Comic Book Classics — 16
Posted by floppybootstomp
This is the last comic book classic for a while. I think the series stands up well and offers up some of my favourites. OK, so the list isn’t exhaustive, but no list of these things can be. I think I need a break from the whole thing for a wee bit. Let things settle down before I go on. Anyway, the last entry for the present is a man who transformed the comic-book aesthetic in a number of genres. His name is Jean Giraud and he is one of the reasons why French comics grew up and became a medium for adults. For a more rounded assessment of his (many) works, you could try his official site or this. What you will get from me, is a brief, impressionistic sketch of the man and his work. Most of his comics are in English and are Amazon-ready so they should be easy enough to enjoy.
Jean Giraud (born 1938) worked under a series of pseudonyms. In his earliest incarnation, soon after he cut his teeth as an artist on French children’s comics, he signed off as GIR. It was in this ‘Gir’ phase that he transformed the comic-book Western. Westerns had been a staple of European comic books since the first Roy Rodgers B-features made their way to Europe’s cinemas in the 1940s and 50s. The craze for ‘Cowboys and Indians’, led to many editors jumping on the Western bandwagon. Tex Willer, an early example, sold in considerable numbers throughout Italy (its home), France and Spain.
Gir shook up the genre with his own series, Lt. Blueberry. For a start, the style was different from the other cartoons. The eponymous hero, modeled on the French actor Jean-Paul Belmondo, is an unshaven, dirty-looking officer in the Union army. The look and amoral stance of the comic (that differed from the clean-cut cowboys in most films and comics) prefigured the Spaghetti Westerns of Sergio Leone and others. Gir’s use of line, etching and composition are still affecting today.
Later Giraud would move into Science Fiction. It is here, perhaps, that his influence is greatest. Under the pseudonym Moebius (named after the Moebius Strip) he penned some amazing illustrations and helped found the ground-breaking comic book Metal Hurlant. His most visually stunning creation is the textless comic book Arzach set on a world of strange yellowed cities and odd-looking flying creatures. Other works include his Bande Dessinee albums Le Cauchemar Blanc (The White Nighmare), Le Baudard Fou (The Mad Wanker) and John Watercolor Et Sa Redingote Que Tue (John Watercolor and his Killer Overcoat). He also collaborated briefly with the Marvel/DC talent-killing monster and did some illustrations for the Silver Surfer. Moebius also collaborated in the design of the film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s ‘Dune’.
As a writer, Moebius was always an ethereal, surrealist cove. His world-building is odd and spectacular, his cities breathtaking. Humour and play are always close at hand even when plot takes over (as it sometimes has to). His only problem is that his strange landscapes are just too good. I’d rather stay and explore them than follow the story to wherever its going next. Perhaps its just me, not wanting his strange twisted visions to ever end.