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Memory Lane Illustrated

Yeah, where to start? I suppose it starts with X-Men: First Class and memories it raised of my days as an avid comics reader in the '70s and '80s. Although maybe it actually started with the recent death of Jeffrey Catherine Jones, which got me thinking about the comic book and paperback cover artists that I grew up with, and how many of my favorites owed a debt to the Pre-Raphaelites and to Art Nouveau. That's when I started poking around the web looking at websites for Jones, Barry Windsor-Smith, and Michael Kaluta (all three founders of the Studio, along with Bernie Wrightson). But the X-Men movie stirred all that up again, and for some reason yesterday it got me thinking about -- and googling -- Jean "Moebius" Giraud, whom I first encountered in the pages of Heavy Metal in 1977, when I lied about my age and subscribed to it. (You were supposed to be 18.) Little did I know that I would one day hang out with the editor of Heavy Metal, Ted White, who recently wrote about getting stoned with Jeff Jones and the gang at parties at the Studio.

It turns out that despite his worldwide fame as a designer for Alien (1979), Tron (1982) and The Fifth Element (1997), there isn't much of Moebius' work in print in the US at the moment. I had already gotten that impression from googling around, but it was confirmed when I stopped by the U District Zanadu and talked to a very knowledgeable young guy. There's a collection of Moebius' collaboration with Alejandro Jodorowsky, The Incal, coming out this month, but there are no current collections of Arzach or The Airtight Garage of Jerry Cornelius or The Long Tomorrow. It was actually a lot of fun to talk to the guy at Zanadu. I had run across some names of current artists who have been influenced by Moebius, including Geof Darrow, Frank Quitely and James Stokoe, and this guy was able to show me their work and the work of other people too. He said I should look for artwork by a Brazilian guy named Rafael Grampa. There are clearly a lot of great young artists out there, and I went home with a few things, including a collection of Frank Quitely's work on the X-Men -- and a new deluxe collection of Kaluta's brilliant collaboration with Elaine Lee, Starstruck, which I loved so much in its earliest incarnations.

When I got home I also looked through my small collection of graphic novels and magazine-sized comic books. There's a lot there I'd forgotten! I even have a collection called Heavy Metal Presents Moebius, with an introduction by none other than Frederico Fellini. I still have the very first issue of Heavy Metal, too, with the top image above above by Moebius on the back cover. For that matter, I still have a complete run of Los Bros Hernandez's Love and Rockets from issue 1 through issue 46. I actually still have a fair number of comic books too, although I gave most of my superhero comics to my oldest nephew when he was the appropriate age. I still really love the artwork by my favorite artists from those days -- still love Kaluta's Carson of Venus stories, Craig Russell's Elric, Moebius' surreal, deadpan science fiction. I was into it enough back then that I was starting to explore the roots, and I have over-size collections of Windsor McKay's Little Nemo in Slumberland and E.C. Segar's Popeye. I gave up collecting at a point in the '80s when I was unemployed and broke, and I stopped reading then too, despite the fact that I'm surrounded by Denys' vast collection.

The past couple of nights I've been reading old X-Men stories from the original '60s series, and I've really been enjoying them, much to my surprise. I didn't think Stan Lee's writing would stand the test of time very well, but from a historical perspective it's interesting to remember how his injection of soap opera elements and mundane worries revolutionized the field and how his theme of superheros as alienated outsiders still shapes the hit movies of today. Now I've got this small pile of new stuff to look at, including a Moebius-influenced title by a young guy from Ballard and a strange title from Stokoe called Orc Stain, which looks more like S Clay Wilson than Moebius, but whatever.

Maybe I should stay away from comic shops. Nostalgia in this case could end up being expensive.


( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 16th, 2011 09:21 pm (UTC)
I am an admirer of Moebius myself. I hope you made it inside the Airtight Garage arcade in the Sony Metreon in San Francisco while it still existed. The interior design was spectacular, sort of Art Deco Steampunk, but I can't find many photos of it:

Jun. 16th, 2011 09:26 pm (UTC)
No, I didn't see that. Dang it!
Jun. 16th, 2011 09:41 pm (UTC)
Although to be honest The Airtight Garage went over my head when I read it in Heavy Metal, but I'm dying to reread it now. From what I'm seeing on the internet, it would set me back $100 to get the most recent reprint, which is from the '90s. Hmph.
Jun. 16th, 2011 09:43 pm (UTC)
Of the Moebius stuff I've seen, I never understood any of it. I just looked at the cool pictures.
Jun. 16th, 2011 09:50 pm (UTC)
The description of The Airtight Garage at the link above is very interesting to me now: "The Airtight Garage is a comic that Moebius composed out of fragments, essentially improvising his way through each chapter. It was created over the course of four years, endlessly built out of cliffhangers and sudden changes in tone. There is no direct throughline in the Airtight Garage – it is a series of events literally built to confound the earlier episode." Makes it sound like AE van Vogt, who tried to introduce a new idea every 800 words, leading to some, um, less than coherent results.

I'd agree that a lot of Moebius' stories are dreamlike and nonsensical, but something like "The Long Tomorrow," with a script by Dan O'Bannon, was relatively straightforward as I recall. The Lt Blueberry stories, too. (He didn't write that either, so maybe that's the key.)
Jun. 17th, 2011 05:55 am (UTC)
I always figured the Airtight Garage was a MacGuffin Moebius used to tell any story he wanted, but then it developed a life of its own and he had to put an end to it somehow. With the result that it comes to a complete anticlimax without resolving more than a few of the plot threads.
Jun. 17th, 2011 05:52 am (UTC)
I was, and am still, a huge Moebius fan. Now you have me wondering where my collection of his stuff is.
Jun. 17th, 2011 03:32 pm (UTC)
Well, if you can track any of it down, I'd be interested in borrowing it. Though I'll probably pick up that Incal collection when it comes out.
Jun. 17th, 2011 08:29 pm (UTC)
I haven't thought about him in years. Thank you.
Jun. 17th, 2011 08:54 pm (UTC)
Talking 'bout my g-g-generation.
Jun. 17th, 2011 10:11 pm (UTC)
Haven't read a great deal of Moebius, I must admit. But I am a huge admirer of the work of Frank Quitely, especially his works with Grant Morrison. The highlights (after NXM) being We3, and All-Star Superman. The only problem (such as it is) is that he works very slowly, so doesn't really do monthly books.

I've seen pages from Mesmo Delivery, and Rafael Grampa does indeed seem to be an artist to watch. Will be interesting to see what he gets up to in future. If, indeed he does. Furry Water was supposed to be out last year, but there's still no sign of it.
Jun. 17th, 2011 10:17 pm (UTC)
Well, it's nice to hear that good artists still have trouble delivering their work in a timely fashion. That was always a besetting sin of people like Kaluta and Russell back in the day as well. They were really not a good fit for companies that put out regular titles.

Thanks for the tips on Quitely. The collection I picked up was some Grant Morrison NXM.
Jun. 28th, 2011 01:25 pm (UTC)
Grant Morrison is one of my favourite comic writers (not that I read much nowadays) so good choice there. There's a series of panels in the Morrison/Quitely WE3 that I nearly ended up writing a tedious post about, as I thought they were doing something interestingly different (one of my many ideas for writing that fell due to my innate slothfulness).

As far as I remember the only Geoff Darrow I've got is Hard Boiled, written by Frank Miller, but much more notable for the insanely detailed art - ah, that's interesting. I was just looking to see how old that was (1991) and discovered that (well, according to Wikipedia at least) Darrow met Moebius in '82, they collaborated on a series of prints and then Moebius introduced Darrow to Miller.

Er, I think I had a point somewhere but I seem to have become distracted.
Jun. 28th, 2011 03:03 pm (UTC)
I still haven't seen much of Geoff Darrow except online. That comic book by a local guy that I mentioned is Nonplayer, and the artist/writer is Nate Simpson. Definite Moebius influence, although clear anime and gaming influences as well, which I suppose is very common these days. You can see a few pages of the first (and so far only) issue here. Quite an introduction to what appears to be a multi-layered world (avatars within avatars within avatars?), but who knows where it goes from there, if anywhere.

Those issues of Grant Morrison X-Men were interesting enough, but the art by people not named Quitely was garbage, I thought. There were only two issues by Quitely in that collection, and the first was a trip inside Prof X's mind that was very nice indeed. I'd like to see more of the Quitely stuff, but not at the price of another collection that includes stuff I don't like so much. It looks like he only did scattered issues here and there.
Jun. 28th, 2011 04:16 pm (UTC)
I'm pretty sure I must have followed a link from Warren Ellis's blog to some Nonplayer stuff in the past. Those first few pages look awfully familiar, not to mention very nice.

It was a definite shame Quitely couldn't keep up the monthly pace on the X-Men book, I do like his style. I assume on something like All-Star Superman (which I've not read, but is about the only Superman I actually want to) he got lots of pages "in the bank" before they started.
Jun. 28th, 2011 04:37 pm (UTC)
Sounds like I should check out WE3.
Jun. 19th, 2011 02:11 am (UTC)
Hey!!! I'm glad it's not just me who got hooked by the old fangirl nostalgia (well fanboy in your case) _ i came home, very quickly indeed arranged to see the film again with K and N and then as I brought 'em home and we were wrangling K's bike in the hall, I had this sudden jaw dropping thought (I did not QUITE drop the bike..)..

A gave me "40 years of the X Men " on CD-ROM (c 2006) for my birthday...
At the time I wasn;t very bothered (though thought it was a nice thought) so never took it out the cover..!

I may now be some time..:)

Quick highlights because I too was looking for Magneto plotlines I did read but only barely recalled, long aftr the heyday of 137 et al - 200 - where Prof X is gravely ill and passes control of the school to an unwilling Magneto - is *remarkably* like the angsty bromance of the film - I'm quite amazed. I could easy this being the basic plot of the third of the current series if it maked it that far. 161 is good too. i knew Claremont invented the back story of Erik as conventration camp survivor but had completely forgotten he did so much with it. Man, that guy might not have been exactly a prose stylist but he did know how to invent soap opera with a hit.

(Should I admit I sneaked out to see the film a third time again tonight? it's ok, I don;t need interventiin, i just haven't got a brain for anything real right now and it was on at the multiplex above my swimming pool!)

I've also watched X1 and X2 of the old (later?) franchise (had em around) and it is also rather fun/surprising how well they doo fit as later instalments of this same story - in fact the back story gives the Stewart/McKellen stuff way more heft I think. From what I've read X3 is where the continuity from then to prequel goes all to bits but it's so bad no one seems to care much about that..
Jun. 19th, 2011 05:15 pm (UTC)
Is there a scene of Magneto remembering the concentration camp in X1 or X2? I thought there might have been, but I could be confusing it with something else.

One of those comment threads on Ta-Nehesi Coates' blog talked about the story where Magneto takes leadership of the X-Men. I can definitely see that working in a sequel to the new movie.

That CD-ROM sounds pretty cool! What are you reading it on?
Jun. 20th, 2011 03:57 pm (UTC)
Yeh X1 starts with the same shot of Magneto as a boy bending the camp gates etc - shot for shot copied - but then it jumps to 40 yrs on when they;re old & grey. Clever - I had forgoptten it was the same too.

The CD ROM just uses Acrobat but it;s got weird DRM on it or I'd rip it for you..
Jun. 20th, 2011 06:18 pm (UTC)
I wasn't trying to cadge a copy, it just struck me as the kind of thing that tablets were made for.
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