Valerian and Laureline (“Valérian et Laureline”), by Christin and Mézières
From its birth in the magazine Pilote in 1967 to its cinema adaptation by Luc Besson in 2017, the science fiction comic created by Christin and Mézières is a classic of the so-called “9th art” and of French popular culture.
Christin and Mézières, childhood friends
Jean-Claude Mézières (artist) and Pierre Christin (writer) were both born in 1938 and met during the Second World War, in a shelter in the Paris area during an air-raid alert. In 1967, in Pilote magazine, they launched the science fiction series Valerian, Spatio-Temporal Agent (“Valérian, agent spatio-temporel”) (renamed Valerian and Laureline in 2007), which would go on to make up 23 volumes published by Dargaud.
This work will remain the only comic by Jean-Claude Mézières, while Pierre Christin also writes for other cartoonists, such as Jacques Tardi, Boucq, Vern, Enki Bilal and Annie Goetzinger.
Very “Spatio-Temporal” agents
In the twenty-eight century, Valerian and Laureline are agents of the Spatio-Temporal Service (SST) of Galaxity, an earth megatropolis and the capital of the Galactic Empire. In this technological future, the two agents explore new planets, help unknown peoples and confront dictators, all while dealing with their own tumultuous romantic relationship.
While the SST rules prohibit them from changing the past, the main theme of the series is the exploration and manipulation of time, combined with political, economic, social and sometimes ecological concerns.
From Ligne Claire to Time’s Arrow
Inspired by their conversations and by major current events, Pierre Christin's plots for Valerian and Laureline were written gradually, based on a first round of dialogues, with each episode taking place over 15 panels per two-page spread.
While the first Mézières drawings are part of the Franco-Belgian “Ligne Claire” tradition, his style quickly became more vivid and comic, inspired by the American magazine Mad, and also by Franquin, Jijé and Jean Giraud. His sister, Évelyne Tranlé, coloured the adventures of the two spatio-temporal agents.
A timeless and international work
Valerian and Laureline has won numerous awards at both French and foreign events and shows. Pierre Christin received the Alfred for best French script-writer at the Angouleme festival in 1976, and Jean-Claude Mézières the Grand Prix of the Town of Angouleme in 1984, as well as an Inkpot Award at ComicCon in San Diego in 2006.
The series has been translated and published in 16 languages around the world, and was adapted into a televised manga in 2007 in France and Japan. The 2017 film version by Luc Besson, with an international cast, further broadened the influence of this comic classic.
Valerian is the subject of an exhibition by Editions Dargaud: The Thousand Planets of Valerian and Laureline (“Les mille planets de Valérian et Lauréline”.)
This exhibition is distributed by the Institut français across the French cultural network abroad.