Valerian and Laureline v0 cover detail Bad Dreams

Origin Story! Valerian and Laureline v0: “Bad Dreams”

“Bad Dreams” is a different kind of beast entirely from the rest of the series.

This is a slightly goofier 1960s-era serialized story that never slows down.  It’s a relatively short 28 pages long, but doesn’t need to be anything more.  Well, OK, there’s a couple of plot points and character things they could have used a couple extra pages to show, but the overall effect is good. You get a complete story with great art that will fill in a couple gaps for previous “Valerian and Laureline” readers.

Honestly, I liked this story better than the first volume.  It has its wordy pages, yes, but they speed by and never take up the entire page.  It’s usually, at best, half a page of explanation before Valerian jumps up and gets moving to the next thing.

The whole thing feels familiar, even as different as it is at times.

 

The Mythology of Galaxity

With a couple quick pages at the top, Pierre Christin lays out the series in a series of captions.  This is Galaxity.  These are the time cops.  Here’s how they work.  Here’s Valerian and his pals talking about their latest (hilarious) journeys.  Then the boss shows up and acts like the boss of the main character in most every 1960s sit-com you can think of.

Valerian Space-Time Cop Diversity

There are parts of that which didn’t survive to the regular series.  There’s a complete lack of camaraderie with other Time Agents after this book that I liked here so much.  They’re mostly used for one panel gags — who went to the vegan world etc. — but as a team book, this could have worked. (Also, for a book drawing in 1967, it’s worth noting that Valerian’s fellow time cops included an Asian man and a black woman.)

In fact, there’s very little mythology associated with the Spatio-Temporal force as a whole. Yes, Galaxity is disappeared, but you don’t see other agents besides Valerian and Laureline in the series. There’s never a split at the top on tough decisions.  There’s no structure to the organization or strict definition of it and the rules they play by.  We learn whatever we need to for that story and ignore the rest.

It’s refreshing, in this day and age, to meet a series like this that isn’t hung up on its own mythology and internal workings.  Thought, in retrospect, I’d love to know more about the organization and its history.

 

The Origin of Laureline

Laureline's first appearance, saving Valerian

Laureline’s first appearance is when she saves Valerian, something that soon becomes a habit for her.

Not that it ever needed one, but this is a good “origin story” book. I managed to read 18 volumes of the series before reading this one, and pretty much had things figured out from the get-go:  Valerian is a time cop. So is Laureline.

Early on, I wasn’t 100% sure what their relationship was.  It took a couple volumes before they made it obvious, though I guess their romantic picnic at the beginning of the first volume should have been all the proof I needed.  Maybe I figured it was a cultural difference thing?

 

Laureline explains why she should go to the future

Spoiler: Laureline talks her way to the future, befuddling Valerian with her logic.

The bulk of the book is an adventure on earth in the tenth century, with Valerian tracking down a rogue time cop.  Along the way, he meets a girl named Laureline, who talks her way back to her future/his present day with him as a means of saving the time line.  The logic is a little — absent — in that, but it works just fine.  It gets the job done, and the series is never reliant on time travel craziness anyway.

So we forgive it, fall quickly in love with Laureline, and keep going.

 

Story Structure and Art from a Different Story Type

Valerian Lucky Luke look

Mezieres was a Lucky Luke fan. This pose looks straight out of Morris’ playbook…

This feels to me more like a “Smurfs” story, in its structure and storytelling.  That makes sense, since the Smurfs were having stories serialized at the same time.  That was just the way they made comics at the time.  The anthologies ruled over all else, and keeping them friendly for all ages meant a certain clear storytelling style. It also means regular cliffhangers to keep you waiting for the next installment.

This is Christin and Jean-Claude Mezieres channeling their inner Franquin or Morris to tell a sci-fi story instead of a western.  In fact, some of the silhouettes of Valerian in this book look exactly like Lucky Luke. He has that same lanky body and slightly oversized head, hands, and feet.

Valerian makes his entrance in France looking like Prince Valiant

Was Mezieres a “Prince Valiant” fan, too? With an “Asterix” background?

Mezieres is still different from his contemporaries I’ve named so far at the time. He uses shadows a bit more, adding dramatic lighting and paying attention to the ambient lighting to create specific textures and extra dimensionality to his art.  His angles are more varied, including dramatic worm’s eye and bird’s eye views.

Here’s a good example of his more extreme lighting conditions:

Jean-Claude Mezieres is good at light, such as this image of the sun creating dramatic shadows on Valerian and his horse.

 

Recommended?

Yes. The only trick is, you can’t buy the “Valerian and Laureline” #0 album. Because of its relatively short size, it doesn’t get a book of its own.

Cinebook, thankfully, reprinted it this summer in the first volume of their “Valerian and Laureline: The Complete Collection” series.  You also get the first two books in series there, so it’s a good value. In fact, it’s under $20 on Amazon today (affiliate link if you click the image below) and it’s a hardcover.

 

They did find material to fill out an album with and published this in France as its own book. Here’s what that one looked like:

Volume 0 "Bad Dreams" in French cover

(This is Pipeline BD 100 review #55.)

3 Comments

  • JC Lebourdais July 27, 2017 at 5:20 am

    There is this thing called the School of Marcinelle which is kind of the birthplace of Belgian comics in the late 40s – early 50s and had a massive influence of everything that came after (and up to this day I suppose). Consequence is that these series all felt familiar, they had this sameness in story construction, character layout and such. These creators used to hang out together and sometimes ghost for each other, so that would explain your Smurfs and Lucky Luke observations. Pilote is famous for grooming the next generation or creators with Asterix, Lone Sloane, Blueberry, Achille Talon, Philemon, Valerian kind of break the mold but you can still feel the underlying influences.
    Sure Valarian is wordy but there is an obvious reason for that, that BD was primarily a field led by writers (like Silver Age DC for example). There was heavy censorship on early BD, criticism that ‘Illustrés’ were dumbing down our youth so, to avoid that, they made a point to try being educational. Indeed we had an incredible number of genius illustrators. but the writers were definitely in the driver’s seat. At Pilote, René Goscinny was running the show with an iron fist (until the young punks kicked him out, that is).
    My memory’s a bit hazy but I seem to remember that Mézières along with Morris actually spent some time in the American west at some point, so you can see the love showing when they draw horses and stuff.

    Reply
    • Augie July 27, 2017 at 10:04 am

      Mezieres didn’t just spend time in America, he worked on an actual ranch in Utah for a while, while Christin was teaching at a college in Salt Lake City. It’s a fun story. Not sure about Morris, but it wouldn’t surprise me. It still amazes me to this day that more American westerns are being produced in Europe than America. We seem to have lost our love for those, as a whole. (Some of that is no doubt due to political issues, but don’t get me started…)

      I love the Marcinelle School art style, so I’ll never complain about it. And, yeah, everything was overwritten everywhere in the 1960s and earlier. Some of that, also, I’m sure has to do with people still learning how to read comic books, and catering to such a large audience that it was a good idea to be more explicitly so more people could handle it.

      Reply
  • JC Lebourdais July 27, 2017 at 11:30 am

    Seems to me the Western comic book production from Europe was biggest in Italy, with the Bonelli Studio mostly, Tex is excellent. In French, Jerry Spring by Jijé is a true classic cherished by many and on top of it gave Jean Giraud his big break. It channeled those fantastic Gary Cooper and Alan Ladd movies that taught me life as a kid 🙂

    Reply

What do YOU think?

%d bloggers like this: