The French comic that may have influenced ‘Star Wars’

The World
A precusor to "Star Wars"

Director George Lucas has cited many, many influences for his legendary Star Wars series, from Japanese director Akira Kurosawa to Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth. But a little-known influence may have come from the French comic book series, Valerian and Laureline illustrated by Jean-Claude Mézières.

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A scene from the French comic "Valerian and Laureline."Jean-Claude Mézières and Pierre Christin

Valerian and Laureline are two space-temporal agents AKA “time cops” who travel between different epochs and planets getting into capers. “You could almost consider it a cross between 'Star Wars' and 'Doctor Who,'” says John Wenz, who wrote about the correlations between Valerian and Laureline and Star Wars for Popular Mechanics.

Jean-Claude Mézières began illustrating the series in 1967, nearly a decade before the first Star Wars movie came out, but the visual parallels between the two series are striking.

There’s a scene where Valerians is encased in a hard resin in much the same pose that Han Solo takes during Empire Strikes Back when he’s encased by Lord Vader in carbonite. 

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Valerian gets frozen in resin.Jean-Claude Mézières and PIerre Christin

“Laureline in one of the volumes of this series is actually dressed in a gold metal bikini by a rotund slave lord,” says Wenz.

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Laureline in a gold, metal bikini.Jean-Claude Mézières and Pierre Christin
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A scene from the French comic "Valerian and Laureline."Jean-Claude Mézières and Pierre Christin

There’s even a scene in the second volume of Valerian and Laureline, “Empire of a Thousand Planets” when the deformed, radiation burned face of the villain is expose from under his mask, much like how Darth Vader’s scarred face is revealed to Luke Skywalker.

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A scene from the French comic book series "Valerian and Laureline."Jean-Claude Mézières and Pierre Christin

“All sorts of strange comparisons crop up in the books and the more you read them the more you see,” says Wenz.

Jean-Claude Mézières was flabbergasted, according to Wenz, when he watched the first "Star Wars" film back in the 1977.  “[Mézières] was in an interview and he was saying, 'I’m convinced he’s looked at my books,'” says Wenz. Mézières went so far as to put Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia in a later comic book.

“He included a scene where Valerian and Laureline meet Leia and Luke in a cantina and say something like, ‘Oh you look awfully familiar to us,’ and Valerian and Laureline say, ‘Oh no, we’ve been here for years,” says Wenz.

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Valerian and Laureline and Luke and Leia meet at the Cantina.Jean-Claude Mézières and Pierre Christin

George Lucas has never mentioned Valerian and Laureline as an influence on his epic, according to Wenz. This may be because the French comic was relatively obscure in the US and didn’t appear in translation until 1981, he says.

But the American audience might soon get a dose of Valerian and Laureline’s antics. French director Luc Besson will be taking duo to the big screen. His movie 'Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets' will open in theatres in 2017.

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