Jean Giraud – Moebius (8 May 1938 – 10 March 2012)
This is a belated tribute post to the late, great Jean Giraud, better known as Moebius and whom sadly, as I’m sure you know has recently passed away, following an extended battle with cancer. A gloomy time for the highest echelon of visual futurists, following the recent death of Starwars designer and visionary Ralph McQuarrie, another brilliant blinding light flickers and fades.
Jean Giraud was one of the worlds finest comic artists and fantasists, up there with luminaries such as Federico Fellini, Stan Lee and Hayao Miyazaki . Perhaps, in fact, he was the finest, I don’t think it’s an exaggerated statement to suggest that Giraud possessed an almost supernatural ability, an artist whose oneness with his inner creative universe was matched only by his voracious work rate. It’s extremely poignant to now think that every vision forged from Moebius’s staggeringly complex creative mind has now been produced, there’ll never be another…
For this post then I’ve handpicked a just a small selection of his beautiful art, as usual, I’ve then tried to lace with as many leads out as I can for your further reading, let’s start with his background.
Jean Giraud was born in the Paris suburb of Nogent sur Marne on May 8th, 1938. His parents divorced while he was young and Giraud was sent to live with his grandparents in the country, this rupture he later explained lay at the heart of his choice of separate pen names. With had little formal artistic training other than two years at the École des Arts Appliqués which joined at 16, Giraud was already publishing his cowboy cartoons by his late teens. Upon leaving education he would then spend some time in Mexico with his mother before a stint of national service in Algeria where he collaborated on the army magazine 5/5 Forces Françaises.
Giraud’s career was set in motion when he started to work as an apprentice with Belgian Comic artist Joseph “Jijé” Gillain, one of the leading comic artists in Europe at the time. During this period Moebius worked on titles such as Jerry Spring “The Road to Coronado” of which he inked. Things really began to take off after a collaboration with writer Jean-Michel Charlier and the start of the western comic serial Blueberry, for Pilote and the title quickly gathered a large following. Giraud evolved with Blueberry creating a darker and grittier style, which continued further in 1968 when the loosening of censorship laws allowed more adult themes and explicit content to be incorporated.
Above: Blueberry, superbly lit and coloured.
Giraud’s work in the 60’s and early 70’s was predominately all involved with the Western Genre, and was produced as either under the pen names Jean Giraud, Giraud or just simply Gir, but there was also another pseudonym – Moebius – first coined in 1963 used for a 21-strip Science Fiction serial that ran in a satire magazine called Hara-Kiri. The strip ended in 64 and the Moebius Moniker disappeared for 11 years…
in 1975 Moebius joined forces with with journalist/writer Jean-Pierre Dionnet, artist Philippe Druillet, and finacial director Bernard Farkas. The grouped called themselves “Les Humanoides Associes” and together they started the genre busting magazine magazine Métal Hurlant, better known to the english speaking world of course as Heavy Metal.
Above: Les Humanoides Associes, barefooted flare-wearer Moebius is on the right, Philippe Druillet next in then Dionnet with Farkas on the left.
Above: Moebius cover for a 1977 edition of Heavy Metal, trademark with typical hyper-detail.
Under the banner of Heavy Metal, Moebius published some of his best-loved and acclaimed work, and moved to a greater international stage. Material from this period includes the groundbreaking Azarch, named after it’s silent warrior protagonist who rides a pterodactyl-like creature through a strange, desolate landscape. Giraud also penned the the non linear, Airtight Garage strip, which he basically made up as he went along! The ‘Garage’ in question was in fact an asteroid that housed a micro universe.
From today’s viewpoint though the title with perhaps the most importance and resonance is The Long Tomorrow, a Moebius collaboration with the late Alien screenwriter Dan O’Bannon. The Long Tomorrow is now looked upon as the seminal cyberpunk piece first defining the grunged dsytopian look and feel and heavily influenced creatives such as Alien and Bladerunner director Ridley Scott, Neuromancer novelist William Gibson and Akira creator Katsuhiro Otomo – this to name but a few. Here’s a great quote from Gibson on the artwork featured in Heavy Metal
“So it’s entirely fair to say, and I’ve said it before, that the way Neuromancer-the-novel “looks” was influenced in large part by some of the artwork I saw in ‘Heavy Metal’. I assume that this must also be true of John Carpenter’s ‘Escape from New York’, Ridley Scott’s ‘Blade Runner'”, and all other artefacts of the style sometimes dubbed ‘cyberpunk’. Those French guys, they got their end in early.” source
Below: A page from The Long Tomorrow, imagine the impact power this had back in 1976.
In addition to comic art and illustration Moebius of course has a long CV of working with film and animation, this all started back in 1974 when was asked by Alejandro Jodorowsky to contribute art to his doomed, big screen adaptation of Frank Herbert’s “Dune”. If you’ve never heard of this unbelievably ambitious project, then you in for a real treat, I’ve posted about it in the past, but your best to head straight to the source: http://www.duneinfo.com/unseen/ also attached were Chris Foss, HR Giger, Pink Floyd for the Soundtrack with Salvador Dali to play The Emporer for a rumoured $100,000 a day!
Anyway before the inevitable implosion, Moebius had created a stunning collection of artwork totaling over 3000 pieces, including a storyboard of each scene, below are a just a few examples, for more head straight to: http://www.duneinfo.com/unseen/moebius/
Above: This regal character from Dune is Doctor Wellington Yueh, wonderfully ornate detailing.
Above: More concept costume artwork from the unseen Dune, Duncan Idaho (left) and Gurney Halleck (right), excellent boots and erm codpiece. One thing I really love that features again and again in Moebius’s art is the graphic detailing, the bird graphic on these characters chest’s is a great example, in fact I’ll make a point to research and write about the graphical lexicon of Moebius in future, masterful work.
Below: A Spice Smuggler, Moebius at his most playfully wild and outlandish – just superb – but again I think minimal skull and crossbones graphics caps the whole outfit off.
The next big film project to come along was Ridley Scott’s 1979 Sci-Fi Horror classic Alien, joining part of a creative force which again included Giger and Foss. Moebius’s creative involvement, however, was cut short after a difference of opinion with Scott, limiting his involvement to just three days. This was still sufficient time to make an impact, as his conceptual spacesuit drawings made it into production with only minor changes, as you can see below.
Above: Original Sketches for the crew’s EVA suits, which are I must say probably one of my favourite movie costumes.
Above: The actual suits featured it the film, Scott’s production team gave given them a slightly darker edge, love the wedged helmet torch. Just a side thought, I never really thought of Alien as a cyberpunk film until a friend described it as such in conversation, but it’s beaten up aesthetic certainly fits…
Next up something we have a conceptual drawing of an Imperial Probe Droid, that appears memorably at the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back. I had absolutely no idea Moebius was involved with the film until researching for this post, I always thought the droid design and its garbled transmission pattern was one of the coolest things in that movie, and now I know why!
** EDIT Moebius DID NOT produce the drawing below, it was probably produced by Joe Johnston based on designs from The Long Tomorrow, the ESB production team attained special permission from Moebius to adapt the design. Thanks for pointing that out Cecil
Above: An original sketch, interesting to note similarities with the Sentinel robots featured in The Matrix series, though of they would come years later…
Work on the revolutionary CGI pioneering film Tron (Disney 1982) would follow next, with Moebius once again acting as a conceptual artist and back up storyboard creator. Heres a small selection of the art, fascinating when you consider just how close some of these drawings are to the actually finished costumes.
See more of the artwork over at http://theairtightgarage.tumblr.com/search/tron a wonderful Tumblr blog dedicated solely to exploring the work of Jean Giraud.
Another film I’ve covered in the past and also from 1982 Moebius is the Franco-Hungarian animated film “Les Maîtres du temps” (Time Masters) directed by none other than René Laloux. Moebius was employed as a designer and judging by the box art obviously having him involved was a big deal, as his name takes prominence on the box art, top right of the image below. For more imagery from Les Maîtres du temps check out Eric Carl’s excellent gallery set over at Flickr.
Throughout the 80’s Moebius would continue to be involved in major Hollywood projects including Masters of the Universe (1987) Willow (1988) and The Abyss (1989) though ultimately neither Lucas or Cameron would use his designs.
Probably the film that owes most to the art of Moebius is Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element (1997), the project started out in 1991 as a script titled Zaltam Bleros, and Giraud was hired in the early stages to produce concepts for costumes, vehicles and sets. Over the next 6 years Zaltam Bleros would undergo many revisions before emerging as the popular super camp blockbusting space opera though throughout it’s metamorphosis Moebius’s designs essentially remained intact. The relationship with Besson would turn sour as after the films release Moebius and Jodorowsky attempted to sue to accuse him of blatantly plagiarising The Incal, a comic book series they had started in 1981. The case was unsuccessful though and in fact Jodorowsky would later concede he actually considered it an honour that somebody stole his ideas.
Of course whilst all these film projects were ongoing so was the comic illustration and writing, including collaboration with Stan Lee and Marvel comics on The Silver Surfer as you can see below. Specific comic series is something I shall cover in depth in future posts.
To underline the importance and prominence of Moebius in his native France in 1988 he was chosen along with 11 other winners of the prestigious Grand Prix of the Angoulême Festival, to illustrate a postage stamp set issued on the theme of communication. In recent years Moebius’s work has been the subject of several exhibitions, sharing a joint exhibition 2004/2005 with Hayao Miyazaki at La Monnaie Paris, and then in 2010 his very own grandoise ‘Moebius: Transe-Forme at Fondation Cartier’ once again in Paris. This was something I posted about at the time, If you’ve not seen the imagery before it’s definitely worth a look, stunning stuff, I really wish I could have gone, oh yeah and I love Giruad’s sharp tailor suit.
So that draws my brief tribute to a close, there’s so much more I could write and post about, and of course, I shall continue to do so in the future, a future in which without doubt Moebius’s legacy will just continue to gracefully evolve.
Finally here’s a great quote, taken from an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 2011:
“They said that I changed their life, work is why I became an artist. Oh it makes me happy. But you know at same time I have an internal broom to clean it all up. It can be dangerous to believe it. Someone wrote, ‘Moebius is a legendary artist.’ A legend — now I am like a unicorn.”
Jean Giraud – Moebius passed away aged 73 and is survived by his second wife and business partner, Isabelle Giraud and two children Helene and Julien from his first marriage.
Moebius tagged Gallaries at But Does it Float http://butdoesitfloat.com/filter/Moebius
An excellent tribute article By Dan Dos Santos – I ? Moebius – http://muddycolors.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/i-moebius.html
Jodorowsky on Moebius http://www.duneinfo.com/unseen/moebius/
A tumblr for all things Jean Giraud http://theairtightgarage.tumblr.com/
io9.com tribute post with Willow and Abyss artwork.
Not sure how long this link will remain valid, but while it’s up do check the Moebius Redux documentary, originally broadcast on BBC4 a couple of years ago.
Au revoir Moebius…