Giraud, Jean

Tagged: Art

(1938-2012) French artist, best known by his pseudonym Moebius, who also drew as Gir and for a period lived in the United States. Staggeringly prolific and remarkably inventive, Giraud was long considered one of Europe's major talents, and his loose, eloquent line style influenced an entire generation of fantasy and sf artists. Born near Paris, he displayed from childhood a love of illustration; his early influences were classic American Comic strips and the engravings of Gustave Doré (1833-1883). After attending the Ecole des Arts Appliqués from 1954 to 1956, he wrote and drew a Western comic strip before being drafted into the French army, serving therein until 1960. He then worked as an assistant to the Belgian comics artist Joseph Gillain (1914-1980) and illustrated a series of encyclopedia-like books; it was also at this time that he created the sobriquet Moebius, first attached to a series of dark-humoured comic strips. In 1963 he met writer Jean-Michel Charlier (1924-1989), and together they created the Western series Lieutenant Blueberry for the magazine Pilote; this work was collected in 29 volumes (1965-1990; 1977-1979), 26 of which were drawn by Giraud.

Giraud revived the Moebius byline in the late 1960s to illustrate a line of French sf books and magazines; among other activities, he did covers for several republications of books by American authors like Poul Anderson and Gordon R Dickson and launched a number of innovative sf strips. A breakthrough came in 1975 when he cofounded the magazine Métal Hurlant (literally "Screaming Metal") with fellow-artist Philippe Druillet and writer Jean-Pierre Dionnet (1947-    ). For this magazine he created Le Bandard Fou ["The Horny Goof"] (1975); Le Garage Hermétique de Jerry Cornelius ["The Airtight Garage of Jerry Cornelius"] (from 1975), featuring Michael Moorcock's iconic hero Jerry Cornelius; Arzach (1976); and The Long Tomorrow (1976), scripted by Dan O'Bannon. His most significant contribution was Les Aventures de John Difool ["The Adventures of John Difool"] (1982-1989), a multi-part epic written by filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky, also referred to as the Incal stories. Keeping track of republications of these and other Moebius materials is a bibliographer's nightmare; the checklist below is necessarily selective and may contain errors, since sources provide conflicting information on many of these books.

In 1985 Giraud relocated to Santa Monica, California, and set up Starwatcher Graphics to publish his posters, graphics and other fine-art pieces, and to promote himself as a conceptual designer. Among other projects, he contributed several pages of artwork to The Living Legends of Superman (1984), an epic about the future of Superman written for the 400th issue of Superman; teamed up with writer Stan Lee to illustrate a two-episode Silver Surfer story, Parable (1988-1989); and illustrated an ecological story for a special "Earth Day" issue of Concrete (1991). He also created the cover and interior art for Robert Silverberg's novel Project Pendulum (1987). Around this time, other artists and writers began publishing, as collaborative ventures, spin-off series in comic-strip form based on his creations such as The Airtight Garage and Incal; these contributed, from a fabric of interlocking themes, to the effective creation of a Moebius universe. These works include The Elsewhere Prince (1990), The Man from Ciguri (1990-1991), The Onyx Overlord (a four-issue comic-book series beginning 1992) and Legends of Arzach (a six-issue series of short stories accompanied by colour artwork commissioned from leading artists in the comics medium, beginning 1992).

Giraud was also influential in designing for and storyboarding films. In the 1970s, Jodorowsky hired him to storyboard his projected film adaptation of Frank Herbert's Dune (December 1963-February 1964 Analog as "Dune World"; January-May 1965 Analog as "The Prophet of Dune"; fixup 1965), and he designed spacesuits and uniforms for Ridley Scott's Alien (1979). He later contributed to Tron (1982) and Willow (1986), designed the creature for James Cameron's The Abyss (1989), and was credited as a designer for The Fifth Element (1997) – although he and Jodorowsky also sued the film, unsuccessfully, on the grounds that it represented an unauthorized adaptation of their Incal stories. In addition, Giraud did design work for animated films: Les Maîtres du Temps ["The Time Masters"] (1982) directed by René Laloux, based on L'Orphelin de Perdide ["The Orphan from Perdide"] (1958), the novel by Stefan Wul; Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland (1989 Japan as Little Nemo; 1992), a Japanese film based on Winsor McCay's Little Nemo in Slumberland; Space Jam (1996), featuring basketball star Michael Jordan interacting with Looney Tunes characters; the television miniseries Arzak Rhapsody (2003); Thru the Moebius Strip (2005), for which he also co-wrote the story; and Strange Frame: Love and Sax (2012).

Giraud's later projects in the medium of comics included a six-volume adventure, Inside Moebius (2000-2010), in which the artist himself appeared alongside some of his famous characters, as well as new instalments of his Arzach and The Airtight Garage series. In 1988, the French government issued a postage stamp designed by and in honour of Giraud, and he was the subject of a documentary, Moebius Redux: A Life in Pictures (2007; vt In Search of Moebius). He also received a World Fantasy Award in 1997, the Spectrum Grandmaster Award in 2011, and a Chesley Award for lifetime achievement in 2012, and in 2011 he was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. He died in 2012 after an extended struggle with cancer. [RT/MJ/GW]

Jean Henri Gaston Giraud

born Nogent-sur-Marne, Paris: 8 May 1938

died Paris: 10 March 2012

works (selected English-language publications)

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