Mockba (1990) Stardom 11.5 x 15cm, 85 black & white and colour pages
Mockba (pronounced Moskvá and how the Russians write the name of their capital city Moscow in Cyrillic), is a small signed and numbered limited edition of 1500 and the first publication under Moebius’ Stardom imprint released in 1990. Mockba’s little red book presentation is a clear nod to Chairman Mao’s “Little Red Book” of the People’s Republic of China. The author and title text on the front cover are in large, gold lettering and set to the likeness of Moebius’ own handwriting whereas underneath the subtitle “Carnet de bords” (which means “record book” or “log-book” in English) is in smaller, uppercase lettering.
As you open this tome you discover a short 2 page introduction in French by Moebius that in English roughly translates:
“Carnet de bords
There is a tradition of the travel diary, which seems to be threatened by all the modern processes of film-making, all of them more and more practical, more and more efficient.
However, a simple notebook and some pencils can alone open all the doors of imagination and dreams.
Thus, over the years, I have filled many notebooks, some dragging in the back of my pockets for many months, filling up slowly, random waiting, dirty airport seats or even subway platforms … Others, more rarely, closing in one go, like this one, by example, realised in a short week and almost exclusively in the sinister and disproportionate hall of a big hotel in Moscow.
Sometimes, drawings and texts correspond well to the idea that one is commonly made of a travel note, but most of the time, one will search in vain for any relation with a place or a precise event. We can even estimate that the artist will have done as well, if not better, staying at home in the comfort of his studio.
However, these devotional drawings, even and especially the abstract ones, are transcriptions of states that could only be provoked by the journey and its tribulations, sketches on the spot, not of what happens in front of the eyes of the traveler, but from what is happening behind, where the magic mirror of the secret reality of the world unfolds to infinity.”
Beneath Moebius’ introduction is a drawing of a figure seated on a bench, writing into a small book (not unlike the one the reader is currently holding in their hands) and beside them a suitcase covered in stamps likely of places that they have visited.
Once you explore more inside Mockba, the more the pages resemble a sort of personal sketchbook and flows like a visual diary kept by Moebius in 1989 which for historical context was the same year that the Berlin Wall fell in Germany that once separated East and West Berlin and that would lead to the Reunification of Germany, followed years later by the collapse of the Soviet Union in Russia.
The Art of Moebius (1989)
Byron Preiss/Berkley Books/Epic Comics
21 x 27cm, 96 pages
Bearing the familiar image of Starwatcher II that first featured on the cover of Moebius: Starwatcher released a few years earlier but this time however on the cover of The Art of Moebius the image is instead framed in a pastel lavender.
The Art of Moebius trade paperback opens with an introduction by filmmaker George Lucas who is best known for his original Star Wars trilogy:
“In all his drawings, Moebius, demonstrates a command of many disciplines in art. He is a master draftsman, a superb artist, and more: his vision is original and strong. Since first seeing the Moebius illustrations in “Heavy Metal” years ago, I have been impressed and affected by his keen and unusual sense of design, and the distinctive way in which he depicts the fantastic. Perhaps what strikes me most of all about his work is it’s sheer beauty – a beauty that has always given me great pleasure.”
Some of the work featured in The Art of Moebius appeared previously in his art book Moebius: Starwatcher but not featured are the preparatory sketches and line work behind some of Moebius’ wide ranging work including for his aforementioned Starwatcher series of serigraphs. Also of interest is work by Moebius done for film projects such as Little Nemo in Slumberland (1989) based on Winsor McCay’s groundbreaking comic strip of the same name.
Worthy of mention and found within the final pages of The Art of Moebius is the inclusion of work from Moebius’ rare notebook Roma-Amor or Viamor (1988).
Moebius on how Roma-Amor /Viamor came to be:
“I went to Italy for a month, to Naples and Rome, and one day, I was walking through the streets, when I saw an artisan making little notebooks, with nice paper and nice covers. So I bought one. At the time, I thought I would give it to somebody as a present, but I should have known better. I can never resist a notebook. So I began filling it with drawings. I drew in every kind of situation: in the train, in the plane, waiting for friends, waiting for a car, in coffee shops, in the street, in bed, at the hotel. Everywhere. I tried to do these drawings without any kind of preconceived ideas, just following my inspiration. I emptied my mind and let the drawing emerge. If there is a repetition of characters and themes, which there is, it is because it is like a psychic map of my spiritual landscape at the time. ”
If ever there was a defining moment where the stars aligned so perfectly to fill the night skies with heavenly wonder it would be in the seminal Moebius and Stan Lee work Silver Surfer: Parable, which introduced Moebius to a whole new Anglophone audience and would be for many (including myself, the author) a first taste of Moebius’ magnificent art.
In the foreword to Silver Surfer: Parable, Stan Lee writes about the conception of the project:
“I ran into Jean (Moebius) Giraud early in ’88 at the Anaheim Book Fair in California. One thing led to another and we ended up having lunch. Jean’s friend and representative, Jean-Marc L’Officier, turned to him and asked, “Why don’t you and Stan do a strip together?” During our conversation, Jean mentioned that he’d found The Silver Surfer very fascinating. I smiled. It was what I’d hoped he’d say.”
For Moebius to choose Jack “The King” Kirby’s cosmic powered rider of the spaceways Silver Surfer and former herald of the world consuming Galactus was a perfect choice in Stan Lee’s opinion:
“I’ve always felt that the Surfer’s style particularly lends itself to poetic lyricism and philosophical musings – and Moebius himself has the soul and the leanings of a poet/philosopher.”
Silver Surfer: Parable begins with an ominous sighting of a bright object in the night skies over New York which sets the population of Earth into a panic. The celestial object is not a shooting star or a meteor as previously thought but in fact a gigantic space vessel descending at great speed towards Earth’s surface. Just before the extraterrestrial spacecraft makes contact with terra firma, a bright beam of energy bursts forth from inside it, revealing the cosmic entity known as Galactus who addresses the world’s stage and declares to all it’s inhabitants that now is the ushering in of a new age of Galactus. Whilst this galactic encounter on purportedly peaceful grounds is going on, a mysterious raggedy garbed vagrant looks on from the distance and questions the true motives of this god-like being. Televangelists are quick to capitalise on this moment and claim themselves to be prophets of this Galactus who they believe to be omnipotent and benign all the while human laws and society begin to crumble into chaos all around.
Silver Surfer: Parable although written in the latter part of the 1980s touches on points that are sadly still prescient and relevant to the uncertain times we live in today. Truths such as power attracting the corruptible, the ruthless rise of the demagogue, communities being torn apart through fear and the voice of reason being drowned out by ignorance.
In the addendum ‘The Making of Silver Surfer: Parable’, Moebius recalls meeting Stan Lee (and also Mike Hobson) for that pivotal lunch at the San Diego Comic-Con (1986?) instead of the Anaheim Book Fair as mentioned by Stan Lee earlier in the foreword.
When getting down to work on Silver Surfer: Parable, Moebius found it initially quite challenging as he was in unfamiliar territory having never made a ‘Real American comic book’ before and admits that:
“THE SILVER SURFER was possibly one of the toughest assignments I ever had”.
To help approach the project Moebius thinks back to his days at Métal hurlant in France:
“When I was working at Metal Hurlant, in the 1970’s, I had seen Philippe Druillet draw a story in a fashion that has always fascinated me. It was a strip called Vuzz. Now, normally, Philippe was known for his elaborate architectures, full of intricate details. But Vuzz was something very simple that he just drew spontaneously on a sheet of paper. It was almost like drawing a storyboard. I thought it was really wonderful. It really astounded me and I never forgot that feeling. When I started on THE SILVER SURFER, I remembered Philippe’s Vuzz, and the spontaneity that he had achieved. That’s something that helped me start.”
Moebius upon receiving the story from Stan Lee shortly after their eventful lunch:
“This is the first time in my life that I worked in the so-called “Marvel method”. Stan (Lee) gave me a fairly detailed plot – about six pages – but no breakdowns or dialogue. I loved this way of working… It really is the way I write my own stories, except that, instead of having Stan’s plot in front of me, my plot is in my head.”
Moebius wanted his interpretation of the characters to be both fresh but familiar to the reader:
“The idea of doing the Surfer made me nervous at first because, again, it is a character who did not spiritually emanate from me, but had been already formalized by other artists, such as Jack Kirby and John Buscema. They made him athletic, powerful, a warrior almost. I wanted to touch upon that aspect also, but without copying them.”
Such was the critical acclaim received upon it’s release that Silver Surfer: Parable would go on to win the Eisner Award for “Best Finite/Limited Series” in 1989 and also be immortalised on film in a scene from Tony Scott’s (younger brother of Ridley Scott) 1995 movie Crimson Tide where a fight breaks out between 2 crew members onboard a nuclear submarine over a difference of opinion between which interpretation of the Silver Surfer was better: Jack Kirby’s or Moebius’. In the CTN animation eXpo 2010 – An evening with Moebius interview hosted by Animation Director John Musker, Moebius is reminded of a time he watched Crimson Tide (1995) in a cinema in Paris and being taken aback to hear his name and work namechecked in the movie in front of him and that receiving this kind of homage was in his own words “Better than a big statue”. Also in the interview a question is raised on who the actual author of that scene was from Crimson Tide and Moebius reveals in a meeting with it’s director:
“I met Tony Scott, I think, 5 years ago and I asked him if it was (Quentin) Tarantino? He said “No, it’s an urban legend, it’s me!” and I believe him.”
Farewell to these giants…
Jacob Kurtzberg “Jack Kirby”
28th August 1917 – 6th February 1994
Giovanni Natale “John” Buscema
11th December 1927 – 10th January 2002
Anthony “Tony” David Leighton Scott
21st June 1944 – 19th August 2012