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Comics Special: Jean Giraud aka Moebius summed up in 5 select works

  David Blot

He had three names, Giraud, Gir, Moebius, and hundreds of thousands of drawings. The complete body of work by Jean Giraud is immense, and nobody else but he knows its ins and outs. Below is a very personal selection featuring his illustrated books, comic strips, drawings and inspirations.ANGEL FACE (17th comic of the Blueberry series, 1975)

Angel face (17th comic of the Blueberry series, 1975)

Angel Face is the best of the Blueberry series. A Western essential and the first true extensive saga of the XIII comic series, Angel Face was first released in the mythical journal Pilote beginning in the 1960s. Jean Giraud was the draftsman and must have looked like a novice next to Jean Michel Charlier, Pilote’s Editor-in-Chief who also created the distinctly more conventional comics like Tanguy & Laverdure, Buck Danny or The Beaver Patrol.  Yet the atypical pairing of these two personalities – one being leftist while the other right-wing – adds a spectacular dynamic to the story of a drunken cavalry lieutenant who is nonetheless courageous and honorable, with physical features borrowed from the well-known actor of the era, Belmondo.  Angel Face was released in 1975 at the height of Jean Giraud’s career; it is the richest and most fascinating comic strip of the series, albeit the sequel “Broken Nose” is also quite exceptional… and as for the other Western “Jim Cutlass” by Gir & Charlier? Alas, it would take another column to conclude on that…

TOUT JIJE (1938 / 1977)

Tout Jijé (1938 / 1977)

Before Moebius, Gir or Giraud there was Joseph Gilain (aka Jijé), mentor to the young Jean and essentially the point of origin of Moebius’ distinctive style. Within the very first Blueberry comic strip, Jijé takes Giraud’s place on a dozen or so pages, yet no one falls for this deception.  The Dupuis editions of the Tout Jijé collection revive dozens of volumes the work of Joseph Gilain, chief behind the journal Spirou during the postwar years as well as an incredibly talented jack-of-all trades capable of drawing comics of all kinds.  He was also the mentor and main influence of comic book master André Franquin, the creator of Gaston Lagaffe. Jijé, amongst with Moebius and Franquin in spite of their unrelated styles, remains at the center of it all.

MAJOR FATAL / LE GARAGE HERMETIQUE DU MAJOR GRUBERT (1979)

Majot Fatal / Le garage hermétique du Major Grubert (1979)

Jean Giraud is twofold. These are the years of the journal Screeching Metal and the explosion of Moebius’ personality. An ongoing saga in the pages of Metal, Le Garage is a graphically portrayed hallucination in which the style appears to change every other page.  Narrated in an almost inracontable way by the SF super hero comic La Garage hérmétique, it posseses one of the most beautiful endings in all of comic book history. Hounded by the militia and making a detour down a hallway, Major Grubert opens a door, and to our surprise… meets us, in our very own reality, on a normal day outside the Opéra metro stop in Paris, just smiling on the street corner. Coming down from this trip, Moebius himself steps into the 1980s and becomes a star.

SILVER SURFER (1988)

Silver Surfer (1988)

Like a childish dream… Moebius actually draws superheroes. If he had been American, and given the way he was guided at the beginning of his career by Jean-Michel Charlier and the Dargaud issues, Jean Giraud would have without a doubt been one of the mainstays of the Marvel Comics or of DC 70’s, alongside Neal Adams, Joe Kubert & Co. But it was not until the end of the 1980s that this accomplished fact was realized, with Moebius drawing two unseen episodes of Silver Surfer (famous from the French magazine Strange) written by the Stan Lee, the mainstay of the Marvel. Whether the match was seen as two best sellers, Europe vs. the USA, or a top-quality collaboration, the result is frankly disappointing, with Moebius lacking his best and with Stan Lee seemingly elsewhere… Either way… the story does end like a childish dream.

BATMAN (1986)

Batman (1986)

Another childish dream of sorts, and one that will remain a childish dream, is Batman. The main impact is simply an impeccable drawing for Frank Miller that depicts the giant cape, the characteristic pout, and a mousy, bald man more so than Bruce Wayne. Moebius becomes the principle cartoonist of the character, then it’s up to us to imagine the rest. Here, Batman and Moebius keep a watch over us. Forever and ever.


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