In the aftermath of the attacks on the Charlie Hebdo offices in early January, Australian cartoonist David Pope drew his now infamous cartoon entitled “He Drew First” as a tribute to those most impacted by the devastating event. Earlier this month, Australia’s foreign affairs minister Julie Bishop, as a further sign of support and solidarity, presented that very drawing, signed and framed, to the staff of Charlie Hebdo to honor those who lost their lives.
A two-toned depiction of a masked man who has just gunned down a cartoonist, making the comment “He drew first,” Bishop remarked that “it is a simple yet powerful and poignant reflection of the utterly and absolutely disproportionate response to the work of this magazine and encapsulates the brutality of the terrorists.”
Like so many other cartoonists around the world, Pope was inspired to draw the piece as he watched the horrendous event unfold in the news. From MAD Magazine and Robert Crumb to artists from Lebanon to Brazil, the cartoonist community came together and used their craft to show the world the strength of freedom of expression.
“I admire so greatly the fact that you [at Charlie Hebdo] are all here still working and still upholding the values of freedom of the press and the safety of journalists,” Bishop continued. “The events of those two days reflect the perverted hatred of the terrorists, but also reflect the stoicism and the courage of the people who work here and the horrendous experience that you had at that time.”
For Laurent Sourisseau, the director of Charlie Hebdo who was also the recipient of the illustration, “It’s an extreme honour for us because we’re not always aware of the consequences of the Charlie Hebdo attacks on the other side of the world and having someone visiting us from afar is a very good testimony of the fact that what happened to us has been heard and seen abroad.”
Pope’s drawing represents not only the coming together of a community to show solidarity for those who lost their lives that day, but it also acts as a symbol of the strength and importance of freedom of speech and expression — values that encapsulate Charlie Hebdo’s own mission to publish thought-provoking and challenging works of satire.
“Satire is controversial, it is provocative, it offends all religions, all political parties. Nothing and nobody is spared. Satire is a counterbalance against power,” according to Bishop. And works like Pope’s represent the freedom of expression necessary to shed light on powers that would otherwise stifle all speech.
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Contributing Editor Caitlin McCabe is an independent comics scholar who loves a good pre-code horror comic and the opportunity to spread her knowledge of the industry to those looking for a great story!