Vomiting on New Friends: Charlie Hebdo and the Legacy of Anarchic Black Humor in French Comics


Nous vomissons sur tous ces gens qui, subitement, disent être nos amis,” [“We vomit on all those people who suddenly declare themselves our friends”],1 Willem, one of the surviving cartoonists from Charlie Hebdo (CH) told the press shortly after the 2015 attack on the magazine’s offices that left twelve dead, including six of its star cartoonists (qtd. in “Willem”). Willem was speaking at the peak of demonstrations that were taking place across France in support of the paper, which became known as Republican marches. Thrust suddenly into international prominence, CH editors made a show of their irreverence towards their new supporters, mocking the way their cause was being taken up by their erstwhile political nemeses. They poked fun at conservative politicians who sang the Marseillaise while holding “Je suis Charlie” signs; religious leaders who came to the defense of their secular project; the fact that Arnold Schwarzenegger had reportedly taken out a subscription to the magazine; and the ringing of the bells of Notre Dame Cathedral for the atheist victims (Le Point; Biard). The tone of these jokes displays a continuation of the anarchic spirit that CH has developed since it was founded in 1969 as an outlet for far left, countercultural bande dessinée [comics] and critique.

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