When Moebius (aka French comic artist Jean Giraud) passed away in March, fans mourned the loss of his voice–er, pen–which had been so influential in sci-fi visual culture. Filmmaker Ridley Scott summed Giraud’s influence nicely last year: “You see it everywhere, it runs through so much you can’t get away from it.” But many more were completely unaware of Moebius, whose works remain largely in French, despite his work on films like The Fifth Element and Tron (to say nothing of his own prolific bibliography).
Posthumously, though, demand for his work is growing, and many of his older books are being reissued. Now, one of the most beautiful and sought after is being reprinted in hardcover for the first time since it was produced in small quantities in 1978.
The Eyes of the Cat was Giraud’s first collaboration with the filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky, who would become a close friend and co-author. The portfolio-sized, 56-plate book was actually never meant for widespread distribution. Rather, it was printed in a tiny quantity, as a bonus gift for friends and clients of French comic publishers Les Humanoïdes Associés–a kind of internal thank you note. “The supply was depleted long before the demand for the sought-after book had been satisfied,” explains Stephen Bisset in the anthology Taboo. “Its nearly legendary status was assured by its scarcity.”
In The Eyes of the Cat, a cat is attacked by an eagle as it wanders through a decaying, futuristic city. The text-free narrative is full of violence and chaos, influenced by Jodorowsky’s Panic Movement, a surrealist group the filmmaker formed in 1962 (named in tribute to the enigmatic Greek god). Each plate is detailed and gritty, and at 16″ x 12″, begs to be examined at close range. We follow the struggle between the two animals, and watch the eagle rip out the cat’s eyes. In a tower high above the city, the bird delivers them to an eyeless child.
The narrative was oddly prescient. Towards the end of his life, Giraud was plagued by cataracts, undergoing operations to preserve his fast-decaying eyesight. “They took my eye out, they took it to a shop. They did the sort of sushi chef stuff to it,” he told the Los Angeles Times‘ Geoff Boucher in 2011.
If you’re interested in Moebius, I’d highly recommend The Airtight Garage, a well-kept Tumblr about his work. In the meantime, check out Humanoid’s catalog, which includes another Moebius reissue this month, here.