The Eyes of the Cat is one of the few English language Moebius works available in print. Humanoids released a pricey over-sized deluxe version of this earlier on in the year which sold out very quickly, and this affordable A4 hardback version is sure to go the same way. In his foreword, Jodorowsky explains how after 2 years of work on the failed Dune movie, he suggested to Moebius the idea of a short, 5 page story about a blind boy. Instead of sticking to the traditional comic format, they would do large, single page illustrations, with the boy initially shown in shadow and repose, building up to movement and revelation. Moebius liked the idea, but thought they should extend the length a little, giving it the opportunity to build and flow.
If you’re looking for the sprawling, intricate, surreal vistas for which Moebius is synonymous, this probably isn’t the place to start. Whilst there are recognisable Moebius characteristics in the hatching and shading of the buildings and their architectural design, the singular, stark black and white panelled illustrations combined with minimal text give Eyes an hypnotic effect that keeps you in its thrall for the short period it lasts. Each page on the left shows us the back of a bald, robed, monk-like child, standing waiting at a tower parapet window, whilst the page on the right depicts the gliding progress of his hawk, Meduz. The repetition of the image on the left of the still boy, paired with Jodorowsky’s sparse, short sentences give Eyes a rhythmic, poetic quality. ‘I can feel the heat/Finally, a morsel of sunlight/At the ready, Meduz, he nears/I hear his pawsteps’. This hazy, dream-like state is reinforced in the aerial scapes and spires, the circling of the hawk, the open sky, high above all else.
The closeting stillness and focus of the boy pushes you to see what he is seeing, inspiring a certain graduating curiosity as you first wonder as to the hawk’s mission, following him as he takes his beak to the eyeballs of a cat. The cat, pinpointed by a column of light, puts up no fight, it’s head tilted back a little in an almost sacrificial position, the thickness of the black ink rendering the animals totem-like in appearance. Cats are animals steeped in mythology of power, spirituality and witchcraft and the symbolism of removing the eyes -the vessels of seeing and knowledge- is not apparent until the hawk returns to his master, claws curled around the eyeballs, trailing tendrils of flesh and veins. It’s upon receiving the cat’s eyes that the boy turns to face the reader, a first and sudden movement disrupting the intense reverie set by the tone of the previous pages, as he gleefully and inexpertly pushes the freshly plucked organs into eye sockets at once empty yet bulbous.
Disturbing as this is, you expect it to lead to some sort of outcome: a sudden miraculous regaining of sight, a window of revelation, but this too is deflated, as the eyeballs tumble clumsily to the floor and lay discarded. Once more Meduz the hawk is dispatched and as he spreads his wings the true horror is realised: there is to be no spiritual awakening, no enlightening epiphany, this is a child at play with his pet, engaged in a gruesome game for his own amusement.
The Eyes of the Cat is the first time I’ve been exposed to Moebius’ art in print form (having yet to get round to reading The Incal) and it’s a fairly simple idea perfectly executed, and elevated by the sheer talent of its creators. Here, in this meditative and atmospheric slice of storytelling, you can get an inkling of why Moebius is regarded as a genius of the field, as his illustrations provide Eyes with a depth and resonance that it would otherwise perhaps struggle to achieve.