Sad news today- internationally renowned French comics artist Jean Giraud, aka Moebius, has passed away in Paris at the age of 73, after a long battle with cancer.
In the United States, Moebius is best known for his Silver Surfer collaborations with Stan Lee and his American star-making turn in the magazine Heavy Metal -an English language version of the French magazine Metal Hurlant -which was in turn the basis for the cult favorite Ralph Bakshi animated film Heavy Metal in 1981 (Moebius also did art design on the films Alien and Tron.)
But he was best known to French fans -and to me -for his long-running Western comic, Lt. Blueberry. Blueberry was a nom de plume (that's French!) for Mike Donovan, an Irish-American Southerner who fought for the Union in the Civil War and served as a cavalry officer in the West afterwards. Blueberry was created by Moebius.Giraud and Belgian writer Jean-Michel Charlier in 1963, and was a European-made Western anti-hero before Clint Eastwood donned his first serape. Moebius continued producing occasional Blueberry stories on his own after Charlier died in 1990.
Last year I wrote an article at the Western Fictioneers website called "The Top Ten Western Comics and a Whole Slew of Others." We had a panel of several comics and/or western fiction professionals. Blueberry rounded out the Top Ten, at #10, although it got my #1 vote- it was the highest ranked non-English comic on the list (there were several others.)
In 2004 the character inspired a Western movie which was called Blueberry in France and Renegade in the U.S. Unfortunately it wasn't that great -though it was better than the movie adaptation of that other great Western comics anti-hero, Jonah Hex (I've always wanted to see a Blueberry-Jonah Hex team-up- how great would that have been?)
At any rate, Moebius was one of the greatest comics artists ever. If you love Westerns, or comics, or just beautiful art and great stories, you should check out an English translation of Blueberry (although I prefer to read 'em in the original francais.) Hopefully someone'll make 'em available again soon, as the English translations are out of print right now and used copies cost a fortune.
Know what, though? If you've got it, they're worth it.