PARIS French comic-book artist Jean Giraud, alias "Moebius", best known in France for his gritty Wild West character "Blueberry", has died at the age of 73 after a battle with cancer, according to his publisher.
Giraud also ventured into cinema, working with director Ridley Scott on the visual effects for "Alien" and the computer-effects-driven movie "Tron".
His death was confirmed by publishing house Dargaud on Saturday, which said the comic-book world had lost "one of its greatest masters".
Author Paulo Coelho paid tribute to Giraud in a blog post, saying he had the "honour" to work with him on an illustrated edition of his 1988 novel "The Alchemist".
Giraud, who also crafted science-fiction epics under the pen name "Moebius", gained cult status in the European comics world after a 50-year career that saw his anti-hero Mike Blueberry endure almost as long as Herge's (Georges Remi's) Tintin.
Working with writer Jean-Michel Charlier, Giraud in 1963 created the Blueberry series about a headstrong, rugged, poker-playing soldier fighting for the Union in the U.S. Civil War.
A far cry from the cliche of the clean-shaven heroic cowboy, Blueberry went against the grain and often rebelled against his superiors. The series portrayed Native Americans in a more nuanced way than film or comic stereotypes of the past.
Vincent Cassel took the lead role in a film based on the Blueberry books, released in the American market as "Renegade".
In the 1970s and 1980s, Giraud developed his experimental side by branching out into science fiction under the "Moebius" name.
Former French Culture Minister Jack Lang said: "Moebius has become a comic-book icon. In the '70s and '80s he was the figurehead of this unique art form in France."
(Reporting by Lionel Laurent; Editing by Michael Roddy)