Comic Book / Barbe-Rouge

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The Demon of the Caribbean

Barbe-Rouge ("Red Beard") is an action-adventure French comic set in the 18th century. It follows the adventures of the adopted son of the eponymous pirate, Eric, as he progressively quit the criminal life of his adopted family and instead becomes a French corsair. He is usually accompanied by his trusty acolytes, the strong Baba and the wise Triple-Pattes; Barbe-Rouge himself is often absent from the stories.

The series was created by writer Jean-Michel Charlier and artist Victor Hubinon (of Buck Danny fame) for the launch of the Pilote magazine; it survived that series by decades. When Hubinon died after the 18th album, Joseph "Jijé" Gillain (a noted comics veteran) and his son took over the art, until Jijé's death a few years later. The series then alternated between artists Christian Gaty and Patrice Pellerin, until Gaty definitely took over. When Charlier himself died, he was succeeded by Jean Ollivier, and then by Christian Perrissin. The series is currently on hiatus.

In France, this series is widely heralded as an adventure classic, with intricate plots and impressive historical research. Abroad, the characters are mainly known for their spoof cameos in Astérix (its writer, René Goscinny, was a friend of Charlier's, and they co-founded Pilote together).


Barbe-Rouge provides examples of:

  • Art Shift: The transition from the clean style of Victor Hubinon to the messier style of Jijé and then Gary) was rather striking. And then there were the completely different-looking adventures drawn by Pellerin...
  • The Ace: Barbe-Rouge and Eric are incredibly competent sailors. Anybody seeing them in action can only marvel at their nautical expertise, even when they are their enemies. Both are also master strategists and impeccable fighters, be it with a sword, a gun, or their fists.
  • Bittersweet Ending: In one of the first books, Eric, who was trying to live a honest life and take courses at the London Naval Academy under the guise of a noble Portuguese youth, decides to rescue his captured father at the cost of blowing his cover. He succeeds, but he has to flee London as a fugitive without having completed his diploma.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Even though the books feature plenty of battles with swords and firearms, very little blood is ever shown, at least during Hubinon's run. Particularly glaring are the bladed weapons, which are spotless after a fight.
  • Captain Colorbeard: The titular character is known as Captain Redbeard.
  • Cool Boat: The various iterations of the Faucon Noir ("Black Falcon"), Barbe-Rouge's ship, are described with detailed diagrams to show how awesome they are. Of particular note is the version Barbe-Rouge built after spending a sizeable part of his considerable treasure, and contains anything a pirate could dream of, such as being much faster than any other ship while being crewed by a Skeleton Crew due to an advanced system of ropes, primitive machineguns and flamethrowers, and two huge cannons able to fire at a considerable distance. Too bad they need to sacrifice it by the end of the story.
  • Corrupt Church: Most of the priest characters are associated with the Spanish, who are invariably bad guys. Some of the the later ones are full-blown Smug Snakes, and/or belong to the Inquisition. Their motives are always money- or power-related.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Triple-Pattes hides an incredible amount of stuff in his cane and peg leg.
  • Damsel in Distress: Several.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Barbe-Rouge apparently suffered terrible injustices in his youth, which caused him to embrace his life of piracy. Very little is known of what actually happened, though some later books (written after Charlier's death) give more details on the subject.
  • Downer Ending: The first books, which detail separate adventures of Eric trying to live a honest life, usually end up badly for him. For instance, one of them ends with his corrupt cousin destroying all proofs of his (true) noble heritage, robbing him of any other identity than Barbe-Rouge's son, while another has him become a galley slave after having been betrayed as the son of Barbe-Rouge while he was trying to fulfil his duty to his employers. He does get better and the later books end up on more positive notes.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: A common tactic.
  • The Dulcinea Effect: Eric. To the point that it sometimes exploited by the villains.
  • Great Escape: A common plot, our protagonists being mostly criminals (or at least wanted in several countries, without counting the rival pirates).
  • Honor Before Reason: Eric has this in spades. Half of his problems come from him trying to do the right thing even if it means getting captured as a result.
  • Morality Pet: Eric acts as this for Barbe Rouge, who was much more blood thirsty and implacable before the start of the comic. Eric rejecting his adoptive father lifestyle led Barbe Rouge to partly giving up piracy and most of his murderous ways.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Eric suffers a lot of this during his early adventures, as all his attempts to live a honest life tend to explode in his face as soon as his heritage gets known, which sometimes happens because he was trying to help people.
  • Papa Wolf: Barbe Rouge is known in-universe to be ready to get through Hell to save his adopted son Eric. Some villains use this to trap him. On the other hand, Barbe Rouge is one of the most fearsome pirate alive.
  • Pirate: Duh.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Averted: Barbe-Rouge's crew do lots of real pirating, hence his nickname of "Demon of the Caraibes". On the other hand, Eric has chosen the slightly more legal job of corsair.
  • Plucky Middie: The cabin boy in some of the early stories.
  • The Professor: Triple-Pattes.
  • Rape, Pillage, and Burn: Barbe-Rouge's modus operandi. Minus the "rape" part, because he's (mostly) a gentleman and there was no way to get this past the censors anyway.
  • Rated M for Manly
  • Red Shirt Army: the pirate/corsair crews often get reduced to only the main characters at the plot progresses.
  • Renaissance Man: Triple-Pattes knows a dozen languages, is an accomplished physician, and has at least cursory knowledge in most sciences.
  • Right Under Their Noses: A very common tactic of our heroes. Sometimes suicidal, often very, very effective.
  • Scary Black Man: Baba (though mostly a Gentle Giant, at least towards Eric)
  • Secondary Character Title: The actual protagonist of the series is Eric, Barbe-Rouge's adopted son. Barbe-Rouge himself is absent from half the stories.
  • Skeleton Crew: The Flying Dutchman.
  • Slave Galley: Happens to both Eric and Baba in the same adventure.
  • Sociopathic Hero: Barbe-Rouge
  • Storming the Castle: Half the stories revolve around this plot. A few of them inverted it by having our heroes as the defenders.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Eric's first attempts at living a honest life all end up horribly badly for him. He first tries to follow courses at the London Naval Academy under the guise of a noble Portuguese, but needs to blow up his cover and flee to save his captured father. He then attempts to recover his true heritage of a noble (and very wealthy Frenchman), but his corrupt cousin destroys all proofs of his claims to the title. He then manages to become captain of a merchant ship, but becomes victim of a mutiny once his identity is known, ending up with him becoming a galley slave. Things get better for him after that.
  • Treasure Map: A few stories revolve around either those or Pirate Booty.
  • Walk the Plank: Mostly in early stories.
  • Wooden Ships and Iron Men: The setting.

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