The glue that binds Donald Sutherland, Elliot Gould, Gerald Ford and Russell Means? Moebius. – Heavy Metal Presents Moebius
We lost a big one this past year. Moebius was one of those individuals who floated above the clouds, a somewhat distant figure of almost god-like proportions, remote and inscrutable. His very name inspired that respect and distance, as if he were someone you could only approach with head bowed, taking three steps at a time, like the King of England receiving a new ambassador. Aficionados likely wouldn’t have ben so eager to bend the fandom knee if he had gone by plain old Jean Giraud his entire career, you know? (I’ve sometimes wondered what moniker a born and bred New Yorker like Kirby might have taken. “Fisticus” or something.)
Moebius’ fame was international, his artistic reputation unassailable. He was so venerated, even other noted visionaries like Federico Fellini could send him fawning, worshipful letters (I present this reproduced missive whole just because I wish more letters started with “My dear Moebius”):
No one lives forever, and Mr. Giraud lost his long battle with cancer back in March. The all-too human flesh is gone, but the body of work remains. The former is transitory, the latter not so much. On to that latter.
One of Moebius’ most enduring contributions to the comics scene was his hand in the inception of the French magazine Métal Hurlant, which, through licensing and repurposing and simple translation, was Americanized as the iconic Heavy Metal. The adult-oriented fantasy and science fiction within every issue made its name synonymous with striking storytelling, so much so that a comic lover hears those two words in succession and doesn’t first think of shirtless skinny dudes with long hair smashing guitars over basting speakers. If anything, they’ll think of an alien chick with exposed breasts. EXCELSIOR!
The U.S. Heavy Metal of course venerated its Francophone forbear, and in turn that mag’s guiding artistic light. Which begat this career-spanning Moebius retrospective — well, up to 1981 career-spanning, at least. It reprints a heavy (no pun) amount of Métal Hurlant work, but it digs into a lot of Moebius’ nooks and crannies of output, all the way back to his Western roots. There’s much of the surrealist fiction that you’d expect, but reading through this collection of FIRST TIME PRINTED IN AMERICA work, I was struck by some of the more oddball, one-off material. Take this Donald Sutherland/Elliot Gould movie poster for the long forgotten film S*P*Y*S:
The notation in the mag points out Mort Drucker influences. I can see them, and you probably can too – if ever two ’70s actors were worthy of caricature, it was Sutherland and Gould. (By the way, Irvin Kirshner directed this 1974 film. He also, of course, directed the unspeakably awesome The Empire Strikes Back. I’m glad Lucas looked past this little hiccup when he plucked him from relative obscurity.)
How about this Watergate era L’Express cover, which puts Gerald Ford in the Betty Ross role as he strives to mend the American psyche:
One of the bits of storytelling that doesn’t fit into the sci-fi/fantasy mold is a two page, one-sided (pure natives, evil white men) sequence summarizing the Wounded Knee incident. Here’s the final panel:
I looked around on the internet (i.e. typed “Russell Means Wounded Knee” into Google) and came up with the original image, in case you want to compare and contrast. You know, if you’re anal or something. I wonder if the guy covering his face/coughing ever thought that a legendary artist would commemorate his pose for posterity. Probably not.
And there’s a ton more.
The back and forth of the Moebius style is evident in these pages. It goes from warm realism, which would appeal to even the most plain vanilla of readers, to an edgy underground style worthy of the squirrelliest R. Crumb strip, and then back again. He could do it all, and looking through this tome only makes me wish that he had wandered into more of the mainstream American comic book scene, besides an argument-inspiring Silver Surfer tale. If only he had been healthy enough to do that chapter of Neil Gaiman’s Endless Nights as had ben intended. Oh well. There are some wonderful consolation prizes out there, though, and this old collection is one of them.