Master of the Elements: A Celebration Of Jean Giraud, AKA Moebius
Jean Giraud, better known to many in comics by the pseudonym Mœbius, is a legendary figure in the comics industry, and one of the most influential European comic artists of all time. Whether it’s his esoteric and complex creator-owned work in his native France, or his occasional dalliance with work-for-hire comics in America, few have come close to rivaling Mœbius’ breathtaking brilliance.
Giraud was born May 8, 1938, and began his comics career at eighteen years old as a cartoonist for French magazines such as Far West and Cœurs Valiants, before he left to complete his military service. Even while in the military --- stationed in Algeria --- he worked on an-house publication 5/5 Forces Françaises.
After his military service was complete, Giraud returned to comics and apprenticed under Belgian artist Joseph Gillain, also known as "Jijé", best known for his work on Spirou et Fantasio. Giraud aided Gillain on the Western comics magazine Jerry Spring, and provided inks for his mentor on the "The Road to Coronado".
In 1963, Giraud, along with writer Jean-Michel Charlier, began work on Blueberry, the tale of an American cowboy who was one of the first distinct anti-heroes in comics. Over the course of his career, Giraud would occasionally leave and return to Blueberry, and took over scripting following Charlier’s passing.
The pseudonym Mœbius was first used in 1963 for a series of stripes in the satirical magazine Hara-Kiri, but was resurrected a decade later when Giraud helped found the artist collective "Les Humanoïdes Associés". Along with his fellow artists, he founded Métal Hurlant, which eventually evolved into --- and was outlived by --- the English language magazine Heavy Metal.
It was at Métal Hurlant that Mœbius introduced perhaps his most iconic character, the silent warrior Arzarch. The strips, originally just four short stories, follow Arzach as he rides his pterodactyl across vast expanses, and was groundbreaking at the time for not featuring any dialogue, narrative captions, or even sound-effects.
In the late '80s, Mœbius collaborated with Stan Lee on Silver Surfer: Parable for Marvel Comics, a two-issue miniseries that at the time was published through Epic Comics. This was the first and only time that Giraud worked from a plot, with the actual dialogue coming later (also known as Marvel Style), and the series won the Eisner Award for Best Limited/Finite Series in 1989.
The sci-fi boom of the late '70s and early '80s saw Mœbius collaborate on films such as Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Alien and Tron. He also provided designs for Alejandro Jodorowsky’s abandoned Dune adaptation, and although uncredited, he worked on character designs and visual development for Space Jam in 1996.
Alongside director René Laloux, Mœbius worked on the animated film best known in English as Time Masters, and wrote the story for the Japanese adaptation of Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland. Several of his own characters have been adapted to film, including a portion of the Heavy Metal film based on Arzach, and Blueberry in 2004.
Over the course of ten years, beginning in 2000, Giraud worked on a series of autobiographical fantasy comics titled Inside Mœbius. The series, which consists of six volumes, follows the creator who is trapped in a fantasy world alongside his younger self and several of iconic characters including Blueberry, Arzach and The Airtight Garage’s Major Gruber.
In 1981, Jean Giraud was awarded the Angoulême International Comics Festival’s lifetime achievement award, the Grand Prix de la ville d'Angoulême, one of the most prestigious awards in the industry. He was inducted into the Will Eisner Award Hall of Fame in 1998, and in 2011 he was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame.
Jean Giraud passed away in 2012 after a long battle with cancer, but although he is no longer with us, his legacy lives on in the collected volumes of an iconic career. Artists young and old will always have his work to inspire them, and in that way, Mœbius will live forever.