Re-Reading Comics: The Eyes of the Cat (Mœbius & Jodorowky)

Cover for the 2013 “Yellow Edition” published by Humanoids

I reread The Eyes of the Cat this week, a graphic novel written by Jodorowsky and drawn by Mœbius – hands down one of my favorite artists. Created in 1978, the original portfolio-sized zine featured 56 single-panel pages because Jodorowsky specifically asked to “be free from the traditional format of each page cut into panels” (according to his introduction). It was their first comic book collaboration (they later worked together on The Incal series, which I also have), and was Jodorowsky’s way of making something, anything, out of the ashes of the movie-that-never-was, Dune. (1)

It turns out that Mœbius was the only one from that production willing to keep working with Jodorowsky, after everyone else left town. Chris Foss had gone back to England, Giger went back to Switzerland, and Dan O’Bannon retreated to Los Angeles, where he lived on Ron Shusett’s couch – though Jodorowsky still claims the despair over not getting to make Dune caused O’Bannon to be institutionalized for two years, he was actually writing Alien with Shusett (2).

Lucky for us, while Jodorowsky embellishes nearly everything he says, he’s also charming, and persistent: he basically kept “running into” Mœbius around Paris until they agreed on an idea for a one-shot comic. They used Les Humanoïdes Associés (the French counterpart of Humanoids) to print it, and gave it out to friends. (3) It quickly became impossible to find.

“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.”

Art from “The Eyes of the Cat” Yellow Edition, by Mœbius

Humanoids republished the art from the zine as “The Yellow Edition” in 2013, so named because the original black and white art is now printed on stock yellow paper. I’m not sure it adds anything to the art, but it’s not a terrible choice either; I’m ambivalent about it, really.

There’s no ambivalence in the art, though. It’s precise, epic, and full of movement, exactly what you’d expect from 1970s Mœbius. Similar to the four wordless short stories that make up his 1975 classic, Arzach, there’s very little dialogue but lots of detail. (5) The focus is on the buildings, the light, and the emotions you should be feeling: waiting, anticipation, and finally, aggressive action, before it starts all over again.

Art from “The Eyes of the Cat” Yellow Edition, by Mœbius

The plot for The Eyes of the Cat is so simple it can be described in a single sentence, so I won’t tell you what it’s about. It’s worth picking up for Mœbius’s intense, violent art, and I do believe Jodorowsky intended the story to be dreamlike, savored slowly, though (like with his failed Dune project, and every movie he ever made) his enormous ego certainly affects his sense of self-importance. (6)

Pick it up for the exquisite line drawings, whether you’re a fan of Jodorowsky or not. Check with your local comic store first – always! – they may have it and in this time of limited social interaction, can probably ship it to you so you don’t have to leave your house. Failing that, you can find it on Amazon.

TW: Please note, it does not end well for the cat.

Notes and References:

  1. Jodorowsky claims in the Cat‘s introduction that his first comic book collaboration with Mœbius was actually Arzach, because, Jodorowsky says, he gave his friend the idea for the biggest and best scenes in the book, and “Mœbius loved this version and drew it”. Is there any way to know what’s real with someone like Jodorowsky, who frequently and flagrantly rewrites history? Officially, The Eyes of the Cat is the first comic book to have both of their names on it, so it’s probably their first true collaboration.
  2. Alien: A Sofa in LA“, Alien Explorations (quotes many, many sources disproving Jodorowsky’s version of O’Bannon’s time after Dune ended.)
  3. Les Humanoïdes Associés was created by graphic novel artists Jean Giraud (known as Mœbius) and Philippe Druillet, with writer Jean-Pierre Dionnet, to publish Métal Hurlant. According to their “About Us” page, they expanded into book publishing, were taken over by Fabrice Giger, and expanded into a international multimedia group.
  4. “56 Pages Of Brutal Beauty From Moebius And A Legendary Filmmaker”, Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan, Fast Company, 2012.
  5. Wiki’s article on Arzach. The comics anthology Métal Hurlant originally published the stories with no dialogue at all, but later versions include dialogue, and were expanded into a novel and a movie. Dark Horse published a collection of the short stories in 1996, which is out of print but you might still find it if you’re lucky.
  6. I say this as someone who owns the documentary about his attempt to make Dune, and almost all of his movies, so maybe the joke’s on me.

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