Was STAR WARS influenced by a French science fiction comic?

A variety of sources – Flash Gordon movie serials, the films of Akira Kurosawa, and mythological hero narratives, among others – influenced the creation of the Star Wars franchise.  But some argue that an uncredited influence on Star Wars is the French science fiction comics series Valerian and Laureline. Created by writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mézières in 1967, Valerian and Laureline depicts designs and adventures that are similar to some elements in the Star Wars films.

Valerian and Laureline2
Valerian and Laureline


Although the series is popular in Europe, Valerian and Laureline may be unfamiliar to many American comics readers. The series’ premise is that a benevolent Terran Galactic Empire based in the 28th Century protects all of time and space.  In the first adventure, Spatio-Temporal Agent Valerian journeys to medieval France to stop a time-travelling villain. While there, he is aided by a young native peasant woman, Laureline.  Valerian  returns to the 28th Century with Laureline, who is trained as a Spatio-Temporal Agent. The two agents are partnered together and encounter many alien cultures and dangers in the course of their adventures, all of which are lavishly illustrated by Mézières.

While the universe-spanning time travel adventure premise might suggest a closer connection to the Doctor Who television series than Star Wars, several designs and adventures in Valerian and Laureline are similar to some elements of the Star Wars movies.



In his introduction to Valerian: The New Future Trilogy, comics editor and publisher Kim Thompson notes Mézières’ astonishment at the similarities between his work and Star Wars:  “In 1977 Mézières sat down in a movie theater to enjoy a new movie called Star Wars and was astonished to see how many of the designs and concepts – and, indeed, the whole motif of a lived-in, funky future – seemed awfully familiar.  Polite inquiries to the Lucas camp went unanswered, but over the years word leaked back that the Star Wars designers (some of them French) had indeed maintained a nice collection of Valerian albums.”

Thompson claims that Star Wars creator George Lucas never responded to Mézières’ inquiries regarding the similarities between Star Wars and Valerian and Laureline, and Nothing But Comics was unable to find any comment from Lucas concerning the perceived similarities.

In Sci-Fi Chronicles:  A Visual History of the Galaxy’s Greatest Science Fiction, contributor Matt Bielby details some of the designs and concepts in the Star Wars films that are similar to elements that first appeared in the French comic: “The slave-girl outfit that Laureline wore in a 1972 adventure appears to have inspired Princess Leia Organa’s costume in The Return of the Jedi (1983).  Other elements of Star Wars that seem indebted to the French strip include the Millennium Falcon, Luke falling from Cloud City, Han in carbonite, Darth Vader’s scarred face and the concept of clone armies – indeed, on first seeing the George Lucas film, Mézières was said to have been ‘furious.'”

On Twitter, @theshrillest shares some images that showcase these similarities:



Princess Leia’s slave-girl outfit is visually similar to the one worn by Laureline, and both characters are forced to wear the outfits under similar duress.

Leia Laureline Slave Outfit



But in an interview with Wired, Aggie Guerard Rodgers, the costume designer who created the slave-girl outfit for Return of the Jedi, states the costume was “inspired by the work of artist Frank Frazetta” and does not acknowledge Laureline’s slave outfit as an inspiration.

Frazetta Egyptian Queen
EGYPTIAN QUEEN by Frank Frazetta – Note the similarity between this painting and Leia’s slave outfit.


The site Shotglass Digital provides images that document other similarities between Star Wars and Valerian and Laureline.   In Empire of a Thousand Planets (1971 ), Valerian is encased in liquid plastic, while in The Empire Strikes Back (1980), Han Solo is encased in carbonite.

Valerian in Plastic
Valerian encased in liquid plastic in EMPIRE OF A THOUSAND PLANETS
Han Solo Carbonite
Han Solo encased in carbonite in THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK


Also in Empire of a Thousand Planets, the villain removes his helmet to reveal a scarred face, as does Darth Vader in both The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.

Valerian Unmasking1
Vader Unmasked
Darth Vader unmasked in RETURN OF THE JEDI


There are visual similarities between Han Solo’s ship the Millennium Falcon and Valerian and Laureline’s astroship.

Millennium Falcon Astroship


An army of Valerian’s clones appears in On the False Earths (1977) and an army of clone troopers debuts in the Star Wars movie Attack of the Clones (2002).  [NOTE:  the Star Wars Clone Wars are mentioned in A New Hope (1977) but no details are given about the conflict, other than the implication that the wars involved clones.]

Valerian Clones
An army of Valerian clones in ON THE FALSE EARTHS
Clone Troopers
An army of clone troopers from ATTACK OF THE CLONES


There are visual similarities (wings, long snout) between the recurring alien race the Shingouz, whom Valerian and Laureline first encounter in Ambassador of the Shadows (1975), and the Star Wars character Watto in The Phantom Menace (1999).

The Shingouz



Lucas never responded to Mézières’ inquiries about the similarities between Star Wars and Valerian and Laureline; however, Mézières comments on the similarities with a cartoon depicting a meeting between the comics and movie characters:

In the French cartoon, Princess Leia and Luke Skywalker meet Valerian and Laureline in an alien establishment. Leia, wearing her slave-girl outfit, says, “Funny to see you here!”; Laureline responds: “Oh, we’ve been coming to this club for a long time!”

NOTES AND FURTHER READING: Kim Thompson’s commentary on the similarities between Star Wars and Valerian and Laureline comes from Valerian: The New Future Trilogy (iBooks, 2005), an English collection of On the Frontiers, The Living Weapons, and The Circles of Power. The images of the Shingouz and astroship used in this post can be found in this edition.

Matt Bielby’s commentary on the similarities between Star Wars and Valerian and Laureline comes from Sci-Fi Chronicles:  A Visual History of the Galaxy’s Greatest Science Fiction (Aurum Press Limited, 2014); the book has additional information about the comic strip and the Star Wars franchise, among other science fiction topics.

Nothing But Comics appreciates the Twitter posts made by  @theshrillest that provide visual examples of the similarities between Star Wars and Valerian and Laureline.

The above images of Watto, Han Solo in carbonite, and Princes Leia can be found at the Star Wars Wikia Wookieepedia.

The above images of the Millennium Falcon and clone troopers can be found at www.starwars.com.

Shotglass Digital provides images from the Valerian and Laureline comic that demonstrate similarities with Star Wars, including the above images from Empire of a Thousand Planets and On the False Earths.

The image of Darth Vader unmasked can be found at www.theforce.net.

John Wenz provides more details on the similarities between Star Wars and Valerian and Laureline at Popular Mechanics.

The image above of Frank Frazetta’s Egyptian Queen can be found at the site www.arthistoryarchive.com.

A movie based on Valerian and Laureline entitled Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is scheduled to be released in 2017; the film is directed by Luc Besson and will star Rihanna.

English editions of Valerian and Laureline comics can be purchased here.


The images above are the property of their respective owner(s), and are presented for not-for-profit, educational purposes only under the fair use doctrine of the copyright laws of the United States of America.


32 thoughts on “Was STAR WARS influenced by a French science fiction comic?”

  1. You have got to be kidding me, almost no comparison made any sense. Women have had metal bikinis for years in fantasy artwork, and how can you see ANY similarity between the Millennium Falcon and a totally symmetrical starship with FINS, apart from them both being gray?

    You could write an equally coherent argument with the same images for the designs being the source for Space: 1999 design…

    1. That’s funny because I thought ALL of the comparisons made sense. A slave girl with a metal bikini and arm bracelets and an enormous blob who just happens to have a pet?

      How many living men have we seen in other fiction encased in anything except maybe ice or air?? The answer is none. The plastic prison and the carbonite probably weren’t independently created.

    2. Pooh! Metal bra. It is nothing!
      Sometimes I even make my niece wear a metal bikini when she is a barmaid at my restaurant.
      But only on Tuesday-Thursday. And never during Happy Hour!

  2. I have most of all the Valerian and Laureline comic books in spanish that I use to read when I was a kid. I even have the first edition of “The New Future Trilogy” book edited in the US. If something happens between Mezieres and Lucas/Disney studios those books will become hot as hell!

  3. Given some further research back, you could point out many 1920’s and 1930’s pulp science fiction magazine artwork as reference points for Valerian, Star Wars, Star Trek, and a load of other popular science fiction. Understanding that some common themes and imagery runs through human story telling goes a good long way towards not being at all shocked that this person borrowed an idea/theme/image from this person/culture/epic poem/pulp magazine story.

  4. I love star wars. .but let’s be realistic here. The comparisons shown aren’t vague, they’re crystal clear. The entire Carbonite scene is drawn out completely in this comic. .including the kissing scene. The Hutt vessel and the slave girl outfit. The Hutt hideout with alien guards opening the huge door. The alien who repairs the ships then demands a high fee…there’s a lot more evidence. Again, I’m a huge star wars fan but this is too much. I for one credit these french guys for influencing certain aspects of the movies. Lucas isn’t god and has certainly proven to be douchey at times. I doubt Lucas would ever give credit where credit is due..unless there’s billions to be made

    1. Even if so, who the heck called you the “genre police”?! Space Opera, galactic epic, or the idea itself of the “Western” in Space had always will always get peoples attention, thats why we had awesome things like FIREFLY or GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, whether you like it or not that kind of adventurous, fantastical stuff draw regular people into Sci-Fi, and you look back what inspired both STAR WARS or VALERIAN was the matterial from the so “Golden Age” of Science-Fiction, the “good old stuff” as noted Brit Sci Fi author Bryan Aldiss called it. Asimov, Clarke, or wathever have their place, and nobody denies that, but I am sick of the petty-biased elitism from some self-called “keepers” of any kind of genre fiction

  5. Wow! Big surprise!

    Sci-fi movie designs influenced by earlier sci-fi graphic novel designs!

    Are we also going to examine the litany of sci-fi properties that cribbed from Star Wars to bring it full circle?

  6. George Lucas could never be accused of originality. Imagine my surprise when I discover the following, in Samuel Delaney’s novel Nova (written in 1969): The hero and the villain are fighting it out next to a river of molten lava. The hero has some sort of special weapon, but not quite a light sabre. He dismembers the villain with it and leaves him for dead. He is surprised some time later to discover that the villain survived. And lives on inside a machine!
    So, the most crucial scene in the entire Star Wars saga was ENTIRELY COPIED from a novel written in 1969.

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