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French cartoonist that inspired George Lucas’ Star Wars dies

Jean-Claude Mézières co-created the pioneering science fiction work Valérian et Lauréline, and his work offered inspiration for films by directors George Lucas and Luc Besson

Jean-Claude Mézières, cartoonist and co-creator of the French graphic series Valérian et Lauréline, died this weekend Pic: Markus Wissmann / Shutterstock

Jean-Claude Mézières, cartoonist and co-creator of the French graphic series Valérian et Lauréline, and who inspired director George Lucas in his iconic film franchise Star Wars, has died aged 83.

The artist died overnight on Saturday, January 22, his publishing house les éditions Dargaud announced.

The statement said: "His high standards, his energy, his strong personality, his benevolence, his simplicity, his joy of living [and] his curiosity, made him a precious and deeply endearing person.”

The series Valérian et Lauréline, which Mr Mézières co-created with his friend Pierre Christin in 1966, was considered to be one of the best works of French science-fiction.

Mr Mézières and Mr Christin met in a building cellar in 1944, where they were both hiding with their parents in a bid to escape the German aerial bombardment of Paris during World War Two.

Mr Mézières would later become known for his innovative style, and his drawings of vegetation, baroque architecture, strange people and animals, which would later inspire cinema directors from George Lucas (Star Wars) [not credited] to Luc Besson (The Fifth Element) [credited in particular for the flying taxis and decors]..

Mr Besson would also go on to adapt Valérian et Lauréline for the cinema. Mr Mézières approved of the adaption, saying that “Luc Besson’s Valérian is very similar to mine”.

However, Mr Mézières was less keen on Mr Lucas’ behaviour after he wrote to Mr Lucas and received no reply despite Mr Lucas having said that he devoured the Valérian series.

Of the parts of Star Wars that appeared to have been inspired by his work, Mr Mézières said: “When you borrow your friend’s car, you bring it back with a full tank of petrol and return the keys. But [Lucas] hasn’t filled the tank or returned the keys.”

He also made this image:

Pic: Dragaud 2021, by Mézières

Mr Lucas is also said to have been inspired by work by other French artists, including Philippe Druillet, Enki Bilal and especially Jean Giraud aka Moebius.

Moebius himself also worked on a number of films by Ridley Scott, and was also involved in The Fifth Element, with Mr Besson.

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