LINES ON PAPER Artist Bio - Moebius (Jean Giraud)

Moebius photo

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 proportion either.

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 time.

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.

Moebius-L'incal page

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.

Comics Journal Moebius tribute

Moebius illustrations of Jimi Hendrix

Open Culture article: Moebius Gives Tips to Aspiring Artists

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Blueberry Blueberry panel
Starwatcher Jimi Hendrix cliff
Moebius-Y a Pas Moyen Majesty is mine