Edmonton Journal political cartoonist reacts to Charlie Hebdo attack

WATCH ABOVE: The Paris attack wasn’t just on a magazine. As Fletcher Kent explains, the shootings strike at a core principle of Western culture.

EDMONTON – For nearly 30 years at the Edmonton Journal, cartoonist Malcolm Mayes has been interpreting the news of the day through his editorial cartoons. They are witty, honest, and in some cases, heartbreaking.

Every day Mayes must seek out inspiration. On Wednesday it wasn’t hard to find.  Mayes does the same work as the French cartoonists who were murdered when gunmen burst into the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris. In the end, eight journalists, two police officers, a maintenance worker and a visitor were killed and 11 people were wounded, four of them critically.

WATCH: Gord Steinke sits down with Malcolm Mayes to talk about the Paris attack and how he will respond.

In light of the attack, Mayes daughter reached out to her father, fearing for his safety.

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“She sent me a text warning me of what happened and saying ‘stay away from the topic.’ I reassured her that I wouldn’t stay away from the topic, but I would watch my back,” says Mayes, adding that there are always going to be people offended by political cartoons. He refuses to be bulled or intimidated, saying changing his style would defeat the purpose of his work.

“I’ll keep doing the same idea as I would’ve done.

“Because as soon as a cartoonist self censors, he’s no longer a political cartoonist. You lose your voice, you lose your effectiveness.”

Mayes used the metaphor, “the pen is mightier than the sword,” as his inspiration for Thursday’s cartoon.

Political cartoon by the Edmonton Journal’s Malcolm Mayes. “Automatic weapons prove mightier than the pen in Charlie Hebdo attack.”
Political cartoon by the Edmonton Journal’s Malcolm Mayes. “Automatic weapons prove mightier than the pen in Charlie Hebdo attack.”. Malcolm Mayes , Edmonton Journal

“A little boy asks his mother, ‘isn’t the pen mightier than the sword?’ And the mother replies, ‘the terrorists use automatic weapons these days.’ It acknowledges the fact that sometimes the terrorists can win,” he says.

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Mayes isn’t the only one tackling the issue. In the wake of the attack, Political cartoonists and illustrators around the world have been sharing their responses to the mass killings.

IN PICTURES: Political cartoonists respond to Charlie Hebdo attack

The images and the reaction of the international community stand out for Peter Roccia, a communications professor at MacEwan University. He feels journalists are reacting to the terrorist attack in several ways: as a human feeling empathy for another human, and as a journalist feeling their profession is under attack.

“I think journalists are reacting to it from an ideological standpoint. Because freedom of expression or freedom of speech, however you couch it, is something that is fundamental to journalistic practice.

Messages of condolence, outrage and defiance spread quickly around the world Wednesday with thousands of people taking to the streets to protest the killings and using the slogan “Je Suis Charlie” on social media, which translates in English to “I am Charlie.”

“I think the demonstrations that are going on in Paris on the streets, the vigils, the people holding up their pencils as a symbol of their support, I think that in some ways the attack- or the response to it – is a wave of re-affirmation of power of freedom of expression,” says Roccia.

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On Thursday, newspapers from around the world paid tribute to those who were killed. Many printed Charlie cartoons on the front page, or ran homages in show of support — while some ran images of the deadly rampage.

PHOTOS: Newspaper front pages pay tribute to Charlie Hebdo day after Paris attack #JeSuisCharlie

Mayes says he will keep on working the way he always has, although now with a heavier heart.

“These are just average guys out there. They’re pushing the limits of free speech, but that’s what they do. My heart goes out to them.”

With files from Fletcher Kent

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