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Comic Book / Valérian

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Valérian (later Valérian et Laureline) is a French comic book series by Jean-Claude Mézières and Pierre Christin published from 1967 to 2010.

In the 28th century, Earth is the center of a powerful galactic empire, governed along technocratic lines from its capital Galaxity. The basis of Earth's power and civilization is its mastery of Time Travel, which makes both instantaneous travel and control of history possible. An elite corps of time travel agents has been created so as to maintain order throughout time and space, and Valérian is one of its members.

After a trip to the Middle Ages to capture a Mad Scientist who was attempting to alter human history, he met a local girl named Laureline and hired her as his fellow agent.

The series has long been suspected to be a key visual influence on Star Wars, which it predates by a decade. It also influenced The Fifth Element, for which Mézières was actually hired to draw some décors and machines.

A French-Japanese Animated Adaptation of the series was released in 2007 titled Time Jam: Valerian & Laureline.

Speaking of The Fifth Element, Luc Besson directed a Live-Action Adaptation movie of Valerian that came out in 2017, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, starring Dane DeHaan and Cara Delevingne in the main roles.

This comic book series contains examples of:

  • Action Girl: Laureline, she was even introduced saving Valerian by taking his sword and cutting him out of a monster leaf.
  • Advanced Ancient Humans: The first instance of time/space travel was in 2314, prior to that there was a Dark Age period from 1986-2314 where history was lost. Turns out that the U.N. had a stolen scientific archive and pockets of 1986 humanity made use of that to develop super-science technology like disintegrators, limited A.I. robots, forcefields, shrink rays and a non-functioning time machine. It was these ancient 1986 humans that restored civilization.
  • After the End: The civilization of Galaxity was born of a global catastrophe that destroyed preexisting human civilizations in 1986, when a huge nuclear explosion near the North Pole caused arctic ice shelves to melt, resulting in global warming and a rise in sea levels.
  • Allegory: In Heroes of the Equinox, the three champions from three different planets who compete against Valérian are clear allegories of Earth political movements: German/Italian fascism, Soviet communism, and Granola Girl style "spiritual" environmentalism. Through them, Mézières satirizes the sort of politics that don't allow for free thinking, and in the end Valérian wins the contest because he's the only one with a liberal, non-didactic view on how thing should be done.
    • In the Birds of the Master, the Master symbolizes a Totalitarian regime and the Birds the control society, which enslave the population and keep it servile.
    • Also note how the Master's opponents think only of taking its place when they have defeated it. Valérian has to shame them out of the idea.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Valerian, probably because Galaxity's civilization was built by survivors from Earth's old age, all mixed together. Laureline, on the other hand, was recruited by Valerian in Medieval Europe and has distinctly European features. Averted in the live action movie. Valerian is unambiguously Nordic.
  • Anachronism Stew: One mission sends Valérian to pocket dimensions resembling Earth at various points in history, where the presence of anachronisms is a result of sloppy design by the alien intelligence behind it all.
  • Animated Adaptation: Time Jam: Valerian & Laureline.
  • Anti-Hero: At first a regular action hero, Valérian grows into more of an anti-hero over time.
  • Art Evolution: the art style in the early instalments of the series is markedly more cartoonish.
  • Art Imitates Art: The last panel of "On the False Earths" depicts Valérian and Laureline enjoying some time off in 19th century France in a scene that recreates the painting Luncheon of the Boating Party by Auguste Renoir.
  • Artistic License – Economics: The very existence of the Grumpy Converter from Bluxte necessitates this trope. The creature can multiply any small, precious object hundreds or thousands of times as long as it has enough energy reserves, yet it's treated by everybody as a handy source of currency instead of a highly illegal living forgery machine.
    • Treated as such by everybody at Point Central, where shady deals are the standard operating procedure. Laureline is supposed to keep it secret.
    • Somewhat averted as said animal is VERY rare, EXTREMELY hard to catch, needs a thorough brainwashing by a team of professionals to actually be useful, and it has rather limited reserves. The costs of acquiring, and then keeping one, offsets their economical impacts. It is the most effective alternative to carrying around enough different currencies in a mission, but in the scheme of things doesn't offset economical balances that much.
  • Author Tract: The authors never waste an opportunity to make a political point.
  • Bad Future: What Xombul almost managed to achieve.
  • Bazaar of the Bizarre: Syrte, the greatest market in the empire of a thousand planets sells living stones and telepathic pets among other things.
  • Blob Monster: Multiple:
    • The Suffuss are a polymorphous alien species whose default appearance is that of shapeless blobs.
    • The alien entity simply known as The Master is a huge mass of protoplasm.
  • Can't Take Anything with You: A formal rule of time travel, and one respected more in the breach than in the observance.
  • Captain Space, Defender of Earth!: Old example that plays the trope completely straight.
  • Casual Interstellar Travel: Justified, since space travel is based on instantaneous teleportation, itself an offshoot technology of Time Travel.
    • In the first issue Valerian is given six minutes to report to Earth from several thousand light-years away and is criticised for being two seconds late.
  • Continuity Porn: The last three volumes of the series bring back numerous characters that had appeared as early as the series' debut.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: The very first story involved actual magic, mainly used to turn people into animals, including a Unicorn (with the ability to read minds). While the following stories have their fair share of outlandish alien powers and technologies with very weird effcts, this is the only story where magic as such was featured.
    • This finally gets a callback in In Uncertain Times (2001) when Laureline sends LCF Sat back in time to receive a magical treatment for his fly problem.
  • Elaborate Underground Base: The Spatio-Temporal relays, scattered throughout time.
  • Eternal English: Averted, Valerian uses a mnemonic helmet to teach himself the local language before he goes back in time.
  • Expendable Clone: Valérian gets lots of these in Sur les terres truqueés.
  • Fake Crossover: Mézières produced an illustration for Pilote magazine in 1983 of Valerian and Laureline meeting Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia.
  • Fanservice: Laureline changing clothes are often opportunities to depict her in various states of undress.
  • Feathered Fiend: The Birds of the Master.
  • Fish out of Temporal Water: Averted with Laureline, who, despite being from the Middle Ages, flawlessly adapts to life in the 28th century. Mnemonic helmets helped.
  • Flooded Future World: Not in the main setting, but "The City of Moving Waters" takes place in a flooded New York in the "dark age" of Earth's near future (1986 - 2314).
  • Forced Transformation: Xombul uses magic to turn people into his monster army.
  • Future Imperfect: Scientists examining a 20th century sewing machine in Xombul's apartment guess that it's a musical instrument or a failed sculpture but Valerian corrects them.
  • Gainax Ending: "L'Ouvretemps" wraps up the series by deconstructing it.
  • Gratuitous English: Often present in the original French version, as well as non-English translations. Sometimes from characters who really have no reason to know any English.
    Schniarfeur: Cool man!
  • Haunted Castle: Played with. Inverloch Castle in Scotland is supposed to be haunted, but this is in fact because it houses a time gate.
  • Higher-Tech Species: Humans are this to most aliens. To put it in perspective, in the story "Empire of a Thousand Worlds", a lost colony ship using centuries outdated tech were able to take over a space-faring empire by impressing the locals with superior Earth medicine and psychology.
  • Hollow World: The aptly named Country Without Stars.
  • Humanoid Aliens: Most aliens in the comic fit the mold. As the Shingouz put it, "two arms, two legs, one head, it could be anybody".
  • Incredible Shrinking Man: Happens first to Laureline in "The City of Moving Waters". Valérian later ends up temporarily shrunk as well as a side-effect of impregnating an alien hive mother (see below).
    • A short story involves a planet where an anomaly of some kind causes every living organism to shrink once they enter a certain area (other areas make them grow, age faster, or age in reverse. Hilarity Ensues)
  • Instant Expert: 28th century tech includes the ability to upload knowledge directly to the brain, that's how Laureline is able to adapt so quickly.
  • Knockout Gas: A naturally occuring sleep mist in the swamp in 11th century France.
  • Landmarking the Hidden Base: The New York base of the Time Police is inside the Statue of Liberty.
  • Lantern Jaw of Justice: Valerian has one, as befits a Flash Gordon Expy.
  • Loads and Loads of Races: Aliens everywhere! Though there are plenty of Rubber Forehead and Human Aliens, there's a lot of bizarre ones as well.
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: All the humans in the Terran Empire, except for the agents and the Technocrats, are living in a dream world 24/7. The plot of the first Valerian story is catching the rogue Technocrat who sabotaged the Dream Department.
  • Ludd Was Right: In "Welcome to Alflolol", the low-tech, environmentally-friendly lifestyle of the natives is depicted as superior to the high-tech, industrial one of the human settlers. However, Alflololians having psychic powers which allow them among other things to space travel without much technology, the Aesop of the story wasn't about technology levels, but lifestyle choices.
  • Mad Scientist: Xombul, a rogue Technocrat who attempted to overthrow Galaxity or erase it from history twice in the early comics.
  • The Monolith: The Wolochs appear as spacefaring black rectangular monoliths. They also happen to be Eldritch Abominations.
  • Neologism: The name "Laureline", a fairly popular girls' name in France, was invented for the series.
  • Neural Implanting: The mnemonic helmets are most often used to get knowledge of local languages, but they can teach all kinds of information.
  • No Plans, No Prototype, No Backup: Done on purpose in "City of Moving Waters". Valérian and Laureline chance upon a discarded prototype for a time machine, and turn it into a functional one thanks to their 28th-century technological expertise. Once they're done with it, however, they restore it to its previous inoperable state in order to avoid any historical alteration.
  • Only You Can Repopulate My Race: In "Heroes of the Equinox", an alien but human-looking civilization has a single hive mother who must be impregnated anew every generation. Valérian ends up getting the job.
  • Planet of Hats: Several of them, notably the homeworld of the Shingouz. In "Heroes of the Equinox", Valérian is pitted against three champions, each from a different Planet of Hats.
  • Polyglot: Valerian jokes he's becoming one due to the amount of languages he learns with the mnemonic helmets.
  • Powers That Be: Many stories involve shadowy political or corporate powers, such as The Master in "Birds of the Master", the greedy multinational companies Bellson&Gambler and WAAM in "Metro Chatelet, Direction Cassiopeia" and "Brooklyn Station, Terminus Cosmos", the elusive rulers of Rubanis in "The Circles of Power", and last but not least, the Lords of Hypsis whose influence is subtly behind almost every storyline.
  • Precision F-Strike: After staying too long in the 1980s, Valérian begins to pick up time-appropriate swear words which he uses with increasing frequency.
  • Ruins of the Modern Age: "City of Moving Waters" takes place in a flooded, post-apocalyptic New York City.
  • No Sense of Distance: In the first issue, Valerian says Arcturus is several thousand lightyears from Earth but in Real Life it's only 36.7.
  • Send in the Clones: Expecting a high attrition rate for his mission in "On the False Earths", Valérian was cloned into dozens of short-lived copies. Most of them were expended in one go when the mission manager dressed them up as German soldiers, and sent them to battle in a live-action reenactment of a WW1 trench charge.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: In an interesting dilemma, preventing the apocalypse from taking place might jeopardize the existence of the characters' civilization.
  • Sexually Transmitted Superpowers: In "On The Frontiers" the former Spatiotemporal Agent Jal seduces Kristna, an alien of an unnamed race, in a cruiser in order to apropriate of her amazing powers (breathing in the vacuum, Paranormal Gambling Advantage and Hand Blast). Since he's dressing an armor like her, Kristna thinks he's from her race. When she learns he's human, she refuses him because Interspecies Romance is lethal for her race; Jal desperately rapes her and uses his freshly-stolen powers to force the captain of the cruiser ship to give him an escape pod to Earth. He uses his gambling powers to become rich and lead terrorist operations, in order to cause a nuclear war that will restore the timeline and the future he and Valerian have came from. However, he is haunted by his memories of Kristna, and his stolen powers eventually wear off.
  • Shapeshifting Seducer: The Suffuss are a race of shapeshifting amoeboids that mostly work on Point Central as prostitutes.
  • Shoulder-Sized Dragon: Xombul gets turned into one and stuck in a birdcage at the end of the first story.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Prof. Schroeder in The City of Moving Waters looks like the title character of The Nutty Professor.
    • A supporting character in At the Edge of the Great Void is named Molto Cortes, a reference to Corto Maltese.
    • The philosopher Chatelard in Métro Châtelet, Direction Cassiopeia is a reference to Gaston Bachelard.
  • Single-Biome Planet: Several of them. The most unpleasant one is definitely Zomuk, which is essentially a giant garbage dump for the rest of the galaxy.
  • Solar Sail: On boats rather than spaceships but canal boats on Syrte have solar panel sails.
  • Space Elves: The blue-skinned, pointy-eared Masters.
  • Space Jews: Subverted with the Pearls from planet Mul. Their attire and habitat seem like a combination of Ancient Egyptian, Maasai, and Polynesian. But they do produce pearls (wealth) in large quantities and learn many languages and skills- very reminiscent of the overachieving Jewish stereotype.
  • Sufficiently Advanced Aliens: Played straight in "Ambassador of the Shadows", in which said Shadows are an ancient race with godlike powers; played with in "The Rage of Hypsis", in which the Triune God of Christianity turns out to be three powerful aliens with a bad case of megalomania.
    • The Trinity of Hypsis seems to potentially go into Physical Gods territory considering the levels of power they possess, especially considering that they are apparently in the lower end of power scale on their home planet, where all the "gods" of the various galatic civilizations seem to reside.
    • The fact that they manage to wipe the future of planet Earth from the timeline does imply that they can back their claim of divinity at least to a point.
  • Take That!: The creators did a gentle dig at Star Wars in one illustration where Valérian and Laureline meet Luke and Leia (circa Return of the Jedi) in a space bar, with the conversation along the lines of:
    Leia: Nice meeting you here!
    Laureline: Oh, we've been around for a long time!
  • Tap on the Head: All over the place with the worst consequences being the odd headache or lump on the head.
  • Teleport Spam: In Empire of a Thousand Planets, Valerian does this to destroy the Enlightened's whole fleet by doing rapid-fire space jumps and blasting away with his ship's molecular cannons.
  • Time Police: The corps of agents Valérian and Laureline belong to.
  • Time Travel: The whole point of the series.
  • Translation Convention: It's taken for granted that every species understands every other species's language.
    • Averted: in The country without Stars, an universal translator is evoked; also, both agents use mnemotechnic helmets (first seen in The Bad Dreams),to learn languages when possible before a mission. Due to the characters' job, they soon know enough languages to go around without a need to learn new languages all the time.
  • Translator Microbes: The mnemonic helmets can teach you languages from the past and various other skills. When travelling to Syrte, Valerian and Laureline sent automatically probes ahead to learn the local language which they then learned through hypno-teaching.
  • Unexplained Recovery: Xombul has escaped in the second story with no explanation why he isn't a Shoulder-Sized Dragon anymore.
  • Unicorn: Laureline gets turned into one in the first story. She could talk and read minds in this form.
  • Weaponized Animal: In "Land with no stars", the people of that world go to battle using fire-breathing giant lizards, venom-spitting giant lizards, constrictor snakes blown out of blowpipes and crossbows with scorpions or dragon-flies.
  • We Can Rule Together: Xombul offers Valérian the chance to be his right-hand man in conquering and restoring order to 1989s Earth.
  • Zeppelins from Another World: In'Land with no Stars'', both sides use giant blimps as a way to transport soldiers.