Valérian and Laureline

In Praise of… comic artist and illustrator Jean-Claude Mézières

Valerian and Laureline‘s co-creators Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières
Valerian and Laureline‘s co-creators Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières

Award-winning French comics artist and illustrator Jean-Claude Mézières is the co-creator of Valérian and Laureline with Pierre Christin, the popular, long-running science fiction comics series published in English by Cinebook that has influenced many science fiction and fantasy films, including Star Wars.

Born and raised in Paris, he was introduced to drawing by his older brother and influenced by comics artists such as Hergé, Andre Franquin and Morris and, later, by Jijé and Jack Davis. He was educated at the Institut des Arts Appliqués, and after graduation worked as an illustrator for books and magazines as well as in advertising.

In 1965, A lifelong interest in the Wild West led him to travel to the United States, in search of adventure as a cowboy, an experience that would prove influential on his later work.

Valérian and LaurelineValérian and LaurelineValérian and LaurelineValérian and Laureline

Valérian and LaurelineValérian and Laureline

He returned to France and co-created the best-selling series Valérian and Laureline with Pierre Christin, initially published in the magazine Pilote in 1967. The series, spanning 22 albums, has been translated into at least thirteen languages; the last album, L’Ouvre Temps (The Time Bender), was published in January 2010.

His hugely successful, award-winning career also includes Lady Polaris, an illustrated novel about the mysterious disappearance of a cargo vessel, the Lady Polaris, and Canal Choc, a series of four albums about a television news team investigating strange phenomena. (Mézières didn’t draw these albums, but supervised a team of artists, including Philippe Aymond and Hugues Labiano).

He has also produced illustrations and comic strips for French magazines and newspapers such as Pilote, Métal Hurlant and Le Monde, covers for books, art for advertising campaigns, and more.

He’s also known for his work on a variety science fiction, film and television projects including Billet Doux (Love Letter), a 1984 television series starring Pierre Mondy as a comic strip editor for which Mézières mocked up comic book covers and characters.

In 1991 he began working with director Luc Besson, a lifelong fan of Valérian, on designs for what would ultimately become The Fifth Element, which was finally completed and released in 1997.

Concept art for The Fifth Element by Jean-Claude Mézières
Concept art for The Fifth Element by Jean-Claude Mézières

Concept art for The Fifth Element by Jean-Claude MézièresConcept art for The Fifth Element by Jean-Claude Mézières

An animated Valerian series, Time Jam: Valerian & Laureline, debuted in 2007 and a feature film directed by Luc Besson, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, was released in 2017.

• Jean-Claude Mézières official web site is at www.noosfere.org/mezieres

• Jean-Claude Mézières and Pierre Christin visited London in 2017. For those of you who missed this rare event, you can listen to proceedings here and here as podcasts thanks to Institut Francais

• You can buy the Valerian books from all good bookshops and online retailers, including Amazon.co.uk (using this link helps support downthetubes)

• Mézières published many of his concept drawings for the film in Les Extras de Mézières No. 2: Mon Cinquieme Element

Published by

John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

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