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).
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 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.
Le Bandard Fou (1974) / The Horny Goof (1990)
Les Éditions du Fromage/Les Humanoïdes Associés
24 x 31.8cm, 48 pages
Emboldened by the creative direction of La Déviation drawn a year earlier, Jean Giraud then embarked on making a longer story in that style that would also be the first official “Moebius” full length comic book.
Le Bandard Fou begins with the titular horny character waking up with a sizeable morning erection only to soon discover of his male member’s refusal to subside and thus hilarity ensues as we follow the protagonist’s various misadventures to avoid being captured by the ruthless Syldanian authorities who have outlawed any erections out of the breeding season.
The format of Le Bandard Fou is split into 2 separate sections:
On the pages on the left side of the book there is a series of surreal full page drawings and on the right is the main story of Le Bandard Fou. The drawings on the left show a seated figure looking out at the audience who suddenly and without reason becomes engulfed by some unknown liquid that grows and quickly overwhelms the figure completely but with a surprise twist at the end. The drawings serve as a sort of flip book animation but in an unusual portrait format for the reader to explore.
Moebius lays down line after copious line across each page that flow freely and coupled with generously detailed hatching/crosshatching & stippling, create a vast, expansive world for the reader to get lost in. This Moebius story has a clearly more adult tone to it reminiscent of the underground comix of American artist R. Crumb, mixed with science fiction elements and unique witty humour. Le Bandard Fou would also go on to establish the comic book universe that would be visited again in Moebius’ later work Le Garage hermétique (The Airtight Garage).
First published by Les Éditions du Fromage in September 1974 (a French comic book publisher set up by former Pilote artists Claire Bretécher, Marcel Gotlib and Nikita Mandryka) and as the exodus of artists from Pilote continued, published again a few months later in December 1974 under Les Humanoïdes Associés (newly founded by Moebius, Jean-Pierre Dionnet, Philippe Druillet and Bernard Farkas) and the future home of Métal hurlant.
La Déviation (1973) / The Detour (1987)
Pilote N° 688 23.5 x 30.5cm, 7 pages
The year is 1973 and French bandes dessinées artist Jean Giraud, also known as “Gir”, has for the last 10 years tirelessly hand-drawn each panel and page on acclaimed Western comics series Blueberry with writer Jean-Michel Charlier for Pilote magazine in France. Inside however Jean Giraud is yearning for a change in artistic direction that the “Gir” pseudonym that which Blueberry is drawn under does not allow room for.
Between 1963-1964 Jean Giraud had dabbled in more fantastical elements under a separate nom de plume “Moebius” first used in French satirical magazine Hara-Kiri (itself a response to American humor magazine Mad) but afterwards disappeared for years.
When a friend and fellow artist at Pilote, Philippe Druillet, pushed Jean Giraud to do a whole comic story in his “Moebius” style, who at first could not find the will to. Then one day between drawing Blueberry stories, Jean Giraud had an epiphany to draw an experimental, new story. The resulting comic was part autobiography (an artist showing themselves in their work was unheard of in comics) and part flight of fancy that follows Jean Giraud & family on a road trip to Île de Ré (Island of Ré) situated on the French west coast, where they suddenly find themselves taking a La Déviation (The Detour)…