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Jean Giraud - A Graphic Matryr

Words:

Edd Norval
September 10, 2020

Jean Giraud was a man of great imagination and adventure, known by many names; Giraud, Gir and most enigmatically Moebius. This shape-shifting presence is appropriate for one who so readily chose to explore the outer reaches of the imagination in search of a graphic reality that many could relate to, reinventing the medium on his way.

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A part of the proud tradition of bande dessinée - a Franco-Belgian comic drawing tradition that, whilst not denoting a particular style, usually contains themes that are wide open to interpretation and scholarly debate. In many ways, they could be understood as ‘high-brow’ graphic novels, dealing with lofty themes in challenging visual styles. Of all of the proponents of this loose movement, Giraud’s comics still inspire analysis years after their release - influencing artists from all over the world. 


Amongst the plethora of standout features in the artist’s graphic repetoire, it is his backgrounds, as much as his characters, that bewilder. Vast open planes, both in a space-age or typical Western setting, are cinematic in their scope, with enough details to spend vast amounts of time losing yourself in.


Not one to skimp on details, Giraud developed such a rich array of surroundings that it’s easy to imagine him working in the computer game industry should he have come of age now. Both share a genuine desire to explore the concept of exploration itself and for the man and computer game medium - it has always been crucial to feature the environment as a believable place, with its own stories unfolding around the main plot. The world is a character unto itself.

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Obsessed with the wild abandon of the Western frontier, his backdrops exist as a fertile ground for the kinds of characters often spawned in Western films to exist - although his often came with a twist. Endlessly barren areas, vaguely dystopian in their nature, shared the same characteristics regardless of what era they were set, whether it be his famous Western stories or science-fiction. It’s no surprise, then, that his influence stretched into cinema. 


Sroeyboarding films like Alien, Tron and The Fifth Element, Giraud eventually worked with Alejandro Jodorowsky on a comic before becoming a part of the conceptual team for Dune. In many ways, the Frenchman’s works had led up to this film, but also its impact - and that of Jodorowsky - could be felt on that which came thereafter. It opened Giraud up to alternative ways of living and seeing the world.


Eventually he did work with video games, adapting the Halo series to a graphic novel after learning of his son’s enjoyment of the games. With an increasingly epic scope, Giraud knew no bounds, certainly not those imposed by a page. Reading his works always felt far more of an experience than almost any other artist. Their depth of narrative constantly reshaped the discourse surrounding comics capabilities and its crossover appeal.


Up until his death in 2012, aged 73, Giraud boasted an indomitable spirit and unquenchable thirst for exploration. Within his comics so many people have been able to get lost and leave them with even more ideas found.

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