Blueberry

blueberry

Blueberry is a Franco-Belgian comics western series created by the Belgian scriptwriter Jean-Michel Charlier and French comics artist Jean Moebius’ Giraud. It chronicles the adventures of Mike ‘Blueberry’ Donovan 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.’

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.

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. Therefore Jijé proposed his protégé Giraud as the artist. Charlier and Giraud have also collaborated on another Western strip, ‘Jim Cutlass.’

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!’

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.

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