Thursday, March 22, 2012

Greatest Comic Artists Ever : Jean Giraud

This is my second post about Moebius, in which I wanted to tell my story how I came to discover him, love his comics and all the things I didn´t know about him. Most people just know his superhero stuff or his sci fi stuff but he did so much more.

At the end of my last post we were just about to talk about ARZACH, Moebius´ first recurring character if I remember it correctly. Although I could be totally wrong since I didn´t read SCHWERMETALL from the first number.


When my brother came home with his first issue of SCHWERMETALL they were already in the double digits. It was really a few years later when Volksverlag ( let me tell you about how the german comicindustry miserably failed to prevent it going bancrupt at some other time ) published the hardcover collections that I finally could read the first issues of the german translation of METAL HURLANT. And on the very first issue this was the page that greeted the reader and welcomed him into the fantastical world that would be his home for years to come.

Because once you read an issue you were hooked and wanted more. At least that´s how I felt all those years ago and it sparkled the urge to do comics. Just Today when I pulled out the old issues of SCHWERMETALL to prepare for this post I got a hankering to sit down, get a pencil and whip out some pages.

Now I don´t know if the german edition of METAL HURLANT had the same contents as the original edition but I very much doubt it since there were parts of AIRTIGHT GARAGE, ARZACH and other stories by Moebius is the same issue. And I very much doubt they were made at the same time. I guess the german publishers got to pick and choose what they put in the issues and that´s why they opened with ARZACH.

ARZACH was in full color which was diferent from most other stories by Moebius in the early issues of METAL HURLANT since the majority was in black and white. There were of course some in color like THE LONG TOMORROW but not that much. What also set ARZACH apart was that it had almost no text. I´m saying almost because in one of the stories somebody utter the word " Harzach ".

Even if there were no words - or maybe because of it - the pictures that told the story were mesmerizing not only because the color had a broader palette than previous colored comics by Moebius but also because the artwork was so detailed.

It was almost impossible not to get lost in this richly detailed alien world. In various interviews it has been said that Moebius could spend hours on one page because he was just having a blast drawing. As somebody who also has lost himself from time to time in a page only to come to his senses many hours later I know the feeling and it is more than apparent on this doublepage spread from the comic.

As great as ARZACH was at the time I first read it I was much more engaged by other comics in the issue like the one by Voss that had some bare chested girl in it.

Also I didn´t fully understand the story in ARZACH as I only read two or three of the stories and I never found out who that guy with the weird hat was or where he got the pterodactylus he was flying on.

Which was a frequent thing with the comics by Moebius I read - not the flying pterodactylus but the part with me not understanding what it was all about. And in none of his stories more apparent than in THE AIRTIGHT GARAGE OF JERRY CORNELIUS.


Which might have something to do with the fact that it was a serial with one or two pages appearing in each issue. I´m not 100 percent sure but I always had the impression that Moebius made it up as he went along, discharging parts of the storyline and changing the past history of characters whenever he felt like it thus contradicting himself. In any case I never quite made heads nor tail of the whole thing even when I bought the collected edition years later and read it in one sitting.

In America the series was reprinted by Marvel as THE AIRTIGHT GARAGE OF LEWIS CARNELIAN because of a slight misunderstanding. Jerry Cornelius is one of Michael Moorcock´s incarnations of the eternal hero and at one point Michael gave permission for him to be used by any artist or writer who wished to. There was later some dispute over the character, and the right of use was revoked.

Here is what Michael Moorcock himself had to say : " I didn't retroactively withdraw permission. Moebius was a friend of friends of mine when he started and someone told him I didn't like the strip. I loved the strip, though I'd said it wasn't really Jerry Cornelius. This got taken to mean by someone that I didn't like it and Moebius, whom I came to know later and explain that I hadn't withdrawn permision, took the JC out of the title. "

While ARZACH was in color THE AIRTIGHT GARAGE was in black and white with ultradetailed art and long before Moebius worked on the Silver Surfer he showed his love for american heroes here. Iron Man´s flying pose is adapted in the comic, the archer has clear signs of Hawkeye and Green Arrow, one of the characters resembles the Avengers Vision and there is even a scene with a giant robot that looks like The Phantom, The ghost who walks.

THE AIRTIGHT GARAGE, much like THE INCAL spawned two spin - off series, the first was THE ELSEWHERE PRINCE which Moebius wrote together with Jean - Marc Lofficier with art by Eric Shanower and which was published in America by Marvel´s Epic imprint.

There also was a second one which was kind of a prequel where he collaborated again with Jean - Marc Lofficier this time with art by Jerry Bingham. I know it was published in America because I bought that edition ( I think it was from Epic ) but I couldn´t find anything on it. It was also published in Germany and I found the cover of that edition.

THE AIRTIGHT GARAGE also featured another of Moebius recurring characters : Major Grubert who starred in his own stories and also appeared in the series INSIDE MOEBIUS, which still hasn´t found a german publisher. The last thing I heard was that nobody in Germany would be interested in autobiographical stuff about one lone comic artist.

Even if that comic artist is Moebius.


Now while I had my problems understanding some of Moebius comics I was mesmerized by his art and I was very interested what he would come up with next. Well, next was THE INCAL and that series turned me into a believer. I read it when it came out in SCHWERMETALL and I even got the collected editions for myself. Here in Germany there are various editions by different publishers of the title but we will cover that in another post together with all the other shownote details. Suffice it to say that the Moebius bug had bit me and I tried to get my hands on any publication where I could read more about him.

One such publication was COMIC FORUM which isn´t published anymore and of which I´m a bit ashamed to say that the first one I got was the one covering the HOWARD THE DUCK movie. What can I say ? I didn´t know the source material, I thought Lea Thomson was really cute in that movie and at least I got exposed to the original series by Gene Colan through the story THE DUCKCANEER that was reprinted in the magazine. I also bought the following issues that featured Bernie Wrightson, the great Jije and in issue 37 there was an extensive article about Moebius.

But for some reason he was also called Gir on the cover. You have to understand that this was before the internet and information was not as freely available as it is now. So I was not aware that Moebius was just a pen name for Jean Giraud and that was a guy I KNEW. Because he was the guy who had done the LEUTNANT BLUEBERRY comic and I was very familiar with that comic because it appeared in the pages of ZACK, one of the most important comics of my youth.

And that´s how I discovered Moebius for a second time or rather how I found out that when I thought I was discovering Moebius for the first time in reality I rediscovered Jean Giraud.

Once again I´ve run out of time so we will have to continue this in our next post where I will probably write a bit about ZACK ( although longtime readers have probably heard right about enough of it ) and - if I find the time - about the Incal series in more detail. Let´s see how many posts we need for this.

Since we began with Arzach we are also going to end with Arzach so here is an animated video of it. I could only find the italian and spanish version but since my italian is not very good I´m posting the spanish version. You see, this is why I love writing this blog : I always find stuff I never knew about. I had no idea there was an animated version of Arzach.

New to the blog ? Everything you need to know about TALES FROM THE KRYPTONIAN : top ten posts / more posts of interest


Anonymous said...

I´m really very fond of the matter you decided to share. Thank you !

SUBZERO said...

Don´t thank me, thank Moebius. I´m just hoping to entertain ( and maybe educate ) my readers with this stories. And there is still more to come.

Anonymous said...

Normally I do not read article on blogs, but I wish to say that this write - up compelled me to take a look at and do so!

Your writing has surprised me. Thank you, very nice post.