Unblocking Moebius

 

 

 

 

We respectfully ask the estate of Jean Giraud, aka MŒBIUS, to authorize the publication of English-language editions of his comics by HUMANOIDS PUBLISHING, FANTAGRAPHICS BOOKS, or any other suitable English-language publisher that shows interest.

Craig Fischer writes on behalf of the Moebius USA Petition Facebook page.

I’m a comics fan and blogger who’d like to wallow momentarily in self-indulgent reverie in

order to explain why I love Moebius and his art so much. Some snapshots, then, in the long history of Moebius and me:

1978

Every month, my friends and I, all male, all Catholic and all between the ages of 14 and 16, conspired to buy the new issue of Heavy Metal from the corner newsstand. Somehow, we believed that Heavy Metal was like Playboy, forbidden to minors, though none of HM’s trippy covers of the period carry an “18+” warning. Maybe we were thrown off by the sexy robots, or maybe by that one story where post-apocalyptic radiation makes a girl grow a penis. Because HM ran material like this—material redolent of the disreputable head-shop science-fiction subculture—we had to have it. Eventually one of us would grow our own penis, grab our pool of money ($1.50!), and go in and buy the magazine.

Weirdly enough, it wasn’t the naughty bits that influenced me the most. Instead, it was the handful-of-pages-each-month serialization of Moebius’ The Airtight Garage of Jerry Cornelius that baffled and entranced me. Visiting the Garage alerted me that there was a

cultural conversation going on that I wasn’t privy to, but that I desperately wanted to join;

I did research, read snippets of William S. Burroughs, and tore through all of Michael Moorcock’s books. I also kept reading Moebius, adoring those HM issues that featured a stand-alone Giraud tale as well as the Garage. “Ballade” in particular stunned me, with its measured, careful set-up for a story that ends in abrupt, meaningless death. I also dug up a copy of Heavy Metal Presents Arzach (1977) at a cluttered paperback exchange, and like millions of other readers fell in love with the silent, stone-faced pterodactyl rider in the conical hat.

Eventually, and for reasons unrelated to Moebius (I took the firing of Ted White as HM editor way too personally), I drifted away from Heavy Metal, though I’ll occasionally buy a copy even today, despite my reluctance to feed that aspect of my psyche that finds buxom barbarian girls in battle armor “kewl.” I’ll always be grateful to HM for introducing me to

Moebius, though.

1989

I was living on a miniscule graduate student/teaching assistant stipend, but I also had a credit card when I went into my local comic shop and discovered that Marvel/Epic had begun to reprint the bulk of Moebius’ work into attractive, pricey softcovers. I bought

every one with my credit card, and according to my calculations, I finally paid for the books free and clear in October 2010, and each volume cost me $247. Worth it. I bought Marvel’s new Arzach collection, read the O’Bannon/Moebius collaboration “The Long Tomorrow” for the first time, and scratched my head over the 1980s “New Age” crystalline Moebius, the comics influenced by Giraud’s participation in Jean-Paul Appel-Guéry’s Iso-Zen cult.

The real revelations this go-around, however, were the Blueberry books. In a series of “albums” (a.k.a. 48-page graphic novels) produced between 1965 and 1990, Moebius dr

ew and Jean-Michel Charlier scripted the finest Western comic ever, and Marvel/Epic translated most of these (from The Iron Horse [1970] to The End of the Trail [1986]) as part of their Moebius project. (Other companies supplemented Marvel’s work: ComCat brought us stories from a prequel series titled The Young Blueberry, while Dark Horse ran

Arizona Love [1990] in their Cheval Noir title.) Our hero is Michael Blueberry, a Jean-Paul Belmondo look-alike who in the course of an epic narrative becomes an outlaw, a cavalryman, a marshal, a military prisoner, a brave in an Indian tribe, and a hero who blocks a Presidential assassination. Mix in a great supporting cast (including taciturn Red Wooley and the old rummy Jimmy McClure), and Charlier and Moebius’ brazen references to classic Western movies, and you’ve got books of an exceedingly high level of storytelling and craft, books that deserve to remain perpetually in print. Of course, all the Marvel/Epic Blueberry and Moebius volumes went out of print faster than any books in the history of publishing.

1996-7

Dark Horse releases a line of attractive, small-scale Moebius reprints, including H.P.’s Rock City (featuring “The Long Tomorrow” and Moebius and Phillipe Druillet’s “Approaching Centauri”), the Moebius-Alejandro Jodorowsky collaboration Madwoman of the Sacred Heart, and yet another collection of the Arzach tales. I bought this Arzach too. These Dark Horse volumes go out of print faster than any books in the history of publishing.

1997-2013

A drought. Since Dark Horse, there’s been very few English-language Moebius books on

the market, with the exceptions of the upscale Humanoids versions of three Moebius-Jodorowsky joints: Eyes of the Cat, the six volumes of The Incal, and Madwoman of the Sacred Heart. Lovely books, but I want more—and more is certainly available through Internet torrents, but I’m an old guy who prefers an old-fashioned book in his hand and a check to go to the artist. So I obsessively re-read my old Heavy Metals and my Marvel/Epic Blueberrys, and my wife vetoed naming our daughter Aedena.

In early January 2013, Tonio Fraga e-mailed me to offer compliments about a couple of blog posts I’d written about Moebius and ask me to publicize his “Moebius USA Petition” page. After a few messages back and forth, Tonio asked me to join him in administering the Petition on Facebook, which I was (and am) happy to do, in gratitude for the Moebius comics that thread through my past. On the petition page, I’ve been posting any Moebius-related information I can find—Tonio and I treat the Facebook page like a party, a celebration of Moebius’ achievement as well as an act of advocacy—and we invite you to “like us” if, like us, you’d love to see Giraud’s comics given new translations and sold again in the English-speaking world. Heck, I’d buy Arzach one more time (my fourth?), even though there are no words in Arzach.

This time around, though, it’s not really about buying for Moebius for myself. The explosive growth in America’s graphic novel culture in the last decade has led to beautiful reprint books and, crucially, willingness among librarians to buy these books and make them available to their patrons. When I was a child, the libraries in my hometown included no comics in their collections, besides a few beat-up Peanuts and Doonesbury paperbacks. Now, though, the situation is immeasurably improved. I live in a small town in North Carolina, and I work with academic and municipal librarians to build up their comics holdings, encouraging them to purchase hardcovers of Krazy Kat, Terry and the Pirates, The Complete Peanuts, the Disney comics of Carl Barks, the Vertical translations of Osamu Tezuka, et.al. I’d love for Moebius to join that company; I’d love to invite the 21st version of my Heavy Metal street corner buddies into the library, to read archival collections of Arzach, Blueberry and The Airtight Garage. Time for a new generation of readers to get their minds blown, I think.

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