Jean Henri Gaston Giraud (French: [ʒiʁo]; 8 May 1938 – 10 March 2012) was a French artist, cartoonist, and writer, who worked in the Franco-Belgian bandes dessinées tradition. Giraud earned worldwide fame, predominantly under the pseudonym Mœbius, and to a lesser extent Gir, which he used for the Blueberry series and his paintings. Esteemed by Federico Fellini, Stan Lee and Hayao Miyazaki among others, he received international acclaim. He has been described as the most influential bandes dessinées artist after Hergé.
His most famous works include the series Blueberry, created with writer Jean-Michel Charlier, featuring one of the first anti-heroes in Western comics. Under the pseudonym Moebius he created a wide range of science fiction and fantasy comics in a highly imaginative and surreal, almost abstract style, the most famous of which are Arzach, the Airtight Garage of Jerry Cornelius, and The Incal. Blueberry was adapted for the screen in 2004 by French director Jan Kounen. In 1997, Moebius and co-creator Alejandro Jodorowsky sued Luc Besson for using The Incal as inspiration for his movie The Fifth Element, a lawsuit which they lost.
Moebius contributed storyboards and concept designs to numerous science fiction and fantasy films, including Alien, Willow, Tron (1982), The Abyss (1989) and The Fifth Element.
Jean Giraud was born in Nogent-sur-Marne, Val-de-Marne, in the suburbs of Paris, on 8 May 1938. When he was three years old, his parents divorced and he was raised mainly by his grandparents. The rupture between mother and father, city and country, created a lasting trauma that he explained lay at the heart of his choice of separate pen names. In 1955 at age 16, he began his only technical training at the Arts Appliqués art school, where he started producing Western comics. He became close friends with another comic artist Jean-Claude Mézières. In 1956 he left art school to visit his mother in Mexico and he stayed there eight months, after which he returned to work full-time as an artist. In 1959–1960 he served his military service in Algeria, where he collaborated on the army magazine 5/5 Forces Françaises.
A panel from Giraud's 1958 Western comic "King of the Buffalo", written by Noel Carre. It shows heavy inspiration from Jijé.
, created by Giraud and writer Jean-Michel Charlier. Within the series, he turned from the classic Western comic to a grittier realism.
At 18, Giraud was drawing his own comic strip, "Frank et Jeremie" for the magazine Far West. From 1956 to 1958 he published Western comics in the magazine "Coeurs Valiants", among them a strip called "King of the Buffalo", and another called "a Giant with the Hurons". Already in this period his style was heavily influenced by his later mentor, Joseph "Jijé" Gillain. In 1961, returning from military service in Algiers, Giraud became an apprentice of Jijé, who was one of the leading comic artists in Europe of the time. Jijé used Giraud as his assistant on an album of his Western series Jerry Spring, "The Road to Coronado" which Giraud inked.
In 1962 Giraud and writer Jean-Michel Charlier started the comic strip Fort Navajo for Pilote magazine no. 210. At this time affinity between the styles of Giraud and Jijé was so close that Jijé penciled pages 17–38 of the fourth Blueberry album, "The Lost Story", when Giraud was traveling in the United States.
The Lieutenant Blueberry character, whose facial features were based on those of the actor Jean-Paul Belmondo, was created in 1963 by Charlier (scenario) and Giraud (drawings) for Pilote and quickly became its most popular figure. His adventures featured in the spin-off Western serial Blueberry may be Giraud's work best known in his native France, before later collaborations with Alejandro Jodorowsky. The early Blueberry comics used a simple line drawing style similar to that of Jijé, and standard Western themes and imagery, but gradually Giraud developed a darker and grittier style inspired by the Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone and the dark realism of Sam Peckinpah. With the fifth album, "The Trail of the Navajos", Giraud established his own style, and after censorship laws were loosened in 1968 the strip became more explicitly adult, and also adopted a wider range of thematics. "Angel Face", the first Blueberry album penciled by Giraud after he had begun publishing science fiction as Moebius, was much more experimental than his previous Western work.
Giraud left the series in 1973 leaving the artwork to Colin Wilson, Michel Rouge and later Michel Blanc-Dumont for a few books. He returned to it in the following decade.
In 1979 Charlier and Giraud had a disagreement with their publishing house Dargaud over the publishing of Blueberry. Instead they began the western comic Jim Cutlass. After the first album "Mississippi River", first serialized in Metal Hurlant, Giraud took on scripting the series, and left the artwork to Christian Rossi.
When Charlier, Giraud's collaborator on Blueberry died in 1989, Giraud assumed responsibility for the scripting of the series. Blueberry has been translated into 15 languages, the first English translations by Marc Lofficier being published in 1970. The original Blueberry series has spun off a prequel series called "Young Blueberry", and a sequel called "Marshall Blueberry".
Science fiction and fantasy comics
The opening panel of Moebius's "Arzach
The Moebius pseudonym, which Giraud came to use for his science fiction and fantasy work, was born in 1963. In a satire magazine called Hara-Kiri, Moebius did 21 strips in 1963–64 and then disappeared for almost a decade.
In 1975 he revived the Moebius pseudonym, and with Jean-Pierre Dionnet, Philippe Druillet, and Bernard Farkas, he became one of the founding members of the comics art group "Les Humanoides Associes". Together they started the magazine Métal Hurlant, the magazine known in the English speaking world as Heavy Metal . Moebius' famous serial The Airtight Garage and his groundbreaking Arzach both began in Métal Hurlant. In 1976 Metal Hurlant published "The Long Tomorrow" written by Dan O'Bannon.
Arzach is a wordless comic, created in a conscious attempt to breathe new life into the comic genre which at the time was dominated by American superhero comics. It tracks the journey of the title character flying on the back of his pterodactyl through a fantastic world mixing medieval fantasy with futurism. Unlike most science fiction comics it has no captions, no speech balloons and no written sound effects. It has been argued that the wordlessness provides the strip with a sense of timelessness, setting up Arzach's journey as a quest for eternal, universal truths.
His series The Airtight Garage is particularly notable for its non-linear plot, where movement and temporality can be traced in multiple directions depending on the readers own interpretation even within a single planche (page or picture). The series tells of Major Grubert, who is constructing his own universe on an Asteroid named fleur, where he encounters a wealth of fantastic characters including Michael Moorcock's creation Jerry Cornelius.
In 1980 he started his famous L'Incal series in collaboration with Alejandro Jodorowsky. From 1985 to 2001 he also created his six-volume fantasy series Le Monde d'Edena, portions of which appeared in English as The Aedena Cycle.
In his later life, Moebius decided to revive the Arzak character in an elaborate new adventure series; the first volume of a planned trilogy, Arzak l'arpenteur, appeared in 2010. He also added to the Airtight Garage series with a new volume entitled Le chasseur déprime.
A two-issue Silver Surfer miniseries (later collected as Silver Surfer: Parable), written by Stan Lee and drawn by Moebius, was published through Marvel's Epic Comics imprint in 1988 and 1989. According to Giraud, this was his first time working under the Marvel method instead of from a full script. This miniseries won the Eisner Award for best finite/limited series in 1989.
From 2000 to 2010, Giraud published Inside Moebius (French text despite English title), an illustrated autobiographical fantasy in six hardcover volumes totaling 700 pages. Pirandello-like, he appears in cartoon form as both creator and protagonist trapped within the story alongside his younger self and several longtime characters such as Blueberry, Arzak (the latest re-spelling of the Arzach character's name), Major Grubert (from The Airtight Garage), and others.
Jean Giraud drew the first of the two-part last volume of the XIII series titled La Version Irlandaise (The Irish Version) from a script by Jean Van Hamme, to accompany the second part by the regular team Jean Van Hamme–William Vance, Le dernier round (The Last Round). Both parts were published on the same date (13 November 2007).
Under the names Giraud and Gir, he also wrote numerous comics for other comic artists like Auclair and Tardi. He also made illustrations for books and magazines, illustrating for example one edition of the novel "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho.
Moebius contributed storyboards and concept designs to numerous science fiction films, including Alien by Ridley Scott, Tron by Disney, The Fifth Element by Luc Besson, Star Wars V, and for Jodorowsky's planned adaptation of Frank Herbert's Dune, which was however abandoned in pre-production.
In 1982 he collaborated with director René Laloux to create the science fiction feature-length animated movie Les Maîtres du temps (released in English as Time Masters) based on a novel by Stefan Wul. He and director Rene Laloux shared the award for Best Children's Film at the Fantafestival that year.
With Yutaka Fujioka, he wrote the story – for the 1989 Japanese animated feature film Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland; as well, he was a conceptual designer for the movie.
Giraud made original character designs and did visual development for Warner Bros. partly animated 1996 movie Space Jam. And though uncredited, he provided characters and situations for the "Taarna" segment of Ivan Reitman's 1981 film Heavy Metal.
In 1991 his graphic novel Cauchemar Blanc was cinematized by Matthieu Kassovitz. The Blueberry series was adapted for the screen in 2004, by Jan Kounen as Blueberry: L'expérience secrète.
2005 saw the release of the Chinese movie Thru the Moebius Strip, based on a story by Giraud who also served as the production designer.
From December 2004 to March 2005, his work was exhibited with that of Hayao Miyazaki at La Monnaie in Paris.
From 12 October 2010 to 13 March 2011, the Fondation Cartier pour l'Art Contemporain presented the exhibition MOEBIUS-TRANSE-FORME, which the museum called "the first major exhibition in Paris devoted to the work of Jean Giraud, known by his pseudonyms Gir and Mœbius."
In 1988 Moebius was chosen, among 11 other winners of the prestigious Grand Prix of the Angoulême Festival, to illustrate a postage stamp set issued on the theme of communication.
Cover art for the Blueberry
album Nez Cassé
(1985). Giraud used oil paint
as well as line drawings and he changed the artistic style of the Blueberry
series several times.
Giraud's working methods were various and adaptable ranging from etchings, white and black illustrations, to work in colour of the ligne claire genre and water colours. Giraud's solo Blueberry works were sometimes criticized by fans of the series because the artist dramatically changed the tone of the series as well as the graphic style. However, Blueberry's early success was also due to Giraud's innovations, as he did not content himself with following earlier styles, an important aspect of his development as an artist.
To distinguish between work by Giraud and Moebius, Giraud used a brush for his own work and a pen when he signed his work as Moebius. Giraud drew very quickly.
His style has been compared to the Nouveaux réalistes, exemplified in his turn from the bowdlerized realism of Hergé's Tintin towards a grittier style depicting sex, violence and moral bankruptcy.
Throughout his career he experimented with drugs and various New Age type philosophies, such as Guy-Claude Burger's instinctotherapy, which influenced his creation of the comic book series Le Monde d'Edena.
Giraud died in Paris, on 10 March 2012, aged 73, after a long battle with cancer. The immediate cause of death was pulmonary embolism caused by a lymphoma. Moebius was buried on 15 March, in the Montparnasse Cemetery. Fellow comic artist François Boucq stated that Moebius was a "master of realist drawing with a real talent for humour, which he was still demonstrating with the nurses when I saw him in his hospital bed a fortnight ago".
Influence and legacy
Many artists from around the world have cited Giraud as an influence on their work. Giraud was longtime friends with manga author and anime filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki. Giraud even named his daughter Nausicaä after the character in Miyazaki's Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. Asked by Giraud in an interview how he first discovered his work, Miyazaki replied:
Through Arzach, which dates from 1975, I believe. I only read it in 1980, and it was a big shock. Not only for me. All manga authors were shaken by this work. Unfortunately, when I discovered it, I already had a consolidated style so I couldn't use its influence to enrich my drawing. Even today, I think it has an awesome sense of space. I directed Nausicaä under Moebius's influence.
Pioneering cyberpunk author William Gibson said of Giraud's work "The Long Tomorrow":
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.
"The Long Tomorrow" also came to the attention of Ridley Scott and was a key visual reference for Blade Runner.
"I consider him more important than Doré," said Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini:
"He's a unique talent endowed with an extraordinary visionary imagination that's constantly renewed and never vulgar. Moebius disturbs and consoles. He has the ability to transport us into unknown worlds where we encounter unsettling characters. My admiration for him is total. I consider him a great artist, as great as Picasso and Matisse."
Following his death, Brazilian author Paulo Coelho, paid tribute on Twitter stating:
"The great Moebius died today, but the great Moebius is still alive. Your body died today, your work is more alive than ever."
Benoît Mouchart, artistic director at France's Angoulême International Comics Festival, made an assessment of his importance to the field of comics:
"France has lost one of its best known artists in the world. In Japan, Italy, in the United States he is an incredible star who influenced world comics. Moebius will remain part of the history of drawing, in the same right as Dürer or Ingres. He was an incredible producer, he said he wanted to show what eyes do not always see".
French Culture Minister Frédéric Mitterrand said that by the simultaneous death of Giraud and Moebius, France had lost "two great artists"
Those works for which English translations have been published are noted as such. Their respective pages describe this further.
As Jean Giraud
- Blueberry (29 volumes, English translation, 1965 – ), artist (all vol), writer vol 25–29
- Jim Cutlass (7 volumes, 1979–1999), artist vol. 1, writer vol 2–7 (artist: Christian Rossi)
- XIII (volume 18, La Version irlandaise in 2007), artist
- Marshall Blueberry (3 volumes, 2000), writer
- Le Cristal Majeur (3 volumes, 1986–1990), writer (artist: Marc Bati), Paris: Dargaud
- Le Bandard fou (English translation, 1975), writer and artist
- Arzach (English translation, 1976), writer and artist
- The Long Tomorrow (Originally in English, 1976), artist
- L'Homme est-il bon? (English translation, 1977), writer and artist
- Le Garage Hermétique (The Airtight Garage, English translation, 1976–1980), writer and artist
- Les Yeux du Chat (1978), artist
- Tueur de monde (1979), writer and artist
- l'Incal (The Incal, 6 volumes, English translation, 1981–1988), artist
- Les Maîtres du temps (1982), artist
- Venise céleste (1984), writer and artist
- Le Monde d'Edena (6 volumes, 1985–2001), writer and artist
- Altor (7 volumes, 1986 – ), writer
- Silver Surfer: Parable (Originally in English, 1988–1989), artist
- Escale sur Pharagonescia (1989), writer and artist
- Les Vacances du Major (1992), writer and artist
- Le Coeur couronné (The Crowned Heart, English translation, 1992), artist
- Les Histoires de Monsieur Mouche (1994), artist
- Griffes d'Ange (1994), artist
- Little Nemo (1994), writer
- Ballades (1 volume, 1995), artist
- L'Homme du Ciguri (1995), writer and artist
- 40 Days dans le Désert B (1999), writer and artist
- Après l'Incal (2000 – ), artist
- Inside Moebius (6 volumes, 2000–2010), writer and artist
- Icare (2005), writer
- Halo Graphic Novel (Originally in English, 2006), artist
- Le Chasseur Déprime (2008), writer and artist
- Arzak L'Arpenteur (2010), writer and artist
- La Faune de Mars (2011), writer and artist
- Le Major (2011), writer and artist
The English-language versions of many of Moebius's comics have been collected into various editions, beginning with a series of trade paperbacks from Marvel Comics' Epic imprint in the late 1980s and early 1990s:
The Collected Fantasies of Jean Giraud (1987–1994):
- Moebius 0 – The Horny Goof & Other Underground Stories (72 pages, Dark Horse, 1990, ISBN 1-878574-16-7)
- Moebius ½ – The Early Moebius & Other Humorous Stories (Graphitti Designs, 1992, ISBN 0-936211-28-8)
- Moebius 1 – Upon A Star (72 pages, Marvel/Epic, 1987, ISBN 0-87135-278-8)
- Moebius 2 – Arzach & Other Fantasy Stories (72 pages, Titan, ISBN 1-85286-045-6, Marvel/Epic, 1987)
- Moebius 3 – The Airtight Garage (120 pages, Titan, ISBN 1-85286-046-4, Marvel/Epic, 1987)
- Moebius 4 – The Long Tomorrow & Other Science Fiction Stories (70 pages, Marvel/Epic, 1987, ISBN 0-87135-281-8)
- Moebius 5 – The Gardens of Aedena (72 pages, Titan, ISBN 1-85286-047-2, Marvel/Epic, 1988, ISBN 0-87135-282-6)
- Moebius 6 – Pharagonesia & Other Strange Stories (72 pages, Titan, ISBN 1-85286-048-0, Marvel/Epic, 1988)
- Moebius 7 – The Goddess (88 pages, Marvel/Epic, 1990, ISBN 0-87135-714-3)
- Moebius 8 – Mississippi River (64 pages, Marvel/Epic, 1991, ISBN 0-87135-715-1)
- Moebius 9 – Stel (Marvel/Epic, 1994)
Most of these volumes were later reissued by Graphitti Designs in assorted combinations, as a series of signed and numbered hardcover limited editions.
In 2010 and 2011, the publisher Humanoids (in the U.S.) began releasing new editions of Moebius works, starting with three of Moebius's past collaborations with Alexandro Jodorowsky: The Incal (original series complete in one volume), Madwoman of the Sacred Heart (all three parts complete in one volume), and The Eyes of the Cat.