Valerian and Laureline

While learning more about the movie The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec directed by Luc Besson and the comic of the same name by Jacques Tardi, I stumbled across another French comic which was recently adapted by Besson. The comic is Valérian and Laureline written by Pierre Christin and illustrated by Jean-Claude Mézières. The movie, called Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, completely slipped under my radar. Because I love a good space opera, I immediately set out to see the movie and read some issues of the comic.

The comic started its run in November 1967. To put it in context, the original Star Trek was still on the air in the United States and Patrick Troughton was playing the title character of Doctor Who in England. It’s pure pulp action Sci Fi, reminding me most of Buck Rogers with a touch of Flash Gordon thrown in for good measure. The artwork, particularly in the first two installments, looks like it’s inspired by Mad Magazine and there is a definite satirical edge to the stories. The characters of Valérian and Laureline also remind me a little of Jamie and Zoe, the Doctor’s traveling companions at the time, but with some of their personality traits mixed up. Laureline, like Jamie McCrimmon, is from the past and doesn’t always want to follow the rules. Valérian, like Zoe, thinks highly of himself, and seems to need rescuing from time to time. I’m not convinced these similarities are deliberate. I suspect there’s an element of the zeitgeist of the period in these passing resemblances.

Fans of Valérian and Laureline are also fast to point out many similarities between the French comic and Star Wars which would come out a decade later. I gather George Lucas has acknowledged the French comic’s influence on the look of his world.

Jumping ahead to the movie, I thought Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets was a gem. It captured the spirit of the comic very well and I thought presented a dandy and cohesive story with some cool science fictional ideas that made valid commentary on what can happen when indigenous peoples find themselves caught between two civilizations at war. Valerian and Laureline themselves are introduced during a special ops mission at a market that exists in a different dimension from our own. I loved the way that concept was portrayed on screen.

I enjoyed the performances of Dane DeHaan as Valerian and Cara Delevingne as Laureline. They’re not your usual Hollywood romantic couple. In fact, they seemed just a little uncomfortable with this whole romance thing, but it worked for me because that’s the way romance often works in real life. It’s figuring out how you each work, and not having the writer put phrases in your mouth that the other party has to be a moron to misunderstand and pout about until they make up. The film also features a truly outstanding performance by Rihanna as an alien called Bubble. I also loved the cameos by Ethan Hawke and Rutger Hauer.

As a bonus, I’ve discovered that about ten years ago, Valerian and Laureline was turned into a French-Japanese co-produced anime. From what I’ve seen so far, the anime’s story diverges from the comic’s, but it still looks fun. I definitely need to watch a few more episodes.

Of course, I’m a sucker for a good space opera. If you want to see my serialized space opera story, please drop by my Patreon site. You can read the first story of my Firebrandt’s Legacy for free. If you pledge just one dollar, you can read nine more stories right now. If you remain a patron, you’ll get each new story as its released. Stop by and check out Firebrandt’s Legacy at: https://www.patreon.com/davidleesummers

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Superheroes

This past weekend I saw Deadpool 2 with my daughter. I enjoyed the film and particularly its theme of seeking out love and family in the wake of violence and chaos. It’s funny with a lot of self-aware, and sometimes inappropriate, humor. It also left me pondering Hollywood’s current obsession with superheroes. I sometimes feel like I suffer something I call “superhero fatigue.” Sort of a groan that escapes involuntarily when I see another new superhero film announced. Yet, I do go back to some that particularly grab my eye. Films like Logan, Wonder Woman, and Deadpool have engaged me in spite of my fatigue.

I loved superheroes as a kid, both from comic books and on television. I probably discovered them on television first through such shows as Filmation’s Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure and the famous Batman television series starring Adam West and Burt Ward. Discovering my friends from TV in comic book form no doubt helped me improve my reading. Because of when my birthday fell, I was only four when I started Kindergarten. I was younger than most of my classmates and smaller. My size probably wasn’t helped by my mom smoking while she was pregnant with me. As such, I have the familiar story of being the small kid picked on relentlessly by his classmates. I know I loved superheroes because I loved to imagine myself having super powers and impressing the other kids in class. Of course, super powers would also have given me the ability to beat up the worst of the bullies.

As an adult and a writer, I see superheroes in a different light. I’ve come to recognize that all good superheroes have limits or weaknesses and the best stories are when the villain pushes past those limits and weaknesses. All the best superheroes have people they love and they can be hurt when the people around them are hurt. That’s how Deadpool 2 starts.

As an adult, there are still dangerous forces I sometimes feel powerless to stop, such as climate change, poverty, and overblown man-children with nuclear arms who like to taunt each other through social media. Because of that, there’s still appeal in wondering whether I could do something about them if I had superpowers. Yet, it’s often the more mundane, day-to-day challenges that cause the most anxiety. Will my daughter be safe at school? How can I afford that bill I forgot about? Where did that bad Amazon review come from? Did they even read the book I wrote? Even if I had superpowers, those things probably wouldn’t change. I have to work through my limitations to find solutions to those things. I have to teach my daughter to be aware of possible dangers and avoid them when possible. I maybe have to sacrifice something for that bill, or reevaluate my finances. I should be brave like a superhero and look at that review and see whether or not there’s something I can learn from it.

The closest thing I’ve ever written to superhero fiction is Vampires of the Scarlet Order about a team of vampire mercenaries who must save humanity from itself. Can vampires be superheroes? Just ask Marvel’s Blade, who was brilliantly portrayed a few years ago by Wesley Snipes. As it turns out, I first learned about Blade when Neal Asher compared my book to Marvel’s movie and comic book series. My vampires have great power. They can move fast and have great strength. They’re hunters, but they have limits. Among other things, they can only work at night and they can be destroyed. As with the heroes in Deadpool 2, they also find family in unexpected places. If you care to see my take on superheroes, visit http://www.davidleesummers.com/VSO.html to learn more.

Phoenix Comicon 2015

Phoenix Comicon will be running from May 28-31 at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. As usual, the convention has many amazing guests including Ron Perlman, Alyson Hannigan, Christopher Lloyd, Summer Glau, Edward James Olmos, Katie Sackhoff, and Karl Urban. I’m honored to be one of this year’s author guests. You can learn about all the great things happening at this year’s convention by visiting phoenixcomicon.com

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My schedule for the convention is as follows:

Thursday, May 28

  • 4:30pm-5:30pm: Tension on Every Page – North 126A. Good Mysteries, Thrillers, Horror, and Action Adventures hold your attention and each page builds upon the other. How is this done? Is there only one way to build tension in a tale? How does a good book keep you glued to every page? Panelists with me: Alex Gordon, Joseph Nassise, Mel Odom, and Stephen Blackmore
  • 7:30pm-8:30pm: Books and Authors’ Kickoff – Featuring Arizona Authors – North 124. Meet local authors and find out how they plan on spending their time at Comicon. Giveaways and door prize for attendees.

Friday, May 29

  • 10:30am-11:30am: How Evil Should They Be? – North 125. Villains and anti-heroes/heroines. Why have they become so popular? How dark can you go? What is unforgivable? Should the “bad-guy/gal” seek redemption? Interesting thoughts on what makes evil so good to read. On the panel with me are: Aprilynne Pike, Jonathan Mayberry, Saundra Mitchell, and Yvonne Nvarro.
  • 12:00pm-1:00pm: Breaking Those Writers Blocks – North 125. Writers Block: an occupational hazard. Just because it happens doesn’t mean the writing process has to stop or the tale never ends. What do authors do when stumped, where can they find inspiration, and how can writer’s blocks become stepping stones? On the panel with me are: Andrea Phillips, Jamie Wyman, Max Gladstone, and Melissa Marr.

Saturday, May 30

  • 3:00pm-4:00pm: Kepler’s Worlds – North 232 How close are we to finding an Earth-like planet? Learn what alien worlds are like, how we build a habitable world, and how we would actually discover if life is present there! On the panel with me are: Ariel Anbar, Lisa Will, and Ofir Levy.
  • 5:00pm-6:00pm: Steampunk Tea House Café of the Rising Sunset – Renaissance Salon 5-8 Ride into the Rising Sunset for a cuppa brown joy! Meet colorful characters from a past that never was. Learn about Western tea culture from the fabulous Madam Askew. Witness Tea Duelist “The Dirty Weasel” live up to his reputation as the Fastest Nom in the West. Meet the Characters behind the characters as Steampunk and local Small Press authors discuss books, genre writing and Boutique publishers. Also at the tea will be: Hal C F Astell, Khurt Khave, Sean Hoade, and Tanglwyst de Halloway.

Sunday, May 31

  • 10:30am-11:30am: Growing up with Science – North 232. It is well-known that the path from childhood science interest to a career in science is a “leaky pipe”, frequently losing women and minorities. Learn about the challenges that are faced on this pathway and ways we can help everyone engage with science every day. On the panel with me are Karen Knierman, and Dean Frias.
  • 1:30-2:30pm: Space in Science Fiction – North 126A. What is it like out there amongst the stars? Does it truly matter what it’s really like? What do these authors see when they look at space through a science fiction filter? On the panel with me are Bennett Coles, Ann Leckie, Pierce Brown, and Scott Sigler.

Finally, when I’m not on one of these panels, you can find me at booth 14137 in the exhibitor hall. Even if I am on a panel, you can likely find the both operated by my wife or one of my daughters. So, please drop by, check out my books and say “hi.”

Also, while you’re in the exhibit hall, be sure to catch other members of the Amazing Wyked Writers. The group’s main set of tables is 17115, 17117, and 17119. Also, Gini Koch has a table at 14133, just down the row from me and you’ll find Sharon Skinner at 16122.