“Even if Valerian and Laureline aren’t immortal, they can have a life without end. They can always disappear, just a few minutes before any event, and jump into the past or future.” — Pierre Christin
There’s nothing like it in the history of comics: after forty-three years of activity, and twenty-two successful volumes of Valerian, two legendary creators deciding to put an end to their heroes’ adventures. Permanently. Even if, as we’ll see below, Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mézières have not quite yet ridden off into the sunset. The two partners still have a surprise or two left for us in their bag of tricks…
Still, the time has come to recognize an enviable record: Valerian is the comics series that has had the longest run in the hands of its original creators. While so many other series and heroes have been taken up by new authors — and often been led astray — Valerian forms a seamless whole. Nearly 1,200 pages carefully crafted by one set of authors. Now, with the saga over, its creators can finally add one last frame, offering not a simple “The end,” but rather, “The end of the line”! An amazing feat that deserves our attention.
“Hello! Laureline here…”
It’s now safe for Christin and Mézières to look back on their tremendous body of work. Over the course of four decades, they put out more than twenty books, with overall sales shooting past 2,500,000 copies. And you can add to that a dozen translations (see part 1 of our series, “The Birth of a Saga“), a cartoon adaptation, and now of course the international blockbuster by Luc Besson. The creators’ fertile imagination and vivid illustrations, and the humor (as well as derision) present throughout their work have also earned them the respect and admiration of their peers, leading to Mézières winning the Grand Prix of Angouleme and the awarding of a special prize in 1987 from the European Science Fiction Society. By all standards, Valerian has become a classic. Better still, the series has become a real part of many readers’ lives. Today, with a bit of luck, it’s even possible to run into an authentic Valerian or Laureline: since 1970, according to recent French government statistics, these names have been given out 1,852 and 2,062 times, respectively. “Sometimes I’m sitting at my drawing table at home,” says Mézières, “and I answer the phone to hear someone say, ‘Hello! My name is Laureline…’ You can’t top that!”
Time for a new beginning?
So now things have come full circle, and the series is over. Does that mean we’ve seen the last of Valerian and Laureline? That our space-time heroes have left us for good, taking their place on the shelves of the eternal comics pantheon? As you might suspect with Christin and Mézières, the answer isn’t so simple.
In fact, typical of a series full of parallel universes, the answer is both yes and no. Yes, the main series is definitively over. But no, as long as the Wolochs grant them life, the authors have not yet had their last word.
They already extended the Valerian universe back in 2013 with the release of the first volume of Memories From the Futures (Europe Comics 2017). This book, to be followed by another volume currently underway by the authors, provides an opportunity to return to various key moments of the series. As Mézières explains, “Here we tell the story of what happened between the pages, in the folds of the book, or what might have happened had Laureline not met Valerian.” The idea is to further develop certain characters, scenes, or ideas the authors touched on over the course of the series, in order to shed new light through a different narrative voice, or develop the action in a new way. “I have a lot of fun redrawing — for the better, I hope! — things that I did thirty or forty years ago,” the artist says.
And now, as of July 3rd, 2017, readers can delve even deeper into the series with Valerian: Le guide des mille planètes (Valerian: The Guide of a Thousand Planets), an A-to-Z guide written by French journalist Christophe Quillien. With that, and a tremendous film now hitting movie theaters across the world, perhaps the adventures of Valerian aren’t quite at an end after all.
READ PART 4: The Secret Charm of Laureline
This article concludes our five-part series on Valerian, surrounding the 2017 release of the blockbuster Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets in theaters worldwide. Text by Stan Barets. Originally published in Valérian l’intégrale #1 and Valérian l’intégrale #7 (Dargaud 2017). Header image © Christin & Mézières / Dargaud.