“I’ll die in some truly banal manner, the way I live,” says the subject of BBC Four’s In Search of Mœbius. I don’t know what would constitute a non-banal manner of death — or, for that matter, a banal one — but nobody familiar with modern comic art could believe that Jean Giraud, also known as Mœbius, could possibly have lived a banal life. If you haven’t read a comic since your childhood Sunday funnies, you need only watch this program (click here to get Part 2 and Part 3) to understand why the artist’s passing on Saturday brought forth so many breathless tributes. You’ll also catch a glimpse of the vast possibilities offered by comic art as a form. The inscrutable workings of Mœbius’ peculiar imagination drove him far into this territory, and many creators (in comics and elsewhere) still struggle to follow him.
Aside from Mœbius himself, the program interviews the coterie from his early years in France at Métal Hurlant, the magazine that would open the space for his distinctively subconscious-fueled, near-psychedelic yet richly textural science-fiction sensibility. It goes on to talk with well-known admirers who, feeling the resonance of those particular (and particularly difficult to describe) qualities of Mœbius’ vision that cross so many national and artistic boundaries, found ways to work with him. These high-profile collaborators range from Marvel Comics founder Stan Lee, who enlisted Mœbius to take Silver Surfer in new aesthetic and intellectual directions, to screenwriter Dan O’Bannon, biomechanical surrealist H.R. Giger, and filmmaker/mystic Alejandro Jodorowsky, who worked with him on an unrealized (but still tantalizing) film adaptation of Dune.
In Search of Mœbius also explores the real landscapes that must have worked their way into Mœbius’ imagination, contributing to the strikingly unreal landscapes that worked their way out of it. We see the deserts of Mexico, traces of which appear in his Western series Blueberry, where he visited his mother in the 1950s. We see the Los Angeles he considered “really an amazing city,” where his work on Silver Surfer took him. We even see him in his native land, standing before the harshly iconic Bibliothèque nationale de France. Mœbius may be gone, but the world inside his head remains forever open for us on the page to explore. H/T @EscapeIntoLife