Les Tuniques Bleues

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The Bluecoats
Les Tuniques Bleues
The two main characters:
Sergent Cornélius M. Chesterfield and Caporal Blutch
Publication information
Publisher Dupuis (english)
Cinebook (English)
Format Ongoing series
Genre
Number of issues 56 (in French)
6 (in English)
Main character(s) Sergent Cornélius M. Chesterfield & Caporal Blutch
Creative team
Writer(s) Raoul Cauvin
Artist(s) Willy Lambillotte
Creator(s) Raoul Cauvin & Louis Salverius

Les Tuniques Bleues is a Belgian series of bandes dessinées (comic books in the Franco-Belgian tradition), first published in Spirou magazine and later collected in albums by Dupuis.[1] Created by artist Louis Salverius and writer Raoul Cauvin, the series was taken up by artist Willy Lambillotte after Salverius' death. It follows two United States cavalrymen through a series of battles and adventures. The first album of the series was published in 1970. The series' name, Les Tuniques Bleues, literally "the bluecoats", refers to the Northern (union) army during the American Civil War. One English edition of the comic was published in 2004 as "The Blue Tunics: The Blues in Black and White" by Reney Editions. Since then Publisher Cinebook has started to print the comics in English as "The Bluecoats" releasing Robertson Prison in 2008. It is one of the best-selling series in French-language comics.

History[edit]

Cauvin has written the stories for all the volumes thus far. The first book, Un chariot dans l'Ouest (French for "A Wagon in the West"), was published in 1972. The 56th book in the series, Dent pour dent ("Tooth for Tooth"), was published in 2012.[2]

Six of the first volumes were illustrated by Louis Salverius, with Lambil taking over after Salverius' death.

The stories appear first in Spirou, before being published as an album. The French editions are published by Dupuis. New albums are among the top ten best selling comics in French each year, with 184,800 copies for the 50th album alone in 2006.[3] Les Tuniques Bleues spawned a 1989 computer game called North and South.

Plot[edit]

The original setting was the frontier of the Old West, where the main characters were American cavalrymen. Those stories, rarely longer than a single page, were comedic adventures about popular Western stereotypes and the absurdity of military life. One recurring feature was the blunder that lead to the Cavalry fort being besieged by outraged Native Americans, or in one case, the cavalry having to besiege their own fort after the Indians have tricked them into leaving it and taken over. As the series progressed, the stories became longer and more involved, retaining their humorous highlights. The drawing style also changed, after the death of the original artist Salverius, from overtly cartoonish to semi-realistic.

In the second album, Du Nord au Sud, the main characters, Blutch and Chesterfield, travel east to join Ulysses S. Grant's army and fight in the Civil War.[1] The 18th album, Blue Retro, describes how the characters were first drafted into the military when the war had already begun and makes no mention of the time they spent on the frontier, contradicting the events in album 2 and others. This retconned origin and continuity hiccups are not detrimental to the enjoyment and understanding of the series since each album is a stand-alone adventure or collection of short stories. Adventures at the frontier fort still occasionally take place.

The two main protagonists are colorful and clashing opposites. Corporal Blutch is a reluctant soldier, highly critical of authority, whose only wish is to get out of the army and return to civilian life, often threatening to desert and coming up with ways to avoid going into yet another senseless battle. Blutch does have a heroic side and will not hesitate to fight against the Confederate troops even to the risk of his own life. Sergeant Cornelius Chesterfield is by contrast a devoted and obedient career soldier, always determined that he and Blutch should be in the thick of the action. He is proud of his scars and dreams of military glory. Though strong and brave to the point of recklessness, he is clumsy and narrow-minded, unable to clearly perceive the madness of the war around him. Though their relationship is often antagonistic, they are comrades for life and have saved each other's lives many times in spite of repeated threats made by both of doing the other in.

Other recurring characters include the somewhat insane, charge-obsessed Captain Stark and the bumbling general staff, headed by the anger-prone General Alexander. Historic figures are also occasionally present in the narrative: alongside General Grant, they include President Abraham Lincoln, Confederate commander Robert E. Lee, and war photographer Mathew Brady. As happens in fiction, especially in bandes dessinées, Blutch and Chesterfield often get sent on special missions which take them all over the map, from Mexico to Canada, and mix them up in projects from railroad construction to spying on the Confederacy's secret submarine project (based on the actual CSS David). Many albums are built around historical events or characters such as Chinese immigrant labor, the treatment of African American soldiers, Charleston's submarines, and General Lee's horse Traveller. Chesterfield even goes undercover to confront guerrilla leader William Quantrill and his henchmen Jesse and Frank James. On another occasion they had to contend with a racist officer, Captain Nepel, based on the French far right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Historical details are generally quite exact, and accuracy has steadily improved over the years. Yet the series is first and foremost entertainment and historic details are altered to suit the story. The serious drama of the plots is balanced by frequent humorous incidents and Blutch's constant sarcastic wisecracks. Although this is not strictly speaking an adult-oriented bande dessinée, the authors are not afraid of showing the reality of war in a harsh, but tactful manner, such as dead bodies in the aftermath of a battle. Military authority, especially the uncaring and/or incompetent leader is often the subject of parody and derision.

Albums[edit]

  1. Un chariot dans l'Ouest
  2. Du Nord au Sud
  3. Et pour 1500 dollars en plus
  4. Outlaw
  5. Les déserteurs
  6. La prison de Robertsonville
  7. Les Bleus de la marine
  8. Les cavaliers du ciel
  9. La grande patrouille
  10. Des Bleus et des tuniques
  11. Des Bleus en Noir et Blanc
  12. Les Bleus tournent cosaques
  13. Les Bleus dans la gadoue
  14. Le blanc-bec
  15. Rumberley
  16. Bronco Benny
  17. El Padre
  18. Blue rétro
  19. Le David
  20. Black Face
  21. Les cinq salopards
  22. Des Bleus et des dentelles
  23. Les cousins d'en face
  24. Baby blue
  25. Des Bleus et des bosses
  26. L'or du Quebec
  27. Bull Run
  28. Les Bleus de la balle
  29. En avant l'amnésique!
  30. La Rose de Bantry
  31. Drummer boy
  32. Les Bleus en folie
  33. Grumbler et fils
  34. Vertes années
  35. Captain Nepel
  36. Quantrill
  37. Duel dans la manche
  38. Les planqués
  39. Puppet Blues
  40. Les hommes de paille
  41. Les Bleus en cavale
  42. Qui veut la peau du Général?
  43. Des Bleus et du Blues
  44. L'oreille de Lincoln
  45. Emeutes à New York
  46. Requiem pour un Bleu
  47. Les nancy hart
  48. Arabesque
  49. Marriage à fort Bow
  50. La traque
  51. Stark sous toutes les coutures
  52. Des bleus dans le brouillard
  53. Sang bleu chez les Bleus
  54. Miss Walker
  55. Indien, mon frère
  56. Dent pour dent
  57. Colorado Story

English translations[edit]

Cinebook Ltd has started publishing English translations from 2008, as "The Bluecoats". Seven books have been published to date.

  1. Robertsonville Prison (French #6), 2008, ISBN 978-1-905460-71-7
  2. The Navy Blues (French #7), 2009, ISBN 978-1-905460-82-3
  3. The Skyriders (French #8), 2010, ISBN 978-1-84918-014-6
  4. The Greenhorn (French #14), 2011, ISBN 978-1-84918-066-5
  5. Rumberley (French #15), 2012, ISBN 978-1-84918-108-2
  6. Bronco Benny (French #16), 2013, ISBN 978-1-84918-146-4
  7. The Blues in the Mud (French #13), 2014, ISBN 978-1-84918-183-9

Video games[edit]

Les Tuniques Bleues was made into a video game named North & South in 1989 by Infogrames. In 2012, this game was adapted by Anuman Interactive as a multiplayer game.[citation needed]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Best of Belgium's Cartoons", Ooi Kok Chuen. New Straits Times, November 27th, 1995.
  2. ^ http://www.lestuniquesbleues.com/albums/56/index.html
  3. ^ Ratier, Gilles. "ACBD bilan 2006". ACBD.fr. Archived from the original on 2007-03-05. Retrieved 2007-02-08. 

External links[edit]