Paris – It may as yet be obscure in the English-speaking world, but the comic book series on which the new mega-budget film “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” is based has long been the thinking kid’s favourite elsewhere.

The sci-fi heroes on which “Fifth Element” director Luc Besson is betting his reputation — and a colossal $180-million (158-million euro) budget — have fascinated generations of European children.

The French film-maker was swept away by the time-travelling “spatio-temporal agents” Valerian and Laureline as a 10-year-old reader of the legendary comic Pilote, edited by “Asterix” creator Rene Goscinny, in which the strip first appeared.

These were not the usual macho superheroes straight from Marvel central casting, but thinking liberal humanists with a green conscience — the most cerebral of shoot-’em-up heroes.

Long before Hollywood discovered female empowerment, Laureline was not only outsmarting her enemies, she was also always one step ahead of Valerian, her brave, kind, but definitely dimmer sidekick.

© AFP BERTRAND GUAY A person visits an exhibition dedicated to French science fiction comics series Valérian and Laureline at the Cite des Sciences et de l'Industrie museum in Paris

© AFP BERTRAND GUAY – A person visits an exhibition dedicated to French science fiction comics series Valérian and Laureline at the Cite des Sciences et de l’Industrie museum in Paris