Director Luc Besson, most famous for his surreal mid-90’s feature The Fifth Element, is deep in post-production on Valerian, what many are considering the spiritual successor to Fifth Element even though it adapts a different property. To give you an idea of what you’re in for, it’s going to take at least a year to complete all the set pieces and creatures that will only exist in CGI cyberspace. 2,700 in all!

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The movie is a straight adaption of Valérian and Laureline, the most popular comic book you’ve never heard of. It began in 1967 and ended in 2010, and is one of the most beloved comics in Europe. What makes it so cool? The titular character is a space cop from the 28th century who works for the Spatio-Temporal Service, an organization that guards the flow of time. He rescues a peasant woman from danger in 11th century France, and she comes back with him (this would be Laureline).

They become partners and freelance adventurers in a mashup of the best elements from every sci-fi concept you’ve ever heard of….but in many cases, Valérian and Laureline did them first! Many claim George Lucas ripped off chunks of it wholesale for Star Wars, though the odds of him coming across it in the mid-70’s are minimal, as opposed to the serials like Flash Gordon he HAS admitted to ripping off. The problem with Valérian and Laureline is that it’s a Franco-Belgian comic, meaning it’s produced in a part of the world where literature rarely escapes to outer countries.

Personally, I find European comics more interesting than most American ones. While homegrown comics tend to run along themes of power, violence and grit, Franco-Belgian comics put their focus on wonder and adventure. Art-wise they’re also superior, with less of an effort on trying to be “realistic” and more on cramming their panels with fantasy detail and inventive landscapes. Plus, there are far less gimmicks designed to sell more comics! They come out in giant volumes with self-contained stories.

And you’ll never read most of them, and neither will I! As much as I would love to dive into Yoko Tsuno or Natacha or Papyrus, they are virtually nonexistent outside of France. I only know of them through searches on comics.org for their covers. I can’t even find fan translations of them.

If Luc’s big-screen, big budget adaption of Valérian and Laureline is a hit, it could bring much-needed attention to its source material. Will the Valerian movie open American eyes to the great comics that have been denied to them? I’m pessimistic, but hopeful. Valerian opens next July.