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Thursday, July 20, 2017 

2 sloppy articles about Valerian & Laureline

The Greenwood Democrat's got a sloppy article about Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mezieres' Valerian & Laureline, written in advance of the new movie's release, that's got some pretty laughable lines inside. For example:
The comics starring Valerian and his partner, Laureline, launched in 1967 in the pages of the French magazine “Pilote,” and were so popular that writer Pierre Christin and artist Jean-Claude Mezieres continued the series for 43 years. It has sold 2.5 million volumes and, as of the 2007 census records, 1,852 boys have been named Valerian, and 2,062 girls have been dubbed Laureline. (Christin and Mezieres invented both names.)
Wrong. The name Valerian has its origins in the Roman Valerianus, and Laureline has its origins in Latin, originally meant to say, "crowned with laurel". Certainly Mezieres/Christin inspired a lot of people to take up the names for their children, but they did not invent the names entirely by themselves.

They even claim foreign-created products don't appeal to US audiences:
So it’s not like U.S. audiences have an aversion to movies adapted from comics. It’s just foreign properties that receive a chilly reception. Which may include “Valerian,” since it is a French-made movie based on a bandes dessinees (the French term for comics).
Oh please. If they didn't get a spectacular reception, it could just as well be since the production standards aren't up to snuff. It could also be that bad politics stealthed into the story sour the taste for possible entrants. And the columnist has the gall to make it sound like US audiences are literally prejudiced against anything and everything foreign, without considering all the manga books that have sold well stateside. And here's where the writer really screws up from a historical perspective:
Laureline, on the other hand, is from the 11th century, which gives her an entirely different perspective. She became part of the strip in Valerian’s first adventure, where he traveled to Dark Ages France, and she essentially blackmailed the agent into taking her to the 28th century, where she trained as an agent and became his partner. Valerian’s first instinct is to follow the rules, whereas Laureline is practically the opposite.
Excuse moi? She didn't blackmail Valerian. The villain from the first 2 adventures, Xombul, briefly turned Laureline into a unicorn, enabling her to read minds, and she wound up reading Valerian's mind, discovering he's from the future, and that his superiors would rather he try to transport anybody who knew his origins back to his own time as a means of keeping his job secret. When she told him this later after regaining her proper form, he was actually rather delighted, since he was beginning to form a crush on her. The way this article puts it, you'd think Laureline was a conniving opportunist. Ludicrous.

At the end, it says:
But however “fresh” the movie is eventually judged to be, it’s unlikely to reach “Wonder Woman” or “Spider-Man: Homecoming” numbers. Space and time may be no barrier to Valerian and Laureline, but the U.S. box office looks to remain a pretty tough nut to crack for foreign comics adaptations.
If there's any reason it shouldn't, not even in France, that's because of Luc Besson's horrific politics, as I'd noted before. His MO leaves quite a bad aftertaste.

Besides the above, there's also the following article from The Atlantic that's got some awkward details, including an ambiguous claim sci-fi was long dominated by men:
Feminist science fiction has a notable history, but the genre has long been dominated by stories written by, and solely featuring, men. I can’t help but feel awkward reading one of the most celebrated short stories of the genre, Isaac Asimov’s 1941 tale “Nightfall,” which contains no women at all beyond a passing mention of them as child-breeders. When, in 1938, a Canadian reader named Donald G. Turnbull wrote in to Astonishing Science Fiction—a major magazine for the genre—to say that “A woman’s place is not in anything scientific,” Asimov applauded him. “Three rousing cheers on Donald G. Turnbull for his valiant attack on those favoring mush,” the author wrote. “When we want science fiction, we don’t want swooning dames.” Asimov lamented that women were added superfluously to such stories, which made them “sloppy.” “Notice, too, that many top-notch, grade-A, wonderful, marvelous, etc., etc., authors get along swell without any women, at all,” Asimov wrote in 1939 in another letter about sci-fi.
I get the feeling the writer of this piece never heard about Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars series and its own notable heroine, Dejah Thoris (and the story cast got comic book adaptations too in recent years), so I don't see what they're getting at. Furthermore, if Asimov's such a big deal, are they aware he was a leftist himself, and also an atheist for many years, even as he drew inspirations from the Bible for some of his storytelling? What if that had something to do with how Asimov wrote Nightfall? Though the first Foundation book's got no significant ladies, they do begin to appear in later entries, including Hari Seldon's wife Dors Venabili. The Atlantic writer also fails to consider that Asimov, along with his wife Janet, penned several Norby books in the 1980s some time before his death. That doesn't count for something?
Laureline’s creators did not stumble upon this winning combination of traits: Her character has its roots in feminist movements and texts, including Simone de Beauvoir’s foundational work The Second Sex. “You do not read [The Second Sex] with impunity,” Christin told the comics’ artist, Mézières, in 2001 when asked about the inspiration for Laureline. He added that “feminism in the United States” in the mid-20th century and “the rise of women as real protagonists in all fields” had also caught his eye. Mézières gave credit to Jean-Claude Forest’s earlier Barbarella comics, which were one of the few of the era to feature a notable female lead.

But whereas Barbarella, who famously champions free love, reads perhaps more as burlesque, Laureline feels fleshed-out and human. And while the early Wonder Woman comics by William Moulton Marston lost some of their feminist power through their heavy-handedness, Laureline is tough in a more accessible way—without needing superpowers. Indeed, when the series begins, Laureline is not a futuristic elite agent, but, rather, an 11th-century peasant. In the comics’ first story, Bad Dreams (translated into English for the first time this year), Valérian travels back in time on a mission to the Middle Ages, when he meets Laureline. She discovers that Valérian is from the future, a potentially timeline-altering secret that prompts him to take her back to Galaxity, changing her life—and science fiction—forever.
If a character without superpowers is a big deal to them, how come they won't give any credit to Robert Kanigher for creating Black Canary, who didn't have superpowers in her early tales from the late 40s? Or, how come Hawkgirl never gets any credit? It's funny how so many people are willing to cite Wonder Woman as a notable creation, but never the third tiers, no matter how many impressive stories they could have.

I also decidedly take issue with the following passage:
...It’s certainly cringeworthy whenever Laureline is called “little Laureline” by various characters, and yet, throughout the comics, she consistently proves she is anything but “little.” [...]
Sounds like somebody failed to grasp that's meant to be an affectionate compliment. Why, there's one story where Valerian came up and said, "my dear Laureline!" after she'd returned from an errand, but since she thought he'd been oblivious earlier, she wasn't impressed (rather, a kangaroo-shaped alien's greeting proved much more welcoming to her).
Though science fiction has more women writers and nuanced female characters today than it did 50 years ago, the genre still needs more Laurelines. She showed readers like me how resilient we can be, whether wading across centuries, or taking to distant earths. She helped transform her comics—already visually arresting at their peak—into art in a broader sense, an art guided by examining what it means to move through the many regions of the self, the silent icy deserts and loud alien landscapes far from any starships like one’s own. Because even when all its characters are aliens in unfamiliar worlds, science fiction has always been about looking at humanity. And while the genre still has room to grow, these comics, by exploring what it means to be a person—and, in particular, a woman—in spaces and times far from those of their readers, show one path forward that certainly works.
What's baffling about this article is why they make it sound like ordinary literature sans illustrations is what matters here, not comics. Besides, there are a lot more examples today than before, contrary to what they claim. How about Vampirella, who debuted in 1969, and had a lady artist, Trina Robbins, as co-creator? Or how about Black Widow and Huntress? How about some of the co-stars in superhero comics? The failure of the writer to offer any clearer examples, from comics and/or novels, only makes this article more a joke.

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Trina Robbins designed the Vampirella costume. She did not have any other role in the creation of the character.

Generally, foreign films do not do good box office in the United States, especially if they are in a foreign language. U. S. adaptations can be much more popular than the originals, as with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo or with True Lies. Foreign comics sometimes do well in the U.S., as with Manga or Tintin, but comparing the reception for foreign films with the reception for foreign books is like comparing apples and pineapples.

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