A master of graphic narrative whose influence spread far beyond the printed page, the artist Jean Giraud—better known as Moebius—died today of cancer in his native Paris. He was 73.
Moebius is most famous for his work in Métal Hurlant, the legendary, ongoing comics anthology he co-founded in 1975. His style—a breathtaking, dreamlike hybrid of science fiction and fantasy full of intricate draftsmanship and teeming imagination—became one of Métal Hurlant’s bedrocks. Licensed in the U.S. as Heavy Metal, the magazine served as the basis of the 1981 animated film of the same name. The movie’s “Taarna” segment was drawn from Moebius’ majestic, wordless Arzach stories—although the adaptation in no way approaches the brilliance of its source material.
Heavy Metal isn’t Moebius’ only link to cinema. His visual concepts, designs, and/or storyboards were employed in a litany of films, including Alien, The Empire Strikes Back, Tron, Willow, The Abyss, Little Nemo: Adventures In Slumberland (based on the pioneering comics of Winsor McCay, an early influence on Moebius), and others. The filmmaker he’s most closely associated with, though, is Alejandro Jodorowsky, with whom Moebius worked on an infamously failed adaptation of Dune. They also collaborated on a comic strip called The Incal—which Jodorowsky and Moebius accused director Luc Besson of plagiarizing in The Fifth Element. A lawsuit to that effect was lost, partly due to the fact that Moebius had been hired by Besson to work on the film before the allegations were made.
Another conflict, although never litigated, arose when Moebius loosely appropriated Jerry Cornelius—a chameleon-like character created by author Michael Moorcock, who tacitly granted Cornelius to the public domain—for his series The Airtight Garage. Moorcock later brushed it off as a misunderstanding, but the character’s name was still changed when Marvel Comics' Epic imprint collected the strip. Epic reprinted a smattering of Moebius’ prolific output, including Blueberry, the grim Western series he created with writer Jean-Michel Charlier. But Moebius’ most famous work under the Marvel banner is his collaboration with Stan Lee, a two-part Silver Surfer mini-series collected as Silver Surfer: Parable. The Eisner Award-winning story, while brief, showed Moebius’ ethereal vision of the Surfer, one that remains as definitive as those of John Buscema and the Surfer’s creator, the great Jack Kirby.
Moebius’ impact on comics is incalculable. Even a short list of artists he’s inspired would include Frank Miller (whose Ronin in particular bears many traces of Moebius’ style); Geoff Darrow (Miller’s occasional collaborator); Hayao Miyazaki (a longtime friend and reciprocal influence); P. Craig Russell; Frank Quitely; and Charles Burns (whose recent X’ed Out is a tribute to both Moebius and Tintin creator Hergé, himself a hero of Moebius). As reported by Comic Book Resources, Neil Gaiman had written a Sandman story for Moebius to illustrate, but the artist’s declining health had prevented it; following Moebius’ death, Gaiman posted today on Tumblr, “Spiritual is not a word I use much, mostly because it feels so very misused these days, but I’d go with it for him.”