Valérian - Les Oiseaux du Maître
Jean-Claude Mézières is one of Europe's most influential science fiction comic artists, best known as the co-creator of the 'Valérian' saga together with Pierre Christin. Mézières was born in Paris, where he also studied at the Institute of Applied Arts, together with Jean Giraud. While still attending art school, he collaborated with several magazines, including Coeurs Vaillants. For this magazine, he and Giraud drew short western stories in 1953-54. In the following years, he also drew for the magazines Bonjour Philippine, Fripounet et Marisette and Spirou, as well as books and advertisements.
Mézières fulfilled his military service in Tlemcen, Algeria. Upon his discharge he found employment with Studio Hachette in 1961. There, he worked as a lay-out man, and as an an illustrator for the book series 'L'Histoire des Civilisations', together with Jean Giraud. Mézières and Giraud subsequently joined Benoît Gillain's advertising agency in 1963.
However, his passion for the American Old West and the cowboy life led him to travel to the United States in 1965. He worked on a ranch in Montana and was eventually reunited with his childhood friend Pierre Christin in Salt Lake City, Utah. During this period, he did illustrations for a small advertising agency and for the Mormon children's magazine Children's Friend. He also teamed up with Christin to produce some short comic stories for the magazine Pilote in France. Upon their return, they edited the advertising comic book Total Journal, which was distributed through Total gas stations between 1966 and 1968 through Benoît Gillain's advertising agency.
Mézières and Christin have chronicled their experiences from their stay in the USA in several articles and books. But their collaboration came to flourish when they started their series about spatio-temporal agent Valérian and his girlfriend Laureline. By then, Mézières had already published more short stories in magazine Pilote, from scripts by Christin (Linus), Fred, Reiser, Lob and Goscinny. He had also made the continuing story 'L'Extraordinaire et Troublante Aventure de M. Auguste Faust' with scriptwriter Fred.
Valérian - Les Foudres d'Hypsis
The first installment of the 'Valérian: Spatio-Temporal Agent' saga appeared in Pilote's pages in 1967. Since then, Mézières has worked nearly exclusively on his trademark space opera, which was also collected in a series of albums by Dargaud since 1970. An animated television series, 'Time Jam: Valerian & Laureline', was released in 2007.
Initially inspired by caricatural American artists like Jack Davis, Mézières eventually developed a semi-realistic style for his anti-hero. He graced Christin's often political themed stories with innovative designs for aliens, futuristic and extraterrestial cities and spaceships, that have influenced a wide variety of artists and filmmakers, including George Lucas on 'Star Wars'. In later years, Mézières has also contributed to several film projects with exclusive designs.
In addition to 'Valérian', Mézières and Christin have coopeated on one-shots like 'Lady Polaris' (Autrement, 1987) and on the 'Canal Choc' series (Les Humanoïdes Associés, 1990). For the latter, Mézières was mainly supervisor; the art was done by his pupils Hugues Labiano, Philippe Aymond and Philippe Chapelle. In the late 1980s Mézières started experimenting with direct colors, resulting in some short stories for Métal Hurlant.
For Le Monde, he was a regular illustrator for the 'Heures Locales' column in 1993. Jean-Claude Mézières has also taught courses in comics production at the University of Paris, Vincennes, that were attended by such artists as André Juillard and Régis Loisel. He still regularly visits the USA to experience the country life.
Comics 130 # 2 (Futuropolis, Dec. 1970)