Moebius Draws Adventurous Ads for Maxwell House Coffee (1989)

What do you do after you’ve helped cre­ate one of the “first anti-heroes in West­ern comics”; pio­neered the under­ground comics indus­try and heavy met­al album cov­ers; won the endur­ing admi­ra­tion of Fed­eri­co Felli­ni, Stan Lee, and Hayao Miyaza­ki; and brought your dis­tinc­tive cre­ative style to the look of sci-fi clas­sics like Blade Run­nerAlien, Tron, and The Abyss?

Sit back, have a cof­fee, and design a series of ads for Maxwell House. Why not? You’re Moe­bius. You can draw what­ev­er you want. No one’s going to accuse Ale­jan­dro Jodorowsky’s part­ner in the leg­endary nev­er-made Dune film and The Incal comics of sell­ing out—not when con­tem­po­rary com­ic art, sci­ence fic­tion, and fan­ta­sy could hard­ly have exist­ed with­out him.

“Prob­a­bly the most impor­tant fan­ta­sy com­ic artist of all time,” as Art Futu­ra dubs him, the man orig­i­nal­ly known by his birth name Jean Giraud began his career as an illus­tra­tor for the youth press Fleu­rus, who were the first in France to pub­lish fel­low bande dess­inées artist Herge’s Adven­tures of Tintin. The Maxwell House ads here, drawn in 1989, recall those ear­ly days of Fran­co-Bel­gian com­ic art, when adven­tur­ers raced around the colonies, brav­ing wild ani­mals and surly natives.

Moe­bius’ con­fi­dent hand leaves a sig­na­ture in the dense pat­terns of the foliage and slen­der jaw­line of the ele­gant, cof­fee-sip­ping damsel, who does not seem remote­ly in dis­tress, downed plane and curi­ous goril­las notwith­stand­ing. But the set­tings are just as rem­i­nis­cent of Tintin’s juve­nile con­cep­tions of the Ama­zon and “dark­est Africa,” though Moe­bius leaves out the swash­buck­lers and ugly native car­i­ca­tures.

Giraud’s own trav­els took him through Mexico—where he joined his moth­er as a teenag­er and saw for the first time the mag­nif­i­cent West­ern land­scapes he had always dreamed of—and through Alge­ria, where he worked as an illus­tra­tor for the French army mag­a­zine while fin­ish­ing his mil­i­tary ser­vice. Unlike many of his con­tem­po­raries, he por­trayed non-Euro­pean nations and peo­ple with sym­pa­thy and respect.

Though he first took the name Moe­bius in 1974 in order to pur­sue more fan­ta­sy-ori­ent­ed work after draw­ing the West­ern Blue­ber­ry for over a decade, some of Giraud’s ‘70s com­ic sto­ries under the name drew upon real events, like the mur­der of a North African immi­grant, Wound­ed Knee, and the famous speech of Chief Seat­tle.

The Maxwell House pan­els keep things light and sweet, so to speak, though where the cream and sug­ar might be hid­ing is anyone’s guess. The hero­ine of the series, named Tatiana, is “a self-pos­sessed and fash­ion­able young woman who hap­pens to find her­self alone on a desert jun­gle island or the like,” as Mar­tin Schnei­der writes at Dan­ger­ous Minds. Unper­turbed, she takes more inter­est in her cof­fee than the wild­ness around her.

At Dan­ger­ous Minds you’ll find alter­nate unused images and the ad campaign’s droll cap­tions describ­ing Tatiana tak­ing cof­fee breaks from some mun­dane errand or chore. The com­men­tary, though amus­ing, is hard­ly nec­es­sary. We can imag­ine dozens of sto­ries embed­ded in each pan­el. The abil­i­ty to cre­ate such com­plex and evoca­tive illus­tra­tions, every one a world with­in a world, has always set Moe­bius ahead of his peers and many imi­ta­tors.

via Trip­Wire/Dan­ger­ous Minds

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Ground­break­ing Com­ic Artist Mœbius Draw His Char­ac­ters in Real Time

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

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

Behold Moe­bius’ Many Psy­che­del­ic Illus­tra­tions of Jimi Hen­drix

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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