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.