Valérian and Laureline

Valérian and Laureline
Valerian and Laureline.jpg
Valérian and Laureline as drawn by Jean-Claude Mézières
Created by
Publication information
PublisherDargaud
FormatsOriginal material for the series has been published as a strip in the comics anthology(s) Pilote magazine and a set of graphic novels.
Original languageFrench
Genre
Publication dateNovember 1967 – March 2018
Main character(s)
Creative team
Writer(s)Pierre Christin
Artist(s)Jean-Claude Mézières
Colourist(s)Évelyne Tranlé
Creator(s)
Reprints
The series has been reprinted, at least in part, in Dutch, Danish, English, Finnish, German, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Spanish, and Swedish.
Collected editions
Valerian: The New Future TrilogyISBN 0-7434-8674-9
Creators of Valérian and Laureline: Eveline Tranlé (colorist), Pierre Christin (writer), Jean-Claude Mézières (illustrator)

Valérian and Laureline (French: Valérian et Laureline), also known as Valérian: Spatio-Temporal Agent (French: Valérian, agent spatio-temporel) or just Valérian, is a French science fiction comics series, created by writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mézières. First published in Pilote magazine in 1967, the final installment was published in 2010. All of the Valérian stories have been collected in comic album format, comprising some twenty-one volumes plus a short story collection and an encyclopaedia. Valérian is one of the top five biggest selling Franco-Belgian comics titles of its publisher, Dargaud.[1]

The series focuses on the adventures of the dark-haired Valérian, a spatio-temporal agent, and his redheaded female colleague, Laureline, as they travel the universe through space and time. Valérian is a classical hero, kind, strong and brave who follows the orders of his superiors even if he feels, deep down, that it is the wrong thing to do. On the other hand, his partner Laureline combines her superior intelligence, determination and independence with sex-appeal. Influenced by classic literary science fiction, the series mixes space opera with time travel plots. Christin's scripts are noted for their humour, complexity and strongly humanist and left-wing liberal political ideas while Mézières' art is characterized by its vivid depictions of the alien worlds and species Valérian and Laureline encounter on their adventures. The series is considered a landmark in European comics and pop culture,[2] and influenced other media as well: traces of its concepts, storylines and designs can be found in science fiction films such as Star Wars and The Fifth Element.

Many of the stories have been translated into several languages, including English.[3] The series has received recognition through a number of prestigious awards, including the Grand Prix de la ville d'Angoulême. An animated television series, Time Jam: Valerian & Laureline, was released in 2007, and a feature film directed by Luc Besson, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, was released in 2017.

Concept and setting

The original setting for the series was the 28th century. Humanity has discovered the means of travelling instantaneously through time and space. The capital of Earth, Galaxity, is the centre of the vast Terran Galactic Empire. Earth itself has become a virtual utopia with most of the population living a life of leisure in a virtual reality dream-state ruled by the benign Technocrats of the First Circle. The Spatio-Temporal Service protects the planets of the Terran Empire and guards against temporal paradoxes caused by rogue time-travellers. Valérian and Laureline are two such spatio-temporal agents.[4]

However, since the end of the story The Wrath of Hypsis (Les Foudres d'Hypsis) in which Galaxity disappears from space-time as a result of a temporal paradox the pair have become freelance trouble-shooters travelling through space and time offering their services to anyone willing to hire them while also searching for their lost home.

In the first two albums Valérian travels through time in a two-seater device, the XB27, which transports him to the various relay stations that Galaxity has hidden throughout time (e.g. in Bad Dreams (Les Mauvais Rêves) the relay is hidden below a tavern). In subsequent stories Valérian and Laureline use the saucer-shaped Astroship XB982 (which made its debut appearance in 1969 in the short story The Great Collector (Le Grand Collectionneur).[5] The astroship is able to travel anywhere using a spatio-temporal jump, a sort of hyperspace drive enabling near-instant transportation anywhere in space and time.

The initial albums were generally straightforward good versus evil adventure stories. However, thanks to Pierre Christin's interests in politics, sociology and ethnology, as the series progressed the situations typically arose from misunderstandings or ideological differences between various groups that could be resolved through reason and perseverance.[6] The core theme of the stories is an optimistic liberal humanism: the adventures are not about defeating enemies but about exploring, facing challenges, and celebrating diversity.[6] Thus, according to academic John Dean, Christin "as a rule works into his narratives political, environmental and feminist concerns – thereby showing social ills are universal, no matter on what planet you land".[7]

Another concept that developed was Galaxity as a proxy for Western democracy; contrary to its benign self-image it is actually imperialistic and prone to a corrupt real-politik.[8] Other themes include:

  • Natural simplicity as superior to technological complexity.[8]
  • Rejection of machismo, violence and war in favour of femininity and nature.[9]
  • Distrust of power and the suppression of individuality.[9]
  • The ability of women to manipulate males sexually without being manipulated themselves.[8]

These themes are underpinned by the vivid drawings of Jean-Claude Mézières whose "visually stunning backgrounds: complex architecture, futuristic machines, otherworldly landscapes and odd-looking aliens",[7] are what John Dean calls "staples of Mézières' seeming boundless visual inventiveness",[7] resulting in what the artist Pepo Pérez likens to "National Geographic, but on a cosmic scale".[9]