Blueberry

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Blueberry as drawn by Jean Giraud

Blueberry is a Franco-Belgian comics western series created by the Belgian scriptwriter Jean-Michel Charlier and French comics artist Jean "Mœbius" Giraud. It chronicles the adventures of Mike Blueberry on his travels through the American Old West. Blueberry is an atypical western hero, he is not a wandering lawman who brings evil-doers to justice, nor a handsome cowboy who "rides into town, saves the ranch, becomes the new sheriff and marries the schoolmarm."[1]

Synopsis

The story follows Michael Steven Donovan, nicknamed "Blueberry", a name he chose when fleeing from his Southern enemies (which was inspired when he looked at a blueberry bush), starting with his adventures as a lieutenant in the United States Cavalry shortly after the American Civil War. He is accompanied in many tales by his hard-drinking deputy, Jimmy McClure, and later also by Red Woolley, a rugged pioneer.

Donovan is the son of a rich Southern farmer and started as a dedicated racist. He was framed for a murder he did not commit, had to flee and was saved by an African-American. He became an enemy of discrimination of all kinds, fought against the Confederates (although he was a Southerner himself), and tried to protect the rights of Native Americans.

Publication history

Original publications in French

Blueberry has its roots in Giraud's earlier Western-themed works such as Frank et Jeremie, which was drawn for Far West magazine when he was only 18, and his collaboration on Jijé's Jerry Spring in 1961, which appeared in the Belgian comics magazine Spirou. Around 1961-1962 Jean Giraud asked Jean-Michel Charlier, whether he wanted to write scripts for a new western series for Pilote. Charlier refused at first, since he never felt much empathy for the genre. In 1963 the magazine sent Charlier on a reporting assignment to Edwards Airforce Base in the Mojave Desert, California. He took the opportunity to discover the American West, returning to France with a strong urge to write a western. First he asked Jijé to draw the series, but Jijé thought there would be a conflict of interest, since he was a regular artist at Spirou, a competing comic magazine.[2] Therefore Jijé proposed his protégé Giraud as the artist. Charlier and Giraud have also collaborated on another Western strip, Jim Cutlass.

Blueberry was first published in the October 31, 1963 issue of the comics magazine Pilote. Initially titled "Fort Navajo", the story grew into 46 pages over the following issues. In this series Blueberry was only one of many protagonists. Charlier came up with the name during his American trip: "When I was traveling throughout the West, I was accompanied by a fellow journalist who was just in love with blueberry jam, so much in love, in fact, that I had nicknamed him "Blueberry". When I began to create the new series, and everything started to fall into place, I decided to reuse my friend's nickname, because I liked it and thought it was funny. [...] I had no idea that he would prove so popular that he would eventually take over the entire series, and later we would be stuck with that silly name!"[2]

Charlier and Giraud continued to add to the legend of Mike Blueberry in Pilote and other titles even into the 1990s. During that time the artistic style has varied greatly, much as with Giraud's other works. In the same volume, sweeping landscapes will contrast sharply with hard-edged action scenes and the art matches the changing mood of the story quite well. Like much of the Western genre, Blueberry touches on the constant conflict between violence and tranquility, nature and civilization, and the obligation of the strong to protect the weak.

Between 1963 and 1973 Blueberry stories were first published in Pilote or Super Pocket Pilote prior to issuing them in album format.

Since Charlier's death, Giraud writes and draws each album (from Mister Blueberry to Dust - 5 albums until today).

English translations

The first English translations of Blueberry comics were published in Europe during the late seventies by Egmont/Methuen. Since then English translations were published by many other companies (Epic Comics, Comcat, Mojo Press, Dark Horse Comics) resulting into all kinds of formats and quality - from b/w, american comic book sized budget collections to full color European style albums with many extras. Since 1993 no Blueberry comics were published in English. Moebius painted new covers for the Epic line of Blueberry. Actually this was the first time Blueberry was published under Giraud's pseudonym, Moebius. As R.J.M. Lofficier, the translator of the books wrote: "This is quite ironic because Giraud first coined the "Moebius" pseudonym precisely because he wanted to keep his two bodies of work separate. Yet, the artist recognizes the fact that he he has now become better known in this country under his "nom-de-plume," and this is his way of making it official!"[1]

Non-English translations

Since its inception, the series has slowly gained a large following in Europe, and has been extensively translated into several languages including Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German, Dutch, Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, Polish, Finnish, Serbo-Croatian and Hungarian. Apart from Europe, in India it has been translated in Tamil by Prakash Publishers in their "Muthu" comics.

Prequels and sequels

A "prequel" series, La Jeunesse de Blueberry (Young Blueberry), as well as the sequels Marshal Blueberry and Mister Blueberry have been published as well, with other artists and writers, most famously William Vance.

The Young Blueberry (La Jeunesse de Blueberry)

A prequel dealing with Blueberry's early years, during the American Civil War. How the racist son of a wealthy plantation owner turned into a Yankee bugler and all the adventures after that. The material for the first few albums were first seen in digest sized Super Pocket Pilote during the late sixties. Later these were blown up, rearranged, colored, to fit the album format. Some panels were omitted in the process. The English language, ComCat edition of these stories give track of the changes and present the left out panels. Only the first three stories were published in English, although the company planed to publish The Missouri Demons and Terror over Kansas, as can be seen on the back covers of the ones published. The three albums were also published in a single hardcover version.

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 R.J.M. Lofficier: Before Nick Fury, There was... Lieutenant Blueberry in Marvel Age #79 october, 1989.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Afterword by Jean-Michel Charlier in Blueberry 2: Ballad for a Coffin. Epic Comics. 1989 ISBN #0-87135-570-1

External links