VALERIAN MOVIE – a Beautiful Mess We are Dying to See

Valerian Laureline Mezieres Christin comics
Valerian comics cover from 1990-es

Are we dying to see the new movie Valerian? Yes!

Anime Valerian: Time Jam (2007.)

Even the low budget anime from 2007, based on that old fashioned SF comics, was more enjoyable then expected: a really forward european-anime tv series, with only the grumpiest geeks criticising it for “cheap 3D computer animation” which indeed could have been better at the time, it looks like it was made in 1980-es.

Regardless of that – I loved it! It was visually much more attractive than theValerian comics itself, as characters and the design in animated piece are made by team of excellent Japanese mangaka and mecha creators led by French artist Charles Vaucelles, himself being led by experienced anime director Eiichi Sato and Phillipe Vidal (Garfield Show).

So the result was a truly French-Japanese anime, softened but more detailed version of the famous Japanese style of animation.

And let’s not forget the music, which is purely French, which brought the action to a fun level: auditory flashy sound in Japanese counterparts can hardly ever do that.

The plot is fun, and colors resemble Mezieres’s palette… So bingo – we got a brilliant little piece of animated SF, non-pretentious and pleasure to watch. Playful, imaginative and funny, with Japanese look, and French sensibility. It was Luc Besson’s studio’s creation, after all, he made cult movies such as Subway, Nikita, BigBlue and Fifth Element.


Phillipe Druillet: Lone Sloane (1966.)

But do I own a comic book Valerian? Er, yes, I bought one album, while the rest of it is on a tablet, in electronic form. I don’t have the urge to open some page and stare at it for hours, as I do with my favorite comics. It never occurred to me to spread some pages and place it to serve as a picture on my book shelves, which I do with some other comic art.

I mean, let’s be honest: Mezieres was the biggest pussy of the famous Humanoids Inc artist group made of Moebius, Druillet, Mezieres, Christin, Bilal and Jodorowsky: his drawings are least experimental, and on a first look I thought of it as “Asterix in space”.

He was the most commercial of them all though, probably due to his continuous work, approachability, and rich pages with a lot of panels, typical for the classical style of French comic art.

It was him who kept the audience hooked to the genre.Mezieres and Druillet started their SF work around the same time (1966. and 1967.), but Druillet’s psychedelic mix of LSD hallucinations, Escher and Lovecraftian horror was never going to achieve commercial
success. We are probably never going to see “Lone Sloane:Delirious” movie, and Moebius has seen his day, as he both worked on Alien and Fifth Element, withRidley Scott stating that his visual inspiration for Blade Runner
was in Moebius and Enki Bilal.

When I discovered Mezieres it was 1990-es, several albums were published since then, and at the same time the whole new world of comic artists emerged: digital printing technology allowed them to use techniques that were not available to the earlier generations, and it looked like an explosion of watercolors, oil paints, ink, wax and, of course – computer technology, the thing mostly embraced by American artists.


Detail from Sha (Ledroit, Mills, 1996.)

But, the Valerian’s plot and the characters appeared vivid and imaginative, so I bought the thing to give it one more look at home. At the same time, young French artist Olivier Ledroit just published SF-fantasy Sha: while it was obvious who is the padwan and who is the master, as flying cars Ledroit liberally used, and Meziers innovated, were still unmatched in a sense of invention… but it was also obvious that Ledroit is on the way to outgrow of his teacher, and therefore his art was much more exciting to watch than “legendary Mezieres”.

Yet, Ledroit had to switch to horror and fantasy genre to enable himself to create new things. For Meziere’s world has it all, and it’s almost impossible to invent new elements in SF genre after his 30-year work and his limitless imagination. There is no doubt that Mezieres and Christin are giants, but there are people standing on their shoulders.

Well that is exactly what authors of Valerian, Christin and Mezieres, have to offer: an endless inspiration for all kind of artists.

The only thing they want is to have their influence publicly recognized, which did not happen when artists making Star Wars concept design, half of them being huge Mezieres’s fans, unconsciously applied the Mezieres’s ideas they grew up with in the movie… So Mezieres even started a little war with them, for example by placing princess Leia in the world of Valerian, and Laureline telling her off (“I was here for a long time!”).

Panel from Mezieres’s Valerian referring to a Star Wars.

I have my doubts about Besson’s Valerian achieving cult status of Besson’s Fifth Element, mainly because there will be no Jean Paul Gaultier‘s costume designs: who else could dress a woman in a Borat’s mankini and she’d still appear to be “a supreme being” meaning “the sexiest of them all”?

But there are special effects and director Besson seems to be on the verge of nerdgasm about their quantity and quality, and apart from Cesar winning costume designer Olivier Bériot – some of designs were made by selected fans, whose portfolios seem decent. The motivation should also add to the value of their designs.

While questioning the possibility of harmonious incorporation of all these elements in one body, it occurred to me that it’s not of the utmost importance, as classic French comics are colorful, borderline baroque anyway, and actually that was the seed for contemporary style of “anything goes” French comics, where ducks marry dragons and little witches fight Supermuscleman in deep space, as it happens in Joann Sfar’s Dungeon and Sardine respectively…

And in the movie, black singing goddess Rihanna is also there, with “prominent brow” supermodel Cara Delavigne!

It will probably be a mess, but a fun and playful – 200 million dollars worth mess – can’t wait for it!


From Luc Besson’s Twitter feed