Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Help Lift the USA Ban on Moebius

In just under a month (on March 10th), it will mark one year that we've all lived in a world without Moebius. And with his passing, American comic book fans have been virtually assured that none of his works yet published in English will ever be.

It's even possible that currently available titles from Humanoids (the US branch of the company founded by Moebius himself, and the original publishers of Metal Hurlant) will disappear once their current contract expires. Why? The rights reside with artist's estate, who seem unwilling to negotiate the licensing. That means no Blueberry, no Arzach, and possibly no more Incal (so snatch these up while you can!)

Moebius was born Jean Henri Gaston Giraud in the suburbs of Paris on May 8, 1938. By the time he was three, his parents would divorce amidst the Nazi occupation of France and an indelible rift of country and family would contribute to his penchant for pseudonyms later in life. Giraud studied art at age 15, and within a year he was drawing his own cowboy strips. After completing military service in Algeria 1961, Giraud apprenticed with famed French comics pioneer, Joseph "Jijé" Gillain. By 1962, he partnered with writer Jean-Michel Charlier to create Blueberry.

Superheroes didn't catch on in France like they did in America. In French comics (or, la bande desinée) it was Western adventure stories that were king, and Blueberry had the impact of Spiderman and Batman combined. It's since been translated into 16 languages, and helped launch a cottage industry of genre adventures.  His famous nom de plum was borne in 1963, as a means to produce darker, sci-fi works without carrying his more experimental style over into the Blueberry strip. By 1964, Giraud had abandoned the Moebius identity as censorship loosened in France, allowing him to  bring explicit and esoteric themes into Blueberry as well–mirroring the freedom of the new French cinema. It would be ten years until he revived it, forming the "Les Humanoides Associes" collective and launching Metal Hurlant magazine. When the magazine launched in the US as Heavy Metal, it introduced an entire generation (myself included) to French creators of la bande desinée and Italian masters of fumetti. Moebius' partnership with cult film-maker Alejandro Jodorowsky would yield the internationally acclaimed L'Incal series which became a huge influence on filmmakers and helped Jean embark on a lucrative career as a storyboard artist and visual futurist, and later a concept designer and animation director. The films include Alien, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, The Fifth Element, and Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland.

Effective as he was in these other capacities, none could hold a candle to his comics. If you've been lucky enough to see his work in Heavy Metal or the Dark Horse and Humanoids reprints, you know what a loss it this ban is to English speaking audiences. So how can we change this?

There's a facebook petition

There you will find an archive of facts and testimony by publishers, creators and influential fans, all of which plead for Moebius' widow (his second wife, Isabelle Giraud) to allow Humanoids to negotiate the English language rights (primarily in the US) for all of his unlicensed titles to a competitive marketplace, insuring that his heirs receive free market compensation, and preserving the artist's legacy among the largest consumer base of sequential art. The world's second largest market, Japan, is also annexed currently, so I hope someone will take charge there also.

But as it stands, even Casterman, the original French publisher of most of Giraud's pre-Humanoids output is at the mercy of his heirs, who seem indifferent to his published legacy. 


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