by ROB ROGERS (courtesy of Rob Rogers/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)

“THESE SATIRISTS are heroes.”

So says Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Mike Peters, in response to Wednesday’s attack by masked gunmen on the editorial offices of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo that left 12 dead, including editor-in-chief Stephane Charbonnier (aka “Charb”) and the cartoonists known as Cabu, Tignous and Wolinski.

“I read a quote this morning from the editor of Charlie Hebdo,” Peters tells The Post’s Comic Riffs, referring to Charbonnier. “Some months ago, [a French leader] asked him not to satirize Muhammad, and he said: ‘I prefer to die standing up than live on my knees.’ ”

“Free speech is being tested,” continues Peters, of the Dayton Daily News. “My father-in-law [Dean Paul Connole of Washington University] used to say, ‘If people would just be who they say they are, this world would be so much better.’ We’re satirists. Stand up and be satirists.”

[EXPRESSION VS. EXTREMISM: Every true satirist makes a personal decision about where to draw the line]

Signe Wilkinson, the Pulitzer-winning political cartoonist for Philly.com (for which she wrote an eloquent editorial today), points to the tragic absurdity of responding to satirical cartoons with violence. “Cartoons don’t kill people. Humorless fanatics kill people,” she tells Comic Riffs. “Clearly, there’s nothing funny about a strict Islamist State.”

And the Pulitzer-winning cartoonist Art Spiegelman (“Maus,” “In the Shadow of No Towers”) tells Comic Riffs: “Cartoonists lives matter! And the right to insult, defame, snigger and flip the bird ought [to] be up there with the other four freedoms.”

The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists released a statement condemning the attack and supporting Charlie Hebdo:

“The gruesome attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris, France today reminds us that freedom of expression is cartooning is not a given in many parts of the world. Charlie Hebdo was also attacked in 2011, and continued to publish. The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists condemns this revolting act of violence, and stands with the international cartooning community in mourning the loss of twelve people, including several police officers who were executed.

“President Hollande has called this an act of terrorism, and whether it was the work of those merely inspired by ISIS or those given direct orders doesn’t matter. Cartoonists and journalists around the world should be permitted to express themselves freely without fear of reprisal. These types of attacks only serve to illustrate how important the free spirit of cartoon commentary is, and how cartoonists make a difference in helping to expose hypocrisy.

“Furthermore, newspapers should not avoid publishing material from the magazine that allegedly incited the incident. More freedom of expression and not less demonstrates courage in the face of attacks. Shrinking from a newspaper’s watchdog role only encourages more terror.

“The AAEC board and membership expresses its sincere condolences to the innocent victims at this tragic moment, and calls for international solidarity with the cause of
cartooning and freedom of artistic expression.”

And the Cartoonists Rights International Network said, in part, in its statement:

“The staff and Board of Directors of Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI) are horrified by the attack against the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Our hearts and thoughts are with the survivors and the families of those whose lives were taken in this senseless act of weakness. … CRNI stands with all people who revere free speech and democracy against this shameful and futile act of violence. The gunmen chose a moment when the staff were apparently all together in a planning meeting. Reports say that stronger police protection had been in place but was reduced a number of weeks ago.”

CRNI also urged “political cartoonists of all stripes and political persuasions all over the world to make their opinions about free speech and this particular attack known. We encourage the world’s press to show their support for free speech by republishing the very cartoons that caused this attack.”

Update: The National Cartoonists Society (NCS) also released a statement in reaction, saying:

“The National Cartoonist Society condemns the barbaric terrorist attack against Charlie Hebdo, and our hearts go out to the cartoonists, satirists, their families, and all of France. This was the work of insecure cowards who apparently fear their religion is so weak that it can’t withstand criticism, and who must fear the God they purport to worship isn’t big enough, strong enough, or wise enough to take a joke. The NCS would like to point out these three criminals do not represent the religion of Islam, but are murderers taking lives of their own accord.

“We stand with the brave cartoonists and journalists, and we stand with their families, because an attack on free speech anywhere is an attack on free speech everywhere.”

How more American cartoonists responded to the attack by taking up the pen:

ROBERT ARIAIL (Universal Uclick):

(ROBERT ARIAIL/Universal Uclick)
(ROBERT ARIAIL/Universal Uclick)

MIKE LUCKOVICH (Atlanta Journal Constitution):


(MIKE LUCKOVICH/Atlanta Journal Constitution)

DARRIN BELL (WPWG):


(DARRIN BELL/WPWG)

JEFF DANZIGER (NYTS/CWS):


(Jeff Danziger/NYTS/CWS)

STEVE BREEN (U-T San Diego):


(courtesy of Steve Breen/U-T San Diego)

TOM TOLES (The Washington Post):


(Tom Toles/The Washington Post/Universal Uclick)

MICHAEL RAMIREZ (Investors Business Daily):


(Michael Ramirez/Investors Business Daily)

ANN TELNAES (The Washington Post):


(Ann Telnaes/The Washington Post)

MARSHALL RAMSEY (The [Miss.] Clarion Ledger):


(Marshall Ramsey/The Clarion Ledger, Miss.)

And here is video of Stephane “Charb” Charbonnier, from a 2012 interview with CRNI editor Drew Rougier-Chapman: