Saturday, March 26, 2011

Valérian and Laureline

Valérian and Laureline is a science fiction comic book series created by writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mézières in in 1967 all through 2010.

The setting is sci-fi adventure following a Space/Time agent, Valérian, and his female companion, Laureline. He is a rookie agent and gets trapped in the . She is from 11th century France who discovers that he is a time traveler (mistaking him for a sorcerer) and forces him to take her with.

Like most French comics, the production quality is higher than most American audiences may be used to- in art and story. Valérian and Laureline is influenced by classic space opera and time travel tales.

In turn, a lot of the imagery of Valérian and Laureline is clearly seen in many sci-fi films and television shows today. Much of the influence appears almost directly taken form this comic series. The most obvious is probably The Fifth Element. Jean-Claude Mézières is credited as part of the production design team for that film (as well as one of my favorites- Jean Moebius Giraud) so this reference was homage of sorts. Luc Besson's The Fifth Element film stalled for some time and Mézières' used some of the designs in his comics. Besson changed some of the character concepts based on Mézières' art. Not all influences were favored by the Valérian and Laureline creators.

Many of the people behind the design of Star Wars must've been fans of Valérian and Laureline as many of the common things we all know well from Star Wars appeared there first, such as the escape from Darth Vader in Empire Strikes Back, Luke falls down a shaft and hangs on antenna on the bottom of Cloud City.

A scene very similar appeared in There's No Time Like the Present where Valérian escaped down a laundry shaft in a similar fashion and dangled from a sheet. In Empire of a Thousand Planets a character is encased in something very similar to the carbonite that Han Solo was preserved in, also in Empire Strikes Back.

A whole army of clones with Valérian's face is featured at the end of On the False Earths as seen in Attack of the Clones.

When Mézières first saw Star Wars it's said he was dazzled, jealous and furious! He then made an illustration that depicted Luke and Leia meeting Valérian and Laureline in a busy alien bar...
"Fancy meeting you here!" says Leia. "Oh, we've been hanging around here for a long time!" retorts Laureline

I loved Star Wars as much as the next proper geek, but it is good to know where all the really cool stuff actually came from. Star Wars is a mash up of the good stuff out there. Valérian and Laureline is one of the original idea factories that made Star Wars great once.

In 1976 a television series was proposed. Many attempts were made to get one off the ground to no avail. It wasn't until 2007 that an animated series was finally created. A Japanese/French production team (involving Luc Besson) produced a 40 episode series following the tale of "Where on Earth has Earth gone?"

At the time of this posting, YouTube hosts all 40 Valérian and Laureline episodes.

Here's the pilot episode...

My own search for the show started after coming across a reference about the design clearly influencing The Fifth Element. Finding that not much was available in the States I set aside the search. This morning, my daughter and I were picking through what YouTube had to offer. Valérian and Laureline rang a bell and looked cool. Sure enough it was the series I had been searching for! We watched the first episode. I look forward to seeing more. I'll have my setting judgement on high alert.
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