These two paper toys are Sergent Cornélius M. Chesterfield and Caporal Blutch, two main characters from The Bluecoats (Les Tuniques Bleues). The papercraft is from the original website. Les Tuniques Bleues is a Belgian series of bandes dessinées, first featured in Spirou and later published by Dupuis. Created by Louis Salverius, the series was taken up by artist Willy Lambillotte and writer Raoul Cauvin. It follows two United States cavalrymen through a series of battles and adventures. The first album of the series was published in 1970. The series' name, Les Tuniques Bleues, literally "the bluecoats", refers to the Northern army during the American Civil War. One English edition of the comic was published in 2004 as "The Blue Tunics: The Blues in Black and White" by Reney Editions. Since then Publisher Cinebook has started to print the comics in English as "The Bluecoats" releasing Robertson Prison in 2008. It is one of the best-selling series in French-language comics.
The original setting was the frontier of the Old West, where the main characters were American cavalrymen. Those stories, rarely longer than a single page, were comedic adventures about popular Western stereotypes and the absurdity of military life. One recurring feature was the blunder that lead to the Cavalry fort being besieged by outraged Native Americans, or in one case, the cavalry having to besiege their own fort after the Indians have tricked them into leaving it and taken over. As the series progressed, the stories became longer and more involved, retaining their humorous highlights. The drawing style also changed, after the death of the original artist Salverius, from overly cartoonish to semi-realistic.
In the second album, Du Nord au Sud, the main characters, Blutch and Chesterfield, travel east to join Ulysses S. Grant's army and fight in the Civil War. The 18th album, Blue Retro, describes how the characters were first drafted into the military when the war had already begun and makes no mention of the time they spent on the frontier, contradicting the events in album 2 and others. This retconned origin and continuity hiccups are not detrimental to the enjoyment and understanding of the series since each album is a stand-alone adventure or collection of short stories. Adventures at the frontier fort still occasionally take place.
The two main protagonists are colorful and clashing opposites. Corporal Blutch is a reluctant soldier, highly critical of authority, whose only wish is to get out of the army and return to civilian life, often threatening to desert and coming up with ways to avoid going into yet another senseless battle. Blutch does have a heroic side and will not hesitate to fight against the Confederate troops even to the risk of his own life. Sergeant Cornelius Chesterfield is by contrast a devoted and obedient career soldier, always determined that he and Blutch should be in the thick of the action. He is proud of his scars and dreams of military glory. Though strong and brave to the point of recklessness, he is clumsy and narrow-minded, unable to clearly perceive the madness of the war around him. Though their relationship is often antagonistic, they are comrades for life and have saved each other's lives many times in spite of repeated threats made by both of doing the other in.
Other recurring characters include the somewhat insane, charge-obsessed Captain Stark and the bumbling general staff, headed by the anger-prone General Alexander. Historic figures are also occasionally present in the narrative: alongside General Grant, they include President Abraham Lincoln, Confederate commander Robert E. Lee, and war photographer Mathew Brady. As happens in fiction, especially in bandes dessinées, Blutch and Chesterfield often get sent on special missions which take them all over the map, from Mexico to Canada, and mix them up in projects from railroad construction to spying on the Confederacy's secret submarine project. Many albums are built around historical events or characters such as Chinese immigrant labor, the treatment of African American soldiers, Charleston's submarines, and General Lee's horse Traveller. Chesterfield even goes undercover to confront guerrilla leader William Quantrill and his henchmen Jesse and Frank James. On another occasion they had to contend with a racist officer, Captain Nepel, based on the French far right politician Jean-Marie Le Pen.
Historical details are generally quite exact, and accuracy has steadily improved over the years. Yet the series is first and foremost entertainment and historic details are altered to suit the story. The serious drama of the plots is balanced by frequent humorous incidents and Blutch's constant sarcastic wisecracks. Although this is not strictly speaking an adult-oriented bande dessinée, the authors are not afraid of showing the reality of war in a harsh, but tactful manner, such as dead bodies in the aftermath of a battle. Military authority, especially the uncaring and/or incompetent leader is often the subject of parody and derision.