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Nexus Graphica
by Rick Klaw

Other Nexus Graphica Columns
For more information, you can try the following:
Jean "Mœbius" Giraud
Heavy Metal
Jean-Michel Charlier
Les Humanoïdes Associés
Métal Hurlant
"The Long Tomorrow"
Elmer Kelton
Explorer: The Mystery Boxes
Amazing Mysteries: The Bill Everett Archives Vol. 1
Whisper in the Walls
Recent Books of Interest
Explorer: The Mystery Boxes edited by Kazu Kibuishi (Amulet)
Explorer: The Mystery Boxes Kazu Kibuishi's follow-up anthology to the award-winning Flight series, Explorer: The Mystery Boxes continues in much the same vein with an eclectic mix of beautiful stories geared toward readers of all ages. While the seven shorts, all centered around mysterious boxes, feature excellent art and superior storytelling, several of the tales excel. The creepy opening contribution "Under the Floorboards" by Emily Carroll, the clever "The Keeper's Treasure" by Jason Caffoe, Rad Sechrist's charming "The Butter Thief," and Kibuishi's foreboding "The Escape Option" showcase some of the best of the form.

Amazing Mysteries: The Bill Everett Archives Vol. 1 edited by Blake Bell (Fantagraphics)
Amazing Mysteries: The Bill Everett Archives Vol. 1 Most comic book fans with even a minimal knowledge of the medium's history know of Bill Everett, creator of Sub-Mariner and co-creator of Daredevil. As Blake Bell points out in the aptly titled Amazing Mysteries: The Bill Everett Archives Vol. 1, the artist deserves far more attention and scrutiny. Everett worked on numerous comics throughout his lengthy career and this book explores his key contributions during the early Golden Age (1938-42) to titles such as Amazing Mystery Funnies, Amazing Man Comics, and Target Comics. Bell not only reprints several of the stories featuring the largely forgotten creations Skyrocket Steele, Amazing-Man, Hydro-Man, Sub-Zero Man, and others, but places Everett within the proper context of history through a brief bio of the artist during this period and notes about the individual pieces. Deserving a place in most graphic libraries, the handsome Amazing Mysteries: The Bill Everett Archives Vol. 1 successfully re-introduces the talented Everett to a new generation of readers.

Whispers in the Walls Written by David Muñoz Art by Tirso (Humanoids)
Whispers in the Walls Scripted by the co-writer of Guillermo Del Toro's The Devil's Backbone, Whispers in the Walls offers an intelligent, well-conceived gothic fantasy tale. After the brutal murder of her parents, Sarah ends up in ancient Czech children's hospital that houses orphans. Whispers from emerge from within the old walls lead the young girl into the nightmarish two millennium battle between monsters and men. Perhaps the only major flaw in the near-perfect story set in 1949 is the repeated comments referring to a recent Nazi attack. Thankfully the ideal illustrations by the extraordinary Tirso successfully obscure any script deficiencies. The engaging Whispers in the Walls delivers enough eerie moments to satisfy most fans of the genre.

Forever Mœbius

Arzach The legendary Jean "Mœbius" Giraud has died.

Like many of my generation, I first encountered his incredible works in the pages of Heavy Metal. A sharp contrast to the inferior Kirby-clones that dominated American comics of the 70s and early 80s, Mœbius' organic, elegant art promised a wide range of emotional experiences from wonder to despair; hope to terror; and nearly everything in-between.

Before adopting the nom de guerre Mœbius, Jean Giraud established a reputation as a western comics artist. In 1962 shortly after his return from military service in Algiers, Giraud teamed up with writer Jean-Michel Charlier on the strip Fort Navajo. One year later, the duo created the extremely popular gritty Western series Blueberry. The pair crafted numerous stories throughout the 60s, 70s, and 80s. Following Charlier's death in 1989, Giraud assumed the scripting duties. Though surprising to many Americans, the Blueberry tales are among Mœbius' most popular creations in his native France, perhaps only second to his later collaborations with Alejandro Jodorowsky.

Heavy Metal
The Blueberry Saga: Confederate Gold
sketch from The Blueberry Saga: Confederate Gold
The Mœbius identity first appeared in 1963 for 21 strips in the satire magazine Hara-Kiri, and then disappeared for almost a decade. The pseudonym, used to differentiate between Giraud's sf/f and his other works, resurfaced in 1975, when he joined Jean-Pierre Dionnet, Philippe Druillet, and Bernard Farkas to found the comics art group Les Humanoïdes Associés. They started the magazine Métal Hurlant, the original home of Mœbius' famous serial The Airtight Garage and his groundbreaking Arzach. With these innovative selections and others, Les Humanoïdes Associés attempted to breathe life into an increasingly moribund French comics scene, increasingly dominated by America super-hero stories. The fact that the magazine enjoyed both national and international acclaim, and Mœbius became one of the most popular and identifiable artists in the world speaks to the success of their endeavors.

I could continue nattering on about his numerous accomplishments: the highly successful creative collaborations with Jodorowsky, his influential designs for movies such as Alien, The Fifth Element, Tron, and The Abyss, or that the overall look of Blade Runner emerged from the Mœbius-envisioned, Dan O'Bannion-written 1976 short story "The Long Tomorrow" from Métal Hurlant. But I will leave those details for others.

Beyond the realm of fandom, Giraud entered my own personal/professional sphere when in 1996 Mojo Press, where I served as the managing editor, published The Blueberry Saga: Confederate Gold. The black & white volume reprinted "Chihuahua Pearl," "The Half-A-Million Dollar Man," "Ballad for a Coffin," "The Outlaw," and "Angel Face," all written by Charlier and originally published between 1973-75. The short "Three Black Birds" made its English-language debut within those pages. The handsome trade paperback also included the biographical essay "The Life and Times of Blueberry" by Randy & Jean-Marc Lofficier. Topping off the excitement was the inclusion of an introduction by the incomparable Elmer Kelton. Mojo Press publisher Ben Ostrander smartly suggested the award-winning Western scribe for the job. When Kelton responded to our query that he hadn't read comics in 50 years, I was dubious that he'd accept the assignment. I was wrong and clearly he understood and even enjoyed the Blueberry tales. From his introduction: "[Blueberry] is not for the kids... except for the grown-up ones who still remember the magic to be found in a well-drawn comic strip." The Blueberry Saga: Confederate Gold, priced at the very affordable $12.95, sold extremely well, quickly becoming the best-selling Mojo Press title. The title received a 1997 Eisner nomination for Best Archival Collection.

As promotion for the book, we teamed with Dark Horse (who was reprinting other works) to bring Mœbius to the 1996 Comic Con International (aka the San Diego Comic Con). We sold many hundreds of the volume at the convention. Amazingly, Mœbius drew an illustration in each copy he signed. One such Confederate Gold is one of the centerpieces of my collection (see left).

But all of this pales against my fondest memory of Jean Giraud, the man. Each night after the show's end, Ben and I spent time at the Cuban Cigar Factory in the San Diego Gaslamp district. We'd get scotch from the bar next door and smoke stogies. Typically, it was just the two of us, but one magical night in the summer of 1996, Mœbius joined us. The three of us drank and smoked for a couple of hours while we talked about art, science fiction, and women. That evening, like so much of Mœbius' awe-inspiring creations, is emblazoned upon my psyche. He will forever live on in my mind.

Copyright © 2012 Rick Klaw

Professional reviewer, geek maven, and optimistic curmudgeon, Rick Klaw has supplied countless reviews, essays, and fiction for a variety of publications including The Austin Chronicle, The San Antonio Current, The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Moving Pictures, RevolutionSF, Conversations With Texas Writers, Electric Velocipede, Cross Plains Universe, Steampunk, and The Steampunk Bible. Coming in March 2013 from Tachyon, he is editing The Apes of Wrath, a survey of apes in literature with contributions from Edgar Allan Poe, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Franz Kafka, Gustave Flaubert, Joe R. Lansdale, Pat Murphy, Leigh Kennedy, James P. Blaylock, Clark Ashton Smith, Karen Joy Fowler, Philip José Farmer, Robert E. Howard and others. Klaw can often be found pontificating on Twitter and over at The Geek Curmudgeon.

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