Friday, September 01, 2023

Inside Moebius, Part II by Jean "Moebius" Giraud

This is the middle, so there will be the usual problems with talking about middle. And the whole "Inside Moebius" project is a late-life thing - I'll be kind and not call it "the end," though it was the last major comics work of the guy who worked as Moebius and Gir and was born Jean Giraud - which means it's full of summing-up and referencing and riffs on earlier projects and ideas.

And, let's be honest: Moebius was never a rigorous creator. His strengths were playfulness, visual inventiveness, a willingness to experiment with narrative and ideas, and a flexible style that seemingly could draw every last idea he or his collaborators had and make it real on the page.

So there is a lot in Inside Moebius, Part II, and it is more than a little random and rambling and contingent and quirky. There is a narrative, but it's not about the narrative: like a lot of Moebius's personal work, it's about exploration, both of ideas and of spaces - and particularly of liminal, invented spaces, the spaces that explicate and reify Moebius's ideas, that make them real.

As in Part I (see my linked post for more about the plot, such as it is), it takes place primarily in "Desert B," which is only the first complicated French pun we'll have to grapple with here. There's an extensive set of notes in the backmatter from translator Diana Schutz, which can at least point to those puns and jokes and references and explain how she turned them into the English-language text, but no translator's note can understand a joke or pun for the reader, or trigger that aha moment of humor.

Desert B is pronounced in French the same as désherber, the word for the verb "weed" and a colloquialism for "giving up marijuana." It's also something of a reference to the standard French term for comics, bande desinée. Inside Moebius, among other things, was a project Moebius worked on to distract him while he tried (successfully, in the end) to give up smoking pot.

But, more than that, Inside Moebius is the kind of story you expect an old creator who loves complication and connections and multiverses - think of similar mash-ups Michael Moorcock has done in prose, and you'll have the idea. Moebius is overtly metafictional here, entirely concerned with the creation of art and the concerns of the creator: he is the main character, and his famous fictional characters wander around, mostly aimlessly, specifically because he has not given them a script.

This chunk of Inside Moebius - the middle two books of what was a six-book series, about two hundred and fifty pages of comics - is about things not happening, about waiting and searching and wondering and looking back on one's life and work to confront the people you used to be. This isn't subtext: the plot is Moebius (at his then-current age) wandering around and talking to younger versions of himself and to a personification of his Unconscious about those concerns, about the role and power of the reader, while the fictional characters wander around in their side-plot, often discussing the same things.

There's no core fiction here; it's metafiction all the way down. For readers who enjoy that, who know and appreciate Moebius' previous work, and who are willing to grapple with the punning and wordplay in a foreign language, there's a lot of inventive fun in Inside Moebius. But I can easily see a vast number of readers not finding it worth the bother.

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