Jean Giraud, born on May 8, 1938 in Nogent-sur-Marne and died on March 10, 2012 in Paris, is a French comic book author, who made himself known under the pseudonym Gir and the western Lieutenant Blueberry in 1964, then revolutionized the science fiction comic of the 1970s and early 1980s under the pseudonym Moebius and works such as The Hermetic Garage or The Incal.
He is the creator, with scriptwriter Jean-Michel Charlier, of the famous Western Blueberry comic strip, which he signed under the name of Gir and then under his real name.
Under the pseudonym Moebius, he is the author and/or draftsman of science fiction comics, such as The Hermetic Garage, The Incal or Arzach, which have earned him international recognition in the United States and Japan, usually not very receptive to European comics.
Moebius is one of the founders of the publishing house Les Humanoïdes associés, publisher of the magazine Métal Hurlant. He also participates in the graphic design of films such as Alien and Tron. His impact on comics, under the name of Giraud and Moebius, made him one of the major French-speaking artists of the 20th century.
Known for the speed of his drawings, Jean Giraud’s graphic style is very varied, ranging from the realism of his early adventures in Lieutenant Blueberry’s Adventures, which began in 1963, to the dreamlike and lyrical purity of more recent works. His drawing ranges from engraving, to the classic black and white line, to the work of the environmental colour typical of the light line.
His universes are for the most part centered on a phantasmagorical and delirious science fiction as well as a poetry tinged with metaphysics.
Influenced by the desert expanses of Mexico, he likes to draw characters on a flat and uniform surface, which can range from Sonora to the total absence of decoration. Whether in the Blueberry or Arzach series, the desert is a recurring figure in his work. Indeed, because no human construction imposes a specific meaning, it allows all possible metamorphic possibilities, hence its many drawings where the characters crossing the desert undergo surprising metamorphoses.
Although European comics are not widely distributed in Japan, Moebius is respected, especially by local authors: “he is very popular among the illustrators of my generation” according to Jirō Taniguchi, born in 1947. According to Gō Nagai, “Moebius invented a new fantastic world, opened up new horizons”. Its influence can also be seen in the graphic style of the game Gravity Rush (Gravity Daze in Japan).
Coming from a modest background, he spent his childhood in Fontenay-sous-Bois, in the Paris suburbs. He then lived with his paternal grandparents, his parents having separated when he was three years old.
He began drawing at the age of 12 or 13, mainly cowboys and Indians. At the age of 14, his father showed him a number of Fiction, a magazine that Jean Giraud continued to buy regularly, with Galaxie, for about fifteen years.
At the age of 15, he sold his first story to the illustrator Marijac. At the age of sixteen, he began his technical training at the École des arts appliqués de la rue Dupetit-Thouars in Paris, where he stayed for two years.
At the age of 18, he published his first illustrations while working for advertising, fashion or decoration. That same year, he created his first comic strip, Frank and Jérémie, published between February and July 1956 in issues 10 to 17 of the monthly Far-West. From the same year, he decided to devote himself entirely to comics and collaborated as a draftsman in magazines such as Fripounet and Marisette, Cœurs valillants and Sitting-Bull.
After a nine-month stay in Mexico with his mother, he did his military service, first with hunters in Germany and then in Algeria.
In 1961, he became Jijé’s apprentice, who at that time enjoyed a solid reputation in the world of European comics. In this capacity, Jean Giraud is in charge of inking an episode of Jerry Spring, La Route de Coronado, a western series published in the Spirou newspaper. He also worked with Jean-Claude Mézières on the collection L’Histoire des civilisations chez Hachette in 1961 and 1962.
In 1963, Jean-Michel Charlier was looking for a draftsman for a western to appear in Pilote and talked to Jijé, who suggested that Jean Giraud become its illustrator. Thus began the adventures of the famous Lieutenant Blueberry, whose great success made it a classic of its kind. Jean Giraud signs the plates of this series of Gir’s diminutive, but his full name appears on the covers of the albums.
The Blueberry saga includes twenty-eight albums as well as two derivative series (fifteen volumes): Marshall Blueberry (Jean Giraud, William Vance and Michel Rouge) and La Jeunesse de Blueberry (Jean Giraud, Colin Wilson and Michel Blanc-Dumont).
From the late 1960s onwards, Jean Giraud illustrated a series of magazines and science fiction books in which he addressed more personal and unconventional themes. These illustrations are signed Moebius, a pseudonym inspired by the Moebius ribbon invented by the German mathematician August Ferdinand Moebius.
This pseudonym was first used in a comic strip entitled L’Homme du XXIe siècle, published in May 1963 in issue 28 of Hara-Kiri. Moebius appears about ten times in Hara-Kiri until number 40, released in 1964. Thereafter, Jean Giraud no longer used this signature on a comic strip until 1971, but he continued to use it for his science fiction illustrations. In 1970 he met Alejandro Jodorowsky for whom he directed the poster for the film El Topo.
Disagreeing with the editorial line of the newspaper Pilote, he stopped working for the publishing house in 1974 (but returned occasionally in 1976, 1983 and 1985). He began illustrating pages of L’Écho des savanes (publication of the comic strip Cauchemar blanc) and in 1975, with Jean-Pierre Dionnet, Philippe Druillet and Bernard Farkas, founded the magazine Métal Hurlant.
He was able to create and publish science-fiction comics in the underground style, such as Arzach (pre-published in 1975 in Métal hurlant, album in 1976) or Le Garage hermétique (pre-published from 1976 to 1979 in Métal hurlant, album in 1979 under the title Major fatal), which would influence an entire generation of artists. He publishes these comics under the pseudonym Moebius at Les Humanoïdes associés, as well as Le Bandard fou, Les Yeux du chat, etc.
International recognition and cinema
His science-fiction illustrations and Arzach, a revolutionary work for the time, made him known abroad and Jean Giraud/Mœbius was contacted by French and American filmmakers to participate in the pre-production of science-fiction films in the 1970s.
A first collaboration was established with Alejandro Jodorowsky and Dan O’Bannon, who hired Giraud to assist them in the creation of a film inspired by Dune, Frank Herbert’s novel. But the project is doomed to failure due to a lack of resources. The collaboration with Jodorowsky continues, however, with the publication of L’Incal, a six-volume science fiction saga published between 1980 and 1988.
Jean Giraud’s Hollywood adventure is not over because he was hired in 1977 by Ridley Scott to participate in the graphic design of the costumes for Alien, the eighth passenger. Later, he accepted other collaborations for the cinema. In 1982, he designed the sets and costumes for the film Tron, then directed the storyboard and created the characters for René Laloux’s animated film Les maîtres du temps.
In 1986, Jean Giraud moved to Los Angeles and set up Starwatcher Graphics with his first wife Claudine. At the same time, he succeeded in convincing Marvel Comics to publish most of his work produced so far under his signature Moebius. This meeting will lead him to illustrate a story of the Silver Surfer in collaboration with Stan Lee and according to the Marvel method. A rare circumstance for a European author, this contribution has influenced several comic book authors, such as Jim Lee or Mike Mignola. He continues to work on American films such as Les Maîtres de l’univers directed by Gary Goddard for which he draws the characters, Willow and Abyss but for the latter his creations are not covered by the following illustrators. He is also co-founder of Éditions Aedena with Jean Annestay and Gérard Bouysse, and works on works in tandem with Geof Darrow or Tanino Liberatore. He is also the author of an autobiography: Giraud Mœbius: Histoire de mon Double, published by Éditions no 1.
Diversification and exposure
In 1988 the French post office issued a booklet of 12 stamps at 2.20 francs on the theme of Communication designed by 12 French comic book authors, including Moebius, Reiser, Fred, Brétécher, Tardi, Bilal, etc., all Grand Prix du Festival d’Angoulème.
In 1996, his second wife Isabelle took over the Stardom publishing house and gallery, which has since become Moebius Production. Together they publish books, silkscreens and posters in limited edition, dedicated to his work. In 1997, Luc Besson hired him to work on The Fifth Element. In 1999, he was president of the jury for the first edition of the International Festival of the Very Short.
In 2002, he created the series Arzach Rhapsody in fourteen episodes for television. From March 1, 2004 to April 13, 2005, the Miyazaki-Mœbius exhibition will take place at the Hôtel de la Monnaie in Paris. It compares the work of Jean Giraud and Hayao Miyazaki, the famous Japanese animated film director from the Ghibli studio. More than 300 drawings were exhibited.
In May 2006, a stamp (in booklet of 10 adhesive stamps) on the theme of the holidays of the future was issued in France, the design of which was made by Jean Giraud.
With the magician Gérard Majax in February 2008, he participated in the creation of a new attraction in the Parc du Futuroscope, La Citadelle du Vertige, inspired by the worlds of the Hermetic Garage. In October 2010, the Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art organizes the first major retrospective dedicated to the work of Giraud-Mœbius. The same year he directed the short film La Planète again with Geoffrey Niquet. In 2011, he participates in the exhibition Tron L’héritage at the Chappe Gallery.
Jean Giraud died on March 10, 2012 of a pulmonary embolism following lymphoma. According to Benoît Mouchart, artistic director of the Angoulême festival, Giraud will go down in history in the same way as Dürer or Ingres.
He was buried in Paris on March 15, 2012, at the Montparnasse cemetery (9th Division), after a religious ceremony at the Sainte-Clotilde Basilica.