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Comic Book / Les Tuniques Bleues

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Sergeant Chesterfield (on horseback) and Corporal Blutch (dismounted) after a battle.

Les Tuniques Bleues (The Bluecoats, 1968-) is a Belgian French-language comic set during The American Civil War. It follows the adventures of two soldiers, the brave but dim-witted Sergeant Cornelius Chesterfield, and his sidekick, the cowardly but clever Corporal Blutch. Unlike Sgt. Chesterfield, Blutch is not particularly keen on the war, and is mainly interested in getting through it alive. This results in no end of bickering between the two, and Chesterfield often dragging Blutch to battle at gunpoint.

The strips have begun to be translated into English; one collection came out under the title of The Blue Tunics, but after the publisher folded, Cinebook continued with the title The Bluecoats.


The comic contains examples of:

  • The Alcatraz: Robertsonville Prison. It is inspired by the actual Andersonville Prison, which was much worse in reality.
  • Alcohol-Induced Stupidity: How Blutch and Chesterfield joined the army.
  • The Alleged Expert: The guide hired to lead our heroes to a prospector who has left his fortune to the South.
  • The American Civil War: The setting for most of the pair's adventures.
  • Angry Black Man: Black Face, who finds the Northerners not much better than the enslaving Southerners, and leads a Black riot.
  • Armchair Military: General Alexander is competent but has shade of this. The worst offender being Captain Stilman, who never leaves his armchair. On one occasion, he suggested waiting after the battle to pay the troops, expecting to save money due to high losses. Though he later develops as the smartest among the high command.
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  • Artistic License – Military: Characters are often shown saluting or presenting arms in the French manner, which is not authentic for American soldiers.
  • Attack! Attack! Attack!: Stark only knows one tactic: "CHAAAAARRRRGGEEEEE!!!"
  • Attractive Bent-Gender: Completely averted. In the Robertsonville Prison story, Blutch and Chesterfield dress as women in order to escape the camp. The guards are shocked by how ugly they look.
  • Bad Habits: In El Padre, Chesterfield dresses up as a Catholic monk while stranded South of the Border. He and Blutch find themselves conducting a mass even though neither has ever set foot in a Catholic church and has any idea how to proceed; fortunately for them, the parishioners take it in stride.
  • Big Damn Heroes: In Rumberley, when Chesterfield and Blutch are cut off and surrounded by overwhelming numbers of Confederates, a wounded Captain Stark rallies the wounded men who were previously evacuated, gets them mounted, and charges to their rescue.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Every war scene like the one picture above.
  • Blood Knight: Captain Stark.
  • Canada, Eh?: In L'Or du Québec, the pair are sent to retrieve a stash of gold willed by a French-Canadian prospector to the Confederate government, competing with a pair of Confederate soldiers sent to do the same.
  • Carnival of Killers: One story has the pair recruit from a prison camp. They end up with a horsethief (and horseeater), a blind knifethrower and the accomplice who tells him where to aim, a chinese man obsessed with martial arts who kills anyone coming close with his bare hands, and a nutjob preacher who starts building his visionary cathedral anytime he's in the same place for more than five minutes and strangles anyone he perceives as "heretic".
  • Cavalry Officer: The comic is about two cavalrymen both in the Wild West and during the Civil War. The only one who's really typical is Captain Stark, who knows how to do one thing only ("CHAAAAAAAARRRGGGEEEEE!!!"), much to the dismay of his underlings (he once led a charge with a grand total of three men including himself). He also refuses to speak to people on foot, was found straddling a cannon on one occasion where his horse was missing, an has only once been seen fleeing battle, and that was because there was a wildfire sweeping across the battlefield.
  • Charlie Brown Baldness: Blutch barely seems to have more than a few strands of hair on his head, but he is never called bald.
  • Colonel Kilgore: Captain Stark.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Many characters can act like this from time to time, but Blutch is a master of it.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: Blutch and Chesterfield dress as Confederate soldiers in Le David.
  • Easy Amnesia: Faked by Blutch in an attempt to be discharged.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Many instances.
    • At the end of the album Black Face, Captain Stilman, of all people, stands up to General Alexander when he wants to have Blutch and Chesterfield executed for transforming a false-flag operation into a farce. All of Alexander's officers think that they've taken that sordid operation too far, but Stilman is the only one who voices his objection.
    • Confederate troops get ready to ambush a civilian camp guarded by Union soldiers, but when they hear a woman screaming, they charge thinking she's being tortured. Turns out Chesterfield was helping with a Screaming Birth. The soldiers call a truce for everyone to get back in position, look awkwardly at each other, and both keep going their separate ways.
    • When a fifteen-year-old drummer boy is discovered to be a Confederate spy (passing messages via his drum), the general staff all look uncomfortably at each other as none of them want to be responsible for ordering his execution. Fortunately, Blutch is able to arrange his evasion via his older brother, on the promise that the kid stay away from the army.
    • When a photographer starts making increasingly outlandish pictures, falsely painting the soldier life as a neverending merriment, and with full authority from Washington to do as he pleases, everyone from the soldiers to the high command is horrified by the prospect of thousand of youngsters taking the arms thinking its all flowers and laughter while it is NOT. To the point that General Alexander secretly orders Blutch to put an end to this charade. Chesterfied, who went along despite Blutch's goading (out of boot-licking and the prospect of a rise in rank), ends up joining his efforts when even he can no longer take it.
  • Exotic Weapon Supremacy: One episode revolves around using camels as a possible addition to the cavalry. Thanks to an asshole officer, they end up in Confederate hands where they're instrumental in the Union defeat. The officer is defeated, while Blutch convinces the camels' handler to run before his animals get killed.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Being assigned in Captain Stark's company is often considered as such. Considering that he has ordered a charge when his company consisted of him, Blutch, and Chesterfield... In one story, Blutch and Chesterfield are touring the prisons trying to recruit prisoners. One is about to be hanged when Chesterfield gives his speech. The guy then tells the hangmen to get on with it. Turns out he'd deserted from Stark's company.
    • In one album, a wronged Indian chief angrily asks why Colonel Appletown hasn't punished the culprits as he promised. Learning that they have been assigned to the 22th of cavalry, he answers that he wasn't asking for such a harsh punishment, and thought that the colonel would just have them shot.
  • Fiery Redhead: Chesterfield, who has the biggest Hair-Trigger Temper among the two heroes.
  • Flanderization: Captain Stark's determinator attitude increased to ludicrous levels with the ongoing series; he started as a ruthless soldier to some sort of "war autist", whose language skills are limited to CHAAAAARGE! and who sleeps on the back on his horse between two battles. Granted that he has been shot to near-death so many times, he might be brain damaged by now. Confirmed in a recent album, in which it's revealed that he took a shrapnel in the head in a Confederate ambush.
  • Friendly Enemy: In Rumberley, Stark and a Confederate cavalry officer take advantage of a lull in the fighting to have a drink and share war stories.
    • In other, untranslated albums, this is a frequent occurrence. Often the soldiers on both sides find out that the other side is actually the same.
    • At one point, Chesterfield and Blutch are assigned to a battalion who had taken their women and kids with them. A group of Confederate soldiers have shown up to fight. Because Chesterfield has to help a woman with her birth giving (long story) the soldiers decided to wait with the fight after finding out what was going on until he is done. At the end, Chesterfield comes to negotiate telling the soldiers on the other side he and his guys don't want to shoot them up anymore. The Confederate Officer answer his guys aren't looking forward to it neither.
  • Frozen in Time: 50+ albums and counting set in the 4-year period of the Civil War.
  • Glory Seeker: Chesterfield, through and through. His conviction that War Is Glorious is the source of endless debates with (and barrels of snarks at his expense by) Blutch.
  • Grey-and-Grey Morality: Neither side is shown as having the moral upper hand. General Alexander even admits that abolishing slavery is a very secondary reason for the war, compared to taking back the South's natural resources.
  • Hate Sink: Major Ransack is an utter bastard who makes General Alexander and Captain Stilman and Captain Stark look good by comparison. The guy treats his men like expandable pawns, forcing them to work until exhaustion. He's condescending towards everyone and a textbook Entitled Bastard. He's also a war criminal, who plunders the houses of the families of the Confederates and even kills women and children.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Chesterfield and Blutch are inseparable, for all their quarreling (not for lack of trying on Blutch's part).
  • Historical Domain Character: President Lincoln, General Lee and other historical figures have cameos.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • As mentioned, Blutch trained his mare Arabesque to play dead on hearing the order to charge. When Stilman recognizes the horse by doing exactly that, Blutch's disguise falls apart rather quickly.
    • General Alexander holds a briefing to explain the battle plan, then orders Blutch and Chesterfield to recite, then sends them on patrol where they are quickly caught. Alexander changes his plan, expecting the two to give up and reveal the fake first plan. Blutch spills the beans so quickly (helpfully pointing out weak spots) the Confederate commander is suspicious and has Chesterfield tortured. Chesterfield, of course, refuses to give in until even the Confederates are sickened/admirative. Chesterfield then gives in... revealing a battleplan he made up. Which, of course, turns out to be Alexander's real plan, leading to a Union defeat.
  • Hopeless Suitor: Chesterfield is head over heels in love with miss Amélie, Colonel Appeltown's gorgeous daughter, but he never dared declare his flame. In earlier albums, she treated him with utter contempt, but she is much friendlier in the following ones. There is even some slight Ship Tease in later ones.
  • Hunter Trapper: Blutch and Chesterfield use one as a guide into the Canadian forest. In a subversion of the trope, that particular hunter trapper is totally clueless about survival in the wild, and makes mistake upon mistake.
  • The Hyena: Mathias in Outlaw. He is constantly laughing at things. Even when he is gravely wounded and on the verge of dying.
  • Identical Stranger: In Les Bleus en Folie, Blutch meets a middle-aged soldier who has a son, Barnaby, who looks exactly like him. Barnaby lost his mind after being exposed to an explosion and was sent to an asylum, where he became a shut-in only able to salute and say "Yes Sir." He gets better in the end, with Blutch's help.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: The kid in Drummer Boy is found out and sent to jail to await execution by firing squad. As no-one in high command really wants to be the one who ordered a teenager's execution, Blutch arranges for the boy's Confederate brother to mount a rescue mission, beating seven kinds of crap out of Chesterfield in the process.
  • Insane Equals Violent: Surprisingly averted in Les Bleus en Folie. The mentally ill patients of the asylum are harmless and more prone to act child-like or just quietly keeping to themselves. The most violent one gets is yelling "Charge!" and pretending to lead a troop of soldiers.
  • Internalized Categorism: Stark does not consider anyone a soldier if they're not riding a horse.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Chesterfield is overbearing, abrasive and a bit too sycophantic towards superiors, but count on him to do the right thing at the end. While nicer, Blutch can be this as well.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: "Captain Stark would rather get cut to pieces than retreat before the enemy, but he won't argue when there's a wildfire."
  • Last-Name Basis: This being the Army, characters are adressed by their family name when the military grades are not used. The exception being Blutch whose name is just... Blutch.
  • Line-of-Sight Name: Why is it just Blutch? He was a Doorstop Baby found and raised by a heavy drunkard, who didn't look very far for something to call his new kid. It sounds like a sound a baby would make because that's exactly what it is.
  • Lovable Coward: Blutch. He trained his horse to fall down as though fatally hit by a bullet whenever she hears CHAAAAAARGE!, Captain Stark's Catchphrase. However, he is regularly seen performing acts of great bravery, and for all his talk of deserting, he hasn't yet made a serious attempt at fleeing (though this might have to do with Chesterfield always being in hot pursuit). He did at least once, by staging a fake wedding with one of the camp nurses.
  • Long-Lost Relative: In later albums, Blutch discovers he has a twin brother. The reason why it isn't known so much was due No Export for You. It only happened in the later Dutch and French albums. Hilarity Ensues when the characters find out that Blutch brother is a child by a chief of the Comanches. Chesterfield even got jealous when Blutch and his brother walks together without saying a word to each other.
  • The Mole:
    • A woman is sent to infiltrate Union forces in Les Bleus dans la gadoue.
    • The title character of Drummer Boy is a Confederate informant.
    • In Le David, Chesterfield and Blutch take on cover identities as disabled Confederate soldiers to gather intelligence on a submarine the CSA navy has built.
    • In Who Wants to Kill the General?, the sudist have implanted one among the federates to kill General Grant. It's Captain Stilman, though only because his beloved sister is held hostage.
  • Native Guide:
    • Subverted. A prospector in Canada wants to send his fortune to the South, so Blutch and Chesterfield are sent to convince him not to. They hire a coureur des bois to take them to the prospector, only to discover that he's anything but. Once they finally reach the prospector, the Confederates are there as well, having hired the coureur's equally inept brother. The prospector learns of their efforts and dies of laughter, since it turned out the brothers had been lost in the forest for years and had just gotten out. In the end the six are rescued by natives before all the game is scared away by their antics.
    • Played Sraight whenever Silver Feather, the native enrolled in Fort Bow, has to lead the characters in a tribe. Fortunately for them, he is very competent.
  • The Neidermeyer: Some albums feature high-ranking officers so inept, obnoxious and self-aggrandizing that Stilman at his worst is a model in comparison. Their troops often have a derisive nickname for them. General McClellan "Little Mac" and Major Ransack being the most despicable. There is even an album in which General Grant is trying to dismiss an entire group of them. They all end up decimated by the Ax-Crazy of the bunch.
  • Noble Confederate Soldier: Expect many of them in a Grey-and-Gray Morality settings.
  • Obfuscating Disability: When the pair dress up as a wheelchair-bound and a blind pair of veterans. They get caught when Blutch addresses General Lee by rank when he's supposed to be blind.
  • Only One Name: Corporal Blutch never receives a first name.
  • Only Sane Man: Corporal Blutch.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: General Alexander might be an Armchair Military, but he does care about his troops. He is always greatly dismayed to see how bad things are turning out or how many have died in each battles, and many an album focuses on his attempts to ease things around for his troops. He does have several very dickish moves, but most of the time he is quite fond of Blutch and Chesterfied and has saved their hide more than once. The rest of his high command is the same, even Stilman deep, deep, deep down.
  • Red-Headed Hero: Chesterfield.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Chesterfield and Blutch, respectively. Chesterfield is a by-the-rules soldier who is prone to get angry and violent, while Blutch is an opportunistic slacker who always tries to find a way to avoid fighting.
  • Running Gag: Blutch finding ways to escape, occasionally with Chesterfield already being there to prevent it.
  • Shown Their Work: A great deal of the background detail is authentic, and the events in the strip often follow real Civil War events, with the addition of Sgt. Chesterfield and Cpl. Blutch.
  • The Smart Guy: Despite never getting closer than a mile from the battlefield, Captain Stilman is definitely this in the high command, coming out with many a clever plan or a good suggestion. He is even the one who recognizes Blutch and Chesterfield disguised as siamese twins in a circus for hiding and unmasks them. There has to be a reason why he is in said high command in the first place after all...
  • South of the Border: El Padre takes place in Mexico.
  • Spiteful Suicide: A minor variation. Chesterfield is going around a prison camp to recruit men for the cavalry in exchange for a lighter sentence. He gives the job offer to a man whose neck is already in the noose, who then tells the executioners to get on with it. Chesterfield is then told the man had been sentenced to death for desertion from the cavalry.
  • Staging the Eavesdrop: One story has a Southern teenager join the Union army as a spy and get caught. Blutch goes into the Rebel camp and arranges a plan with the kid's older brother. The brother is imprisoned in the Union camp (guarded by Blutch), then Chesterfield goes in to come up with an escape plan, LOUDLY REPEATING WHAT THEY'RE GOING TO NEED SUCH AS FILES AND HORSES for Blutch's benefit. The whole thing succeeds, not least of all because no one in the Union camp wanted to be part of a fifteen-year-old's execution.
  • Status Quo Is God: At the end of Les hommes de pailles, the two protagonists desert the army when they are about to be executed. The are rehabilitated by the next album.
  • The Stoic: Captain Stilman is completely imperturbable, always sipping a drink through a straw in a confortable chair. Much, MUCH less so when his sister becomes infatuated with Captain Stark of all people, resisting all his efforts to convince her otherwise.
  • Sweet on Polly Oliver: One story had a large, brutal man dress up like a battleaxe nurse, using Tough Love and vigorous kill-or-cure treatments. Stark fell in love, and even proposed.
  • Those Two Guys: Blutch and Chesterfield in their occasional cameos in other Dupuis works (such as Lucky Luke).
  • Took a Level in Kindness: In his first apparitions, Captain Stilman (yes him again) was an appaling example of Armchair Military, cynical and elitist, treating the troops as expendable (though with notable Black Humor) and The Friend Nobody Likes of the high command. In later albums, he remains cynical but grows shades of Reasonable Authority Figure and becomes The Smart Guy.
  • Twin Switch: In Les Bleus en Folie, although Barnaby is an Identical Stranger and not his twin. Blutch switches place with Barnaby at an asylum so that his father can attempt to bring him back to reason, however Blutch has trouble escaping, despite having the advantage of being sane-minded.
  • Villainous Breakdown:
    • The last of Chesterfield and Blutch's attempts at escaping his prison is too much to handle for the Lieutenant in charge of Robertsonville. He ends the album crying and sobbing at the bottom of a hole.
    • General Alexander has a minor one in the album Black Face when his false-flag operation turns into a farce because all the bodies were completely naked. It gets worse when he realizes who are the ones responsible.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Blutch and Chesterfied are this, as per tradition in many Belgian comic books. They snark at each other like there is no tomorrow and can be downright mean to one another, but while they would never admit it, they are very close friends.
  • Volleying Insults: About two thirds of Blutch's and Chesterfield's interraction. One thinks that War Is Glorious and dreams of rising in ranks, and the other thinks that War Is Hell and dreams of his civilian life back, so this is bound to happen.
  • War Is Hell: It isn't dwelt on as much as it would be in some other works, but wounded and dead men are shown as a matter of course. An In-Universe example also occurs, when a photographer is hired to take pictures of the military to boost enlistment rates. The Washington Armchair General behind the operation is angry that most of the pictures are of dead bodies and awkwardly-posed men.
  • Wardens Are Evil: The Prison of Robertsonville is guarded by a sadistic warden, Cancrelat (which means "Roach"), who becomes a recurring villain and the closest to an Arch-Enemy. He shows up in Les Bleus en Folie, having become lethargic and shut-in like most of the mentally injured soldiers. His presence makes Southern soldiers believe the asylum is run by the Confederates.
  • We Have Reserves: Stark is cynically profligate with his men's lives. As a result, his favorite tactic (in fact his only one) is to charge straight into enemy lines.
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: Chesterfield and Blutch signed up for military service during a night of excessive drinking. The next morning, Blutch made the first of his many attempts at desertion, while Chesterfield took it in stride.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: Blue Retro introduces Chesterfield and Blutch before they knew each other, and reveals how they joined the army.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: The only thing that has prevented Stark from charging the enemy lines (including hospitalization) is a wildfire.
  • Wild West: The series started out as a Western, before Blutch and Chesterfield got transferred back to the main theater of the war, and returns there every so often.
  • Worthy Opponent: General Lee is pictured in a positive light.