Lt. Mike Steve Donovan, aka Blueberry, he’s back at Fort Navajo and riding through Apache territory again. The undisciplined and intrepid cavalry officer created in 1963 by the screenwriter Jean Michel-Charlier and the cartoonist Jean Giraud on the pages of the magazine Pilot and then over fifty albums become one of the most famous comic characters in the western genre, he has returned in a new adventure with a script by Joann Sfar and Christophe Blain and drawing by the latter.
Rencor apache (Norma) is the wonderful first album of the new series, which returns to the landscapes and environments of the first installments of the original story and with a drawing that clearly evokes them, but also introduces new features of the sign of the times: a female presence much more abundant and empowered (rifle included), and issues such as gender violence and family abuse. But Blueberry is still the same, the Apaches and Fort Navajo too, and the old muleteer, gold digger and drunkard Jimmy McClure comes out, just the same.
Blueberry, in which Charlier and Giraud happily dumped numerous cinematographic influences, from John Ford to western spaghetti, without forgetting that for the features of the lieutenant protagonist they were inspired by those of Jean-Paul Belmondo, a star then in vogue, has lived a dangerous existence in the Wild West in the 30 albums of the canon created by their original authors, to which must be added another 20, with the participation of various authors, which include the prequels on the youth of lieutenant and the independent collection Marshall Blueberry. The series has had moments of splendor, true peaks of the comic, such as the minicycles of Chihuahua Pearl and of The Lost German Mine, in which a Giraud already turned into Moebius turned his interest in Mexico and psychedelia (and which gave rise in 2004 to the only film so far of the character, played by Vincent Cassel).
In Rencor apache, The stupidity and cruelty of some teenagers who kill some Indian women endanger the peace with their tribe, which launches a Chiricahua Ulzana boss-style hunt in Robert Aldrich’s film to find the culprits. Blueberry, which has a case With the dissatisfied wife of the commander of the fort (a novelty: the usual thing in cavalry Westerns is with the daughter), he will try to solve the crisis.
It is surprising that the person in charge of giving life to the new Blueberry on the arid border of Arizona and New Mexico is a former sailor (he did military service in the Navy) and cartoonist of marine adventures. “It’s true,” he laughs, In an interview with this newspaper, Christophe Blain (Gennevilliers, France, 50 years old), author of the speed reducer, that takes place in a battleship, or the series Isaac the pirate, Grand Prix of Angoulême in 2002. “But deep down, since I was a child, I have always wanted to be a cowboy, an outlaw, a sheriff, a guy with a horse, a hat, riding boots, a winchester and a colt”.
The co-writer and cartoonist explains that he met Blueberry at the age of 11. “My father read it when I was a teenager and he gave me my first album in 1982.” For Blain, the western is still very present in the Franco-Belgian comics and in this field Lucky Luke and Blueberry “are the absolute references”. Throughout the albums, we have been able to learn many things about the life of the lieutenant and we have even seen a frontal nude (on page 38 of Apaches, Norma, 2010). “In The youth of Blueberry, Charlier explains quite a few things about the character, such as that his nickname comes from the first thing he saw, blueberries (blueberries in English), having to invent a false name to get out of a hurry ”.
From the series, prefers The Lost German Mine and its continuation, The ghost of the golden bullets. “I also really like the albums of the cycle that starts with Broken nose until The last letter (The long march Y The ghost tribe) ”. Blain notes that his main challenge in making Blueberry has been drawing more realistic. “It requires great concentration, but I’ve gotten used to it, the next volume will be better, I’m making progress.”
Do you prefer the Apaches or the Sioux, who starred in another of Blueberry’s famous cycles, The iron horse? Of course, the Apaches are more essential… “I prefer them, because they live in rocky and desert places, on the edge of the fantastic. I love drawing cannons. The landscapes of the southwestern United States fascinate me. I feel good there. I have made many trips to those places ”. As for having opted for a drawing closer to that of the series’ origins instead of the clearer and more virtuosic of the later albums, he points out: “It’s a personal choice. Not that I wanted to copy Giraud, I wanted a line that evoked him. A drawing close to that of the sixties. Although I, as a reader, prefer a Blueberry drawing more in the Moebius style ”.
What margin of innovation have you had for Rencor apache and what is the possibility of novelty? “Our history may be harsher in certain aspects, we are talking about rapes, murders of women, for example. Originally, Blueberry was aimed at teenagers in the 1960s. But we are not really innovating, we are simply in a changing society. Charlier wrote different adventures. After his death in 1989, Giraud wrote harsher stories in recent years. blueberrys”.
Does Blain believe there is a place in today’s world for Blueberry? How can the old lieutenant approach the new generations? And the female audience? In Rencor apache there are several very strong women … “I don’t know, maybe the presence of those female characters helps, indeed.” On his personal influences to make Blueberry, he explains: “Movies like Ulzana’s Revenge, from which I have taken some of the characters, The fort of the slaughter, The invincible legion, Fort Apache, Hostiles… ”. The fact that Colonel Tyreen of Fort Navajo explains to Blueberry that as a young man he persecuted the rebel Toriano Apache, refers to Bonfire of hatred. And what is the secret to drawing a good western action scene? “It should not be spread over too many pages, or be too verbose, or too silent.”
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.