Jean-Claude Mézières was born in Paris in 1938. During wartime air raids on the city he met up with Pierre Christin, while taking shelter in the cellar of the house next door. At the age of 15 he enrolled in the wallpaper class at the School of Applied Arts where he met Jean Giraud (not so far known as Moebius, back then), but neither student was destined for a career in the field.
While still at school he published a number of drawings and stories in "Fripounet et Marisette", "Coeurs Vaillants" and "Spirou". Then came a long period of military service, including a tour of duty in Algeria... Once returned to civilian life, he began working in illustration and advertising.
In 1965 he left for the United States to become a cowboy, working on ranches from Montana to Arizona. In Salt Lake City he met up again with Pierre Christin, who was teaching French literature at Utah State University. It was here that they began working together, producing a short story in the style of Mad magazine that was published in "PILOTE" in 1966.
Returning to Paris, Christin and Mézières fine-tuned their working method: >interaction in building up the storyline; close understanding of their respective imaginations. In 1967, at a time when science fiction attracted no more than a niche readership in France, they published the first episode of VALERIAN in "PILOTE": Les Mauvais Rêves. Its reception was as warm as it was unexpected. Their next book was drawn in 1968 and La Cité des Eaux Mouvantes bore the mark of both the new hope and the bitter controversy of that dramatic period. Published in 1970, it was the first of their books to play on the paradoxes of time. With L'Empire des Mille Planètes they introduced space travel, encounters with other species and the onset of a huge quest, a kind of ethnographical voyage to study the fauna and customs of the cosmos.
The Valerian series continued...
After winning the Grand Prize at the Angoulême International Comics Festival in 1984, Mézières embarked with Christin in 1987 on Lady Polaris, a superb graphic novel set in the great ports of Europe (published by Autrement). In 1991, again with Christin, he produced the Atlas Cosmique : les Habitants du Ciel, a field guide to the beings encountered by Valérian and Laureline in the course of their adventures.
Late in 1991, as he was starting work on Les Cercles du Pouvoir, Mézières was contacted by filmmaker Luc Besson, who wanted him as art designer for a major science-fiction picture. The project kept him busy throughout 1992, but in the end was shelved. Mézières went back to Valérian, publishing Les Cercles du Pouvoir in 1994.
In 1995, he brought out a collection of illustrations and non-cartoon projects entitled Les Extras de Mézières, while Otage de l'Ultralum was published in 1996.
In 1997, Besson's movie The Fifth Element was finally released. It scored a worldwide box office success, with the flying taxi from "Les Cercles du Pouvoir" playing a star part. The same year saw a new edition of Par les Chemins de l'Espace, seven short Valérian episodes. Published in 1998, the 2nd volume of Mézières "Extras", Mon Cinquième Elément, featured all of his research and illustrations for Besson's movie. His cartoon books also continued to come out, with L'Orphelin des Astres.
In 2000 Mézières and Christin added a new, imperturbably serious chapter to their cosmic gazetteer: Atlas Cosmique : les Habitants du Ciel 2. They also brought out a new edition of what had in the meantime become an unobtainable rarity: their very first classic, Les Mauvais Rêves.
2001 saw the publication of a new Valérian book, Par des Temps incertains.
In 2002, Adieu rêve américain appeared in the series Les Correspondances de Christin. The two partners described their youthful experiences in the USA, Mézières giving a magnificent illustration of his passion for the West... as the Twin Towers collapsed in flames.
2003 While staying loyal to Valérian, Mézières began working in a number of other fields: illustration, audiovisual and stage design, plus postage stamps - in particular for the French Southern and Antarctic Territories, which he actually visited to feed his imagination on new places and landscapes.
In 2004, as part of the initiatives marking the city of Lille's year as European Capital of Culture, Mézières designed the installation Way to the Stars, setting up a giant sci-fi astro-port in a downtown street.
The latest Valérian book Au Bord du Grand Rien launched a new series of adventures for Valérian and Laureline, who are to journey in search of the Land of Galaxity. Other projects also began to see the light.
2006: L'Ordre des Pierres, the second episode in the new trilogy, is in preparation.