Since his untimely passing last month, there has been an enormous outpouring of tributes to Jean "Moebius" Giraud. It seemed only appropriate, then, to have the keynote panel of this year's Stumptown Fest be a reflection on the legendary creator's life.
It began with a screening of Hasko Baumann's 2007 documentary, Moebius: Redux. While it is a simple talking-heads documentary, it allows Giraud to speak in his native French, and become less guarded than he often seemed in his English-language interviews. He comes across as cool, relaxed and confident as he takes us through his career from Pilote, to Metal Hurlant, his work with Hollywood and Alejandro Jodorowsky, and the enigmatic nature of his identity.
From there, the event segued into a panel conversation moderated by Joe Keatinge. The featured guests were Mike Allred; Dark Horse editor, Scott Allie; curator of the Moebius Tumblr, Ian MacEwan; and David Scroggy, who was Moebius's US agent during his time working with Marvel. While the panelists spoke, we were treated to over 500 slides of his work, covering every aspect of his output and offering some striking juxtapositions between the Western realism of Blueberry and his wildly imaginative SF work.
The conversation began with a piece of news that, in December, Humanoids will be releasing Angel Claw — another collaboration between Moebius and Jodorowsky. This will be in a similar edition to The Eyes of the Cat that was released earlier this year. The work itself is similar to that first collaboration in that it pairs text pieces from Jodorowsky with full-page illustrations from Moebius, this time exploring sexuality, fetishes and psychology. The few preview pages that were shown looked incredibly lush, if somewhat explicit (one showed a naked woman suspended from the ceiling by hooks through her nipples).
This sparked the panelists to discuss the availability (or lack thereof) of Giraud's work in America. Scroggy spoke about the genesis of Epic Comics (Marvel's alternative imprint) which was able to publish his work for a time, and led to the collaboration with Stan Lee on Silver Surfer: Parable. Marvel were very happy with the response that material received, and offered Giraud what they considered to be a very generous contract to do an X-Men series with Chris Claremont. He declined, however, as he had been offered a better deal by Dargaud to return to France and continue the Blueberry series.
During his time in the USA, Scroggy got to know Giraud really well. He was always amazed at how the artist could just channel something unquantifiable into his drawing, almost without effort. Giraud was someone who always lived in the now, and trusted that a higher power would guide his life and take care of him. That spiritual side was something that the other panelists noted, too. Allie referred to him as "The Dali Lama of Drawing" and that to watch him draw was a near-transcendental experience. Both in his craft and in his conversations, he changed the way he understood art.
Allred concurred and picked-up on that same idea, saying that Moebius's work "went straight to [his] soul in a very existential way." Along with the Hernandez brothers, Moebius showed him that he could do anything he wanted to with comics, because no matter varied his work was, there was a consistency to it, an elegance and near-magical quality to his line that feels alien, yet wholly familiar. The first work he read was Upon a Star, the first of the Epic reprints, and immediately upon finishing it was inspired to start drawing. No matter how detailed or how simple, he said, Moebius work always had that tremendous power.
Scroggy followed-up with the curious origin of Upon a Star — which started one of his most transcendent series of works, The Aedena Cycle —that it had been commissioned by the Citroen car company and produced as a private portfolio, which was given as a bonus to their top salesmen that year. For all present, that spoke volumes about how seriously and respectfully comics are treated in France — how many top Ford salesmen would be happy with a Hellboy portfolio as a bonus?
But, with that, the panel was brought to a close, without any time for Q&A, so fervent and effusive had been the praise from the panelists. Although only a few members of the audience were unfamiliar with Moebius, by the end even they could not help but be astounded by the wealth and weight of his work, and his influence which will carry, seemingly like his namesake, into infinity.