MIKE GOLD: Inspiration from a Master
Here at ComicMix we’ve run a couple tributes to Jean Giraud, a.k.a. Moebius. Michael Davis did his yesterday, Glenn Hauman wrote the obituary on Saturday. There might be more coming because Jean Giraud, a.k.a. Moebius, was exactly that important. Here’s how this master of our beloved medium affected me.
It was December 31, 1973, and I was in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Quebec is Canada’s most French province, and most of the people speak French-Canadian and most of the signs and radio stations are in French. They care about their heritage and their culture and, surrounded by the United States and Ontario, they have an understandably protectionist attitude.
So there I was in downtown Montreal. To be specific, I was in a Woolworth’s, then a distinctly United States institution, now sadly missed. There is no easier way to absorb the cultural differences than to see how others interpret our stuff, and this Woolworth’s was distinctly French-Canadian.
For one thing, they had a big selection of what we now call graphic novels. Not only did most domestic Woolworth’s neglect to carry comic books, we didn’t even have graphic novels in the States.
A couple of cigarette smoking skinny kids – teenagers, probably five years younger than me – approached me as I was gawking at the book racks. One mumbled something in French-Canadian. I looked at him blankly; like most United States citizens, I am linguistically challenged. I said “I’m sorry, but I don’t speak French.” Well, nor did they, but that’s not the point. The kid who approached me leaned in and translated. “Do you have any spare change?” Embarrassed, I gave him something and they slinked away in distain, leaving me to my profoundly holy moment.
I started pawing the racks, picking up each different title and thumbing through in amazement and astonishment. I’d seen a few such pages reprinted in books, but there had been only a few at that time and there were no English-language translations readily available in the States. At that time, my comic book choices came in but a few flavors: superhero, war, romance, mystery; all targeted to an age that was south of mine.
But here in Montreal was a wonderworld of choice, and I was… well, actually, I was pissed. Why didn’t we have this opportunity? Why were we restricted to such narrow fields of routine genre fiction?
Of the many titles in my view, I rapidly realized one single artist dominated the rack. I quickly understood why: he was mind-numbingly different.
He was Jean Giraud… a.k.a. Moebius.
My jealousy grew as I saw these and other books for sale at damn near every Montreal subway station I visited – and I visited quite a few, because they are beautiful. Besides, much of the newer downtown Montreal at the time was underground.
The name Jean Giraud, a.k.a. Moebius, was burned into several of my more prominent lobes. I was able to acquire imported English-language versions, and as Michael noted yesterday, Heavy Metal came along and made my quest easier.
Jean Giraud, a.k.a. Moebius, opened my eyes to the communications medium I had enjoyed and even worshipped since I was four years old. He re-fired my sense of wonder. He showed me that everything I knew was not enough, and damn it I wanted more.
Thank you, Moebius. I won’t miss your work; it’ll be here forever.
And don’t get me started on Lt. Blueberry.
THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil