Saturday, March 10, 2012

Remembering Moebius

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

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Saturday, March 03, 2012

Some thoughts on writing, and driving in fog, and the usual

It's a weird thing, writing.

Sometimes you can look out across what you're writing, and it's like looking out over a landscape on a glorious, clear summer's day. You can see every leaf on every tree, and hear the birdsong, and you know where you'll be going on your walk.

And that's wonderful.

Sometimes it's like driving through fog. You can't really see where you're going. You have just enough of the road in front of you to know that you're probably still on the road, and if you drive slowly and keep your headlamps lowered you'll still get where you were going.

And that's hard while you're doing it, but satisfying at the end of a day like that, where you look down and you got 1500 words that didn't exist in that order down on paper, half of what you'd get on a good day, and you drove slowly, but you drove.

And sometimes you come out of the fog into clarity, and you can see just what you're doing and where you're going, and you couldn't see or know any of that five minutes before.

And that's magic.


My days are good right now. I've found my writing rhythm and I appear to have some kind of writing mojo back. I'm not writing the thing I thought I was going into hiding to write, but I'm loving what I am writing, am pretty sure I'll be able to make it all work when I get to the next draft, even though right now it has things in it that mean it's going to be harder to publish than normal. It's in that weird zone between children's fiction and adult fiction with children in it (think of the ghostly school story in the middle of Sandman:Season of Mists as an example of the kind of thing I mean).

I'm missing my wife, but missing her less and less with every good writing day, and I'm selfishly enjoying having a daily routine I've never really had before that includes a morning jog or workout (put together for me by a very kind fitness instructor who reads this blog and recorded some videos for me) and a long hard yoga session once or twice a week.

Mostly I wish Amanda could just teleport in every few days for dinner, and then zap herself back to Melbourne in the morning.

I've found a little cafe where they seem perfectly happy to have me in the corner scribbling away while people come and people go; and when I went in there this afternoon, the barrista smiled and asked if I was having the usual (viz. their "British Breakfast Tea") and I said yes, and realised I rather loved the idea of having a usual.

I like having short hair because I feel vaguely and comfortably incognito. So I am not posting photographs of myself right now. In all probability the incognito thing is entirely a placebo effect, and everybody in the town looks at me and goes, there goes that English writer. But it makes me happy, in the same way that Amanda wearing fake Clark Kent hipster glasses around Melbourne as a disguise makes her happy.

If you see this woman in Melbourne, Australia, it is obviously not my wife.

The most interesting thing I've done recently was drive across the middle of the state to go and spend a day with Stephen King: I'll be writing about it for the Times (the UK one, not the New York one).

This writing retreat only lasts another few days, in its current form.

But I am very happy. And writing. In case you were wondering.

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