Born: May 8, 1938,Nogent-sur-Marne, Val-de-Marne, France
March 10, 2012, Paris, France
Jean Giraud is best known
as "Moebius", a nom de plume he adopted in the Sixties. He was born in Paris in 1938 and discovered
the escapist world of science fiction and fantasy art early in
life. He grew up with comic books and was creating his own all
through his adolescence. He had some formal training at the Institute
of Applied Art, but his real school was the French comic medium.
In 1956, before he was 18, he was drawing his own comic strip,
Frank et Jeremie for the magazine, Far West. Throughout the rest
of the fifties he drew comics. Perhaps an aside is warranted here.
French comics of the fifties through the seventies were usually
weekly publications with a wide variety of material, but usually
only a couple of pages were devoted to each strip. So if I told
you he contributed to 20 issues of Fripounet et Marisette from
1956-1958, the total number of pages drawn might only amount to
around 25. I don't want to minimize the work he was doing at a
considerably early age, but I don't want to distort it out of
His main market was a pair of Catholic magazines, Ames vaillantes
and Coeurs vaillants for which he would do short (2-4 page) strips
and the occasional cover. 1958 and 1959 were mainly taken up with
military service (I think - my French is rudimentary, at best),
and early in 1961, he apprenticed to Joseph Gillian. Known as
Jije, Gillian was an established cartoonist working for the major
comic magazines. Together they produced 44 pages of Jerry Spring,
a western strip for Spirou over a period of five months. This
exposure led directly to Blueberry, the strip he created with
Jean-Michel Charlier and for which he's best known. Blueberry
started in Pilote #210 (dated October 31, 1963) and the first
story was titled Fort Navaho. It was 46 color pages - the perfect
length to be published as an album. Jije actually did the album
cover. Mike Blueberry was Jean Paul Belmondo in a John Ford western
storyboarded by Harvey Kurtzman.
Of course it didn't stay that way for long. Giraud was destined
to grow and change and improve and despite Blueberry's longevity
(the last volume I've seen is Arizona Love [below] from 1990),
the style was anything but static. The journey from there to here
is most interesting.
It was also in 1963 that Moebius was born. In an obscure satire
magazine called Hara Kiri, in a style reminiscent of Kurtzman's
Mad Magazine crew, a new artist made an unheralded arrival. That
little signature box at left is the first appearance of Giraud's
use of Moebius. I don't know for sure, but I'm willing to bet
that few readers made the stylistic connection between this style
and the one signed Giraud in Pilote. Moebius did 21 strips for
Hara Kiri in 1963 and 1964 and then disappeared for nearly a decade.
Throughout the Sixties and into the Seventies, Giraud continued
to produce Blueberry episodes and albums on a regular basis. In
addition, as Gir, he did many other stories, also for Pilote.
Some he drew and some were written for other artists like Auclair
and Tardi. His style as Gir was more explosive and explorative
and, in many cases (see image at right from Y a Pas Moyen, Pilote
#645, 3/16/72), very much in the manner of American comic books.
Giraud was about to take his style even further. In January of
1973, Pilote published La Deviation, a seven page b&w strip depicting
the surreal vacation of artist Jean Giraud (see below). Signed
"Gir", this strip evaporated any doubts that the two were the
same person, but it also was stylistically indicative of a connection
between Gir and Moebius. The cat was pretty much out of the bag.
The early 70's in France also saw the rise of fanzines, just
as it did in the U.S. Assembled and published
by the people who collected comics, they were often showcases for
new artists. When Moebius did the cover for Comics 130 #5, it's not certain how many people actually knew that
Giraud was Moebius, but it is certain that the cover art was powerful
and in a new style. Soon Moebius art was turning up on the covers
of science fiction paperbacks, and in the French equivalent of underground
comics (Le petit Mickey, Le Bandard Fou and L'Echo des Savanes).
In early 1975, as one of the founding members of Les
Humanoides Associes (the others were Jean-Pierre Dionnet, Philippe
Druillet, and Farkas. Their first publication, Metal Hurlant,
would change comics forever. The first issue featured a cover
by Moebius and Philippe Druillet, as well as the first installment
of Arzach and of Major Grubert. The American incarnation of Metal
Hurlant is Heavy Metal which is still being published today and
is filled, primarily, with European reprints.
With the advent of Metal Hurlant, Moebius came to the fore both
as France's most important cartoonist and as the dominant member
of the Giraud/Gir/Moebius trio. Throughout the Seventies, Moebius
appeared in every issue. Much of his work there has been collected
into albums: Harzak, John Water Color (which also reprints the
Hara Kiri and L'Echo des Savanes work), Le Bandard Fou, L'homme
est-il bon?, Major Fatal, etc. In the early Eighties, LHA began
a series of albums collecting all of his work, from the earliest
Frank et Jeremie up to unpublished and seldom-seen work of the
Other major Moebius accomplishments of the 70's included costume
designs for Ridley Scott's film Alien, and storyboards/design
for Jodorowsky's Dune and Disney's Tron; the launch of a new western
strip with Charlier, Jim Cutlass, and collaborations with both
Jodorowsky and Dan O'Bannon; albums, portfolios, posters and more.
Blueberry continued to appear fairly regularly in Pilote and he
started his famous L'Incal series in 1981. This three-album series
brought Giraud's fascination with crystals into his mainstream
work - and, yes, by 1981 Moebius was as mainstream as Giraud.
Much of hiswork has been translated into English and published
as soft-bound albums by Epic. There are about 20 of them including
many of the best Blueberrys and the complete L'Incal. This same
material has been issued by Graphitti Designs in limited edition
signed hardcovers (about three albums per book) with wonderful
commentary by Giraud. Many of these are still available from Bud
Plant Comic Art.
Giraud passed away in 2012 at age 73 after a long illness (cancer) in Paris, France.