The Ideal Woman

I was going through my nostalgic stuff in my cellar room the other day, looking for old computer letters and notebooks. I found quite a number of notebooks especially from the 90’s. In one of them I had drawn this silly comic on September 19, 1996. I had forgotten all about it and it made me laugh.

The title can be translated to “This is what happens when you only desire the ideal woman.”

Comic

Please forgive the crude pencil sketching – I can draw stuff like this but I’m no Michelangelo.

The Gravity Gun, 45 Years Prior to Half-Life 2

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When Half-Life 2 was released in 2004, everyone was taken aback by the marvelous gravity gun – a beam weapon that could pick up and throw objects. It paved the way for a lot of awesomeness. Enemies could be defeated in entirely new ways and puzzles could be solved by stacking or moving stuff around.

In fact, the gravity gun was so ingenious that it has since been copied by many other video games. One of my personal favorites is Rochard from 2011, a side-scrolling platformer with an emphasis on puzzle solving. I have also seen similar gravity manipulators in e.g. Dead Space, Doom 3, and Singularity.

But did you know that Valve didn’t actually invent the gravity gun? To be absolutely fair, the honor of envisioning it should really go to the Belgian comics artist André Franquin – more than 40 years before Half-Life 2 was even conceived. Just take a look at this:

Spirou and Fantasio: The Prisoner of the Buddha

Spirou and Fantasio

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This is part of a blog series about European graphic novels. See this blog post for a small introduction.

As an European, my childhood reading was dominated by the Franco-Belgian graphic novels, of which the most renowned titles today are probably Tintin, Lucky Luke and Asterix.

But right up there in top with all of those certainly was Spirou and Fantasio.

This series had amazing novels with an energy and an ingenuity that made for truly unique stories that deserve to be put up there on the golden shelf of fame. But only when we’re talking about those created by the Belgian artist André Franquin (1924-1997) and only during what I consider to be his golden age – the graphic novels from about 1950-1963.

Franquin's Signature

In most of this golden age of the series, Franquin conformed to a clear line of style (Ligne claire) – much like in Tintin. Another reason why I like this period so much.

How a French Comic Series Inspired Star Wars

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This is a blog post I’ve wanted to write ever since I started my first blog in 2011. After the news got out about Luc Besson releasing a movie in 2017 based on the comic, I thought it would be a good idea to get it done some time in advance. Similar blog posts have since been published by others especially in 2015, but I’m still going to release my version as I have new comparisons I believe no one else have had, and I’m also using original material from both the graphic novels and the movies that I have acquired myself.

I’ve always loved the original Star Wars trilogy and thought these movies have really earned the status as some of the finest science fiction of all time. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve rewatched the trilogy. The first time I saw the first movie, I got minor Flash Gordon comic book vibes, especially as our heroes discovered the Death Star for the very first time.

But after a closer inspection, it turns out that the movies actually owes a French science fiction comic series a whole lot more than Flash Gordon, a series called Valérian and Laureline that originated in 1967. And I’m not talking about just mere fleeting similarities or obvious coincidences. In this blog post, I will show you various comic pane extracts from the series and compare them to photos of the Star Wars movies. I think you will be quite surprised how much some of them match each other.

Valerian and Laureline

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This is part of a blog series about European graphic novels. See this blog post for a small introduction.

Valerian and Laureline is among my most treasured space and science fiction stories, right up there with monster franchises such as Star Trek, Star Wars, Blade Runner, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Futurama and probably a hundred more. The stories of adventure, diplomacy and exploration are really intriguing, at least up until the two city books. The way this series was drawn left me in awe right from the beginning, and it still does. No doubt it has inspired a lot of other media since, especially Star Wars.

If you are new to European graphic novels, this series is an excellent introduction.

Page 2 in "Heroes of the Equinox"
Page 2 in “Heroes of the Equinox” where we see the astroship with our heroes in the last pane.

The series is about two spatio-temporal agents, Valerian and Laureline. They belong to Galaxity, the capital of Earth in the 28th century. Their most important task is to make sure that no one uses time travel to change the course of history, but also for Earth to establish contact with new civilizations. To help them with these tasks they are in control of a saucer-shaped astroship that can jump in both space and time, sort of like teleporting. The technology in the series is much closer to Star Wars than Star Trek; overly detailed and dirty, sometimes even breaking down. Taking care of their duty usually turns out to be a complicated matter that brings them on an adventurous and meandering path, typically with a lot of bizarre beings and a constant sense of wonder. The series is very imaginative and still have awesome science fiction ideas I have yet to see anywhere else.

Introduction to European Graphic Novels

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Back in the 70’s, way before the first Star Wars movie, I started collecting comics in the form of graphic novels in A4/C4 size, i.e. the size of a full letter. They were a bit bigger than the standard comics magazine, with stiff high quality color pages inside a solid carton front and back page. Graphic novels of this kind was extremely popular all over Europe especially at that time, and typically had about 48 quality pages. Asterix, The Adventures of Tintin, The Smurfs and a ton of others used pretty much the exact same format. They all had a small back edge with vertical text and a number – a tiny hardcover; ideal for collecting and finding it again on the shelves. It would often take more than a year before the next graphical novel in most of these limited series was published. I collected the novels in my favorite series as they were released and read them many times over during the years to come.

It was quite a different culture than with the superhero magazines on the other side of the pond. Not that we didn’t have those – we certainly did and we also loved them – but we Europeans always held our graphical novels in very high esteem. Each novel was usually an entire story with a start and an end (rarely they continued) and they almost always adhered to precisely those 48 pages. Only a few select titles had more, and then still a static number that it then adhered to, like 62 pages for The Adventures of Tintin. This ensured a good and predictable chunk of time reading it, and that for me was part of the charm.