-By Dan dos Santos
If you asked me what my favorite movie is, I would likely have to give you a 'top three'.
If you asked me who my favorite musician is, I would again have to give you a 'top three'.
But if you asked me who my favorite artist is, I would say without a moment's hesitation that it is Jean 'Moebius' Giraud.
I heard about Jean's death the day after it happened, and the whole experience honestly took me by surprise. Obviously, I considered writing a blog post about it immediately, but then decided otherwise. I just wasn't in the mood to simply 'report' his death solely for the sake of promptness. It seemed inadequate. His work means so much more to me than that.
I confess, I've always thought it was kind of lame when I'd see teenagers sobbing over the death of some musician. I just didn't understand how they could be so upset about the death of someone they didn't even know. Yet, here I found myself, in the middle of some mundane conversation, unusually upset at the loss of a man. A man with whom my only worldly connection are the books on my shelf.
Now don't get me wrong, I wasn't some blubbering mess crying in my cereal bowl or anything like that. But hearing the news was enough to keep me awake that night, with a rotten pang in my stomach. Perhaps it is because I admired his work so much. Or maybe it is because we share the same job, and the same passions, and with that similarity, one can't help but to compare their own self to the departed.
Whatever it is, his death has left me a little bit empty.
As I've mentioned many times here, I am a bit of an art-book junkie, and Moebius is a particular weakness of mine. There is a even a dedicated section on my shelf just for his work. The first book I ever bought of his was 'Fusion'. After pouring through the book repeatedly, and falling absolutely in love with his work, I proceeded to spend the next few years digging up every old, out-of-print Moebius book that I could find. Whenever I got a new Moebius book, I would open it the way a Diabetic would open a Twinkie; with a wolf-like fervor that can only be sated by sweaty, panicked over-indulgenced, and lots of heavy breathing.
After a while, about 20 or 30 books into it, I felt like I had most of the ones I really wanted. Well, the ones I could afford anyways. After that, all I needed to do was 'keep up', so to speak. When a new book of his work would come out, I would buy it immediately. It didn't matter if it was in French, or if it was written by someone else, or if it was shrink-wrapped and I couldn't even see inside of it. All that mattered, was that inside that book, pressed between the two covers, would be some gem of a drawing that I knew would inspire me. And as time passed on, my patience would be rewarded, usually every year or two, with a new book, and the promise of more things to come.
But that's done.
There is no more to come.
Every Moebius drawing that will ever exist, has been drawn.
As boundless, and prolific, as his imagination was... Moebius' body of work in now finite. You can go back, and look at every illustration he ever produced. It's there. It's done. It's not going anywhere, and there won't be any more of it. It is now a quantifiable thing, which can be seen as a whole.
No more potential... just achievements.
That startles me.
Now, I'm willing to bet the reason this bothers me so much is because inside of me is some deep-rooted, existential anxiety, fighting the notion of my own mortality. But... I'm going to choose to ignore that. Instead, I'm going to say that this whole thing upsets me so much, because I love Moebius.
I mean, I seriously love Moebius.
For me, Moebius' work is in a class by itself, and merits very few comparisons... or contenders.
When I look at his art, I sometimes imagine him actually drawing it. I follow his strokes, as they flow across the page, as if each one brings the white of the paper that much closer to fulfilling some unspoken potential. With just a few black lines, he manages to create an amazing sense of depth, a menagerie of characters, and a backstory a hundred years long.
Which finally brings us to the actual point of this really long post. Rather than reporting on his death, I would much rather share with you guys why it is that I love Moebius so much. And what better way to do that than to share with you some of my favorite pieces of his.
All of the scans below are pretty high-rez, so be sure to click on them so you can really enjoy the details.
Just above is the first illustration by Moebius that I ever saw. It appeared in 'A Gallery of Dreams', an art collection celebrating the work of Neil Gaiman.
'Starwatcher', which appeared in an art book by the same name, is probably Moebius' most famous piece. It has since spawned many incarnations, and countless homages.
An image from 'Arzach', the comic which first brought Moebius world-wide acclaim.
Struck by the similarities between Arzach and Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaa, Moebius traveled to Tokyo to meet the artist. The two developed a life-long relationship, and even drew each other's characters on occasion, ultimately resulting in a collaborative exhibit in 2004.
Major Grubert, as he appeared on the cover to 'The Airtight Garage #1'.
The Airtight Garage is one of my favorite Moebius comics. Originally appearing as a serial 4 page short in 'Metal Hurlant', Moebius challenged himself by making up the whole story as he went along. He would intentionally end each episode with a catastrophic twist for which he felt there was no possible way to continue the story. Each month, he would pick up his pen, and sure enough, surmount his own challenge.
Jean Giraud, with his good friend, Major Grubert, visit a Tattoine Market.
To me, Moebius' work epitomizes what good art/design is all about... simplicity. Someone once said that 'good design is achieved only when you've removed everything from the picture that you can remove'. I think Moebius' work in general is a great example of this notion, but no work better exemplifies it than his book '40 Days Dans Le Desert'.
Some pages from '2001 Apres Jesus Christ', Moebius' metaphysical retelling of the story of Jesus.
Before Jean Giraud was 'Moebius', the persona under which he drew most of his SF themed work, he went by the name 'Gir'. It was under this name that he created one of his best selling comics, a Western called 'Blueberry'. Below are some stellar examples of work he created for that comic.
No stranger to film, Jean Giraud worked as a concept artist for many big budget titles, including 'Alien', 'Dune', 'Tron', and 'The Fifth Element'. In fact, the very creation of 'The Fifth Element' was heavily inspired by Moebius' comic 'H.P.'s Rock City'. Below is some concept art he created for the movie 'Willow'.
A few images from a portfolio entitled 'Voyage d' Hermes'.
Below are some pages from 'The Eyes of the Cat', which sadly is the last book of Moebius' work to be published during his lifetime. Written by long-time collaborator Jodorowsky, this is a nearly silent story. Black ink on yellow paper, this over-sized book really shows off Moebius' finesse of the medium.
And last, but most definitely not least, I leave you with perhaps my favorite Moebius piece of all time. A single illustration from the portfolio 'Mystere Montrouge'
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