It is clear that the French sci-fi epic, Valerian is the movie Luc Besson was born to make. Both Star Wars and his own Fifth Element owe much to Valerian from thematic material right down to the design of the Millennium Falcon. Unfortunately Valerian is not a comic property many of us in the states are familiar with. Since it was announced that Besson would be adapting the work, I have made it my mission to read as much Valerian as I can. If you can find the time to do the same I promise you will be rewarded. Valerian is more than a romp through time and space. As the title character Valerian and his female counterpart Laureline traverse the stars they encounter alien diversity which makes all life worth exploring. Spanning decades, it is rich in both thematic material and character development and Mezieres’s art is mesmerizing. As far as collecting the comics it’s a tough series to invest in and that’s mostly due to the lack of English adaptations of the work. Here are my favorites:
First appearance of Valerian
When the movie was announced I started my hunt right away and I found that early Valerian comics were serialized in the French comic magazine Pilote. Tracking down a high grade issue is impossible, now even beat copies are rare. There are a few on Ebay but I estimate a mid grade value at around 500. Do not overpay.
Super Pocket Pilote, Issue 3 (3 April 1969)
First appearance of the Astroship XB982
In the Valerian short, Le Grand Collectionneur we are introduced to the vessel which Valerian and Laureline use to travel about the stars. In this ship Valerian and Laureline can move from location to location instantly.
This ship is a little controversial because it appears the Millennium Falcon design was based on it. You be the judge:
No longer do collectors discount the importance of second appearances. This one is just as rare as the first.
First appearance of Laureline
Creators Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mezieres created in Laureline a female lead who ended up surpassing the popularity of the star of the comic. Besson had made it clear that he loves strong female leads and I wouldn’t be surprised if Cara Delevingne steals the show. Laureline did not appear until issue 425 of Pilote.
This French publication from Dargaud is a must own for Mezieres fans. Not only does it collect Bad Dreams ( the first Valerian story ) but it collects a lot of key Valerian material and art.
Note: Mezieres also published a pin-up of Laureline in a French edition of Playboy in 1987. I can’t find the month but here is the image.
Pilote Monthly 14
First appearance of the Shingouz
Ambassador of Shadows was serialized in Pilote in 1975. The hard drinking, alien race the Shingouz first appeared in arguably one of the best storylines ever published. I am reasonable confident that they will appear in the film.
The first USA / English translation of any Valerian comic was the adaptation of Ambassador of Shadows published in four issues of Heavy Metal ( Jan 1981-April 1981 ) This series is critical to the development of Laureline as a powerful, female protagonist. Some may argue that she is a negative stereotype of the female heroine because she uses her sexuality to achieve goals but I would disagree. She routinely challenges the status quo and questions the immoral nature of those aliens with which she interacts and she makes her sexuality a weapon despite the cultural conditioning she would have been subjected to in 11 century France.
La Cite Des Eaux Mouvantes
Collectors of Valerian often prefer to search for the Foreign Dargaud editions. They collect the Pilote strips and are about as hard to find as any Valerian publication. I am pretty sure this is the first Valerian comic from Dargaud in 1970/71 making it the first comic book/ GN appearance of Laureline. I don’t believe Bad Dreams was published until after this work.