Fan­tas­tic voy­agers

Va­le­rian And Lau­re­line has been around long enough to have in­flu­enced Star Wars. Now it’s fi­nally get­ting its own movie.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Reads - By MICHAEL CHEANG star2@thes­tar.com.my

THANKS to the hype sur­round­ing them, you’ve prob­a­bly heard of Won­der Woman, Spi­der-Man: Home­com­ing, Lo­gan, and the up­com­ing Thor: Rag­narok and Jus­tice League. But there is one other comic book-based movie this year that you may not know about that also de­serves your at­ten­tion: Va­le­rian And The City Of A Thou­sand Plan­ets.

“Va­le­rian and what?” you say? Well, the up­com­ing Luc Bes­son film (The Fifth El­e­ment, Leon, Lucy) is an adap­ta­tion of pop­u­lar French science fic­tion comic se­ries Va­le­rian And Lau­re­line, cre­ated by writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mezieres.

First pub­lished in France’s Pilote mag­a­zine in 1967, the se­ries is, ar­guably, one of the most im­por­tant sci-fi comic books of all time, its blend of ad­ven­ture, science fic­tion, and space opera in­flu­enc­ing the likes of Stars Wars, The Fifth El­e­ment, and other science fic­tion prop­er­ties.

Va­le­rian And Lau­re­line is set in a fu­ture when hu­mans have dis­cov­ered how to travel through time and space al­most in­stan­ta­neously, and where Earth’s cap­i­tal, Galax­ity, has be­come the heart of a Ter­ran Galac­tic Em­pire. In this fu­ture, the Spa­tio-Tem­po­ral Ser­vice is an agency that pro­tects the em­pire from tem­po­ral paradoxes caused by rogue time trav­ellers, and the dash­ing Va­le­rian is one of its best agents.

In the first Va­le­rian And Lau­re­line story ever pub­lished, Bad Dreams, Va­le­rian trav­elled back in time to 11th cen­tury France. There, he meets Lau­re­line, a beau­ti­ful red-haired peas­ant girl who helps him on his mis­sion and even­tu­ally fol­lows him back to the fu­ture to train as a spa­tio-tem­po­ral agent and be­come his part­ner.

In a 1984 in­ter­view pub­lished in So­laris mag­a­zine, Christin said that the main idea for Va­le­rian was a hero who is the op­po­site of the sort of char­ac­ters dom­i­nat­ing the mar­ket at the time – Amer­i­can su­per­heroes, and fear­less Franco-Bel­gian boy scouts like Tintin.

“I wanted to cre­ate a char­ac­ter that would be to­tally un­tra­di­tional on that front. Va­le­rian is a ba­nal char­ac­ter; he doesn’t have any ex­tra­or­di­nary means of ac­tion,” he said in the in­ter­view.

Lau­re­line, how­ever, was a dif­fer­ent mat­ter all to­gether. While ini­tially por­trayed as more of a side­kick in Va­le­rian’s shadow, she grad­u­ally grows into the real driv­ing force be­hind the duo. “She’s the one who keeps things mov­ing; she thinks faster than Va­le­rian,” Christin said in the So­laris in­ter­view.

The writer also said that the char­ac­ter came about by chance, and that he and Mezieres “fell for her” while pro­duc­ing Bad Dreams. In an era when most fe­male comic book char­ac­ters were por­trayed as bim­bos or damsels in dis­tress, Christin reck­oned that Lau­re­line was one of the first “in­ter­est­ing and rounded-out fe­males” in comics.

“There were read­ers who wanted to see some­thing else than big-breasted fe­males, and we got many let­ters say­ing that she was nice and in­ter­est­ing, so we de­cided to keep her,” he said.

By 1971’s World Without Stars story, Lau­re­line had stepped out of Va­le­rian’s shadow and proved her­self wor­thy of hav­ing her name in the ti­tle. On the other hand, Va­le­rian grew pro­gres­sively stu­pider and more use­less as the se­ries went on.

With the 1984 story The Ghosts Of In­ver­loch, the cre­ators even­tu­ally de­cided that the char­ac­ter had hit rock bot­tom and needed a boost. Com­ment­ing on the sub­ject, Christin said that Lau­re­line had “al­most taken too much room” in the se­ries and that “Va­le­rian had be­come too piti­ful”.

“There are guys who break

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