The cartoonists murdered at Charlie Hebdo weren’t sophomoric kids, or, if sophomoric, they were Sophomores Emeriti; Georges Wolinski, 80, had drawn cartoons since the 1960s; Cabu (Jean Cabut), 76, the magazine’s lead cartoonist; Honor? (Philippe Honoré), 73, drew the last cartoon Charlie Hebdo tweeted; Tignous (Bernhard Verlhac) 57, was a member of Cartoonists for Peace; Charb (Stephane Charbonnier), publisher and artist, was the youngest at 47.
You can’t do breaking news in a bi-weekly; now, the world knows that Muslim terrorists murdered six others January 7: Uncle Bernard (Bernard Maris), 68, an economist and columnist for the magazine; Michel Renaud, a visiting former journalist; Mustapha Ourrad, Algerian-born copy editor; Elsa Cayat, a psychoanalyst who penned the magazine’s “Le Divan” (“The Couch”); Frederic Boisseau, building maintenance worker. Killed also in the line of duty were police officers Franck Brinsolaro, 49, appointed to head security for Charb, and Ahmed Merabet, 42, Muslim, shot down on the sidewalk outside.
The murders outraged world-wide, and continue to be parsed by media, politicians, clergy. This piece simply honors my own love of comics, cartoons—and cartoonists. Satire. It’s been around since Plautus and Aristophanes; it permeates English in pen and ink–William Hogarth and Jonathan Swift; and French–Voltaire and Rabelais.
I picked up MAD magazine in the 1950s, thrilled that someone (Bill Gaines and gang) was finally baring the “truth” about adults. I was hooked. I went on to collect Britain’s Private Eye (one of whose writers we know stateside as Dame Edna), the Franco-Belgian L’Écho des Savanes, and others. My own comic book store, The Million Year Picnic, sold everything and maintained an aisle marked “Adult.” I’ve not read Charlie Hebdo, but whether I liked every cartoon or not, I’d defend their right to publish them.
January 14, Charlie Hebdo was back on the stands, its normal print run of 60,000 upped to 5,000,000. Bannered with “Tout Est Pardonné” over a weeping cartoon Muhammad holding a sign reading, “Je suis Charlie,” the cover was drawn by Charlie Hebdo artist Luz (Renald Luzier). He’d overslept by half an hour and missed that fatal staff meeting. Breaking into tears at a press conference, Luz said that his image represents “just a little guy who’s crying,” then confirmed, “yes, it is Muhammad.”