We’re sorry to report the passing of French comic artist Jean-Claude Mézières, co-creator with Pierre Christin of the hugely influential SF BD series Valerian and Laureline, whose passing at the weekend, aged 83, has prompted tributes from across the globe.
While ”Valerian” was Mézières’ only comic series, he worked as an illustrator in many other areas, including designs and sets for the film, The Fifth Element, and he was awarded the Grand Prix du festival d’Angoulême in 1984.
Commenting on his passing, the director of the Cité de la BD in Angoulême, Pierre Lungheretti, hailed the award-winning creator on Twitter as an “author with a dazzling imagination … with global influence”.
“One of the greatest (…) He took me to a thousand planets,” wrote artist Xavier Gorce.
“If the name of Mézières is first associated with the characters of Valérian and Laureline, of which he was the co-creator and which he drew for more than 50 years alongside his scriptwriter and lifelong friend, Pierre Christin, he was quite simply an author and a major player in comics, in particular through the influence and role of mentor he exercised with many cartoonists,” noted his French publisher, Dargaud, announcing his death.
“The book L’Art de Mézières, published in October 2021, on which Jean-Claude Mézières had been particularly invested, has made it possible to highlight his work of great richness.
“Jean-Claude was also a great traveller and even lived in the United States where he was a cowboy in Utah during the 1960s, fascinated, like his friend Jean Giraud, by the landscapes of the American West. Sensitive to the environment without being an activist, he liked to rest in his house in Aveyron, surrounded by nature…
“His high standards, his energy, his strong personality, his benevolence, his simplicity, his joie de vivre, his curiosity, made him a precious and deeply endearing being.
“The entire Dargaud Editions team has a special thought for his wife Linda, his daughter Emilie, his sister Evelyne, his friend Pierre Christin and his loved ones.”
“We have just lost this truly great French comics artist,” noted Paul Gravett, who broke the news to many British fans of an incredible artist, providing a translation of the Dargaud announcement and sharing links to his 2017 interview with both Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières, recorded in London at the Institut français du Royaume-Uni.
“I am deeply saddened to learn that Jean-Claude Mézières has become a spatiotemporal agent permanently and vanished into the ether, hopefully to join Valerian and Laureline,” commented American artist Walt Simonson. “I discovered his work shortly after coming to NYC to get into comics. The graphic novels of his agents of space and time became an instant favourite. His worlds and his designs for them seemed unendingly fresh, and I traveled to many of them, inspired by their richness and their great visual sense of fun.
“Hard to overestimate his influence in general but here is a cartoon he did in 1983 for Pilote magazine that suggests at least a small part of his legacy largely unknown to the public. Thanks for everything, Jean-Claude. Godspeed.”
“This is kind’a heart-breaking,” British-born American comic book writer and novelist Chris Claremont replied to Walt. “I’ve been a lifelong follower and fan of Valerian & Laureline since I read their first story and have been fortunate enough to know Jean-Claude & consider us friends for a very-very long time. To call him gentleman and marvel is to understate (to the max) both words. He was one of those who seemed able to do anything and make it look so … effortless.
“My heart is broken – and yet, if ever an artist -story-teller wanted a true benchmark on how to craft a panel or page or graphic novel, on how to create characters that the audience will embrace wholeheartedly – well, here he is. This is the exemplar of story-telling. This is someone to stand with Eisner & Kirby, whose visual imagination, like his ability, knew no bounds. Farewell, dear friend. Farewell.”
“Jean-Claude Mezieres was the first French cartoonist I ever knew, thanks to Gil Kane’s admiration of his work,” noted artist and writer Howard Chaykin.
“I spent my first week as Gil’s assistant, clipping ‘Valerian’ from Pilote, and came, with no effort, to recognise his brilliance. Jean Giraud, aka Moebius, had a bigger fan footprint, but it’s Meziere’s work – playful, earnest, funny and utterly devoid of pretence – that stays with me.”
“Lost another friend today and the world of art lost another brilliant creative talent,” acknowledged comic creator Geoff Darrow. “When I moved to Paris in 1984 one of the artists I wanted to meet was this man: Jean Claude Mezieres. He welcomed me into his studio and into his life when I met him through Jean ‘Moebius’ Giraud.
“He inspired me and astonished me and was so kind to the goofy hulk from Iowa, whose French was sub pro magnon… Adieu mon ami. Sad doesn’t cover it.”
“The news is hitting the international comics community hard, and is extremely painful to us here,” commented the team at Cinebook, the publishers of Valerian and Laureline in English.
“Beyond being one of our favourites, and one of our best-sellers, Valerian and Laureline was, above all, a ground-breaking series,” the publisher acknowledged. “Science-fiction in a country that, at the time, looked down on the genre; a female lead who quickly became the equal of her male counterpart; aliens who weren’t automatically the bad guys; political and social discourse; torrents of imagination … It inspired budding artists and hopeful writers, influenced countless creators in comics and films, shaped the minds and personalities of millions of readers …
A large part of this impact was due to Jean-Claude Mézières’s astounding gift for representing … well, anything and everything, really. Weird creatures and fantastic landscapes, action scenes or emotional close-ups … Outer space, 1980s Paris or 19th century India – his art let us travel through space and time just as surely as his two heroes did.
“But even more than that, he was a profoundly kind and gentle man, always smiling and laughing, generous with his praise and always humble. We were lucky enough to have met him a few times, and count him a friend. Saying that he will be missed is a terrible, painful understatement.
“Goodbye, Mr Mézières. Perhaps someday, we will meet again across the pathways of space and time.”
Our sympathies to Jean-Claude’s family and many friends at this time.
Jean-Claude Mézières, 23rd September 1938 – 23rd January 2022
• Paul Gravett interviewed Jean-Claude Mézières and Pierre Christin in October 2017, at the Institut français du Royaume-Uni in London. As a small tribute, you can listen to the conversation in English, here | The audience questions after are here
Valerian and Laureline, space/time agents of the Earth’s future, patrol our history to maintain the timeline. A legendary and highly influential SF series. Jean-Claude Mézières and Pierre Christin created “Valerian” in 1967 after working in the US together, one as a cowboy, the other a teacher
“C’est avec une immense tristesse que nous apprenons le décès de Jean-Claude Mézières, disparu dans la nuit du 23 janvier 2022 à l’âge de 83 ans”
• Watch the documentary, L’histoire de la page 52d’Avril Tembouret, recorded in 2013, in French
Tribute by Dean Simons
News via Paul Gravett, who translated the Dargaud announcement