Top Ten Moebius Works You Can Actually Find

A column article, Top Ten by: Nick Hanover, Danny Djeljosevic

Legendary French comics creator Jean Giraud, a.k.a. Moebius, died this past weekend. Because Moebius isn't as widely published as he should be in the US, it's possible that a lot of readers are unfamiliar with the man and his work. Well, you're in luck -- we've searched far and wide for the various Moebius projects you can conceivably buy in North America without having to pay through the nose for imports that you'd have to learn French to read.

10. Exotics

Where You Can Find It: Originally published by Dark Horse for a scant $7.95, The Exotics is now out of print but it's not too difficult to find for $30 or so.

What It Is: Consider The Exotics Moebius' own odds and sods collection, an assembly of B-sides from the master that more than stand on their own. At the center is "Shore Leave on Pharagonesia," which should be of interest to Fear Agent and Spaceman fans, as well as anyone who's been loving Brandon Graham's take on Prophet, featuring as it does a spacefaring Earthman who's completely out of his element. Also collected is "The Horny Goof," which The Comics Journal declared a "porno-romp" that stands out as one of "the most freewheeling [stories] ever to flow from Moebius's pen." By its nature, The Exotics is scattered but it's never less than thrilling, a glimpse at the weirder corners of Moebius' ouevre.

9. Madwoman of the Sacred Heart

Where You Can Find It: Dark Horse published a black and white edition of Madwoman back in the '90s that you can probably track down, but the US branch of Humanoids released a full-color trade paperback edition in Feburary 2012, so you should be able to find it at the finer comic shops in your area.

What It Is: One of Moebius' many collaborations with the cult filmmaker turned comic book writer Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo, The Holy Mountain, Santa Sangre), Madwoman of the Sacred Heart follows a recently divorced college professor who meets a student claiming that she will give birth to the next messiah by his hand (as it were), and the weird, erotic, culty hijinx that ensue. In other words, it's very much in the vein of Jodorowsky's cinema as the sacred mates with the profane, while Moebius renders the story in a more grounded milieu than we've come to expect from the artist.

8. Blueberry (a.k.a. Renegade)

Where You Can Find It: Luckily, this film adaptation of one of Moebius' greatest works is pretty widely available. Marvel published selections from Blueberry through their Epic Comics imprint in the late '80s and early '90s, but you might have some trouble finding those.

What It Is: A druggy, reverential adaptation, Blueberry is a suitably odd mix of El Topo, Easy Rider and Spaghetti Westerns that happens to feature Michael Madsen, Juliette Lewis and Vincent Cassel. Which obviously means it was completely lost on American audiences to whom it was marketed as a straightforward Western revenge film called Renegade. Poor marketing may have sunk its commercial prospects, but artistically director Jan Kounen triumphed, utilized his own shamanic experiences in Peru to shape the tone and look of the film and providing one of the few legitimate adaptations of Moebius' canon to grace the screen.

7. Icaro

Where You Can Find It: iBooks published both volumes of Icaro in the early '00s, both of which are now out of print due to iBooks' bankrupcy in 2006. You can find them on Amazon, eBay, often at inflated prices, but you might have luck at your local comic shop.

What It Is: Touted as an "East meets West" comic collaboration, Moebius scripted Icaro while veteran manga-ka Jiro Taniguchi (A Zoo in Winter, The Case of the Missing Girl) provided the artwork for this story of a boy who can fly finds himself trapped in a massive laboratory that wants to experiment on him, and the girl who tries to free him. The result may remind readers of Katushiro Otomo's essential manga epic Akira, but that's only fair, considering that Moebius was decidedly an influence on the artist. So Icaro, in a sense, seems to depict the ongoing influence between Eastern and Western comics coming full circle.

6. Eyes of the Cat

Where You Can Find It: Humanoids offers a deluxe limited edition hardcover in English for the low, low price of $70.00 (no, seriously, that is a low price for a Moebius collection).

What It Is: Eyes of the Cat is arguably one of the most important works of Moebius' career by virtue of it being his first comic collaboration with Alejandro Jodorowsky, with whom he would have a long and fruitful creative relationship. The story is brief but potent, following a cat and a bird engaged in a hunt with a twist and though the text itself is extremely minimal, it's easy to see why Jodorowsky was such a perfect collaborator for Moebius, giving the genius artist the frame of a concept and letting him run wild with it. A big part of Moebius' talent was his knack for making the mundane seem positively epic, which functioned as both aesthetic pleasure and as a way of distracting readers from the horrors they would soon face and Eyes of the Cat is no exception. 

5. The Fifth Element

Where You Can Find It: Target. Netflix. Online stores. Your friend's DVD collection. Hell, your DVD collection.

What It Is: You may not know this, but Moebius contributed conceptual designs for some movies you've probably seen: Alien, Tron, Little Nemo, Masters of the Universe, The Abyss, Star Wars and even Space Jam. A short story he drew for Dan O'Bannon was a visual inspiration for Blade Runner. But his most significant contribution that you've seen is in Luc Besson's film The Fifth Element, where Moebius worked on the film's entire production design with fellow comic artist Jean-Claude Mézières. The result not only featured the artist's trademark sci-fi landscapes, but had story elements so similar to Moebius and Jodorowsky's Incal that Moebius and his publisher Humanoids tried to sue Besson for plagiarism and lost.

4. Arzach

Where You Can Find It: Although Dark Horse released an excellent version of Arzach for a depressingly low $6.95, that release is so out of print it's not even funny, commanding nearly $600 on Amazon these days. Luckily, you can pick up an older version of the Arzach stories from Marvel, split across four volumes for the more modest price of about $70 to $80.

What It Is: One of Moebius' most well known works in Europe and a huge influence on French comics on the whole, Arzach is four short stories that are interconnected, centering around the title character. Originally published in Metal Hurlant (Heavy Metal to you non-Francophiles), Arzach is perhaps best know to American readers as "the comic all that art of a guy riding a terrordactyl comes from" or if you're really geeky, the inspiration behind the Panzer Dragoon saga, which Moebius actually contributed to. And of course, it was also the source for the closing portion of the Heavy Metal film. But outside of that, it's one of Moebius' most poetic and contemplative works, a perfect use of his fascination with wide open, desolate landscapes and the rugged creatures who inhabit them. 

3. Silver Surfer: Parable

Where You Can Find It: You might be able to find some old editions of the trade paperback or the original back issues if you get lucky, but you might as well just a couple months for Marvel to release a new hardcover edition in May 2012.

What It Is: This may surprise you, but this one time in the late '80s Stan Lee and Moebius collaborated on a Silver Surfer comic book. Originally published by Epic Comics as a two-issue miniseries simply titled Silver Surfer, the Eisner-winning Silver Surfer: Parable, turns the relationship of Silver Surfer and Galactus into a religious allegory (hence the title) as they invade Earth. It's a very classic-style Silver Surfer story -- one that proves a suitable companion to that equally deep 1978 Surfer graphic novel by Lee and Jack Kirby.

2. Metal Hurlant/Heavy Metal

Where You Can Find It: Everywhere. Really. It's even at 7-11.

What It Is: Quite possibly the most famous and important comics anthology magazine of all-time, Metal Hurlant was founded by Moebius, Philippe Druillet, Jean-Pierre Dionnet and Bernard Farkas, who came to be called the United Humanoids. Metal Hurlant led to a renaissance of European comics and was eventually reconfigured for America by National Lampoon as Heavy Metal. Most of the major figures of European comics contributed to Metal Hurlant at one point or another, including Alejandro Jodorowsky and Milo Manara and it attracted American masters like Bernie Wrightson and Richard Corben and Moebius himself used the magazine to introduce works like Arzach. 

Although Metal Hurlant only ran until 1987 -- with the exception of a short lived revival several years ago-- its American counterpart is still published and even produced a film anthology based on works from the magazine. Outside of functioning as a great gateway to Moebius, both magazines serve as incredible samplings of their eras and scenes, making them particularly worthwhile bargains in back issue form.

1. The Incal

Where You Can Find It: Epic Comics published some volumes of it in the '80s that you can track down. DC Comics published some of it in the early to mid '00s and now Humanoids has a bunch of it available in the US -- if you're willing to shell out the cash.

What It Is: One of the great sci-fi epics in French comics, The Incal is probably the most significant Jodorowsky/Moebius collaboration, taking influence from such sources as the Tarot and Jungian psychology. The comic follows John DiFool, a Corben Dallas-like detective who discovers a mysterious, powerful artifact with cosmic ramifications called the Incal, and the various alien races that pursue him for it. While Moebius didn't draw the entire saga or the books set in the same universe like The Technopriests or The Metabarons, he's certainly the artist most associated with the work. It's a multi-volume epic, complete with sequel and prequel series, and a necessity for readers interested in both comics masters.

To read Comics Bulletin's obituary for the great Moebius, click here.

When he's not writing about the cape and spandex set, Nick Hanover is a book, film and music critic for Spectrum Culture and a staff writer for No Tofu Magazine. He also translates for "Partytime" Lukash's Panel Panopticon.

Danny Djeljosevic is a comic book creator, award-winning filmmaker (assuming you have absolutely no follow-up questions), film/music critic for Spectrum Culture and Co-Managing Editor of Comics Bulletin. Follow him on Twitter at @djeljosevic or find him somewhere in San Diego, often wearing a hat. Read his comic, "Sgt. Death and his Metachromatic Men," over at Champion City Comics and check out his other comics at his Tumblr, Sequential Fuckery. His webcomic The Ghost Engine (drawn by Eric Zawadzski) will debut in Spring 2012.

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