Monday, June 5, 2017

70s French Sci-fi comics and Valerian

70s French Sci-Fi comics and Valerian

This July will see the release of the sci-fi film Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, produced and directed by Luc Besson and starring Dane DeHaan as the titular character, and Cara Delevingne as Valerian's sidekick Laureline.

Valerian was created by the writer Pierre Christin and the artist Jean-Claude Mézières in the French comic book magazine Pilote in 1967. The character became very popular and went on to regularly appear in albums de bandes dessinees (Franco-Belgian comic books) until 2010.

One of the Valerian comics was translated into English and published in Heavy Metal magazine in 1981 as "Valerian: Time-Space Agent: The Ambassador Of The Shadows", which is where and when I first became familiar with the franchise.

A very good essay on Valerian and other French sci-fi comics published during the 70s as albums desbandes dessinees, or as serials in comic book magazines such as Pilote and Pif, is available at this website. The essay, by Avi Abrams, indicates just how groundbreaking the artwork was, and its influence on sci-fi worldwide. For for example, Abrams points out how Mézières' artwork was a major source of inspiration for the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars.

Judging by the trailer, it looks like Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets will stay true to the 'Gallic' sensibilities of the comics, and avoid being reworked into an American-style sci-fi film. 

However, given that the Valerian comics relied more on satiric humor, political commentary, and a large cast of cutesy aliens, rather than the frenetic, violent action that defines American sci-fi movies, it remains to be seen how U.S. audiences will respond to Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.......... 

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