Moebius was one of the weirdest things my roommate had in our living room. He wasn’t weird in the way that the shrine to my former workplace janitor was weird. That is to say, he wasn’t weird in that stupid way early 20’s ironic décor is weird, which is not weird so much as dopey (think a vintage speculum or the rare can of Storm Malt liquor found at Grocery Outlet in downtown Oakland). Moebius was weird by virtue of his incongruity. He was worth more than everything we owned and maybe even the apartment we lived in. He was definitely prettier than anything else we owned, and we took better care of him as a result. My roommate and I destroyed glassware (glass performs poorly in the hands of drunks), three futons, a couple of lamps, a garbage disposal, and a bathroom sink. Most of our other books had coffee stains on them. The ones that didn’t had been soaked in other liquids, and their spines buckled as a result. Our lives weren’t very pretty either, though they lacked the level of degeneracy necessary to make them really interesting. This is all a long way of saying that while we weren’t miserable we weren’t quite happy, either, which is a way of explaining in advance why we kept Moebius around so long.
My roommate found Moebius on the floor of a movie theater in Sand Diego in 1995. Actually, an employee of his found Moebius. Knowing my roommate (who I’ll call Rob, since that’s his name) read comics, the employee brought him to him. He was a little, 4” by 6” black, and hardbound Moebius. He contained a bunch of little drawings on medium press paper that felt slightly rough to the touch. The drawings were put down in shiny black ink, their line weights uniformly uniform, and their subject matter various. The thing about the drawings is that they were so perfect the employee thought it was a facsimile of Moebius that some conventioneer had dropped. For a second Rob thought the same thing. But before he pitched it on the lost-and-found he realized it was real. A weird little colored-pencil doodle by Bob Burden and some children’s drawings in crayon were what gave it away.
The lost-and-found was no place for such a thing. The San Diego Comic convention had ended earlier that day. This was before everybody was on the Internet. It was before everybody knew what the Internet was. Rob did what was maybe the right thing. He put it in his bag and took it home. He moved into my Oakland apartment a few months later.
I was in the process of a protracted breakup and in need of a roommate. Like many young men my age I was a terrible person, though I maintain I had my charms. The least of these charms (but a charm nonetheless) was that I drew well enough to make others think I had a future in drawing. Although I hadn’t read comics regularly in some time, I was still looking for work in the field. What’s more, I had maintained an interest in the things. So when Rob moved in he unpacked Moebius and placed him in my hand. Upon meeting him I knew exactly who he was. Good to meet you in person, Moebius.
Those little drawings had an amazing way of making the tiny pages seem ten-times their actual size. There was a drawing of a canyon that you all but fell into. The drawing of a man plodding through the desert looked vast. The man was less than an inch tall, but he was fully formed and totally lost. There were lots of crystalline landscapes, many exotic hats, some beautiful women and some less than beautiful men. There were no pencil marks, no erasures. It was totally Moebius.
Moebius lived with Rob and me for almost five years. How the hell did we get so lucky? We certainly didn’t deserve him. More often than not he’d just hang out on the shelf. But he’d come out at critical moments, like when one of us was depressed, or when somebody with an interest in comics was over, when we wanted to show off how random the world could get.
Rob and I understood that Moebius couldn’t stay forever. He certainly wasn’t ours, and we knew we’d need to find him a way home. But we were also too lazy to write letters or call France. About two years later we did take Moebius to the local comic convention. We thought we might connect with a friend of Moebius who could help him out. After a few shady dudes offered to take him off our hands, I asked a friend who dealt in original art what we should do. He and a few pros took a minute with Moebius and they all agreed. Do not give Moebius to anyone other than Moebius.
I moved out the next year, but Rob, Moebius and I still spent a lot of time together. I was back in school and feeling better about my life. Ditto Rob. Moebius was the same as ever, though he was also coming to Oakland for a convention. When Rob found this out he called me to ask if I wanted to give Moebius back to Moebius. I had to work (or something) that weekend, so Rob and Moebius headed to the convention together.
When Rob got to the convention he found Moebius at the end of a long line of autograph seekers. He stepped into line. The guy managing the line, a Mr. Rory Root, was asking people what they were getting signed or explaining the rules or doing whatever he was there to do. I wasn’t there, and while Rob has filled me in on the details, they’re the sort of details that derail a good story. Anyway, Rory did eventually get to Rob, and Rob showed him Moebius. Rory took Rob and Moebius to the front of the line.
Moebius introduced himself to Rob, not knowing why he’d been brought to him. Rob, not knowing how to start the conversation simply introduced Moebius to Moebius. He explained really briefly where he’d been, and what he’d been up to. Moebius didn’t bat an eye at the explanation, but he did tear up. “They’re quite good drawings, no?” He thanked Rob, and Rob called me almost immediately after. We were going to miss Moebius.