Comics are treated differently in Europe.
For example, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting France, Holland and Belgium in the last few years and was heartened to see that graphic novels were not hidden in corners or racked off in obscure corners of the major book-selling chains – they’re out there in regular view, for perusal by The Normals, should they wish to partake of a spot of sequential art.
Belgium, particularly, gets Comics in a way that calls out to lovers of the form – witness the Belgian Comic Strip Center in Brussels. I’ve been there and it’s a glorious place – something to visit if you ever get the opportunity. The exhibits are brilliant and thought-provoking and the shop will A) bankrupt you and B) make you want to learn the languages they’re printed in. Of course, you can always just get lost in the pictures…
All of which preamble is a ham-fisted way of delaying the sad news that Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud has died.
You might be unfamiliar with his work but his influence, as is usually the case with such creative giants, far outweighs his celebrity outside the comics world. His work on the revisionist western title ‘Blueberry’ gained much acclaim with audiences outside his native France, as did his trippy, science-fiction collaboration with hatstand visionary film director Alexander Jodorowsky on the multi-volume series, “The Incal”.
“The Incal”, and I’ll be careful here, has been noted as bearing distinct similarities to Luc Besson’s glorious sci-fi pic, “The Fifth Element”, to the extent of writs being exchanged and court cases being brought. Besson’s side won the day but, well, make up your own mind…
One of his major achievements was to introduce the idea of comics as an adult art form to a larger western audience, particularly with the anthology magazine “Metal Hurlant” (NSFW images at link). It’s fair to say that titles like “Metal Hurlant” or it’s English language translation “Heavy Metal” changed a small town geek’s conception of what comics could be, the subject matter they could deal with and the presence of adult imagery and ideas in what is still seen as a medium for comics.
I won’t claim for a second to be any kind of expert on Giraud’s work but I know that I appreciate the influence that his work had on both comics and imaginative, speculative storytelling as a whole.
If you’re interested in knowing more, there’s an interesting documentary on Moebius here at YouTube..