Three years ago, just as Charlie Hebdo was about to publish a new issue featuring a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad, a pair of Molotov cocktails completely gutted the publication’s Paris offices.
“We no longer have a newspaper. All our equipment has been destroyed,” said editor-in-chief Stéphane Charbonnier, who went by the pen name Charb. Still, the 43-year-old vowed that they would somehow be back on newsstands within the week.
“There is no question of giving in to Islamists,” he said.
Mr. Charbonnier, the editor of Charlie Hebdo since 2009, knew full well that there were people who wanted him dead. Fundamentalists had publicly called for him to be beheaded and al-Qaeda had placed him on their most-wanted list.
After the 2011 firebombing, Mr. Charbonnier lived the rest of his life under constant police protection. One of his police bodyguards was killed in Wednesday’s shooting.
Despite the risks, he remained a vocal champion of free speech.
“We can’t live in a country without freedom of speech,” he told ABC News in 2012. “I prefer to die than live like a rat.”
In a 2012 memoir, Mr. Wolinski’s wife Maryse revealed that her cartoonist husband had never gotten over the death of his father, who had been murdered in 1936 by a disgruntled former employee. “The ghost of my father has haunted me all my life,” she quoted him as saying.
The oldest known victim of Wednesday’s attack, Mr. Wolinski, 80, remained one of France’s most influential and prolific cartoonists up until the day of his death.
Born in Tunisia to Jewish parents—one of whom, his father, had fled the pogroms of Poland—Mr. Wolinski was influenced at an early age by comics left behind by U.S. troops fighting their way across North Africa. He came of age, though, during Frances’s 1968 student revolt, during which he founded the publication L’Enragé (The Enraged).
In a 50 year career, France came to know Mr. Wolinski, pen name Wolinski both for his hefty catalogue of risqué erotic cartoons and his editorial drawings skewering all conceivable facets of French society: Jews, Christians, Muslims and every major French political figure since the 1960s. In 2005, Mr. Wolinski received the Legion of Honor, France’s highest decoration.
“They were leftists and never xenophobic or Islamophobic,” wrote Turkish journalist Ertuğrul Özkök on Wednesday, referring to Mr. Wolinski and fellow attack victim Jean Cabut. “Both were champions of immigrants in France.”
On Wednesday, his daughter posted an image online showing Mr. Wolinski’s empty studio. “Father is gone, not Wolinski.”
Mr. Maris, a leading French economist, juggled career paths that would seem baffling to many others in the money sector: On the one hand, he was a professor and member of the Bank of France’s General Council, on the other, he was a novelist and columnist in a satirical newspaper under the pen name Oncle Bernard.
“Bernard Maris was a cultured, kind and very tolerant man. He will be much missed,” said the Bank of France’s governor in a Wednesday statement.
A recipient of France’s Legion of Honor—along with fellow attack victim Georges Wolinski—Mr. Maris was a Charlie Hebdo shareholder who helped resurrect the magazine into its modern incarnation and frequently appeared on French T.V. as a figure of leftist economic thought. He was critical of globalization, skeptical of the E.U., an opponent of austerity and once ran as a candidate for the French Green Party.
“Oncle Bernard believes in nothing: Not God, not the Devil, not capitalism, not unions,” read a 1990s review of the column. “It’s scatological, vulgar, sometimes unjust, often irritating, but never wrong.”
“I don’t look to provoke,” Mr. Verlhac, better known by the pen name Tignous, said in a 2002 interview. The occasion was a series of newspaper comics showing the goings-on at an alternative art venue. And according to outraged critics, it endorsed drug use.
“I recounted what I saw and heard, without embellishment,” Mr. Verlhac told Le Parisien. “If it causes controversy, all the better. It proves that [the comic] served for something.”
Active since the 1980s, Mr. Verlhac had been a member of Cartooning for Peace, an organization that sought to use editorial cartoons to spur international understanding. In the hours after Mr. Verlhac’s death, supporters praised him as a mordant satirist who showed “no favour to anyone,” memorializing the cartoonist with works including drooling, geriatric John Paul II surrounded by flies, and a topless sunbather clad in a Muslim veil (caption “After the Arab Spring, the Arab Summer!”).
In another, Mr. Verlhac defended the “right to blasphemy” by depicting a wide-eyed figure with a crucifix and menorah jammed in his rear end, and a Muslim head covering over his erect penis.
The upcoming edition of Marianne, a French magazine that often featured the slain artist, will feature an unusually poignant Tignous original on its cover. The drawing depicts the hand of God reaching down to stop an Islamic militant with the warning, “Allah is big enough to defend Mohammed all by himself … understand?”
On Wednesday, Le Monde mourned Jean Cabut (pen name Cabu) as one of the “giants of the genre.” In a country that takes its cartoonists very seriously, Mr. Cabut was one of the most revered, solidifying his legacy with books, album covers and by appearing as a regular on French television.
Born in Northern France on the eve of World War II, Mr. Cabut had only just graduated from art school when he was conscripted into the French Army in the to spend two years fighting Algerian nationalists.
The experience left him a stanch anti-militarist, a sharp critic of violence and an opponent of the French political establishment.
In 1960, he was one of the founders of Hara-Kiri (motto: The Malicious and Stupid Magazine), the spiritual predecessor to Charlie Hebdo. In cartoons penned for a who’s who of the country’s major magazines, one of his best-known characters became Mon Beauf (“My brother-in-law”), an incarnation of French provincial complacency.
The character popularized the term “beauf” to refer to a kind of uniquely French redneck.
He is predeceased by his son, prominent French punk rocker Mano Solo, who died of complications from AIDs in 2010 and is buried in Paris’ famous Père Lachaise Cemetery.
National Post, with files from The Telegraph