31: Out of here   




We can be but partially acquainted even with the events which actually influence our course through life, and our final destiny. There are innumerable other events, if such they may be called, which come close upon us, yet pass away without actual results, or even betraying their near approach, by the reflection of any light or shadow across our minds. Could we know all the vicissitudes of our fortunes, life would be too full of hope and fear, exultation or disappointment, to afford us a single hour of true serenity...


(Nathaniel Hawthorne, “David Swan”)



May I just say that, no matter how much work Giraud put into drawing episode 32, I still find it the least attractive and, by far, the silliest installment of the Garage—possibly because it looks as if he was trying to cover up its silliness by an effort to give it visual gravitas. I don’t distinctly remember my reaction when I first saw it, and perhaps that suggests I simply wasn’t impressed. If I were to say I was nonplussed, I might be projecting backward the flat puzzlement I now feel when I try to understand why I find these images so unappealing. (The one reproduced above is the one I find least so.)

     One possible answer is that, for me, Mœbius is most memorably an artist of visual space, and of pregnancy. Even his frozen moments are swaddled in history and open to consequence. Here, instead, the images are too full, too busy with the present. In any case, looking at them now—and looking at them determined to examine my response, perhaps by amplifying it—I find them not merely unimpressive, but revolting.

     Well, aren’t I the sensitive one?

     And more, I might say that, at this point, Giraud utterly loses my sympathy. I find myself unwilling, for a moment longer, to grant the story the least allowance. Not any of it. The game’s up. It’s a bust. If I’d seen Green Arrow, in some strip from the nineteen-fifties, or Hawkeye in the nineteen-sixties, reel himself on to the conning tower of a submarine with a trick arrow—well, so what? I’d have munched my way through that story, then munched another, with my jaw hanging slack, because I loved reading comic books. They were nonsense, so what? For me they were magical. And nobody’s in a hurry to grow up. Anyway, I wasn’t.

     But, you know, sometimes the cost of not growing up is just too much. Obviously I still have an affection for many of the comic books I read back then, and obviously I remain willing to cut comics a lot of slack for the sake of their qualities, whatever they may be, because I know they were magical, and know—as I knew then, in a different way—that the magic wasn’t just a matter of me being fooled at a time in my life when I was ignorant and undiscriminating.

     But thisepisode 32—strikes me as nonsense. It looks like nonsense and I know it’s nonsense and, really, all those lines and all that shading don’t stop it being nonsense, so I know that I’m wasting my time. Time to move on, leave the Garage behind and forget about it.

     Except it’s only two pages, and I’ve come this far. The first time I read it I’d already invested a couple of years in keeping up with the serial. This time round I’ve developed momentum.

     Is that all that keeps me from closing the magazine and putting it away, turning my attention to something else?

     Maybe it is time to get out of the Garage. Barnier and the archer are on their way. The next installment will see the last of Malvina and Cervic. And in the one after that the Major (sans helmet, sans mustache) will begin making his way to the exit—with Jerry Cornelius close on his tail.

     I don’t know that it was Giraud’s intention, but my disenchantment coincides with his willingness to let the world of the Garage devolve into chaos, ahead of bringing the serial to a conclusion. Possibly most readers are reconciled to the fact that Jerry and the Major start flying and whizzing around like superheroes. I used to read superhero comics until they were oozing out of my pores; but it’s something that feels out of place here.

     I suppose I’m entitled to my opinion, but I don’t think I get to say Giraud made a mistake on this occasion. He was willing to take risks, and I didn’t complain when that giant robot dressed like the Phantom was running around. I was willing to put up with that silly looking archer as long as he filled in the background of the story and didn’t make too much of a fool of himself. If he wants to hook himself a sub, who am I to say he can’t? I didn’t like it when he did is all there is to it.

     Let me put it down as a corner Giraud took that threw me out the car.

     So what? I pick myself up, dust myself off, check I’m not too badly bruised, and climb back in. I’m willing to do that for the sake of other risks he took, like the moment in episode 12...



... when the as yet unidentified Sper Gossi found the Major asleep, and drew his gun, and entertained the idea of killing him.

     Because I don’t believe he was bluffing.

     That I feel he wasn’t suggests that, at that point in the story, I was a child, willing to accept, or incapable of not accepting, with a full and awful fatality, that whatever I was told or shown would thereby become part of my experience, even if thereafter I were to regret it, or torment myself wondering why it happened.

     Only nothing happens. Gossi rests his foot on the Major’s bag—which the Major’s using as a pillow—and looks down at the sleeping figure. If Hawthorne’s “David Swan” illustrates the dangers of which we are oblivious while asleep, Giraud pictures the pathetic subjection of the sleeper and (before Gossi has even drawn his gun) the cruel potential in the relation between those who are awake and those whose unsuspicious slumber places them at a disadvantage.

     There’s more to it—or perhaps less, if you regard as a mere formality this genuine serial cliffhanger: will the hero be killed by the the worrying individual pointing a gun at his head? Of course he won’t. On the other hand, is the Major the “hero”? I didn’t know when I first saw this page—and, all these years later, I’m prepared to say he’s too passive and too dubious a character to be considered a hero—but it was evident he’d become the focal character. The serial, however, did have about another dozen active or potential characters whose adventures or misadventures might have carried the thing on.

     So, was Giraud bluffing?

     I think he was bluffing. The hand holding the gun trembled, so Gossi was thinking about it.

     But, though Giraud preferred to draw back from the scene of the potential crime to depict its cosmic setting, the hand holding the pen didn’t tremble as it executed the careful Finlayesque shading on the ringed asteroid beside which the Major's spaceship is seen for the first time. In earlier strips Giraud had put Grubert in a cage, left him abandoned, and had him carted off in a straitjacket. But he’d never killed him.

      Twenty installments later, though, all the careful shading in the world couldn’t disguise the fact that Giraud was pulling the trigger on the Garage...