Legendary cartoonist Jean Giraud -- who also worked under the pen name Moebius -- died earlier today at the age of 73.
I was trying to explain to my wife the significance of Moebius in comic book history, and the best metaphor I could come up with was director Francois Truffaut. (She knows movies much better than she knows comics.) Both of them were huge overseas, both were little-known here by the average Joe, and both had a colossal impact on the pop culture that was part of our everyday lives.
Judging by Twitter and Facebook, virtually every comic book creator out there feels the impact of Moebius' passing, but I'm guessing younger readers probably have no idea who he is. They might have seen that Silver Surfer story he did years ago, or something he drew for "Batman: Black and White," but that's like knowing Truffaut for his work in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." It's nice, but it doesn't even begin to scratch the surface.
The first time I saw Moebius' work was in some ancient issue of The Comics Journal when it ran with a review of some collection Heavy Metal was foisting upon the newsstands of America. Even shrunk down and on lousy newsprint, the beauty of his line shone through, and I wanted to see more. A few years later, Marvel (under its Epic imprint) released a series of "graphic novels" collecting short stories and longer pieces, and I bought 'em all.
In what must have been some sort of promotional effort for that series, the man himself was one of the guests of honor at the Chicago Con back in 1987. Quiet but friendly and more than happy to meet with his fans, Moebius signed my copy of "Upon a Star," the first volume of that Epic series. And, what's more, he even did a little sketch...
I have a lot of sketches, pages and pieces of original art, but the idea that I have a book -- even a flimsy '80s trade paperback -- that Moebius touched with his pen -- never stops being exciting.
What I take most of all from Moebius' work isn't necessarily the craft or the talent or even the artistic vision -- though all of those things, of course, are evident in every single line. What I see, whether it's Lt. Blueberry squinting into the dust or Arzach flying that big bird or that legendary panel of the guy falling into the science fiction cityscape is the sense that no matter what he was drawing, Moebius was having a blast. I'm sure it was hard work, but everything flows so beautiful and feels so natural that the enjoyment he had putting it on the page is matched by our enjoyment reading it off the page.
In that way and a million others, he will be missed.