Les Tuniques Bleues

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The Bluecoats
Les Tuniques Bleues
The two main characters:
Sergeant Cornelius Chesterfield and Corporal Blutch
Publication information
PublisherDupuis (French and Dutch)
Cinebook (English)
FormatOngoing series
No. of issues62 (in French)
12 (in English)
Main character(s)Sergeant Cornelius Chesterfield & Corporal Blutch
Creative team
Created byRaoul Cauvin & Louis Salverius
Written byRaoul Cauvin
Artist(s)Willy Lambillotte
Corporal Blutch.

Les Tuniques Bleues (Dutch: De Blauwbloezen) 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. Cinebook has started to print the comics in English as "The Bluecoats" releasing Robertsonville 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 62nd book in the series, Sallie, was published in 2018.[2]

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

The stories appear first in Spirou in 1968, 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]

A scene showing the two main characters.

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 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
  58. Les bleues se mettes au vert
  59. Les quatre évangélistes
  60. Carte blanche pour un Bleu
  61. L'étrange soldat Franklin
  62. Sallie
  63. La bataille du Cratère

Historical correlations[edit]

Several albums highlight historical facts of the American Civil War, other adventures are set in a place or anonymous battle. Some accounts tell of an encounter with a Native American tribe without any relation to the American Civil War. However, the chronology of the albums does not follow that of the war, but several albums are in flashback, tracing the past of the two protagonists, possibly narrated by one of them (Bull Run) or another character (Vertes Années).

Album Historical reference
1. Un chariot dans l'Ouest
2. Du Nord au Sud
3. Et pour quinze cents dollars en plus
4. Outlaw
5. Les Déserteurs
6. La Prison de Robertsonville Andersonville Prison
7. Les Bleus de la marine Battle of Hampton Roads
8. Les Cavaliers du ciel Union Army Balloon Corps
9. La Grande Patrouille
10. Des Bleus et des tuniques
11. Des Bleus en noir et blanc Mathew Brady
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 Anaconda Plan; CSS 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 Québec
27. Bull Run First Battle of Bull Run
28. Les Bleus de la balle
29. En avant l'amnésique
30. La Rose de Bantry Affaire du Trent
31. Drummer boy
32. Les Bleus en folie
33. Grumbler et fils
34. Vertes Années
35. Captain Nepel
36. Quantrill William Quantrill
37. Duel dans la Manche Battle of Cherbourg
38. Les Planqués
39. Puppet Blues
40. Les Hommes de paille
41. Les Bleus en cavale
42. Qui veut la peau du général ? Ulysses S. Grant
43. Des Bleus et du blues
44. L'Oreille de Lincoln Siege of Vicksburg
45. Émeutes à New York Draft Riots
46. Requiem pour un Bleu
47. Les Nancy Hart Nancy Harts
48. Arabesque
49. Mariage à Fort Bow
50. La Traque
51. Stark sous toutes les coutures
52. Des Bleus dans le brouillard Joseph Hooker, Battle of Lookout Mountain
53. Sang bleu chez les Bleus François d'Orléans
54. Miss Walker Mary Edwards Walker
55. Indien, mon frère
56. Dent pour dent
57. Colorado Story
58. Les Bleus se mettent au vert
59. Les Quatre Évangélistes William Nelson Pendleton
60. Carte blanche pour un bleu
61. L'Étrange Soldat Franklin Sarah Emma Edmonds
62. Sallie Sallie Ann Jarret

English translations[edit]

Cinebook Ltd has started publishing English translations from 2008, as "The Bluecoats". Ten 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
  8. Auld Lang Blue (French #18), 2015, ISBN 978-1-84918-245-4
  9. El Padre (French #17), 2016, ISBN 978-1-84918-286-7
  10. The Blues in Black and White (French #11), 2017, ISBN 978-1-84918-341-3
  11. Cossack Circus (French #12), 2018, ISBN 978-1-84918-383-3
  12. The David (French #19), 2019, ISBN 978-1-84918-430-4
  13. Something Borrowed, Something Blue ISBN 9781849185318

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.[4]

In popular culture[edit]

Les Tuniques Bleues are among the many Belgian comics characters to jokingly have a Brussels street named after them. The Rue des Comédiens/ Komediantenstraat has a commemorative plaque with the name Rue des Tuniques Bleues/ Blauwbloezenstraat placed under the actual street sign.[5]

References[edit]

External links[edit]