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Charlie Hebdo reveals first cover since attack: A ‘prophet Muhammad’ caricature, crying behind the sign, ‘Je suis Charlie’

LAST WEEK, upon celebrating his birthday, the longtime Charlie Hebdo cartoonist “Luz” was running late for an editorial meeting at the French satirical weekly’s Paris offices. By the time he got there, masked gunmen had killed 12 people, including five of his cartooning friends and colleagues. Because Luz was born on Jan. 7, he was a survivor.

This week, Charlie Hebdo is publishing what it is reportedly calling “the survivors’ issue.” The cover is illustrated, perhaps fittingly, by Luz.

It was “Luz” who in 2011 responded to a firebombing of the publication’s offices by drawing a Charlie Hebdo artist kissing a Muslim man — in a direct attempt at returning fire through a cartoon instead of a cannon. On that cover then were the words: “L’Amour plus fort que la haine (love is stronger than hate).”

For Wednesday’s issue, Renald Luzier, who goes by the pen name “Luz,” has again responded to an attack with a common phrase and a provocative image for his cover. Pictured is a caricature confirmed by French media to be the Islamic prophet Muhammad, shedding a tear and holding a sign that — invoking the global rallying cry — reads: “Je suis Charlie” (beneath the words “Tout est pardonne” — All is forgiven).

The staff of Charlie Hebdo is working to release the satirical paper's first issue since 10 of their colleagues were killed in an Islamist attack. (Video: Reuters)

Monday’s cover reveal comes the day after an estimated 1.5-million people, including numerous world leaders, marched in Paris in a record show of unity — as “Christians, atheists, Jews and Muslims stood side by side, sending up shouts of ‘Charlie, Charlie, freedom of speech!’ ” according to The Post.

“Now, after the deaths, the shoot-outs, the violence, everything has changed,” Luz said in an interview with the French culture magazine Les Inrockuptibles. “All eyes are on us, we’ve become a symbol, just like our cartoons.”

Charlie Hebdo, with support from the French government and other French publications, including Libération, plans to publish at least 1 million copies of the edition, and perhaps as many as three times that — a huge spike from its usual run of about 60,000.

Update: In an interview with Isabelle Hanne of Liberation, Luz, after initial reluctance, explained his art:

“With this cover, we wanted to show that at any given moment, we have the right to do anything, to redo anything, and to use our characters the way we want to. Mohammed has become a character, in spite of himself, a character in the news, because there are people who speak on his behalf. This is a cover aimed at intelligent people, who are much more numerous than you think, whether they’re atheists, Catholics, Muslims. … “

[BENEATH THE COVERS: The personal story behind the New Yorker’s somber Charlie Hebdo cover]

[REMEMBRANCE: Muslim cartoonist in Malaysia urges making Jan. 7 “World Cartoonists Day" as tribute]

[A PERSONAL LINE: What cartoonists think about expression and extremism]

[CHARLIE HEBDO: In their words and works, American cartoonists hail slain artists as ‘heroes’]

[THE FIRESTARTER: Danish editor who commissioned Muhammad cartoons in 2005 speaks from a decade’s perspective]

French authorities launched a massive dragnet this week following the massacre at the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. Here are the key moments so far. (Video: Jorge Ribas/The Washington Post)