JEAN “Moebius” GIRAUD (1938-2012) :
A Remembrance – Part One

First Exposure
I was introduced to the work of Jean Henri Gaston Giraud in the early 1970s when a friend, cartoonist Scott Shaw!, took me to visit with his pal and fellow comic book collector (Dave Clark, I believe), a student at UCLA. Once inside the sanctity of his dorm Dave began excitedly pulling out issue after issue of the French comic magazine Pilote.

Dave was especially enthusiastic about sharing the work he had discovered by a comic book artist in the magazine who signed his name “Gir”. Dave explained that “Gir” was a pseudonym for the artist’s real name, Jean Giraud.

Gir was the artist on a regularly serialized comic strip starring a Jean Paul Belmondo look-alike named Lieutenant Blueberry, one of the first Western anti-heroes to appear in comics.

To my shock and amazement, it was the best damn Western comic book art I had ever seen — better than any American Western comics.

Once I had perused page after page of this magnificent art, Dave told me that Giraud had also recently begun drawing some science fiction themed comics. Dave pulled some out and showed them to me. These he signed with the mysterious nom de plume of “Moebius”.

Unlike the juicy brush inking of the Blueberry comics, the Moebius art was all fantastic pen work. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had never seen anything like it in comics.

As soon as I returned home to my Hollywood apartment, I purchased my own overseas subscription to Pilote. Receiving page after page, week after week of the divine art of Jean Giraud was one of the highlights of my youth in the 1970s.

A few years later, Moebius and a few other French cartoonists formed the group known as Les Humanoides Associes in order to publish their own all-new science fiction comic book monthly. They titled it Métal Hurlant (Screaming Metal).

The first issue featured a new character created by Moebius named Arzack.

Arzachk (whose name was intriguingly spelled differently every time it appeared in the strip) had no dialogue or text whatsoever.

The stories were told strictly with pictures. The drawings were executed in pen and ink, then lovingly hand colored with watercolor. The mysterious Arszak character flew about on a sizeable, white pterodactyl-like creature. The art was some of the finest Giraud had drawn up to that point, a real milestone in comic book storytelling.

I did whatever was necessary to obtain every issue of this new French magazine — which wasn’t quite as easy as simply buying a subscription. Issues seemed to reach these shores in random order. Eventually, the stories in Métal Hurlant were (horribly) translated, licensed and republished here by the National Lampoon people in a monthly American version of the magazine, Heavy Metal. I joined Moebius and company in August 1977, proudly becoming Heavy Metal magazine’s first American contributor.

4 Responses to “JEAN “Moebius” GIRAUD (1938-2012) :
A Remembrance – Part One”

  1. Rick catizone says:

    His work was very inspiring. He had a unique way of presenting his vistas, which was its own wonderful statement…..similar in quality, but not look,of the unique vistas given us by Hal Foster and Alex Raymond.

    He sold MANY a Heavy Metal magazine here, simply because his artwork graced its pages. Much like Kirby’s art covers sold so many different comics, even if he did no interior work. It was just that strong.

    Best,
    Rick

  2. jim says:

    You, sir, introduced me to Jean Giraud’s work, on Lt. Blueberry, waaaay back in 1980. At the Dino DeLaurentis offices in Beverly Hills, as you were working on the first Conan film, you took some time to look at an aspiring young artists drawings. After seeing my work you showed me Lt. Blueberry and examples of Leo Duranona. Always sociable and encouraging (this was my second visit with you) you gave a struggling, knowledge hungery, 18 yr old kid some of your time. That’s always the best. Thanx

  3. Bill says:

    Hi Jim,
    We were such youngsters back then!

    But Leo Duranona? I just checked to see who that is. Perhaps you were thinking of Victor de la Fuente, a Spanish artist from that era whose work I was championing back then. I’m still deeply passionate about this late (he died in 2010) artist’s masterful work.

    I believe it was Al Williamson who turned me on to the majestic western and sword & sorcery comics of de la Fuente. “Man, can he draw horses!” Al told me. He could draw everything else, too and was a great, clear storyteller. Al became very close to Victor, eventually naming a son after him.

  4. jim says:

    Yes! You are correct sir. It was Victor de la Fuente. And I didn’t think of him because, dammit, I don’t have any of his work in my, now vastly under rated, vast library. I do recall his very loose handling of the human form. Very relaxed and natural feeling. Okay amazon, don’t disappoint me in my search for a de la Fuente fix.

    I love the word-of-mouth passing on (pre-internet) of artist recommended discoveries. Hearing a new name and sending a new favorite down the grapevine was always a thrill. It’s too easy to hit the computer today and dial one up. Easy access ain’t as thrilling.

    ciao- Jim

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