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JEAN “Moebius” Giraud – Part Four

Jean Giraud understood the link between comics and film. A consummate visual storyteller, he easily made a successful transition to the latter.

In 1978, Jean’s friend and guru, film maker and comics writer Alejandro Jodorowsky made Moebius (along with Chris Foss and H. R. Giger) a part of his design team for Jodorowsky’s proposed film version of Frank Herbert’s Dune.

The funding for Dune collapsed at about the same time that film’s special effects coordinator Dan O’Bannon sold his screenplay of Alien (1979) to Ridley Scott. Dan convinced Scott to use the Dune art department for Alien, along with cartoonist Ron Cobb.

It is interesting that Cobb and Giraud worked together as I consider them both to be geniuses, a word I rarely use to describe anyone. I have worked closely with both gentlemen. They share some common traits. Both possess a child-like joy in their approach to the world. They seem to be constantly in the process of being delighted. I believe their lack of pre-judging is an essential key to keeping their unfettered flow of creativity from being blocked. Working with either of them in the same room is like sitting next to a fountain that gushes great ideas all day long.

After two weeks of work on Alien, Giraud received his first paycheck. “Five hundred dollars per week?” he exclaimed. “I thought I was making five thousand dollars per week!” Jean promptly quit the film and returned to Paris but by that time he had already designed all of the costumes and other key elements of Alien. In addition, he had an enormous artistic influence on the drawings of director Ridley Scott. When Scott helmed Bladerunner (1982), he used the Dan O’Bannon/Moebius comic book story “The Long Tomorrow” as the film’s initial design template.

Jean contributed designs to The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and characters and story bits to the Heavy Metal (1981) animated feature. It is reported that he storyboarded the entire film of Tron (1982) in just two and a half weeks — in addition to designing the costumes for the film!

That same year he collaborated with director René Laloux on his own animated feature, Les Maîtres du Temps (released in English as Time Masters).

Time Masters Book Cover with Time Masters Toy Figure

Busy guy!

12 thoughts on “JEAN “Moebius” Giraud – Part Four

  1. Wow, Bill, such an interesting read. Many thanks for this.
    Harvey K was particularly enamored of Moebius and told me that he had once asked him how he was able to draw the way he did.
    Supposedly he (Moebius) said that the mind was like a computer and the more information you banked in it the more would be available. Apologies for my paraphrasing here.
    I look at these drawings and your descriptions of his childlike sense of wonder and it all makes sense, although it doesn’t take away the magic.

  2. Hey, Mr. Stout,

    I am really enjoying this because, while I always like Moebius’s artwork, I didn’t really follow his career.
    What are the story boards at the very top of this post from?


  3. Bill,

    You know…in the Long Tomorrow piece, I would normally say that the character’s feet being tangent to the frame is incorrect and also artificial. At least, for general film and animation principles.

    YET….as a still frame illustration It actually DOES work to make the character seem to have more presence with the “camera” at street level. I would normally have cropped him a bit more at the legs or given a little space there, but if you do it on the illo it doesn’t have the same feel….and the perspective precludes the second choice.

    Very interesting….


  4. Hi Rick,
    I often use the bottom border line of a panel as “the ground” in my comics or place my actor’s feet close to the ground when I am designing for film. I know it violates the “no tangents” rule but with careful overlapping of forms it is still possible to convey relative size. I find that using that low angle placement can be very effective.

    I think in the Moebius example he used it to put the viewer in the lead character’s shoes, allowing the reader to enter our hero’s world at street level.

    On a similar subject, I found I can use near-tangents for a 3D effect. I drew a paperback book cover image of a mammoth charging full face toward the reader. I cropped the picture almost to the outer edge of the curving tusks. It’s remarkable how that tight cropping gave the mammoth an almost 3D effect (because of the visual tension created by the border and the tusks almost touching) without actually using 3D. Once I discovered that trick I have used it several times since with the same results.

  5. Bill,

    Thanks for the explanation. I did feel that his feet on that line did put me in that plane personally. I can see now where it can work.

    I guess I have always avoided it particularly for animation because I felt it called attention to the frameline and the frame itself. My feeling was that it called attention to the fact we were seeing a projection rather than the frameline being “invisible” as we look into the world created. Additionally, there are things that look fine in live action that one might avoid in animation because we are trying to reverse engineer an illusion if you will.

    Is that mammoth drawing in one of your books? I’ll have to look and see if I have that one and check it out.


  6. Hi Aaron,
    I’ll check (I forgot); offhand, I’d guess that board sequence is from Time Masters.

    To Rick:
    The mammoth picture I was referring to was the cover to the Ice Age volume in the Time Machine series of books. It hasn’t been reprinted except as one of my trading card images. I’ll find an un-cropped version and the cropped version and post them so that you can see what I was talking about.

    Yes, different mediums have different rules; like film and comics, for example. You can change the “camera” point of view in a comic book story all over the place but if you change the direction of the action (known in The Biz as “crossing the axis”) in a movie (having characters in pursuit, for example, from left to right and then suddenly putting the camera on the other side of them, making them look like they’re traveling from right to left), you will completely confuse your audience. They’ll think your characters are reversing their direction for some unknown reason, especially true in a chase sequence. That’s a big cinematic No-No.

  7. Yeah, the best example I can think of is the cavalry leaving a fort at full gallop to head out to save a wagon train. All shots on the journey will be, most likely, heading left to right….as we read that direction and so they appear to have more speed. All shots will be some variation…three quarters, profiles, etc…but all with the left to right orientation. Then if you cut to the Indians, they should be right to left, or it will feel as though they are another group coming up from behind the cavalry.

    If, however, you then would jump the line of action and show the cavalry going right to left, it would feel as though they had turned tail and were running from the Indians.

    The worst of course, is when crossing the line makes the bg go from something very dark to something very light. That’s a real problem.


  8. Hi Bill & everyone, great entries about Moebius.
    Just wanted to add a bit to the tangent / violating rules conversation above. In ‘The Long Tomorrow’, during the sequence where Pete Club and the ( shape shifting alien ) woman are in bed, there are all kinds of P.O.V. violations and continuity errors. Walls change color, the ‘same’ poster mutates into several different images, the design / layout / furniture of the apartment changes from panel to panel to be whatever’s convenient for that moment in the story!

    At one point the P.O.V. switches to a place that was establishes to be a wall in the previous panel, and the ‘reverse’ is now a wall – where the whole living room portion of the apt was seen a moment before.

    It doesn’t matter, who cares? I’d looked at every page of this story for years before I even noticed and it doesn’t take away from my enjoyment of it one bit. I’ve read Jean had a lot of fun drawing that story. I’m sure he was just going full steam ahead and didn’t notice ( or couldn’t be bothered to change it if he did notice ) as he was completely wrapped up in the joy of creating it, just as I was wrapped up in the joy of looking at it.

  9. Hi William, do you know what the colored pictures at the very top are from? They are so beautiful. Th ones with the guy cleaning blood of a hand.

  10. Without checking, I don’t recall. I know that they’re storyboards but I should have credited the source on those.

  11. Thank you so much for the reply! I’ll try to hunt them out.

  12. KG — looks like LES MAITRES DU TEMPS (Time Masters).

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