Did ‘Star Wars’ plagiarize French SF comic art?

This video juxtaposes French SF comic art from the 1970’s with Star Wars storyboard drawings and other illustrations.  The similarity is unmistakable.

The question is whether the similarity is accidental or deliberate.  If the drawings are genuine and of the right vintage, then given so many ‘coincidences’ I’d be very doubtful that they could be accidental.  On the other hand, I’ve never read about any lawsuits for plagiarism by French comic artists – and if there had been plagiarism, I can’t believe they wouldn’t have sued for a share of the profits.  Does anyone know more about this?



  1. The original Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back were magpie movies. They stole widely and gleefully. I think that was what made them so iconic: they were assembled out of icons to begin with. Contrast the more recent films, which are almost obsessively self-referential.

  2. Ridley Scott has talked in the past about how French 'Heavy Metal' comics were big inspirations for the look of Alien – certainly they would have been around in Britain when Star Wars was filming a couple of years before, so you might well expect some exposure. I'd be interested to know if Ralph McQuarrie had seen any of the French work…

  3. Even more startling is how clearly The Fifth Element imagery shows up in those old French comics. That really shouldn't be any surprise though, considering Luc Besson, Jean Paul Gaultier, how could there possibly have been any French media influence? Am I right?

  4. Poor artists copy; great artists steal wholesale.

    Anyone who misses the obvious "borrowing" that went into Star Wars simply doesn't know the genre that well. Not to mention, at the time, Star Wars was being sold as a modern-day version of the old serial B-movies, like Buck Rodgers and Flash Gordon. Much of the imagery is lifted directly from those old serials, to include the opening screen crawl.

    Then, there's how much of the storyline came out of Kurosawa's work. If you squint, and look hard, Star Wars is almost a scene-for-scene retelling of "The Hidden Fortress", right down to the raggedy peasant comic relief in R2D2 and C3PO.

    Biggest problem with the whole Star Wars series is that Lucas was left in charge of it, and he basically couldn't leave well enough alone. His wife from that period, and the people who actually directed and did the scripts on the second two movies were better storytellers than he was, and their absence can be seen in the three prequels, which were incoherent and awful. Lucas is, I fear, a bit of a hack. Especially when it comes to plot and dialog…

  5. Just the other day I was telling the kids how the Star Wars stuff looked remarkably like the Valerian & Laureline comic books I used to read when I was their age… they apparently got translated for us a lot earlier than into English, too.

    Besides I did take French as an early elective in school anyway.

  6. I suppose it might be relevant to note that the US copyright law regarding foreign works was somewhat… different… before 1988.

    Might've been a lot more interesting in that sense if the more recent movies hadn't been so self-referential, heh.

    Oh well, not like Mézières and Christin weren't "borrowing" from a lot of sources themselves – though they were nowhere near as obivous about it. Still, some of the elements can be traced way back…

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