“Joe Keatinge has established himself as the latest new writer I want to undermine and destroy. It’s just top class stuff.”
- Mark Millar (Kick-Ass, Civil War, Wanted, Ultimates)

"I think Joe is definitely one to watch."
- Robert Kirkman (Walking Dead, Invincible)

e-mail: joe@keatinge.com

Among Giants

The world lost Joe Kubert today.

Well, Joe Kubert the man. Joe Kubert the legacy is something that will live on forever, not just in the countless pages of comics he illustrated (including Tarzan, Sgt. Rock, Hawkman, Tor, Fax from Sarajevo, to name a few), but also the generations of artists trained through his Kubert School. The man was - is - a giant of the field, drawing right to the end, ever on the top of his game.

It’s cruel we’re losing him in the same year as Jean Giraud. The two are very similar - both are responsible for decade after decade of page after page of astonishing work so brilliant they light a fire under anyone to work harder. Both took a direct hand in bettering the generations to follow. Kubert with his school, Giraud building Metal Hurlant and being instrumental in a number of careers, including Geof Darrow.

Neither were satisfied with the status quo. Both strove to build better tomorrows. Just look at where the comics medium and industries were on their respective sides of the Atlantic when they started and where they are now. Look hard enough and you’ll see they were both hugely instrumental in this betterment.

They were immortals. Gods of comics. People you would never think would see at a convention and not even wonder if they would be there again. It felt like they always would be.

In some ways they will. As I said before,  those pages they drew last forever. This is truer now more than ever, where we live in a golden age of reprints, where I can get the entire body of works by either man printed in - at the very least - their original languages.

We also live in a golden age of archiving footage from our past. My buddy Ian, the guy who curates the Moebius tumblr Quenched Consciousness, put up this YouTube clip of Kubert, Giraud and fellow comics god (thankfully still among us) Neal Adams on a 1972 episode of Tac au Tac.

Watching this clip made me pretty emotional. Like I said before, these are guys you were convinced would always be there. When a friend told me why Moebius wasn’t at Angouleme this past year, it just seemed absurd at first. How could someone like him possibly get sick?

Yet, they’re gone. Their time on Earth has passed.

Watching the clip really reinforced the importance of appreciating those we care for and admire while they’re still here.  The fact Kubert passed the same weekend as Mike Wieringo and Mark Gruenwald did years before drives the point home even further. It also reinforced the absurdity of dwelling in those works you loathe, choosing to snark over things you dislike when the people you love have an expiration date.

There are so many women and men working in comics who have formed my life - creatively, professionally, personally - into what it is today. Some directly, some from afar, some strictly from pages I’ve read and poured over. Some have worked nearly as long as Kubert and Giraud. Some are just getting their start. If anything, this cruel, cruel year reinforces the importance of appreciating the time you have with those you admire. 

They may be giants, but no one lives forever.

To those who have had such an impact on me, thank you. 

I’m mulling over some way I can express this fully. Some way I can pay homage to all they’ve done. For now, I hope they somehow know they’re appreciated, loved and admired.

On Gir

"It’s true that for a field to evolve, it has to be a collective change that pulls the whole system along with it — readers, artists, publishers, distributors, printers, retailers. On the other hand, oddly enough, it must go through a single person. It has to be an individual who takes the risk." - Jean “Moebius” Giraud, from The Comics Journal #118, 1987.

This is not an obituary.

Jean Giraud, also known as ‘Moebius’, also known as ‘Gir’, did pass away earlier this morning, March 10th, 2012, but I’m not sure mourning this as a loss is the proper thing to do. Yes, I am devastated. Yes, I am saddened to  know the brightest mind in comics, film or really, any kind of artform is no longer walking upon the earth, but one thing should be made very clear. This is only a tragedy for us in the sense we can no longer look him in the eye to thank him for everything he’s done, but this is not a tragedy in that we will never, ever be without him. We have not lost a leader in our field. His creations will always keep him with us.

This is a celebration.

Giraud was seventy-three years old with a body of work so vast someone as obsessive about it as I am has still barely scratched the surface. The fact cartoonist Ian MacEwan can so regularly update an art blog at such a breakneck pace, yet not even get close to  encompassing the volume of creativity generated in his decades of creation is a testament to what makes him so great. I have no doubt Ian will be able to continue to do so as long as he has the desire to. The legacy left behind by Giraud is one of true artistic immortality. There are so many works in such a variety of genre that the most prolific creators are humbled by. There will always be more to discover. 

There will always be Blueberry and Arzach and Stel and Etan and Aedena and John Difool and Major Grubert and The Airtight Garage. There will always be many long tomorrows. 

This is a personal testament.

My love for Jean and his creations is certainly something of public record. I have written about his various works, I have let my passion get in the way of professionalism, I have  discussed just how massive of an impact he’s had on everything I do. 

I made friendships based on mutual admiration, sometimes spurned by friendly competition in who could accumulate the most and rarest of his oeuvre. I have met people who have become best friends, lovers, brothers and sisters-in-arms and art. He sparked conversation from many fellow readers and creators, from the most respected veterans to those just on the cusp of beginning their careers. Regardless of how familiar you are with him, there’s no doubt even the smallest exposure led to grand respect and influence.

Any career I personally have in any creative field I ever undertake is due entirely to seeing his work and seeing that not everything has been done. That there’s always more you can do. Infinite worlds to put to pen and paper, camera and screen.

I was blessed enough to meet him twice.

The first time was also the first time I had ever gone overseas. One of my dearest friends long told me that if I was to be writer, I had to travel more. He also said if I wanted to be a comic book writer, I had to go to Angouleme. So, for the first time, in 2010, I did with the goal of gaining experience and hopefully finding out just how I could help republish his works in America.

The comics festival remains the largest in the world, even dwarfing the San Diego Comic Con by 100,000 more attendees. 

Stardom, Moebius’ publishing boutique, regularly had a booth there and went to find it almost immediately. While he wasn’t there, his daughter was and we spoke at length about him. It was hard to do, as his table also contained a number of volumes I had never seen before. He has been working on something of an autobiographical work, Inside Moebius, and I was stunned to see there were no fewer than six volumes of Moebius work I haven’t read.

The aisle in front of his booth wasn’t big. I was as were the crowds. At one point I leaned over to look over what Stardom had to offer and immediately someone bumped in to me, then politely said, “Pardon.”

It was Moebius. The artistic god I had long put on such a high pedestal was finally made flesh, made human. 

I had been working professionally in comics long enough that I was able to meet a number of my heroes without losing composure, but this was different. I was speechless and frozen. So much so that I couldn’t even utter a word in his direction.

Then he left.

And I was heartbroken. The guy I had travelled the world in hoping to meet had come and gone. I lost my chance to meet him. Who knew if I would ever be back?

I was in luck. I noticed he was scheduled to take part in a Wacom demonstration right there and then, so I rushed over to the tent, but as soon as I got there it was made obvious a lot of other people had planned ahead. The crowd was huge. There was no way to get close.

Delcourt generously hooked me up with a badge that signified I was their guest. This caught the eye of the Wacom representative, who then asked if I wanted to see the presentation. I assured him it was the case, so he walked me in the back, right behind Jean. For the next two hours, I stood not a foot and a half behind Giraud, being able to look over his shoulder as he illustrated an amazing Arzach piece.

I even snuck in a small recording.

The Wacom representative explained they didn’t seek Moebius out. He came to them, fascinated by their new technology and what it could mean for his art. He wanted to do something new. He was their most enthusiastic supporter.

It was there I was also lucky enough to talk with his wife, Isabelle, and get her perspective on American comics, the industry and comics in general. She was a joy to talk to.

We did so in hushed tones until Jean was finished. At which point he jumped from his seat with an agility and youthfulness someone half his age would be lucky to have. He bowed, turned to his wife, then to me and said, “I heard you mention you’re from San Francisco.”

I confirmed this was the case and he mentioned how much he loved the city, how much he wanted to go back. He then asked if I drew, which I confirmed was the case, and mentioned my linework was especially influenced in a visual sense by George Herriman.

"Krazy Kat!" he said. "I love Krazy Kat!"

We talked about Herriman for a good five minutes, then he urged me to come to his signing within the next hour. I did so, picking up all the volumes of Inside Moebius and he generously sketched in the first. He was so generous with his time and so enthusiastic with his words and demeanor.

I came back from this trip deciding it was time I made the transition to becoming a writer. Two years later, I write full time.

I was lucky enough to meet him again, in 2011. My friend Nate had recently completed the first issue of his Image Comics series, NonPlayer, and really wanted his favorite artist to see his work. Knowing I was going to Angouleme, he gave me a copy and I went.

I was almost too intimidated.

Despite having met him before, going up to Moebius was still something I fretted. However, I saw he was giving a talk in like of the recent Arzak volume and I went. The Delcourt badge once again got me prime seating and I was able to sit in the front row, center, once again next to Isabelle.

The talk was great, albeit in French. They went over his entire career and while my French wasn’t good enough to understand exactly what was being said, seeing his mannerism and that patented enthusiasm was plenty enough make me highly enjoy the experience.

Once it was completed, he got up and talked to whoever approach him.

I did so, introducing myself in such broken French he laughed, then said he could speak English, then asked if I understood the discussion at all. I confessed it was tough, but I had such a great time it was my absolute pleasure to be there.

He gave NonPlayer an enthusiastic review, outright saying it was cool, beautiful and asking if he could keep the copy. Of course, I gave it to him, followed by giving thanks for all the inspiration he gave both Nate and myself.

It was during this time I was halfway through my first year as a freelancer and it wasn’t necessarily going well. It was going pretty rough, money was tight, especially since a good amount of savings was spent on the trip. Yet, his interaction with me once again left me so inspired to work hard that it didn’t matter I was going home to a slim bank account and not a lot more coming in to fatten it up.

He changed my life with each brief interaction, even more so as every illustration of his I had ever seen or story I ever read.

This is not a goodbye.

Everyone mourns loss in their own way. That said, while I do encourage you to feel the way you feel, to deal with such a loss in how you process it, I also encourage you to celebrate his life the way he did on a daily basis.

Don’t wallow in the past. Aim for tomorrow. Don’t be beholden to what was created before you. Create the worlds you want to see. Create the experiences you want to share. Create in the medium you love the most. Create relentlessly. Don’t hold yourself back or tell yourself you’ll get to it later. Don’t wait to be brilliant. Don’t talk about what you want to do. Do it now. Do it in your own way. 

Never tell yourself you’re good enough. Never let yourself think you don’t have more to learn. Never stop learning. Never stop being open. Experiment without restraint.

When I left the recent ‘Transforme’ exhibit I turned to my friend and commented, “we need to work harder.” This is never truer than it is today. Moebius’ mortal coil may be shed, but he will forever live on in the linework he left behind and all those he inspired. 

Giraud will be with me in every word I write, every line I draw, every word I ever say on creativity and creating. He will be with all of us, even those somehow unfamiliar, due to  his tremendous impact.

This is a thank you.

You changed my life and so many others, Jean. The worlds we live in and create are much better places due to all you’ve done.

Rest well.

ONE YOU WANT

This is happening RIGHT NOW.

I’ve teamed up with those fine folks at Broken Frontier to do a new column entitled ONE YOU WANT, spotlighting a different creator-owned, international or otherwise unsung comic every single week.

As the intro reads:

Each week a lot of comics hit the stores.

Some you’ve heard of. Some you haven’t.

Some have superheroes. Some don’t.

They might be comic books, they might be graphic novels.

This is the One You Want.

My aim’s to feature one comic a week you can go buy in your store that coming Wednesday that I feel might not be prominently featured elsewhere. With all the talk about how important creator-owned comics are - and I agree - I thought it would do something more than just talk about doing something. This is my contribution to the mix and I hope it helps.

This week’s pick is a rerelease of an international sci-fi epic very near and dear to my heart. Yeah, that means it’s illustrated by Moebius. I feel the newest US iteration of Humanoids is doing a lot of amazing work bringing both new works and representing classics which have been long out of print. I also feel they’re not getting enough attention. So, yeah, it’s pretty much the perfect book to start with.

Let me know what you think!

It’s true that for a field to evolve, it has to be a collective change that pulls the whole system along with it — readers, artists, publishers, distributors, printers, retailers. On the other hand, oddly enough, it must go through a single person. It has to be an individual who takes the risk. It can be a publisher, it can be an artist, it can be a distributor. By Jean “Moebius” Giraud, saying something in 1987 that I think beautifully illustrates what’s currently starting to happen in the American comics industry, from The Comics Journal #118.

What I’m Reading

Those kind folks over at Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 asked me to be the guest of this week’s What Are You Reading. So, I totally did it.

Give it a read to find out what Angouleme finds I tore into first, what comic makes me think the entire industry is drunk, which publisher is not getting the recognition it deserves and just how many times I’ve read and reread and reread again every single issue of Casanova.