The incomparable Moebius (aka Jean Giraud) passed away over the weekend, and the world has truly lost a remarkable visionary talent. The word “genius” is incredibly overused these days, but in the case of Moebius, it’s almost not strong enough a word to accurately describe the man. His comic book output was prodigious, right up until the very end, and on top of that he contributed design work to some of the biggest and most influential science fiction films of the last 40 years: Tron, Blade Runner, Alien, The Fifth Element. I won’t simply relist his credits here, but it’s worth checking out his Wikipedia entry to see just how far and wide his reach is.
I don’t remember the first time I saw his work, but I do remember the first time I saw a piece of his and thought “oh, I get it”. It was a pinup image of Superman done for Superman #400, which came out in 1984. It says everything about Superman that everyone else seems to miss. While clearly an idealized form of a man, he is not the muscle bound lunkhead you often see. There is grace in his posture, a sense of ease with his other-worldly power that you would expect from a person who knows he is indestructible (as long as there’s no Kryptonite around, of course). His work focuses more on the “super” than the “man” part, eliminating the human flaws that writers of the character like to focus on to try to make him more relatible or vulnerable.
What sets this apart from most other artists’ rendering of the character, however, is how Moebius draws his face. Superman is ultimately an alien, not of this planet and forever an outsider as a result. The face of Moebius’s Superman not only reflects it, but embraces it. Almost every other artist draws the character as a generic, hunky looking guy, ranging in age from 20 to 35 or so. Here, Moebius has made him truly look like an alien, with the heavy, straight brow; thin, bridgeless nose; and pointed head. It’s a look I haven’t seen from any other artist, and that’s something that can be said about practically all of Moebius’s work. It saddens me that there won’t be any more of it.