'Valerian' and the History of French Science Fiction

To celebrate the release of 'Valerian,' Mike Calabro is going to tell you about the comic it's based on and how it fits into the influential history of French science fiction.


To a lot of American nerds, the name ‘Valerian’ might not mean all that much. But overseas, the French comic book ‘Valerian’ is some of the most important and influential sci-fi ever made. Everything from ‘Star Wars’ to ‘Independence Day’ owes a debt to ‘Valerian,’ and that’s just scratching the surface of the rich history of French science fiction.


The history of French sci-fi begins with Jules Verne, the author of classics like ‘20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’ and ‘From the Earth to the Moon.’ From there, French science fiction spilled out into the cinema, with New Wave filmmakers producing classics like, Alphaville. But maybe the purest essence of French scifi comes from their comic books, especially Metal Hurlant.


Moebius is just one of the legendary artists and writers who contributed to the groundbreaking comic anthology. Whether you call it, ‘Metal Hurlant’ or ‘Heavy Metal’ (the American title), the stories inside were beautiful and brutal, and they paved the way for a lot of what we see today. Moebius made a huge impact on the sci-fi genre, working on everything from ‘Jodorowsky’s Dune’ to ‘Space Jam,’ but ‘Metal Hurlant’ might be his greatest legacy.


Moebius isn’t the only French sci-fi creator Americans are familiar with. We end our tour with Luc Besson, director of ‘The Professional,’ ‘Nikita,’ ‘The Fifth Element,’ and, funnily enough, ‘Valerian.’ It’s the project he’s dreamed of making since he was a kid reading the ‘Valerian’ comics and ‘Metal Hurlant.’ France has a long tradition of science fiction, and it’s contributed a ton to the genre, so if you’re looking to expand your horizons with a little international flair, ‘Valerian’ might not be a bad bet.