Le Garage Hermétique – Major Fatal: Part 1

Le Garage Hermétique (1976) / The Airtight Garage (1987)
Les Humanoïdes Associés
22 x 29cm, 98 pages

A masterpiece by Moebius that has had a huge influence on comic book readers the world over and features as it’s protagonist the pith-helmeted explorer known as Major Grubert in Le Garage Hermétique (The Airtight Garage). The nucleus for Major Grubert goes back to Jean Giraud’s teenage years and a lost story he first drew for peers at school inspired by a French edition of the exotic adventure stories of Frank Buck’s Bring ‘Em Back Alive comic strip. Years later, an early incarnation of Major Grubert would appear in Les Vacances du Major (The Hunt for the Vacationing Frenchman) published in 1974 for the daily newspaper France-Soir. Elements of Moebius’ early work Le Bandard Fou also make an appearance and help shape the world of Le Garage Hermétique to form a sort of loose prequel.

The first official introduction to Major Grubert comes in the 13-page prelude story Major Fatal which follows the travels of Houm Jakan who is on a quest to find the eponymous Grubert and hopefully enlist his help against the terrible Bakalite. Major Fatal was really the defining moment for Le Garage Hermétique, as it would establish the satirical, fourth wall breaking, direction of the story.

Major Fatal & Moebius 1
Major Fatal

Contained within the full title of Le Garage Hermétique of Jerry Cornelius is a reference to a character created by British writer Michael Moorcock but because of confusion later on over the rights to use the character or not, would eventually lead to Jerry Cornelius being renamed Lewis Carnelian in subsequent republished American editions.

The art within the pages of Le Garage Hermétique are some of Moebius’ most best work, executing experimental use of story as first explored in La Déviation coupled with sublime hatching/crosshatching/stippling pen strokes as seen in La Bandard Fou, that create such detailed depth to each panel.

Le Garage Hermétique

Le Garage Hermétique’s new page, first published in the American edition (bottom right)

Moebius’ used a unique storytelling approach for Le Garage Hermétique which employed improvisation as seen previously in Major Fatal (which was incredibly drawn within in a single sitting and without a script!) Whenever Moebius felt a surge of inspiration he would commit that idea to paper, making use of any spare time he had and often drawing late into the night/early into the following morning. For the creation of Le Garage Hermétique, Moebius had drawn the first 2 pages during one of his late night sessions, putting it into a drawer afterwards and then totally forgetting about it until that is one day when Jean-Pierre Dionnet, one of the founders of Les Humanoïdes Associés and Editor at the time of Métal hurlant, discovered Moebius’ pages and asked him to finish the story so that they could be published. A month had passed and Dionnet reminded Moebius about concluding those pages he had found in a drawer and Moebius, who had forgotten about those pages again and in a state of great panic, summoned the energy to complete 2 more pages without ever recalling the plot or sticking to any continuity with the initial pages.

Moebius upon reflection to this way of making the story for Le Garage Hermétique:

“By creating this feeling of permanent insecurity, I was forced to experiment the total joy of creating a continuity. Every month, I would try very hard to recreate a coherent story from the existing elements. Then, I would break them apart again in order to create again a feeling of insecurity, so that, the next month, I would again have to pick up the pieces and do it again, and so on until the end of the story.”

Tueur de Monde

Tueur de Monde (1979) / The Twinkle in Fildegar’s Eye (1983)
Les Humanoïdes Associés
16 x 22.5cm, 46 pages

Tueur de Monde (translation: Killer of the World) follows a space traveller named Fildegar, a human crew member on a tubular vessel called the Laché Tout (Drop Everything), a floating greenhouse filled with fields of flowers. When Fildegar is not nurturing the flora inside the ship, he passes his time painting frescoes on the corridor walls, gazing into the ship’s central crystal and on rare occasions filing away old photographs which often reminds Fildegar of past memories. Suddenly Fildegar’s ship enters an unknown galaxy and discovers a planet called Bar-Jona inhabited by the contemplative creatures the Tragos. After landing on the planet’s surface and greeting it’s indigenous population, Fildegar inexplicably becomes pulled by some mysterious force and finds himself gazing up at a giant fungi.

Tueur de Monde just like Alejandro Jodorowsky and Moebius’ Les Yeux Du Chat was released by Les Humanoïdes Associés as part their Mistral Editions. Tueur de Monde would later be translated into English and published in April 1983’s issue of Heavy Metal magazine as The Twinkle in Fildegar’s Eye.

Tueur de Monde is an important work of Moebius as it sees an emerging new style take shape that leans towards Ligne Claire (clear line) in sensibility, elements of which will appear in Moebius’ later works most notably Le Monde d’Edena (The World of Edena). Also hidden in the pages of Tueur de Monde are easter eggs to Moebius’ existing works such as Le Garage Hermétique (The Airtight Garage).

Les Yeux Du Chat & Tueur De Monde
Tueur De Monde & Heavy Metal – April 1983

Les Yeux Du Chat

Les Yeux Du Chat (1978) / The Eyes of the Cat (2011)
Les Humanoïdes Associés

16 x 22.5cm, 54 pages


In the aftermath of visionary Chilean filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky’s unrealised cinematic interpretation of Frank Herbert’s science fiction masterpiece Dune (1965), a fruitful collaboration kindled in the ashes of Dune between Jodorowsky and Moebius, who contributed art, costumes and storyboards for the demised project (see Frank Pavich’s enlightening 2013 documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune for more). A few years later in 1978, Jodorowsky and Moebius would collaborate again but this time in a short bandes dessinées called Les Yeux Du Chat (The Eyes of the Cat).

Métal Hurlant N°107

Jodorowsky’s Dune US & FR

Les Yeux Du Chat tells the allegorical story of a blind orphan boy shut-in a tall tower above a desolate wasteland and one of only a few lifeforms save for the titular black cat and also later an eagle. Employing a similar page format to Le Bandard Fou but this time the left and right pages correspond to internal and external views of the ongoing story. The left side shows a shadowy silhouette of the orphan boy standing by a open window and the right side shows a bird’s-eye view (literally) from the eagle’s perspective. This format was not accidental but an ingenious way to fill more pages and extend a shorter story, as Alejandro Jodorowsky writes in the foreword of the reprinted edition:

“I suggested to Jean a short story, in five pages divided into five scenes, about a blind boy, Mœbius was fascinated with the story but he objected, saying, “It’s too short, only five pages. We need to fill 25 pages.” I answered, “We will be free from the traditional format of each page cut into panels. We will tell the story in a series of beautiful and solitary illustrations, each taking up an entire page…”

Les Yeux Du Chat was released by Les Humanoïdes Associés as part of it’s promotional Mistral Editions of works which were petite, not for sale, limited edition of 5000 print run intended as a gift for loyal fans but soon fell out of circulation, quickly becoming rare, sought after collector’s items. Thankfully Les Yeux Du Chat was rereleased 3+ decades later by Humanoids in 2011 in a more accessible edition in it’s original French but also a welcome surprise in English too, with other languages to follow.

Les Yeux Du Chat & The Eyes of the Cat

Arzach

Arzach (1974)
Les Humanoïdes Associés


21 x 27cm, 8 pages

If ever there was a defining moment in both French bandes dessinées and the landscape of comic books as a whole, it would be when in December 1974, Moebius, Jean-Pierre Dionnet, Philippe Druillet and Bernard Farkas put their minds together to form Les Humanoïdes Associés (or Humanoids) and launched Métal hurlant (meaning “Howling Metal”) out into an unsuspecting world.

One of the first sights a reader picking up Métal hurlant would have noticed would be of a curious, caped, pointed hat wanderer mounted on the back of a pale white bird/pterodactyl, soaring silently above a barren, dreamlike landscape. Introduced for the first time in Métal hurlant N°1, Arzach is a wordless, colour comic and one of Moebius’ most recognisable and enduring stories. With each part of the saga, Moebius would vary the spelling as a sort of tongue-in-cheek joke, for instance Arzach would became Harzak, then Arzak, then changed to Harzakc and finally Harzach.

Métal hurlant would go on to attract some of the most talented artists in the field such as Philippe Druillet, Enki Bilal, Milo Manara and many more in the pages of each issue. Métal hurlant reached a new international platform when it was republished in America by National Lampoon and debuted in April 1977 as Heavy Metal.

Arzach was a breath of fresh air for a medium traditionally aimed at children and would have a huge inspiration on other artists’ and their work. One notable example, Japanese auteur filmmaker and founder of Studio Ghibli, Hayao Miyazaki, who’s masterpiece Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind shows a great appreciation of Moebius’ creation. The two great artists had such mutual respect for one another’s work that they even held a joint exhibition titled ‘Miyazaki-Moebius’ at the Monnaie de Paris from 2004 to 2005.

Métal Hurlant N°1 & Arzach