'd see teenagers sobbing over the death of some musician. I just didn't understand how they could be so upset about the death of someone they didn't even know. Yet, here I found myself, in the middle of some mundane conversation, unusually upset at the loss of a man. A man with whom my only worldly connection are the books on my shelf.

Now don't get me wrong, I wasn't some blubbering mess crying in my cereal bowl or anything like that. But hearing the news was enough to keep me awake that night, with a rotten pang in my stomach. Perhaps it is because I admired his work so much. Or maybe it is because we share the same job, and the same passions, and with that similarity, one can't help but to compare their own self to the departed.
Whatever it is, his death has left me a little bit empty.

As I've mentioned many times here, I am a bit of an art-book junkie, and Moebius is a particular weakness of mine. There is a even a dedicated section on my shelf just for his work. The first book I ever bought of his was 'Fusion'. After pouring through the book repeatedly, and falling absolutely in love with his work, I proceeded to spend the next few years digging up every old, out-of-print Moebius book that I could find. Whenever I got a new Moebius book, I would open it the way a Diabetic would open a Twinkie; with a wolf-like fervor that can only be sated by sweaty, panicked over-indulgenced, and lots of heavy breathing.

After a while, about 20 or 30 books into it, I felt like I had most of the ones I really wanted. Well, the ones I could afford anyways. After that, all I needed to do was 'keep up', so to speak. When a new book of his work would come out, I would buy it immediately. It didn't matter if it was in French, or if it was written by someone else, or if it was shrink-wrapped and I couldn't even see inside of it. All that mattered, was that inside that book, pressed between the two covers, would be some gem of a drawing that I knew would inspire me. And as time passed on, my patience would be rewarded, usually every year or two, with a new book, and the promise of more things to come.

But that's done.

There is no more to come.

Every Moebius drawing that will ever exist, has been drawn.

As boundless, and prolific, as his imagination was... Moebius' body of work in now finite. You can go back, and look at every illustration he ever produced. It's there. It's done. It's not going anywhere, and there won't be any more of it. It is now a quantifiable thing, which can be seen as a whole.
No more potential... just achievements.

That startles me.

Now, I'm willing to bet the reason this bothers me so much is because inside of me is some deep-rooted, existential anxiety, fighting the notion of my own mortality. But... I'm going to choose to ignore that. Instead, I'm going to say that this whole thing upsets me so much, because I love Moebius.

I mean, I seriously love Moebius.

For me, Moebius' work is in a class by itself, and merits very few comparisons... or contenders.

When I look at his art, I sometimes imagine him actually drawing it. I follow his strokes, as they flow across the page, as if each one brings the white of the paper that much closer to fulfilling some unspoken potential. With just a few black lines, he manages to create an amazing sense of depth, a menagerie of characters, and a backstory a hundred years long.

Which finally brings us to the actual point of this really long post. Rather than reporting on his death, I would much rather share with you guys why it is that I love Moebius so much. And what better way to do that than to share with you some of my favorite pieces of his.

All of the scans below are pretty high-rez, so be sure to click on them so you can really enjoy the details.

Just above is the first illustration by Moebius that I ever saw. It appeared in 'A Gallery of Dreams', an art collection celebrating the work of Neil Gaiman.

'Starwatcher', which appeared in an art book by the same name, is probably Moebius' most famous piece. It has since spawned many incarnations, and countless homages.

An image from 'Arzach', the comic which first brought Moebius world-wide acclaim.

Struck by the similarities between Arzach and Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaa, Moebius traveled to Tokyo to meet the artist. The two developed a life-long relationship, and even drew each other's characters on occasion, ultimately resulting in a collaborative exhibit in 2004.

Major Grubert, as he appeared on the cover to 'The Airtight Garage #1'.

The Airtight Garage is one of my favorite Moebius comics. Originally appearing as a serial 4 page short in 'Metal Hurlant', Moebius challenged himself by making up the whole story as he went along. He would intentionally end each episode with a catastrophic twist for which he felt there was no possible way to continue the story. Each month, he would pick up his pen, and sure enough, surmount his own challenge.

Jean Giraud, with his good friend, Major Grubert, visit a Tattoine Market.

To me, Moebius' work epitomizes what good art/design is all about... simplicity. Someone once said that 'good design is achieved only when you've removed everything from the picture that you can remove'. I think Moebius' work in general is a great example of this notion, but no work better exemplifies it than his book '40 Days Dans Le Desert'.

Some pages from '2001 Apres Jesus Christ', Moebius' metaphysical retelling of the story of Jesus.
Before Jean Giraud was 'Moebius', the persona under which he drew most of his SF themed work, he went by the name 'Gir'. It was under this name that he created one of his best selling comics, a Western called 'Blueberry'. Below are some stellar examples of work he created for that comic.

No stranger to film, Jean Giraud worked as a concept artist for many big budget titles, including 'Alien', 'Dune', 'Tron', and 'The Fifth Element'. In fact, the very creation of 'The Fifth Element' was heavily inspired by Moebius' comic 'H.P.'s Rock City'. Below is some concept art he created for the movie 'Willow'.

A few images from a portfolio entitled 'Voyage d' Hermes'.

Below are some pages from 'The Eyes of the Cat', which sadly is the last book of Moebius' work to be published during his lifetime. Written by long-time collaborator Jodorowsky, this is a nearly silent story. Black ink on yellow paper, this over-sized book really shows off Moebius' finesse of the medium.


And last, but most definitely not least, I leave you with perhaps my favorite Moebius piece of all time. A single illustration from the portfolio 'Mystere Montrouge'


  1. That was wonderful and beautiful, Dan. Thanks for sharing! It seemed odd to me that in a world with Facebook, where we hear about the passing of all our icons and heroes, Moebius is the only one that has ever truly resonated with me. I think a lot of us mourn his passing as a part of us, and the only bright spot in it all is sharing all the stories of how he's touched our lives.

  2. Was that last one the inspiration for Shiva's Crown?

    1. How astute! You know, I honestly don't know. I painted 'Shiva's Crown' in 2003. This piece by Moebius was published in 2002, but it was fairly hard to track down in the US, and I don't think I actually got my hands on it until afterwards. Regardless, I have no doubt that his sensibilities were somehow inspiring me on that painting, whether or not it was this exact piece.

  3. Thanks for sharing these Dan. There are few pieces I hadn't seen. Moebius was one of my biggest influences as well, and I still think of him when doing line work.

  4. Great post.

    No disrespect to these artists, because they are all AWESOME, GIANTS in fact.. but when Jeff Jones, John Berkey and Ralph McQuairre died, I was saddened at the loss.. but when Moebius died it got to me in a profoundly deep way that I can not explain. And like you Dan, all I have are books on my shelf, I never knew him. I wish I had.

  5. I only discovered Moebius rather recently (well, a few years ago) and haven't really had the chance to read any of his comics and only saw his art online. (And loved it, of course.) But even then i felt empty hearing that he's gone away. He really was a unique artist.

  6. I'd never been exposed to Moebius before. I'll be looking up more of his work now.

  7. Bud Plant "introduced" me to Moebius—and Druillet and Caza and Bilal and the rest of the METAL HURLANT artists—back in the 1970s via his mail order business. He imported these gorgeous, full color, hardcover graphic novels from France that were literally mind-blowing. As exciting as the American comics scene was at the time—and how could it NOT have been with Kirby, Steranko, Adams, Wrightson, Corben, et al actively producing?—Moebius raised the bar and broadened our visual horizons. Whether he was drawing SF or Westerns or erotica or just STUFF, Jean Giraud was simply a uniquely mesmerizing creator. I only had the opportunity to meet him once (and I have a photo somewhere of he, Simon Bisley and Phil Hale together signing copies of the HALO graphic novel), and even though in my 50s, I felt the same rush when shaking his hand and exchanging a few pleasantries as I did as a teenager encountering Arzach and Lieutenant Blueberry for the first time.

    Yes indeed, Dan, Moebius will be missed.

  8. Well, of all the posts I read after Moebius had passed away this is the one that moved me the most.

  9. Moebius rules so hard!

  10. Thank you for posting this gallery of Moebius's astounding works!

    Jody Lee

  11. I was born in Cuba and studied Graphic Design there. One of my teachers of Illustration brought some photocopies once taken from some other photocopies taken from an issue of "Zona 84" a Spanish magazine of comics in the line of "Heavy Metal" that somebody has the privilege of own in a country with a limited influence of international comics. It was one of Arzach's stories and it changed my life forever. Moebius became a light, a path to follow, at the beginning in the "technical" aspects of his images but the more I discovered his body of work the more he became a spiritual guide too.
    I don't have the privilege of owning too many of his books but I treasure one copy of "40 Days Dans le Desert B", one the most mature and introspective journeys into his magical worlds.
    Thanks for the post Dan, very much appreciated!

    1. Cool story, Antonio. It's funny, I was introduced to -several- artists in a similar fashion. I remember a fellow student bringing in Xerox copies of a sketchbook. We then made copies of those copies, and then those were copied, etc. Ahhh, the days before the internet.

  12. I totally agree about Moebius, It was not a knee jerk reaction to announce his passing, but a slow meditative process of how his work transforms and inspires. I am still not over that there will be no more Moebius as well. The relatively new Azark book held so much promise for new stories in that world and now... it will stay unfinished.
    and yes 40 days in the desert is my favorite Moebius book too, totally blew my mind. I was already a fan but that book even in just black and white was and is outstanding.
    so to add to the celebreation of Moebius there is nothing like watching him draw

    short inking a blueberry head

    watching him and Hugo Pratt go head to head!


    Vive Moebius

  13. I was ashamed to admit that I knew very little of Moebius's work before his death. It was usually because an artist I admired was heavily influenced by him. But even then I never had much exposer to his work even though I was a big comic book collector when I was younger.
    Although I don't collect comics as much as I did when I was younger I feel that I can appreciate Moebius work more now that I'm a more mature illustrator.
    One thing that I really like about Moebius is his attitude about illustration. How you can tell that he loved creating his art and never had any fear of making mistakes.
    It is sad that there won't be anymore Moebius illustrations but thanks to people posting about his life and work I can now discover all the work that he's created since I'm more of a recent fan! I look forward to seeing more of his work.
    Thanks for the great post!

  14. Great post. This post reminded me a bit how I felt when the great Master John Buscema passed away 10 years ago.

  15. A very moving post that brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing it Dan. I have read a few pieces about Moebius's passing in the past couple of weeks but none of them voiced my exact sentiment that you describe so accurately: this is it. Anything he would ever do is now done.
    My first encounter with his work defined my taste and idea about art the way Blade Runner defined my taste in films. I remember getting a copy of Arzach when I was about 6 and just loving every minute detail of it. Then I remember getting the first traditional comic book and my astonishment that comic books are usually linear and have words! For me, the 'right way' was Moebius's way. I think it still is.

  16. Very moving post, Dan. And, of course, wonderful art, I hadn't seen a lot of these before. It's amazing how someone you've never met can have so much influence on your life, and you very accurately put into words why it's so shocking to lose such a talent. Thanks for sharing.

  17. All time great artists, and there are lots out there (including yourself).
    Moebius was a HUGE influence on me as a young artist, and a big inspiration.
    Nice post Dan.

  18. I would like to point out that, while Moebius' work is now finite, his influence can inspire and push future creators infinitely.

  19. Thanks for the gorgeous share. As a monstrous Tron fan, I was only barely aware of the scope of his work, which I now see blessed so many branches of the art world beautifully. May we all pass on (later than sooner, hopefully) to find him continuing to create works of art on the other side.

  20. Beautifully written Dan. The best piece I've seen on his passing and a nice, heartfelt tribute. Thank you for sharing!

    /Billy Norrby

  21. Thanks Dan! I wish I’d known you were a Moebius buff before I met you. I first discovered him in Heavy Metal far too long ago, through ‘The Airtight Garage of Jerry Cornelius’ as it was then called, before Michael Moorcock took back the name he ‘gave to the world’. It’s still my favourite of his, and it was much later I discovered the sequel: ‘The Man from the Ciguri’. A friend of mine once said about Moebius’s drawing, that everything he does ‘looks right’, and I still buy that. His drawing, always seems to be so assured and ‘correct’ even when off with the fairies! My only regret with Le Garage Hermetique is that there’s not any more of it!

    1. I completely agree with your friend's sentiments. I use to have a teacher that would always remind us that a 'confident' line is better than an 'accurate' line.

  22. Dan,

    "YES" on Moebius!!! I'll never forget the impact his art had on me as I first flipped through the pages of Heavy Metal back in 1981. Goodness, and then I met him at World Fantasy in Saratoga Springs in '07. He was such a hero, yet so approachable. Moebius even gave me some precious words of encouragement concerning the bronzes. THANKS MOEBIUS!

    BTW, the raptor flying toward the tower and delivering eyeballs, goodness that does it for me!!!


    Vincent V.

  23. Dan:
    This is a great post, thank you for sharing. I don't know jack about art, but I recognize many of these pictures. When an artist's work is powerful enough that a casual glimpse imprints the work indelibly in the viewer's memory, something truly magical is afoot. I'm sorry it struck you so hard. His portfolio may now be complete, but his influence will be felt, preserved and re-imagined through the works of all the artists who have found inspiration in his work.


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