Friday, March 30, 2012

World´s Greatest Comics : Blueberry

Since Today is the 100th anniversary of Karl May´s death I thought it appropiate to start the next Moebius post and write about one of the greatest western comics ever : Blueberry. Or LEUTNANT BLUEBERRY how it was called in Germany.


For those readers who don´t know who Karl May was, he wrote Germany´s most famous western books about Winnetou, Old Shatterhand and Old Surehand. He also wrote books about the Orient and the Middle East starring Kara Ben Nemsi Effendi and his faithful sidekick Hadschi Halef Omar ( full name Hadschi Halef Omar Ben Hadschi Abul Abbas Ibn Hadschi Dawuhd al Gossarah, which you had to know by memory in my school and even after all this years I didn´t have to look it up ) and althoug he never went farther than Buffalo his descriptions of foreign countries are unbelievably accurate.

In Germany you don´t have to explain who he is and to give you an idea how popular his works still are : his anniversary was mentioned on german tv. The death of Moebius wasn´t. When I was a kid the WINNETOU movies were a big deal and I especially remember UNTER GEIERN ( Among Vultures )

which besides having Pierce Brice as Winnetou and Steward Granger as Old Surehand ( instead of Winnetou's usual sidekick Old Shatterhand played by Lex Barker )

also had three other famous actors : Goetz George, who later became most famous for the Schimanski crime series,

Terrence Hill, who later became famous as one half of the Bud Spencer / Terrence Hill duo that starred in over a dozen movies that included some westerns

and Elke Sommer. Elke Sommer did a gazillion movies but she is probably best know in the United States for her roles in the Pink Panther movie A SHOT IN THE DARK, the spy movie DEADLIER THAN THE MALE, THE PRIZE and THE PRISONER OF ZENDA. Or maybe from her appearance on THE MUPPET SHOW. Who knows ?

In UNTER GEIERN Elke mostly wore a very plain outfit which was basically a shirt and a long skirt but she also was in underwear in many scenes. And there was one scene in which she has to distract the bad guys and showed a lot of cleavage which made a big impression on young Subzero.

Yes, western movies were a big deal back then and westerns were kind of everywhere. There were western books like the ones by Karl May, western tv series like Bonanza, Shiloh Ranch, Bret Maverick and Gunsmoke ( called Rauchende Colts in Germany ) and western comics like BESSY, SILBERPFEIL, LASSO, BUFFALO BILL, LUCKY LUKE, COMANCHE and BLUEBERRY.


Moebius was still working under the name Jean Giraud when he did those and if you have read my other Moebius posts this month you know that this is the part where I really discovered him for the first time.

Blueberry was created by writer Jean - Michel Charlier and it chronicles the adventures of Mike Blueberry on his travels through the American Old West. Blueberry is an atypical western hero; he is not a wandering lawman who brings evil - doers to justice, nor a handsome cowboy who rides into town, saves the ranch, becomes the new sheriff and marries the schoolmarm.

The story follows Michael Steven Donovan, nicknamed " Blueberry ", a name he chose when fleeing from his Southern enemies ( which was inspired when he looked at a blueberry bush ), starting with his adventures as a lieutenant in the United States Cavalry shortly after the American Civil War. He is accompanied in many tales by his hard - drinking deputy, Jimmy McClure, and later also by Red Woolley, a rugged pioneer.

Donovan is the son of a rich Southern farmer and started as a dedicated racist. He was framed for a murder he did not commit, had to flee and was saved by an African - American. He became an enemy of discrimination of all kinds, fought against the Confederates ( although he was a Southerner himself ), and tried to protect the rights of Native Americans.

Blueberry has its roots in Giraud's earlier Western - themed works such as Frank et Jeremie, which was drawn for Far West magazine when he was only 18, and his collaboration on Jijé's Jerry Spring in 1961, which appeared in the Belgian comics magazine Spirou. Around 1961 / 1962 Jean Giraud asked Jean - Michel Charlier, whether he wanted to write scripts for a new western series for Pilote. Charlier refused at first, since he never felt much empathy for the genre. In 1963 the magazine sent Charlier on a reporting assignment to Edwards Airforce Base in the Mojave Desert, California. He took the opportunity to discover the American West, returning to France with a strong urge to write a western. First he asked Jijé to draw the series, but Jijé thought there would be a conflict of interest, since he was a regular artist at Spirou, a competing comic magazine.Therefore Jijé proposed his protégé Giraud as the artist.

Blueberry was first published in the 31st of October 1963 issue of the comics magazine Pilote. Initially titled " Fort Navajo ", the story grew into 46 pages over the following issues.

In this series Blueberry - whose physical appearance was inspired by French actor Jean - Paul Belmondo - was only one of many protagonists.

Charlier came up with the name during his American trip: " When I was traveling throughout the West, I was accompanied by a fellow journalist who was just in love with blueberry jam, so much in love, in fact, that I had nicknamed him Blueberry. When I began to create the new series, and everything started to fall into place, I decided to reuse my friend's nickname, because I liked it and thought it was funny. I had no idea that he would prove so popular that he would eventually take over the entire series, and later we would be stuck with that silly name! "

Charlier and Giraud continued to add to the legend of Mike Blueberry in Pilote and other titles even into the 1990s. During that time Giraud´s style has varied greatly, much as with his other works. In the same volume, sweeping landscapes will contrast sharply with hard - edged action scenes and the art matches the changing mood of the story quite well. Like much of the Western genre, Blueberry touches on the constant conflict between violence and tranquility, nature and civilization, and the obligation of the strong to protect the weak.

Now like I said, since it has been a few decades since I read my last Blueberry story I got the KLASSIKER DER COMICLITERATUR - BLUEBERRY pocketbook and I have read about 80 percent of it.

The pocketbook contains five albums that build one big saga that begins in CHIHUHUA PEARL harmessly enough with Blueberry coming across a mysterious rider who´s persecuted by mexican federales. Blueberry gets himself involved in this unknowingly unleashing a chain of events that start with him going undercover into mexican territory ( he poses as a deserteur and murderer with a real bounty on his head ) to find half a million of confederate gold and end up with him as a scapegoat for a sinister plot on the highest level of US politics.

The story takes more unexpected twists than a fox on a foxhunt and just when you think Blueberry is in the biggest mess so far they put another brick on it. There are secret plots, enemies becoming allies going back to being enemies, trustworthy gangsters and deceitful gentlemen and everybody backstabbing everybody on a hunt for gold. Of course you get all the usual trappings of a western like train robberies, seedy saloons, beautiful saloon girls with a gun in the garter and corrupt soldiers. It´s one grand adventure and you get the same feeling from it like from watching a great western movie. Or five great western movies that tell one big story. Think Sergio Leone but as a comic.

I didn´t say " It´s like watching a great western movie. " because it´s not. Comics are different than movies and while the feeling and experience of both may be similar it´s different in many aspects like for instance with the comic you can read it again. Anyway, it´s got all the grandeur of big westerns and it´s really a larger than life comic.

And to show that I´m not the only one thinking that this is a comic masterpiege here´s part of THE COMIC WATCHER´s review of it :


American audiences haven’t given this masterpiece the attention it deserves and this visionary, the credit that is due to him.

When you approach this series, please leave behind all pre - conceived ideas you may have of what to expect of a western. The US, the mother of the genre per se, underwent a process of trivialization in an attempt to make comics more child - friendly, and this happened courtesy of the Comic Code Authority, and thus, westerns lost all veracity, all rawness, and in general failed to display all the rough and toughness of the times they were set in; they became little more than Disney versions of the genre.

So, I guess it was up to the French to show us how westerns were supposed to be done.

The main reason why this collection has to be treated as a masterpiece is because of the equal degree of masterful treatment in which the script and the art worked. The absolutely engaging scripts that Jean Charlier threads has so many layers and depth, and creates such a rich tapestry of personalities that they could be considered wonderful adventure books on their own right. Ulyses Grant, Chihuaha Pearl, and Angel Face are just some of the characters that populate these tales, and each one of them has gained a spot on the history books of comics.

The team of Charlier and Moebius became legendary partially due to the meticulous research that the pair did for their stories; the writer in order to portray a veritable and historically accurate western, and the artists going over myriad of obscure visual references for the vignettes.

And the result shows in spades. The towns are full of mud, and dirt, and smoke. The people are dirty and dusty. The saddle looks at times like works of art. The native americans wear different paints depending on the tribe they belong to, and the mood they are in. The revolvers have different lengths and the barrels and drums match the brands of the manufacturer. You can learn more about the west during the period narrated here than in ALL the western comics published between 1955 and 1990 in the US. The rites of the native american tribes are represented in so much detail and faithfulness that it looks like the script was research through an anthropology text - book.

But here is the most admirable part: A good story never takes second place to realism. Charlier always blended an amazing caper full of double - crossings, intrigues, greed and lust, and the realistic details on the story only served to lend more veracity to the tale.

Moebius took to illustrating these westerns like the pro he is, but used these series to experiment and perfect his already masterful craft.

One factor that is never highlighted enough, is the clear dominance of the european page format over the american page size. Usually in the US, comics are drawn in 11x14 sheets, while in europe they used a bigger size, that facilitates more vignettes per page, and makes for a more dynamic read on the hands of a master such as Moebius. So this is the type of professionalism you get in this collection out of Jean Giraud ( Moebius ), his attempt at showing his best stuff. Like I said, if you don’t want to get it for the amazing art, you may want to get it for the amazing stories. Never before has history interwoven such a grand soap opera tale in the world of comics !

Characters change attitudes, people are flawed, heroes are tragic, and villains are sympathetic.

And you can read the full review here


Growing up as a comic reading child in Germany during the 70s I got my fix of francobelgian / french / european BDs where everybody else at that time got it : in the pages of ZACK. I´m not sure if this was before I discovered the german editions of Marvel Comics by Williams Verlag or if I read them at the same time but I know there was a huge pile of ZACK comics I must have read. Looking back I wonder how I ever found time to do anything else than read comics because I have read such an incredible amount of them and from the most diverse comic genres. But on the other hand it´s not like I was a kid that spent a lot of time outside.

We always had to come home straight from school and since I was indoors most of the time a lot of that time was spent with reading, drawing or thinking about comics.

Well, now that I think about it most of what I read in school weren´t school books but rather the newest issues of ZACK, or later YPS ( which I won´t explain right now because that is enough material for another post or two ), WASTL, FIX & FOXI, TARZAN, RAHAN, DAS PHANTOM, KALARI, FELIX or FEUERWERK.

But you had to be careful because if the teacher caught you he took away your comic. They always said they would return the comic at the end of the school year but they never did.

I know one time I was so pissed off that a teacher took away one of my favorite comics that I really did work up the courage to claim my comics at the end of the school year only to find out that he threw them away. He never thought some pupil would really reclaim such garbage. Now this was a lesson that should have taught me something that would have come in handy in my future troubles with teachers and their prejudices, especially literature teachers. At least it would have prevented my confrontations with one teacher in particular during my formation as a car mechanic who was absolutely convinced that there is nothing of worth told in comics and that even reading the worst book is less of a waste of time than reading the best comic.

Even if he was no expert in the field and had no scientific proof. I remember that he gave me the assignment to prove that reading comics was better than books ( which is logical since in comics you not only have the literate aspect but also the art aspect ) by bringing him a good comic. Well, the one I picked was the german edition of the X - MEN : GOD LOVES MAN KILLS graphic novel by Chris Claremont and Brent Anderson for which I wrote a five page essay about the series, the main characters and what´s it all about.

My teacher DID read the comic, he didn´t say it was garbage BUT he said that I had not proven my point since it was not a real comic. It had a bigger format, more pages and was written and drawn better than normal comics.

He gave me a good grade for my essay but he was still convinced he was right. And I think that was the point where I stopped trying to convert comic muggels. From this point on whenever somebody told me that comics were rubbish I only said " Oh yeah ? " and let it slide. Okay, sometimes I thought about people like my stubborn literature teacher but only with pity keeping in mind that those poor devils went to their grave without ever having experienced the majesty of a really good comic like WATCHMEN or the likes.

Reading comics as a kid in the 60s you had to be constantly on alert because like I said if some teacher caught you with a comic they took it away, threw it in the garbage or just burned it. At those times comics were officially the main cause of juvenile deliquency and reading comics made you into some kind of rebel. Which may be one of the ingredients comics nowadays are missing to succeed. Yes, comic readers were feared and hated but they also had that maverick flair, the outsider vibe Today´s youth is missing. In these times everybody is reading the political correct graphic novels and watching the newest comic movie adaption ( in some cases without knowing it ) but it´s just too mainstream. Who reads comics under the blankets when the parents think they are sleeping nowadays ?

One last thing about BLUEBERRY : most people in Germany probably read them in the selftitled collections or in DARGAUD PRÄSENTIERT - DIE GROSSEN EDELWESTERN, a series that also published other western comics. I think the earliest albums I saw was when ZACK ALBUM had some Blueberry issues.

In Germany there were various editions by various publishers throughout the years and in some cases the covers were basically the same.

In other cases not so much.

Despite that BLUEBERRY has always been available in some sort or the other since it was first published in Germany and you can find it in any second hand section or in the half price section at german comic conventions. Although that may change now.

As usual here are some of the indispensable research pages without this post would not have been possible. Because of the subject some of them are in german, sorry non - german speaking reader :

jean giraud on lambiek / blueberry on wikipedia

bud spencer and terence hill quiz

das waren noch zeiten - german comics of the 60s

a list of german comics of the 60s

histories about german comics of the 70s and early 80s

So this was the big BLUEBERRY post and I hope it wasn´t too boring but I thought since there haven´t been too many of the comics published in America and they aren´t exactly very cheap most of my readers in America might not know too much about it. It´s a really great series and it´s about time some US publisher got interested in it.

My next Moebius post will be about the INCAL series and since I still have to re - read all 11 volumes it will take a while. So there may be another post inbetween. Wow, this month I managed to do six posts which is the same amount as January and February combined. Let´s see if I can keep the momentum next month in which we also have this blog´s big 6 year anniversary.

Like in my last Moebius post I´m posting a video about Blueberry and it´s not from the movie adaption trainwreck they called THE RENEGADE in America. Instead here´s an animated clip made from panels from the BLUEBERRY comic that gives you a good impression of how cool the series is.

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

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

While I´m preparing my next Moebius post

It has been a while since my last post so before we get right into the next phase of my adventures with Moebius I decided to take a break and not talk about Moebius. Well, not really since I will mention him nonetheless.

My next post will cover one of the earliest phases of my reading evolution, the part when I was just beginning and had no idea how lucky I was to start with such great publications like MV Comix and ZACK.

I have already written a bit about all the western comics you could find in those pages in my WILD WILD WEST GERMANY post so I don´t want to repeat all that. There is however another western comic that I didn´t mention and which was one of my favorites. PETER O´PENCIL was a comic about a reporter travelling the Wild West, having funny adventures and writing reports on that. I really liked the art and if some german publisher would reprint it I would buy it in a second.

It seems there were much more anthology comics around back then and german readers were used to get their monthlies in parts through comic magazines like KOBRA, MV Comix or ZACK. In ZACK they really covered all the genres and they had a lot of funny comics in there, like PITTJE PIT which was funny pirates. Yes, I was young and naiive and I really thought there was something funny about plundering, pillaging, murder and rape. Ho ho ho, the fun life of pirates.

Another great funny comic was CUBITUS by Dupa and I don´t know why but I somehow identified with the intelligent, lazy lead character who was constantly plagued by that stupid cat. Coincidence, fate, chance ? Be that as it may I was never a cat person and although I was rather skinny as a kid I now have the same physical appearance as Cubitus.

There were also crime comics, in fact a whole lot of crime comics like RICK MASTER or BOB MORANE and also GENTLEMEN GMBH which I think was kind of a villain / espionage book since I remember that they had sting - like operations and were persecuted by the law or something. Kind of the fathers of LEVERAGE but cooler. And although they were called the Gentlemen GmbH there was at least one gentlewoman in the bunch.

They also had the adventures of this fellow whose name sounds really familiar. Now either these are the stories before he donned his Iron Man armour and colored his hair black or this is just one of these weird coincidences.

And speaking about familiar things, maybe this cover looks like you´ve seen it before. Many of the ZACK covers were collages to slap as much of the content on the front page as possible. Yes, it was all about selling the comics in those days. And while there is a little BLUEBERRY blurb on the top most of the cover is from the LUCKY LUKE album THE STAGECOACH or DIE POSTKUTSCHE how it is called in Germany.

They kept most of the cover intact but apparently Lucky Luke needed to be on the cover so they just put him in. Which is why he looks a bit weird.


One of the things I did since my last post was to pay my comicshop DIE SAMMLERECKE a visit to look for that missing Moebius comic in my collection. Because there´s always one you are missing, the one you always meant to buy but kept putting off for some reason. Now when I wrote my first post about Moebius I pulled out all the INCAL comics I had and remembered that there was one part I was missing which was part 6, IN NÄCHSTER NÄHE.

Either someone borrowed it and never gave it back ( which is why it´s always better to give comics away than to let someone borrow them ) or I just read it when it was published in SCHWERMETALL and only thought I had bought the collected edition.

But this was not the comic I was looking for. Through my research for the Moebius posts I stumbled on another comic I was missing and didn´t even know. Apparently FEEST which published the JOHN DIFOOL - BEFORE THE INCAL series by Jodorowsky and Janetov also published a 13th album called JOHN DIFOOL AFTER THE INCAL - KHARTHASIS which was once again drawn by Moebius.

Now I have said that if you can´t find a comic at the Sammlerecke you will probably not find it at all but I hope I´m wrong in this instance. Because try as I might I couldn´t find it. What I did find is another spin - off from the INCAL series, THE LAST INCAL by Jodorowsky and fellow paisano Jose Ladronn. Yes, I know. Somehow this whole Incal stuff is worse then Pokemon. Just when you think you have collected them all you stumble over another edition. So even if I didn´t find what I was originally looking for there is a new item on my " need to read " list. Although it´s not urgent right now.

Erlangen is in a few months and you should never buy any german comics right before Erlangen. Unless it´s absolutely necessary.


Okay, so I went to my comicshop on a Saturday which is not how I usually do things. Because it´s quite a trip to go all the way to Esslingen - even if I take the subway instead of the car - so I don´t do it on the weekend. Now that I´m working on most Saturdays the best day to do it is Wednesday so I can go there after work and I can enjoy my comics till Saturday.

I used to make the trip at least once a month but there are not as many books on my pull list as there used to be - caused on one side by higher prices and on the other side by DC sabotaging most of the books I used to read - so lately I´m going every two months.

But last week a friend wanted to go to the comicshop with me and my brother and he could only go on Saturday so I switched my working day from Saturday to Friday. And yes, I know you should say " he wanted to go with my brother and me " but while that may be grammatically correct it´s absolutely wrong in a logical sense. Since I´m the only one who has been at the comicshop before and knows the way my friend can´t go with my brother - and me. My brother didn´t know the way. If he wanted to go to the comicshop he would have to go with me. And my brother would also have to go with me. So, it´s " with me - - - and my brother ".

Which is totally hypothetical since the friend I mentioned didn´t show up. Either something happened or the number he gave us was wrong in any case we couldn´t contact him.

But because I had already switched the workdays so I could go to the comicshop I decided to do it even if I had to go alone. It´s been over four weeks since I went the last time and I always have enough comics left in my bag that if I needed to go Tomorrow I could do it and there would be enough comics waiting for me so it wouldn´t be a wasted trip.

I had already made up my mind to take a quiet ride on the subway to Esslingen, maybe get some food at SUBWAY, check out the new magazines at the subway station Stuttgart and maybe take a stroll on the Königstrasse when my brother decided to accompany me. Or rather I would accompany him since he can´t take the subway like normal people. He has to go everywhere with the car. Which means no breaks to get food or check out magazines and no relaxing on the way. I also didn´t exactly understand what his motives were for us doing the trip together since I don´t know the way if you don´t take the subway. We have to take the navi to direct us there and he even ignores that.

Because the navi wanted to lead us to the Autobahn Stuttgart and my brother didn´t want to take the Autobahn. To Stuttgart. On a Saturday. Which is a good idea but because of that we went in the opposite direction the navi wanted us to go and for most of the way it was like " Please turn around at the next street on the left. " , " Please, take the next street on the right and turn around. " or " Please, turn around at the next possibility. "

So I didn´t find the Moebius comic I was looking for but I got something else. I don´t know if I have mentioned this before but at my comicshop there is a second hand section where they charge the comics by the kilo. Yes, you heard right. Instead of the usual 50 percent there´s a weighing machine and you pay 10 EUROS per kilo. Which is really cheap with hardcovers but still okay with regular comics. Because, you see, usually the difference in price between the softcover and the hardcover is 40 percent. Softcovers 15 bucks, hardcovers 25 bucks, difference 10 bucks which is around 40 percent of 25. But the difference in weight is much less. So while you - for example - would get one of those heavy hardcovers by CrossCult for 9 bucks at 50 percent off you get them at 6 bucks if they are paid by weigth.

To make a long explanation short ( although I think that particular train has already left the station ) after I had shown my brother the various sections and given him instructions where to get what I just took a short look at my comicbag before heading to the second hand comic section. On a few occasions I had missed to go there on my comic visits and most often I would later find comics there that I had bought for more money somewhere else. The second hand section is really huge and some of the shelves are so stuffed with comics that they are coming apart.

So I found a few interesting things, in fact as usual way too many comics I would have liked to buy but after some hard thinking I thinned it down to 4 comics which cost me 20 bucks. So what did I get in my 2 kilos of comics ?

The first thing was the KLASSIKER DER COMICLITERATUR - BLUEBERRY pocketbook, especially selected stories by the FAZ feuilleton.

If you don´t know what " feuilleton " means, don´t worry, most germans who use the word don´t know it either. In Germany it´s used for the literary and arts section, originally it was a gossip section attached to the political part of french newspapers and in contemporary french it´s used for soap operas.

What all this means for the german readers is that it´s usually best to skip the introduction since it´s either written by somebody who has absolutely no idea what the comic is all about ( like the guy who proclaimed Batman has finally gotten over the murder of his parents ) or someone who tries to excuse his enjoyment of pop culture trash by fabricating some hidden higher intellectual and sociocultural / cosmopolitical / cultural meaning. With Blueberry the intro was kind of readable and quite informative even if the autor gave a few random happenings more importance than warranted. But it wasn´t so bad. I picked this one because it was still missing in my collection of the FAZ classics and to refresh my memory with Jean Giraud´s western comic. It´s been at least 35 years since I read those issues of ZACK and it is kind of difficult to recall much of it.

The collection contains the famous 5 part story that begins with CHIHUHUA PEARL and continues in THE MAN WHO WAS WORTH 50,000 DOLLARS, BALLAD FOR A COFFIN, OUTLAW and ends in ANGEL FACE. A good choice although I have to say that they could have printed the pages bigger ( they waste a lot of page ) or made the pocketbook smaller ( the book has just the right size that you can´t hold it in your hand comfortably ). So far I´m halfway through BALLAD and I will probably be finished just in time for the next Moebius post that will cover that period in his work.

The second comic that was included in my 20 kilos of comics was also from the FAZ classic collection, this time THE SIMPSONS.

And like I said earlier if you read the introduction you get the feeling that a superhero comic has run over the guy´s dog with his car. After over three decades I have gotten used to the fact that most german comic readers ( and probably most people in Germany period ) consider superhero comics the lowest form of trash but come on. To generalize that all readers of such comics are total slaves of continuity and follow it with a religious fervor bordering on insanity ? Dude, I don´t know which caped crusader pinched your girlfriend but you need to take some chill out pills. It´s like I always say : if you can´t deal with continuity there are other comics to read where nothing of importance happens and everything stays the same. For me continuity is the part where a story makes sense, where the character evolves because of what transpired which is the part that interests me. Does he take responsibility for his actions, does he learn something from it or does he choose to ignore it ? Or it sometimes means that if a hero has bested a villain with ease before he can´t suddenly loose completely without any reason or explanation. Continuity is where a fictional world makes sense and Hewey, Dewey and Louie still are Uncle Scrooge´s nephews and not suddenly his kids.

Anyway, sorry for my continuity rant, I picked the SIMPSONS book because you can´t do much wrong with the Simpsons. Most of the issues are pretty funny, the art is always solid and with the low number of issues I have chances are very low that I know any of the stories. Also since it´s pretty popular in Germany you get less stares if you read it on the bus than with X - MEN or SPIDER - MAN.

Now you might say that 2 measly pocketbooks don´t weigh 20 kilos and you would be right. Number 3 of the comics I got is volume 4 of ESSENTIAL DAREDEVIL, 600 pages of collected blind swashbuckling goodness, most of it drawn by the great Gene Colan.

The backcover is a bit damaged but aside from that it´s in good shape. I always wanted to add some Essentials to my Gene Colan collection but usually money´s too tight to mention. If not I would buy at least one of them Essentials or Showcases each month.

So it´s no wonder that the fourth comic that was included in the 20 bucks was volume 1 of ESSENTIAL MARVEL HORROR, a 648 page collection of various titles starring such great characters like Ghost Rider, Satana and Son of Satan.

So two pocketbooks and two Essentials for 20 bucks, not bad if I may say so myself. Of course I had to leave some books there or I wouldn´t have had any money left to get some comics from my comicbag but I hope that some of them are still there on my next visit.

And with that it´s once again time to wrap things up as another post that was supposed to be just a short explanation of what I have been doing since my last post has become longer and longer and longer. As usually I´m posting a video at the end of the post and this time it´s one I wanted to post a long time ago but I´m not quite sure if I didn´t do it already. It´s Jonathan Ross´ great documentary IN SEARCH OF STEVE DITKO guest starring Neil Gaiman.

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

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.

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