The Silence of Moebiuson March 10, 2012 at 7:47 pm
My most profound encounter with the work of Jean Giraud/Moebius was in the late seventies, in the first few issues of “Heavy Metal”. For those of us weaned on Kirby, Adams and Starlin …but who felt lost after the end of Starlin’s “Warlock“, Moebius was a revelation, the next step. I’d never encountered work like his before, the exquisite line work, the brilliant color! Indeed, for the first time in a comic, the color seemed to be intrinsic to the art, a choice of personal expression rather than an impersonal imposition on the artwork. (Only Richard Corben-who was featured in those early issues as well, seemed to explore such a personal approach to color.)
But as affecting to me as the visual splendor of Moebius’ images was the awesome silence of his world. It was a silence unlike any other in my experience of comics; monumental, grand, with more than a hint of menace. Moebius’ silence, in tandem with his images, made for a comics experience of the sublime; frightening, humbling, awe-inspiring; something akin to watching the sunrise alone at the Grand Canyon-or the Northern Lights at the North Pole. Suddenly I began to see a way to do comics that was more suggestive than literal, more poetry than prose. An approach which allowed comics imagery to function at its most expressive-uninhibited by the constraints of language. In the early seventies there were a number of popular films that utilized both silence and a slower pace, allowing the imagery of film to do its work. Kubrick’s 2001 certainly, but Sydney Pollack’s Jeremiah Johnson comes to mind, as well as several of Coppola’s films(The Conversation) and Clint Eastwood’s post-Leone westerns. In Moebius’ silence there was the suggestion that there was more to life than the ephemera of the everyday, there was a central mystery to existence, a central experience of infinite solitude.
This was something alien to American comics, particularly Marvel comics post-Stan Lee(not that Lee ever had any appreciation for silence) wherein exposition, continuity and dialogue began to demand ever more of the panel and the page. In his process, Moebius’ rejected the entire Marvel sensibility, opening things up, both visually and thematically. Suddenly genre, which for Moebius in Heavy Metal was sci-fi, need not be so directly derivative of pulp priorities, other ideas and possibilities came to the fore.
Those brief encounters were transformative for me. Immediately that summer I adapted Moebius’ approach to a Conan-style story I was doing. I used those pages for an assignment in my first semester of film school at the Philadelphia College of Art. Those pages are long, long gone now, but they were foundational-and every important work I’ve done since partakes of them-and thus, of Moebius.
Included here-some pages by the master-and a few by the pupil.
(pages 2,3, and 4-5 from Moebius’ Harzakc; published in Heavy Metal Magazine, vol.1 number 4; found them on the web here)
(pages 14, 15, 16 from fandancer by geoff grogan. c. 2011)
R.I. P. Jean Giraud/Moebius. with love, and never-ending gratitude.