Neil Gaiman’s Death by Moebius
A d r i e n n e R i c h
(May 16, 1929 – March 27, 2012)
Adrienne Rich has died. Her work has influenced me as a mother, as a woman, and as a scholar. She has been an inspiration and a role model. She was a feminist, a pioneer in motherhood studies, and a talented poet. For me she embodied the concept of the Scholar Warrior, something I hope to achieve. I chose Of Woman Born as my tenure book and the words I wrote then still stand today.
I first read this book when I was in my twenties. I read it before I became a mother and then again shortly after becoming one. At the time of the second reading I worked full-time and my (then) husband stayed home with Angel. Although this seemed like an enlightened household arrangement at the time, it was not. We still managed to recreate traditional roles in our family when it came to domestic chores and care.
I pulled my old and tattered copy down off the shelf today to find a suitable quote. In it I found a piece of stationary from my old job with a scribbled shopping list serving as a book marker. The list included: milk, wipes, cookies, Old Spice, contact lens cleaner, and cleaning.
The quote that I had underlined all those years ago reads:
“Most of the labor in the world is done by women: that is a fact. Across the world, women bear and care for children, raise, process, and market food, work in factories and sweatshops, clean the home and the office building, engage in barter, create and invent group survival.”
We still have so much more to learn.
“The moment when a feeling enters the body is political. This touch is political.”
I must have read and reread those particular words from Adrienne Rich‘s poem “The Blue Ghazals” thousands of times, as if the repetition would somehow dissolve the lines drawn between the personal and political, the singular and the collective, the private and the public, the body and the earth.
Adrienne Rich’s poems were acts of change, explosive political entities, never tricks or games or vain displays of craft (although they were exquisitely crafted). Reading her, I understood that poets were not meant to hover above the world; poems were burned in the grief, loneliness and outrage of the world. Her poems were rhythmic mappings of survival. She did not mean to be an activist. She meant to tell the truth in the language of her body. Her poems broke taboos and questioned the givens. I read “The Blue Ghazals” when I was 18 years old, and Rich made me believe for the first time that perhaps the bifurcation of struggle and song was not in fact the path to great literary achievement, but instead a dangerous road to narcissism, abstraction and denial.
She taught me that the lives of women existed in the future. And that language was the pathway to that future. She taught me women were living lives inside constructs of lives and that poetic grace and surprise could reveal and shatter those constructs.
She taught me women could be angry – and that anger is fertiliser. And she taught me that “… poetry can break isolation, show us to ourselves when we are outlawed and made invisible, remind us of beauty where no beauty seemed possible, remind us of kinship where all that seems possible is separation”.
Adrienne Rich is gone now. “The moment when a feeling enters the body is political.” If we could measure the immensity of her loss or the genius of her writing or the fervour of her love, we might be near revolution.
“All new learning looks at first / like chaos,” says Adrienne Rich in one of her most recent poems collected in Tonight No Poetry Will Servepublished just last year.
Adrienne Rich has died at the age of 82 and was working at the coalface of poetry right up till near the very end. Poets don’t retire. A writer as respected for her progressive vision in her theory as much as her stylistic panache in her poetry, Rich was a pioneer. A Jewish lesbian poet, she believed that the personal, political and poetical are inseparable. Some critics called her poetry polemical; yet the intensity of her gaze and her controlled use of diction, her formal reinvention is what is astonishing about her work.
She did that rare thing: make you think with your heart and feel with your head; she was a poet who appealed to the intellect as much as the emotions, and in that sense she had much in common with her old friend Audre Lorde.
In 1974 Rich refused to accept the National Book award for her masterpiece Diving Into the Wreck unless she could also accept it with the fellow nominees, Alice Walker and Lorde. “We are, I am you are / by cowardice or courage / the one who find our way / back to the scene / carrying a knife, a camera / a book of myths / in which / our names do not appear.”
Adrienne Rich’s name appears now. She was a woman who formed identity politics before the phrase was coined, who dreamt of a common language, who brought a discussion about lesbian oppression into the open air. “There is no one to tell me when the ocean will begin,” she wrote.
She was brave, too, in her attitude to her own chronic arthritis (which eventually killed her.)
I remember first coming across her work when I was 19. At first her work frightened me as well as filled me with awe. I’d never read anything at that time about compulsory heterosexuality and lesbian existence. You went to Rich to help you be brave.
In her last book there’s a Richienne (if I can coin that phrase) poem about death. “(I say her but who knows death’s gender / as in life there are possible variations.)”
Afraid of nothing, not even death … there’s something rich to learn from Adrienne, something glorious in its chaos. Her light will keep shining in the wreck. She is essential reading.
• Adrienne Rich died on 27 March 2012.
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(June 13, 1929 – March 3, 2012)
Eulogized by The Creep in the Art Department
Ralph McQuarrie was one of the greatest conceptual artists who ever lived. Not because he came up w/ far-out shit that had “never been seen before,” floating cities and spaceports and monsters and crap like that; no, McQuarrie was a master of fantastic imagery because he knew how a wrench worked. You know? He was better than God. He was a mechanic who really knew his shit.
A particularly difficult lesson for the developing young fantasy artist to grasp is that in order to create convincing fantastic creatures and realms, a firm visual understanding of reality is essential. The greater the artist’s command of reality, the better one’s ability to distort and exaggerate. (This applies to all artistic endeavors, I think, but that’s another essay.) Literally anything might be imagined, but even daydream creatures must be assembled by some governance of bone and flesh (and gravity) in order to convince a viewer of their “reality.” Fantastically improbable spacecraft and such would still be built of metal or similar material; weapons and machines might be capable of “impossible” functions, but they still must persuade a spectator by virtue of their physical validity, their presence. Ralph McQuarrie understood this requirement and the possibilities offered by the physical world. He went to war with the simplest and sharpest of weapons: his pencil.
Of course, sentimentality and nostalgia are difficult forces to bar from the equation when appraising the contributions of Ralph McQuarrie. Whether it was harm or hurt to our culture, he was the man who was visually responsible for Darth Vader and the Death Star, the light sabre and the X-Wing, visual icons of the 20th century that will be with us for quite some time. He will always be “famous” in that sense, his contribution will always be “important,” certainly “ground-breaking.” But it is not my intent to weigh the relative value of these visuals, tied forever though they be to the 12 year old I once was. Rather, I want to point out how powerful it was for me to realize that concept design was a process, and that Ralph McQuarrie helped me with this realization by the example of his tireless sketches. In the beautiful lines of a McQuarrie concept drawing, there was no “finished and complete” form beneath the scribble, waiting to be released from stone, as Michelangelo liked to imagine as he sculpted. On the contrary, it was a process of revision and adjustment, seemingly endless tests rewarded by equally limitless discovery. The mechanic might as well have been God, because the building blocks of matter itself were his materials.
It may seem strange to liken McQuarrie to God in reference to his visual contributions to Star Wars. After all, didn’t George Lucas dream all these visions and fantasies in the first place, wasn’t he “God?” Perhaps. But I put it to you: anybody can dream up crazy shit. The architect and the builder who makes the dream “real” and accessible to others… It’s no contest. And we are poorer without a builder the likes of Ralph McQuarrie.
— The Creep in the Art Department
† † †
Mœbius (Jean Henri Gaston Giraud)
(8 May 1938 – 10 March 2012)
I couldn’t actually figure out what the Moebius stories were about, but I figured that was because my French wasn’t up to it. (I could get the gist of the Richard Corben Den story, and loved that too, and not just because of the nakedness, but the Moebius stories were obviously so much deeper.)
I read the magazine over and over and envied the French because they had everything I dreamed of in comics – beautifully drawn, visionary and literate comics, for adults. I just wished my French was better, so I could understand the stories (which I knew would be amazing).
I wanted to make comics like that when I grew up.
I finally read the Moebius stories in that Metal Hurlant when I was in my 20s, in translation, and discovered that they weren’t actually brilliant stories. More like stream-of-consciousness art meets Ionesco absurdism. The literary depth and brilliance of the stories had all been in my head. Didn’t matter. The damage had long since been done.
I met Jean Giraud on a couple of occasions over the years. He was sweet and gentle and really… I don’t know. Spiritual is not a word I use much, mostly because it feels so very misused these days, but I’d go with it for him. I liked him enormously, and felt humbled around him. And in my 20s and 30s I didn’t do humbled very much or very well.
(Moebius was pronounced in the French way, as a four syllable word. Mo-e-bi-us.)
During Sandman, we did several galleries where we would ask artists whose work we loved to draw a character for us.
I was a working writer, the money that came in fed my family, and although I looked with envy on the art that was being made, I did not buy any of it.
Except for one small painting. A Moebius study of Death. It cost me as much as I was paid to write an issue of Sandman, and I bought it without a qualm.
RIP Jean Giraud, aka Moebius, one of the great artists of the 20th century. My approach to drawing comics was almost wholly derived from the illustrational style of the French, Belgian and other artists being published in Heavy Metalmagazine in the late 1970s/early 1980s. Many of the stories were appearing in English for the first time, and for me they revitalised a medium in which (undergrounds aside) I’d lost all interest. It wasn’t only the exceptional artwork that was attractive. The narratives of Moebius, Druillet, Bilal and co. presented a more sophisticated approach to science fiction and fantasy than the simple-minded fare filling the superhero titles or the pages of 2000 AD. Moebius’s work was wittier, sexier and far more imaginative than any American comics I’d seen up to that time. Some of the stories read like graphic equivalents of New Worlds-era science fiction so it came as no surprise to find Moebius drawing a strip called The Airtight Garage of Jerry Cornelius (the title was later amended at Moorcock’s request) while Druillet in his September 1980 Heavy Metal interview mentioned enjoying books by William Burroughs, Michael Moorcock and Thomas Disch, and singled-out Ballard’s Crash as a favourite novel. Without the examples of Druillet and Moebius (and the intoxicating inspiration of the October 1979 issue of Heavy Metal) I wouldn’t have spent 17 months adapting The Call of Cthulhu as a comic strip.
Hasko Baumann’s 2007 documentary, Moebius Redux: A Life in Pictures (some of which can be seen on YouTube) is a good place to start when trying to appraise Jean Giraud’s extensive career. The film is now available on DVD.