Waiting for the UFOs

Matthias Wivel is working on an in-depth piece about Charlie Hebdo, the attack on its offices two weeks ago, and the many issues surrounding it. First, though, today he has a review of the most recent issue of the satirical magazine, for which a reported seven million copies were printed, and sold out, certainly placing it among the biggest-selling comic books of all time. Here is a sample of Matthias's analysis:

The cartoonists who are still alive have the advantage of being able to respond to the tragedy; this has yielded some decent cartoons, or as decent as one could have hoped from the decimated staff working under what must have been a state of shock.

Luz, Coco, Catherine Meurisse, and Loïc Schwartz all contribute reportage from the mass demonstrations in Paris on January 11, with David Ziggy Green providing a British perspective from Trafalgar Square. These strips as well as the attendant columns are characterized by mixed feelings. On the one hand gratitude for the massive turnout, on the other disgust with parts of their newfound support from people such as Nicholas Sarkozy, Angela Merkel, Benjamin Netanyahu, Vladimir Putin, and Front National leader Marine Le Pen. “I vomit on all our new friends,” as cartoonist survivor Willem so eloquently put it a few days after the massacre. Also, much mirth arises from the fact that Arnold Schwarzenegger, inexplicably, has become a subscriber.

The best cartoons are the ones that, like the cover, manage poignantly to straddle the divide between reflection and provocation. Syrian-French cartoon superstar Riad Sattouf contributes an installment in his ongoing strip La vie secrète des jeunes, which is based around (allegedly) overheard conversations between young people. A French Arab tough hangs at a corner in Paris’ tenth arrondissement discussing the massacre on his cellphone. He assures his interlocutor that he "could give a fuck about Charlie Hebdau," but that you simply do not kill somebody because they say something you do not like. Street-level Voltaire wittily written in sociolect.

Meanwhile, elsewhere:

—Charlie Hebdo. In one of the more informative pieces on Charlie Hebdo, Josselin Moneyron analyzes the last year's worth of that magazine's covers.

Charlie writer and recovering attack survivor Philippe Lançon released an account of recent events.

Ex-Charlie staffer Zineb el-Rhazoui responded in 2013 to the Olivier Cyran letter I linked to last week.

Christopher Lydon's Radio Open Source has an interesting episode devoted to Charlie featuring Arthur Goldhammer, Juan Cole, Michael Kupperman, and Lila Azam Zanganeh.

Jen Sorenson drew a cartoon attempting to present a possible Muslim perspective to recent events. Matt Taibi is 100% Charlie.

Newsweek spoke to Ralph Steadman about offensive drawings.

Tim Parks writes at the New York Review of Books about the limits of satire.

On Monday, a high-school student in France was reportedly arrested for posting an cartoon mocking Charlie Hebdo on Facebook.

—News. The Washington Post has an extensive article on the return of Milestone Media, which is very welcome news.

More than 80 cartoonists, critics, and comics-industry workers, including Lewis Trondheim, Jacques Tardi, Jaime Hernandez, Alison Bechdel, and TCJ contributors Rob Clough, Sean T. Collins, and Jeet Heer, signed an open letter to the Angoulême festival asking the event to drop the Israeli company Sodastream as a sponsor.

Darling Sleeper, a new site devoted to comics and analysis, has launched on Medium, and looks to be of potential interest to many TCJ readers.

—Interviews & Profiles. Georgia Webber talks to Aisha Franz. Hillary Brown speaks to Michael DeForge. Laura Hudson profiles Congressman John Lewis and Andrew Aydin on the release of the second volume of March.

—Reviews & Commentary. Brian Nicholson offers his top ten print comics of 2014. Phoebe Salzman-Cohen has a long review of Farel Dalrymple's The Wrenchies. Paul Karasik has a late but welcome CAB report.

5 Responses to Waiting for the UFOs

  1. Thank you for posting the notice!

    As one of the organizers of the Angouleme letter, I wanted to note, since it wasn’t mentioned in the brief above, that our letter specifically states that the closure of the Sodastream plant in the occupied territories does not mean the end of our campaign because
    – the new plant in the Naqab desert region is being built as part of a planned expropriation of Palestinian Bedouin land and removal of population from native grazing lands called the Prawer Plan
    – Sodastream, and other Israeli companies, are complicit in the ongoing discriminatory economy of the state of Israel

    We therefore go further than last year’s letter, and urge all comics institutions and festivals not to partner with any complicit Israeli company or institution, or receive money from the Israeli government or its consulates.

    You can read the full letter for yourself and see an updated list of signatures at

  2. Max West says:

    It is frightening to see people getting killed for drawing cartoons. Incarceration is one thing…but death?

  3. Tim Hodler says:

    Of course! Who would say otherwise? But if you’re for free speech, you’re for free speech. No one should be killed or arrested for drawing cartoons.

  4. R. Fiore says:

    Here’s the way it is: Faced with a sacrilegious publication like Charlie Hebdo an authoritarian regime might outlaw it and smash their presses. A totalitarian regime might round up the staff and send them to a forced labor camp. To have them summarily killed is an act of the Empire of Madness. The Consistency Police complained a great deal about representatives from authoritarian and totalitarian-in-all-but-name regimes being present in the Charlie demonstrations. In reality the demonstration cast a wide net: It included anybody who wouldn’t have a cartoonist summarily killed.

  5. Tim Hodler says:

    That’s right, I think. And even if the politicians in question are in many cases hypocrites to one degree or another, it does not follow that freedom of speech is no longer worth defending. Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue, and all that.

    (On a side note, I seriously doubt that anyone at CH would want that kid put in jail; it’s not far from something they might have printed themselves.)

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