Métal hurlant: The Hugely Influential French Comic Magazine That Put Moebius on the Map & Changed Sci-Fi Forever

Would you believe that one par­tic­u­lar pub­li­ca­tion inspired a range of vision­ary cre­ators includ­ing Rid­ley Scott, George Lucas, Luc Besson, William Gib­son, and Hayao Miyaza­ki? More­over, would you believe that it was French, from the 1970s, and a com­ic book? Not that that term “com­ic book” does jus­tice to Métal hurlant, which dur­ing its ini­tial run from 1974 to 1987 not only rede­fined the pos­si­bil­i­ties of the medi­um and great­ly widened the imag­i­na­tive pos­si­bil­i­ties of sci­ence fic­tion sto­ry­telling, but brought to promi­nence a num­ber of whol­ly uncon­ven­tion­al and high­ly influ­en­tial artists, chief among them Jean Giraud, best known as Moe­bius.

Métal hurlant, accord­ing to Tom Lennon in his his­to­ry of the mag­a­zine, launched “as the flag­ship title of Les Humanoïdes Asso­ciés, a French pub­lish­ing ven­ture set up by Euro com­ic vet­er­ans Moe­bius, Druil­let and Jean-Pierre Dion­net, togeth­er with their finance direc­tor Bernard Farkas. Influ­enced by both the Amer­i­can under­ground comix scene of the 1960s and the polit­i­cal and cul­tur­al upheavals of that decade, their goal was bold and grandiose: they were going to kick ass, take names, and make peo­ple take comics seri­ous­ly.”

This demand­ed “artis­tic inno­va­tion at every lev­el,” from high-qual­i­ty, large-for­mat paper stock to risk-tak­ing sto­ry­telling “shot through with a rich vein of humour and deliv­ered with a nar­ra­tive sophis­ti­ca­tion pre­vi­ous­ly unseen in the medi­um.”

Giraud took to the pos­si­bil­i­ties of the new pub­li­ca­tion with a spe­cial avid­ness. Under the pen name “Gir,” writes Lennon, he “was best known as the co-cre­ator of the pop­u­lar West­ern series, Blue­ber­ry. By the mid-1970s, Giraud was feel­ing increas­ing­ly con­strained by the con­ven­tions of the west­ern genre, so decid­ed to revive a long-dor­mant pseu­do­nym to embark on more exper­i­men­tal work. As ‘Moe­bius’, Giraud not only worked in a dif­fer­ent genre to ‘Gir’ – a deeply per­son­al, high­ly idio­syn­crat­ic form of sci­ence fic­tion and fan­ta­sy – but his art looked like it was drawn by a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent per­son,” and “unlike any­thing that had been seen in comics — or, for that mat­ter, in any oth­er medi­um.”

Métal hurlant saw the debuts of two of Moe­bius’ best-known char­ac­ters: the pith-hel­met­ed and mus­ta­chioed pro­tec­tor of minia­ture uni­vers­es Major Gru­bert and the silent, ptero­dactyl-rid­ing explor­er Arzach, who bears a cer­tain resem­blance to the pro­tag­o­nist of Miyaza­k­i’s 1984 film Nau­si­caä of the Val­ley of the Wind. Read through the back issues of the mag­a­zine — or its 40-years-run­ning Amer­i­can ver­sion, Heavy Met­al — and you’ll also glimpse, in the work of Moe­bius and oth­ers, ele­ments that would lat­er find their way into the worlds of Neu­ro­mancerMad MaxAlienBlade Run­nerStar Wars, and much more besides.

“A while ago, SF was filled with mon­strous rock­et ships and plan­ets,” said Moe­bius in 1980. “It was a naive and mate­ri­al­is­tic vision, which con­fused exter­nal space with inter­nal space, which saw the future as an extrap­o­la­tion of the present. It was a vic­tim of an illu­sion of a tech­no­log­i­cal sort, of a pro­gres­sion with­out stop­ping towards a con­sum­ma­tion of ener­gy.” He and Métal hurlant did more than their part to trans­form and enrich that vision, but plen­ty of old per­cep­tions still remain for their count­less artis­tic descen­dants to warp beyond recog­ni­tion.

via Tom Lennon/Dazed Dig­i­tal

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Mœbius & Jodorowsky’s Sci-Fi Mas­ter­piece, The Incal, Brought to Life in a Tan­ta­liz­ing Ani­ma­tion

Moe­bius’ Sto­ry­boards & Con­cept Art for Jodorowsky’s Dune

The Inscrutable Imag­i­na­tion of the Late Com­ic Artist Mœbius

Watch Moe­bius and Miyaza­ki, Two of the Most Imag­i­na­tive Artists, in Con­ver­sa­tion (2004)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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Comments (4)
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  • Shallabal says:

    Hi, one small sug­ges­tion: don’t assume every­body knows it’s avail­able in Eng­lish — it should be added to the text. Oth­er­wise peo­ple who don’t speak French might be dis­cour­aged to look it up for them­selves…

  • Jaune Van Ruy says:

    J’ai adoré cette revue, je pos­sède tous les N°…Ce fut une révo­lu­tion dans le domaine de la BD Fran­coph­o­ne qui était résol­u­ment Belge pour l’é­ter­nité !…

  • Marc De Beus says:

    I have an issue num­ber 1 (the first one) to sell. It’s in excel­lent con­di­tion. Does any­one know whomight want to buy it or where to sell it/

    J’ai un numéro 1 (le pre­mier) à ven­dre. C’est en excel­lent état. Est-ce que quelqu’un con­naît quelqu’un qui veut l’a­cheter ou où le ven­dre /

    Mer­cie & Thank you,

    Marc De Beus

  • Edwardphenkel says:


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