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His Infinite Strip

Posted on March 10, 2012 by in Coffee Shop Chatter, Making Art | Comments Off on His Infinite Strip

When I was a teenager, growing up in Syracuse NY, I used to spend all of my available money on art books. Not just any art books, not the educational books my parents bought me about “fine” artists, all safely carrying society’s seal of approval. These were books with titles like “The Fantastic Art of Boris Vallejo”. Books crammed with fantasy and science fiction images by the Brothers Hildebrandt, Frank Frazetta, Darrell Sweet and Michael Whelan.

They were expensive books for a kid whose primary income came from mowing lawns, so when I discovered Heavy Metal magazine, which contained European comics (often painted, always beautiful and exotic) for just a few dollars, I immediately mailed in my subscription. I had enjoyed comics as a youngster, but eventually lost interest in the American craze for superheroes.

Heavy Metal was a revelation to me: the detail and imagination that were crammed into every panel were like food to a young man who was on the brink of plunging headlong into an illustration career.

There were so many singular minds and hands in those magazines:

  • Vicente Segrelles,
  • Philippe Caza,
  • Richard Corben,
  • Juan Gimenez,
  • Enki Bilal,
  • Phillipe Druillet,
  • Bernie Wrightson,
  • Vaughn Bodé

…but the undisputed master of this strange, evocative new world was Jean Girard, a.k.a Moebius. He had a combination of talents that wove together seamlessly into something distinctively his own, starting with a spare, almost mechanical line. It wasn’t a fluid brush-line, varying in width like Alex Raymond, but it had a sinuous life of its own.

He had an eye for simplicity and negative space, which increased over the course of his life until you felt, in some of his later pieces, that he had taken it down to the absolute minimum.

His color sense was subtle, magical and seemingly limitless. You’d turn a page and the whole world would shift into transparent, shimmering greens, turn it again and everything was dark and red and oppressive.  I remember as a teen feeling the miraculous “rightness” of those color palettes.

And he was funny. His sense of humor permeated stories like “The Airtight Garage of Jerry Cornelius”, “Arzach” and my favorite, the epic “Black Incal”. I feel privileged to have had him as a living influence in my life. His loss leaves me feeling like I did when Isaac Asimov passed away… sadness that I can no longer participate, from afar, in his acts of creation, gratitude that he left a permanent imprint in the world that I can cherish, and that endless young artists can discover in the future.

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