Some men live two lives.
Most men walk on the earth and live their ordinary, banal life of bills and family and commitments and a thousand other pieces of minutia, and are content with that life.
Other men live that ordinary life but also have a second, much richer and deeper life: the life inside their head.
The world inside the head of such men is a rich, complex and vibrant place that is theirs alone. It's a singular, unique place full of vision and artfulness, a place where ideas flow to that man's pen or typewriter keys. Ideas flow like visions from a different world, because the vision is truly of a different world, the most unknowable world, the world inside the head of a very unique creator. We have two words for men who have rich, complex lives inside their heads. Sometimes we call them crazy. Sometimes we call them genius.
Jean Giraud, a.k.a. Moebius, a.k.a. Gir, was a genius.
Jean Giraud was a true visionary in all senses of the word. He created worlds that were unique, were special and breathtaking and fantastically rendered that nobody could ever even come close to emulating his style. How could they? He was copying the world inside his mind onto paper, onto character designs and settings and storylines that were thoroughly, uniquely his and came from his own very unique background.
Giraud was born a working-class kid in France, to a mom who was divorced early in his life and had to work incredibly long hours in the post-World War II era to make enough money to feed their family. She spent hour upon hour away from the house, which allowed young Jean to spend virtual eternities inside his own imagination: exploring, navigating and organizing his own ideas. He was a prodigious artist, attending art school at an early age – and was one of the few working class kids at his school.
When his mother moved young Giraud to Mexico in his third year of art school, an entire new vista opened up for him. He became enraptured with the vast open spaces of the Mexican deserts, loving the freedom and deep, dark mysteries that the desert represented for his work. That seems to explain on some level where Giraud's deep fascination with spatial relationships comes from, where his amazing eye for perspective and distance and complex geometric shapes evolved.
It's not just that Giraud is the finest artist of desert scenes since the amazing George Herriman (himself a man who lived the very complex second life that geniuses live). It's that he had an astonishing ability to create a three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional comics page. Look at his amazing vistas for Incal or those breathtakingly grand vistas in his Alien art or the way he renders the city in Silver Surfer: Parable. There's an astonishing sense of size in his work, of proportions, of the relative tininess of all of us walking on the face of the earth – or riding on a weird pterodactyl bird creature, a space ship or a surfboard.
Giraud talked about going into a trance as he created his work, of literally disappearing inside his own head and allowing the images and art to flow out. He obviously loved and was proud of the art and artfulness he brought to his work, but Giraud had something more to him that made him so powerful: like the greatest artists at the peak of their artist powers, Giraud had a sense that he was channeling work from a deeper place, a place where the ideas in his head almost seemed to compel him to create them.
From all accounts, Giraud was a quiet, contemplative man, somewhat ill at ease with his life on some level — perhaps he wanted the secular and spiritual sides of his life to coexist more gracefully with each other. Giraud speaks movingly in the wonderful BBC documentary Moebius Redux of all the minor little struggles he had when he struggled with everyday life and everyday relationships. Even some of his closest friends describe Giraud in the documentary as being a bit quiet and often aloof, a mystery to even the people who knew him best.
Because it's hard to live two lives. It's hard to reconcile the world inside your head with the world outside your body. It's tough to create a dreamlike world on paper and then walk in the real world. It's also hard to completely break away from your upbringing. Giraud was basically encouraged to create his own worlds when he was a child, and continued creating his own worlds for his entire adult life. He did so brilliantly, in ways that inspired his fans. But that genius also did give him some pain.
Jean Giraud was a visionary who was able to share his vision with millions of appreciative fans all around the world. The praise for the man's work has been thunderous. Nobody will ever come close to recreating Giraud's amazing genius. He was one of comics' true visionaries and he will be deeply missed.
For Comics Bulletin's list of the Top Ten Moebius Comics That You Can Actually Find, click here.