The French artist, author and cartoonist Jean-Claude Mézières, huge name in science fiction and co-creator of the adventures of Valérian and Laureline in comics, died at the age of 83.
The worlds of comics and science fiction in mourning. The author and designer Jean-Claude Mézières, co-creator of the space adventures of Valerian and Laureline with Pierre Christin and Évelyne Tranlé, died on the night of January 22 to 23 at the age of 83 according to his publisher Dargaud, who greets “his high standards, his energy, his strong personality, his benevolence, his simplicity, his joie de vivre, his curiosity” in a press release.
Bathed in the arts and drawing since his earliest childhood, Jean-Claude Mezieres encounter Pierre-Christin during the Second World War in the cellars of Bordeaux where their respective families took refuge during the bombing alerts. He then went to the School of Applied Arts, he multiplies the experiences, between France and the United States, between comics, illustration and advertising.
In 1967, in the pages of Pilot under the supervision of editor-in-chief René Goscinny, he brings Valérian and Laureline to life with his accomplice Pierre-Christin and her colorist sister Évelyne Tranlé. The two agents of the Spatio-Temporal Service of Galaxity will live adventures in twenty-two albums between 1970 and 2010. Above all, beyond the pages, thanks to the inspired, precise and stripped-down pencil stroke of Jean-Claude Mezieres, they will participate in the democratization of science fiction and will have a major influence on the genre, and in particular the codes of space-opera on which George Lucas will feed for Star Wars.
“I was dazzled by the first Star Wars in 1977. I remember thinking ‘It looks like Valerian’. And then I found very close relationships from the second and then the third film. I let everyone make up your own mind…”, explained Jean-Claude Mezieres at Comic-Con Paris in October 2016 as part of a masterclass. “I wrote to George Lucas but he never answered me. (…) Afterwards, I’m not here to distribute the good points. Star Wars has changed the space-opera and so much the better. The movie brought more people to Valerian.”.
In addition to his inspiration for the forty episodes of the Franco-Japanese animated series Valérian et Laureline (2007-2008) and the blockbuster Valérian et la Cité des Mille Planètes in 2017, Jean-Claude Mezieres had worked on a few cinematographic projects, aborted or completed, in particular The Fifth Element, imagining in particular the unforgettable flying taxi of Korben Dallas / Bruce Willis and other futuristic vehicles from the feature film by Luc Besson.
An overview of his approach and his work is at the center of the film L’Histoire de la page 52, a fascinating short documentary film by Avril Tembouret (2013) which follows the creation of a page of the album Future Memories, 22nd adventure of Valérian and Lauréline. We discover two followers of a “absolute craftsmanship”, including an Jean-Claude Mezieres drawing tracker (“I really like having finished a drawing. Attacking it hurts my stomach.”), cantor of simplicity, spontaneity, requirement… and self-validation, to the point of throwing away two days of work on a yet magnificent sketch, for a problem of staging .