21: A dangerous overhaul



     ‘Are you really Jerry Cornelius?’

     ‘Ah.’ Jerry took a pace along the rail and gave her a wary wink.

     ‘Aren’t you an impostor?’


(Michael Moorcock, A Cure for Cancer p.135)




In the introduction to Marvel’s The Airtight Garage, Jean-Marc and Randy Lofficier wrote that the story


was completely retranslated... under Moebius’s careful supervision, so that we could fix some internal inconsistencies that had cropped up during its making and that, to this day, still plague the original French version.


I took their word for it. It sounded plausible, and, to some extent, it remains true to this day, more than thirty years later. In an edition published by Les Humanoïdes Associés in 2018, which paired Le Garage Hermétique (98 pages, black & white) with Arzach, Major Grubert decides, in episode 3, to send a spy to find out what’s going on. At the beginning of the episode 4, we’re told the spy’s name is Samuel Mohad. On the second page, the Major addresses him as “Samuel L. Mohad.” Again, at the beginning of the seventh episode, he’s identified, in the résumé, as “Samuel L. Mohad”. Yet when he confronts the Major in episode 18, what the Major says is, “SAMUEL L. MOHAB!..  VOUS!!!  iCi! 

     Mohab, not Mohad.

     Well, so what? The Major’s memory may be at fault. But if that’s the case, why should the résumé at the head of episode 21 repeat his error, by referring to “SAM MOHAB”? It looks like it was Giraud’s memory, not the Major’s, that was at fault—in which case the decision in 1987 to refer to the spy throughout as “Mohad” is an example of the fixing of internal inconsistencies that the Lofficiers advertised.



But if I imagined they were suggesting the Garage had been nudged, by degrees, to a state of complete consistency, I was misled. Perhaps it was particularly unfortunate to suggest the Garage had been “plagued” by inconsistency, in view of how little the adjustments of 1987 actually improved the situation. The episodes of the Garage were generated in utter defiance and disregard of continuity. Why pretend the resulting monster does not everywhere bear the scars of its protracted but playful delivery—if not to disguise the fact for readers accustomed to more conventional fare?

     The reference to “the original French version” is also imprecise, disguising the fact that behind the English translation published by Marvel are two French versions. The original original, of course, is the version printed in Metal Hurlant, from 1976 to 1979. The second “original”—the “original” on which the Lofficier translation is substantially based—is the version revised for book publication in 1979. (The second edition of 1981 reverts in several places to the original text—perhaps by accident—and may also deserve to be taken into account.)


The excision of Jerry Cornelius’s father and the mysterious Betty from the second episode was far from the only change made to the Garage in 1979. A total of twenty-one of the first twenty-nine installments were subject to some form of revision, mostly adjustments to the text. By contrast, there were only a few quite minor alterations to the visuals; but the ordering of the twenty-third and twenty-fourth installments was reversed, one page being added to the one that became episode 24.

     The pages of the last seven episodes remained as they were printed in Metal Hurlant, the one exception being episode 33. Its two pages were printed in the correct order in the book.

     The textual revisions may be identified as having been of five kinds:


     (1) The Garage is strewn with loose ends. Several of the more glaring examples, like Betty and the elder Cornelius, were patched over by re-written captions and balloons.


     (2) It’s no great surprise that a story invented in such a reckless and whimsical fashion became confused in places. The most serious confusion involved the mysterious “levels” of the world on (or in) which the story takes place. In some places, this confusion was untangled quite easily; in others it was done clumsily—and here and there, it may be argued, it was never untangled at all.


     (3) The story had never been designed to make its way, with deliberate care, toward a pre-determined destination; but, perhaps in order that it might not seem the ending had been pulled from a hat, in a more or less arbitrary fashion, several panels earlier in the story were re-written.


     (4) Assorted minor issues of consistency were also likewise addressed, sometimes to good effect, sometimes not.


     (5) There are also, in about half the episodes, minor adjustments that are occasionally fortunate, but sometimes look like the needless fussing of which any writer may be guilty in the course of “perfecting” and tidying up a text.


These textual changes are listed in 23: A textual history of the the Garage Hermètique. The issue of the “levels” gets a section (number 33) all to itself—complex and tedious in the extreme—titled 33: All roads lead to Armjourth. I don’t know whether this has been done before, but for those who may be curious about such things, it’s been done now.

     Additionally, a list of visual alterations to the Garage (which were not extensive) may be found in 24: A cosmetic appendix to the Garage Hermètique.