Charlie Hebdo Cartoonist Renald Luzier, known professionally as Luz, has quit the magazine that inspired a world-wide movement for free-speech after Islamist militants gunned down 12 of his colleagues.
In fact, it was Luzier who drew the iconic cartoon that followed the massacre – a crying Mohammad holding the sign that would become a chant for Hebdo supporters – “Je suis Charlie,” Reuters reported.
But months as the Charlie‘s only cartoonist, media pressure, stress and a need to rebuild his life following the attack, have led him to part ways with the publication, Agence France-Presse added.
“The time came when it was just all too much to bear. There was next to nobody to draw the cartoons. I ended up doing three or every four front-pages. …Each issue is torture because the others are gone. Spending sleepless nights summoning the dead, wondering what Charb, Cabu, Honore, Tignous would have done is exhausting.”
Charb, Cabu, Honore and Tignous refer to his colleages at Charlie Hebdo, who were killed on Jan. 7 by Islamists angry at its portrayal of Islam; the magazine is known for its religious and political criticism. The rest of the survivors now live under police protection, including his colleagues at other newspapers. He did not indicate that he’d been targeted by Islamists since the shooting.
On that fateful day in January, Luz was late to work, missing the two gunmen who brutally shot his co-workers, including five cartoonists, CNN added. Ever since, he’s thought of leaving: being a survivor, and given hero status by the media, has led to extreme pressure.
He’s also hinted that inspiration has been elusive since and he’s lost interest in “returning to normal life as a news cartoonist.”
“We’re not heroes, we never were and we never wanted to be,” he explained. He stuck around, dealing with scrutiny from the media earned only because he survived the attack, to “continue in solidarity, to let nobody down. Except that at one point, it was too much to bear.”
Charlie Hebdo has suffered some serious upheaval, which Luz said is not connected to his departure. Before the attack, it was an ad-free niche journal facing bankruptcy, but afterward, became a global presence selling millions of copies and newly enriched with $4.8 million in donations, the Wall Street Journal added.
Since then, tensions inside the magazine have grown – management suspended a columnist, staff have argued for equal ownership and accused leadership for hiding its plans for the donations (they claim it will go to the victims).
For Luz, the choice to leave Hebdo is a “very personal choice” that will help him “to rebuild, to take back control”of himself.
“You don’t know anymore which Luz you are speaking for. The one born on Jan. 7, 1972 or the one that was born for France on the 7th of January 2015.”
[Photos Courtesy Aurelien Meunier, David Ramos/Getty Images]