Paris: Moebius, the French comic-book artist whose spectacular science fantasy-based work wrought its magic on Hollywood classics such as Alien and Tron, died Saturday after a long illness. He was 73.
The appeal of Moebius—or Jean Henri Gaston Giraud—won him a devoted following as far afield as Japan and the US, countries working in radically different comic-book traditions.
Colleagues paid tribute to the artist and writer generally acknowledged as having been one of the most daring and innovative in his field. “The whole profession is in shock, totally devastated, even if we knew that he was seriously ill,” said Gilles Ratier, head of France’s Association of Comic-Book Critics. Giraud, who grew up drawing cowboys and indians, published his first drawings in 1957 and found fame with the western character Lieutenant Blueberry in 1963. The lean, mean gunslinger was to become one of the most iconic figures in French comic-book history.
Giraud gained cult status in the European comics world after a 50-year career that saw his anti-hero Mike Blueberry endure almost as long as Herge’s (Georges Remi’s) Tintin. Working with writer Jean-Michel Charlier, Giraud in 1963 created the Blueberry series about a headstrong, rugged, poker-playing soldier fighting for the Union in the US Civil War. A far cry from the cliche of the clean-shaven heroic cowboy, Blueberry went against the grain and often rebelled against his superiors. The series portrayed Native Americans in a more nuanced way than film or comic stereotypes of the past.
He adopted the pseudonym Moebius for his illustrations in science fiction books and magazines. But he also worked under other pseudonyms, including Gir, Giraud and Moeb.
In 1975, Moebius was one of the co-founders of Metal Hurlant (screaming metal in French, which was published as Heavy Metal in the US) magazine, a spectacular blend of visually arresting comic-book art that was heavily inspired by the counter-culture vibe from across the Atlantic.
As his reputation grew, he collaborated with US comic-books legend Stan Lee on an adventure featuring the enigmatic Silver Surfer character. And in another style entirely, he tackled the story of Icarus with Jiro Taniguchi, a master in the Japanese manga tradition.
In 2010-11 France’s Cartier Foundation for Contemporary Art acknowledged his stature, staging a major retrospective of his work. Giraud was born in Nogent-sur-Marne east of Paris on 8 May 1938. After art school he began training as an illustrator for advertisers and the fashion industry before turning to comic strips. “My ambition was tremendous,” he once said. “I wanted to rock, so everybody in the comic industry would be stunned.”
Reuters contributed to this story.