This was the art on the cover of the first Metal Hurlant I ever saw. I was — what — 14, and on a French Exchange to Paris with my class, and this beautiful magazine filled with comics opened my mind to what comics could be, and particularly to the art of Jean Giraud, AKA Moebius, who drew about half of the magazine in a way that seemed both familiar and completely alien, made it so powerful and perfect. He drew different stories in different styles, and the only thing they seemed to have in common was that they were beautiful. I bought a copy. I could only afford the one issue of the magazine, but one was enough.
I couldn't actually figure out what the Moebius stories were about, but I figured that was because my French wasn't up to it. (I could get the gist of the Richard Corben Den story, and loved that too, and not just because of the nakedness, but the Moebius stories were obviously so much deeper.)
I read the magazine over and over and envied the French because they had everything I dreamed of in comics - beautifully drawn, visionary and literate comics, for adults. I just wished my French was better, so I could understand the stories (which I knew would be amazing).
I wanted to make comics like that when I grew up.
I finally read the Moebius stories in that Metal Hurlant when I was in my 20s, in translation, and discovered that they weren't actually brilliant stories. More like stream-of-consciousness art meets Ionesco absurdism. The literary depth and brilliance of the stories had all been in my head. Didn't matter. The damage had long since been done.
I met Jean Giraud on a couple of occasions over the years. He was sweet and gentle and really... I don't know. Spiritual is not a word I use much, mostly because it feels so very misused these days, but I'd go with it for him. I liked him enormously, and felt humbled around him. And in my 20s and 30s I didn't do humbled very much or very well.
(Moebius was pronounced in the French way, as a four syllable word. Mo-e-bi-us.)
During Sandman, we did several galleries where we would ask artists whose work we loved to draw a character for us.
I was a working writer, the money that came in fed my family, and although I looked with envy on the art that was being made, I did not buy any of it.
Except for one small painting. A Moebius study of Death. It cost me as much as I was paid to write an issue of Sandman, and I bought it without a qualm.
We wanted to work together. I wrote the Sandman: Endless Nights story DEATH IN VENICE for him to draw, but his health got bad, so P. Craig Russell drew it. Half a year later Moebius's health improved a little, and he asked if I could write him a very short story, perhaps 8 pages, and make them all single images, so I wrote the DESTINY story in Endless Nights for him. His health took a turn for the worse, once more, and Frank Quitely drew it. And both Craig and Frank made magic with their stories, but somewhere inside I was sad, because I'd hoped to work with Moebius.
And now I never shall.
RIP Jean Giraud, 8 May 1938 - 10 March 2012