The French comic behind Star Wars is finally getting its due

Valérian, the French comic that inspired Star Wars, is getting its own movie. Here’s what you need to know.

A brief history of the comparisons between Valérian and Star Wars.

Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne star in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, a film based on the popular '60s French comic series. (Vikram Gounassegarin)

By Melody Lau

Star Wars is one of the most famous sci-fi franchises in the world, but have you ever heard of Valérian and Laureline?

The French comic series created by writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mézières in 1967, and which has now been turned into a feature film starring Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevigne, is widely known as one of the most influential comics in Europe but is decidedly less popular over here in North America. That said, we may or may not be familiar with some of its iconic images. How? They're in George Lucas's Star Wars film franchise.

While Lucas has cited Akira Kurosawa and Flash Gordon as inspirations behind the Star Wars universe, many have pointed out the striking similarities between Lucas's vision and the French comic.

From Darth Vader's unmasking to Princess Leia's famous bikini, it appears that Valérian definitely set a precedent for Lucas's world. But, instead of being angry at Lucas, Christin said he felt a connection to him and his sci-fi world after watching the original Star Wars film in 1977 (an entire decade after Valérian was first published).

That's how it goes in sci-fi: It's all about copying from one another.- Pierre Christin
Cinebook's English translation of Valerian's The Empire of a Thousand Planets includes a page comparing the French comics to Star Wars. (Cinebook)

In an interview with Europe Comics, Christin said: "Like us, he had staged the functioning of societies from within, although Star Wars focused perhaps a bit more on the struggle between good and evil. In this respect, Valérian was more European, more intellectual [...] That's how it goes in sci-fi: It's all about copying from one another. Or, in other terms, you borrow something from someone else and develop it further."

Mézières, on the other hand, was a little less enthused by the similarities. Apparently "dazzled, jealous ... and furious" when he watched Star Wars, the Valérian illustrator responded to Lucas by drawing a comic for Pilote featuring Star Wars's Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia with Valérian's Valérian and Laureline. In the comic, Leia says, "Fancy meeting you here!" Laureline responds: "Oh, we've been hanging around here for a long time!"

Jean-Claude Mézières' illustrated response to George Lucas' Star Wars. (Jean-Claude Mézières)

Mézières has also gone on to claim Valérian had an influence on Conan the Barbarian and the 1996 movie Independence Day, but Star Wars remains its biggest point of comparison. Lucas has never outwardly acknowledged Valérian's influence, but maybe Christin is right: Maybe there is enough space in this universe for both the Star Wars and Valérian worlds. When Valérian and the City of a Thousand Planets hits theatres on July 21, we'll see for sure if the French comics can stand up to Lucas's successful franchise.

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