Jean Giraud aka Moebius could arguably be the greatest creator in the history of the comics medium with some considerations. Purely as an artist, Moebius is among the most technically adept of all time and his visual narrative was never less then fantastic with his detailed character acting and supreme fluidity of movement within his highly detailed compositions. As a storyteller, his imagination was boundless while his gift for humanism and allegory within his expansive narrative constructs was unparalleled. Outside of his unreal technical cartooning abilities; Moebius had a gift for comics where it’s surrealism, science fiction and fantasy intertwined with boundless imagination and concepts. But while Moebius’s sphere of influence on the medium itself is undeniable, all encompassing and monumental, the awareness for his work among comic book readers lags due to issues of distribution and rights ownership. As the Moebius estate partnered with American publisher Dark Horse Comics in 2015; the iconic cartoonist work will soon be more readily available in the english language then ever before. That began with the release of last week’s The World Of Edena Hardcover. A sprawling collection of work that had been created with over a decade of lag time towards it’s conclusion and it’s final chapters being translated into English for the very first time; The World Of Edena is quintessential Moebius.
One concept that permeates Moebius comics across his bibliography since taking on the pseudonym in the early 1970’s is that of transformation. The art of Moebius strived to explore our own humanity within the context of the world around us. The inevitability of change and metamorphosis was a thematic offshoot of that larger exploration that would reoccur often for the creator. Moebius had a paradigm shift in his art when he began using the pen name and founded the Metal Hurland or Heavy Metal anthology with a group of like minded French comics creators known as Humanoids; transitioning from his influential Blueberry American Western serial to the expansive science fiction fantasy work that would mark his largest impact on the medium and culture at large. By the middle 1980’s, that aesthetic was well established when he was approached by the French car company Citreon to create a promotional comic for one of their feature automobiles. A commission that was only supposed to be a few pages, become several, which in turn became multiple installments, which in turn would see future completion of the comic almost twenty years after the fact. What started as a simple assignment for a car manufacturer became La Mode d’Edena; the comic whose complete works perhaps best symbolizes the creators constant evolution from his expansive biography.
One of the struggles with analyzing any of Moebius’s work is that it’s hard to find much consensus on what is his best in order to establish a base line for comparison. I’ve heard arguments that his extensive work with director Alejandro Jodorowski is his worst or Kubert school alum’s that prefer his pre-humanoids work on Blueberry. For myself, the two Moebius comics that stand apart in being nearly perfect in terms of vision and execution are The Incal with Jodorowski and Arzach, his incredible dialogue free Heavy Metal surrealist fantasy strip. Putting the two on a spectrum, with The Incal’s tight and complicated story in contrast to the totality of free form narrative in Arzach; La Monde d’Edena reads like the middle point of that continuum. While Moebius probably knew where the series was going and ultimately how he’d get there, the details and minutia of the books world were clearly in flux and because of that, the series final two chapter’s can feel like a different comic in spots. Yet that also is partially what makes Edena fascinating; it’s the most complete work by Mobieus post Heavy Metal and best exemplifies the creators late period evolution.
When Citreon came to Moebius, he was in a moment of transition on multiple levels. The cartoonist was living transiently between Paris, Tokyo and Los Angeles while he was radically shifting to what was at the time, a sort of proto-organic diet as a means of building a greater connection between himself and the natural world based on the teaching of new age guru Jean-Paul Apple-Gurey and Swiss nutritionist Guy-Claude Burger. Moebius also altered his art to the French “clear line style” in attempt to simplify his work for greater clarity. Of course, “simplify” is completely relative because even as the line art in Edena is more straight forward then his previous work from a technical perspective, it’s still far more detailed then most anything else you’ll find in comics just by virtue of of Moebius being Moebius. Still, there’s enough of a difference in the the chapters he’d created at the projects inception to see the contrast from the work that preceded Edena. That’s ultimately a strength for the sequential art as a whole for how it brings the story to life. On Edena, Moebius has a naturalism and earthy quality that’s warm and inviting while the geometry of his design and composition is stunning. The clarity and simplicity of his line work also benefits the story that is constantly shifting in ways that are unexpected and profoundly immersive. The World of Edena’s new collection starts with what was originally a prequel comic that Moebius created after he’d finished the series as a whole titled Repairs, it’s this collections shortest chapter. In that limited space, Repairs begins with a version of futurism that should be relatively familiar to readers of Airtight Garage or The Incal, until it’s middle section where it becomes something wholly different when the protagonist fix’s a machine by exploring it’s subconscious before going back to it’s initial setting. In only a few pages, Moebius jumps from two very contrasting environments seamlessly partially because the clear line style is such a versatile aesthetic and in the hand of someone with Moebius inventiveness and imagination; that’s a game changer. Repairs serves as a great primer here to not only introduce it’s main characters, but also prepare readers for the meat of Edena in the books middle section where the story is even more extensive and variable.
The Wold Of Edena’s content that Moebius originally created for Citreon and then subsequently expanded on in the installments that would follow is the collections strongest material and it’s most interesting. The World of Edena follows two protagonist from a society that’s disengaged from any natural state of humanity. The duo crash land on Edena, a planet at the center of the universe that is the life force for all living things. The pair are forced to adapt to it’s unique conditions which transforms them into a more primitive version of homo-sapien, much like how we are now without our technical resources. They evolve into male and female separately as opposed to when they began the comic as asexual beings. The male character becomes overwhelmed with intense sexual desire for his female counterpart and ultimately scares her off (yes, it’s slightly uncomfortable and a dated concept of gender but thankfully, it’s also brief) The female character goes on to become a goddess while the male seeks out her love and ultimately, they need one another to fully realize the potential of Edena. Like Repairs; the chapters of Upon A Star, The Gardens of Edena and The Goddess go from space exploration to biblical inspired science fiction/fantasy to 1984 style totalitarian dystopia effortlessly. Edena’s own internal logic and thematic through line makes it all feel linear and natural. Moebius was a master storyteller with his own unique brand of sci/fantasy surrealism and at points in The World of Edena’s middle section, he’s at his apex. Yet for the creator, it wasn’t good enough to meet his own ambitions. Moebius would table The World of Edena and the series that he’d started in 1985 wouldn’t see completion until 2001.
The final two chapters in The World of Edena share it’s preceding installments penchant for shifting genre conventions but in Stel & Sre, it’s far more pronounced. Portions of the chapters feel like they could’ve easily come from Star Wars, Salvador Dali, Gulliver’s Travels or Little Nemo. Yet while the visual storytelling and time lapse’s within the Stel & Sre chapters moves faster then the collections prior sections in terms of the plot’s timeline, the actual pacing of the story is slowed down and far more deliberate. It’s not necessarily qualitatively better or worst from the parts of the story that Moebius wrote and drew in the 1980’s, but it is different. It’s also inarguable that on a technical level, Moebius had improved immensely as an artist in the clean line style from when he started on Edena. That it’s smoother in the final two chapters allows for Moebius to create more details, even if the intensity of his visual story telling is slightly muted. As a writer, Moebius is more reflective and it allows The World of Edena to close out by looking inward. Like The World of Edena, Moebius has transformed and the chapter of Stel & Sre reflect that.
The beauty of Moebius work in comics is how they give validity to simple truths through expansive imagination. So much of his comic’s feel limitless in terms of both the scope of his story and ability as a comics artist. Yet at it’s core, the work starts with a simple truth. Life is about personal growth and change, transformation is a hallmark of all things that are natural. To be in touch with that in ourselves is to be fundamentally in sync with our own humanity. The World of Edena is wonder filled and immersive, it’s a marvel of artistic expression for the comics medium but at it’s heart, it’s a comic about us and the world we live in. Nothing that is real is static included our own humanity. The World of Edena may be far more fantastical then our own, but the truth at it’s heart is the same; change is constant. Embrace it. Our world of which we are all inexplicably a part of depends on it.