Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had this insatiable curiosity about the fantastic and the unknown. Naturally, the world of imagination and fantasy was something that blossomed in me like an insidious weed, one that stubbornly remains to this day, growing ever larger and more entrenched.

With that in mind, the figure of Jean Giraud was not only someone who’s work I loved as a child, but one that I now admire for different reasons as an adult.

Giraud was someone who made it in illustration as somewhat of a chameleon. In Europe, he’s one of the most well respected artists in the Franco-Belgian bandes dessin√©es tradition, cutting his teeth with the realism-leaning Western series Blueberry in conjunction with co-creator Jean-Michel Charlier. Nowadays he along with Herge of Tin Tin fame are considered the most influential artists of the Franco-Belgian sequential art world.

Blueberry, the titular charater front and center here. Starting its run in 1963, the Western series was wildly popular in France and Belgium in an era where idyllic depictions of a romanticized and gritty Wild West were hitting their peak in the public consciousness.

What’s interesting to me is that Giraud was never quite satisfied with solely exploring settings more traditionally rooted in realism, but wasn’t finding he could branch out the way he wanted to under his own name. The pseudonym “Moebius” was adopted, allowing him to branch out and experiment while still working on his mainstay in the form of Blueberry.

Wildly different from his normal works, exploring everything from embellished historical fiction to wild science fiction. The freedom of getting to work under a different name at will opened many opportunities for Giraud to express a voice he wasn’t able to speak with in some of his mainstay projects at the time.

One of his most famous characters, Arzach, from a spread in Heavy Metal. 

What I love about this side of him is how unapologetically weird it can be. The fantastic landscapes and characters he conjured have become synonymous with French science-fiction, influencing some of my favorite later works like Thorgal, Orbital and Empire of a Thousand Planets as well as his own works on series such as The Incal. A large part of the aesthetic of science fiction through the 60s onwards, particularly in Europe was influenced by his works, often through the French Metal Hurlant magazine.

Arzach once more, in stark contrast with Blueberry below. Unconventional use of panels for the time and with strange perspectives and outlandish, bordering on garish colour palettes. They’re wild, but not so much that they become unpleasant. I think he shows a great degree of tact with how far he pushes his colour choices in these alien scenes.

Rooted in a more pulp realism style, Blueberry as Giraud stands out side-by-side with his explorations under Moebius.

As an aside, something I found quite funny was his partner
Jean-Michel Charlier (with whom he was making Blueberry with) didn’t understand why he would ever want to make these “weird” scenes under Moebius, and didn’t think they were worthwhile but decided to accept his friend’s endeavour with the statement, “every artist needs a mental shower, I suppose”. Interesting indeed then that Giraud’s so-called shower would go on to become one of the most loved endeavors of illustration in the world of sci-fi and comics.