Fearless: Murdered French cartoonists welcomed controversy

They were four of France’s most fearless and best known political cartoonists – all sought out and summarily executed by gunmen in Wednesday's massacre inside the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine located in a swanky section of Paris not far from the Bastille monument. The victims were reportedly called out by name before being shot in cold blood by black-clad Islamist assassins shouting "Allahu Akbar!" At least eight others, including two police officers, died in the attack.

Authorities believe the cartoonists were targeted because of Charlie Hebdo's frequent jabs at Islam, including several cartoon drawings depicting Muhammed, an act forbidden by Muslims.

Stephane Charbonnier

Known by his pen name "Charb," Stephane Charbonnier served as editor and cartoonist of Charlie Hebdo, French for Charlie Weekly, a satirical magazine published every Wednesday that was known for its controversial cartoons – poking fun at politics and religion for decades. Charbonnier, a fierce advocate of free speech, defended the publication’s 2011 caricature of the Prophet Muhammad – even after the magazine’s office was firebombed for printing the caricature of Muhammed on its cover saying “100 lashes if you don’t die laughing.” In 2012, the magazine portrayed the Prophet naked in cartoons. Charbonnier, 47, defended the magazine’s decision, telling The Associated Press in 2012: "Muhammad isn't sacred to me. I don't blame Muslims for not laughing at our drawings. I live under French law. I don't live under Quranic law.” Charbonnier was named editor in 2012. He previously served as director of the magazine since May 2009.

Georges Wolinski

The 80-year-old French-Jewish cartoonist and comics writer began his career in 1960, creating political and erotic cartoons and comic strips for the satirical monthly Hara-Kiri. Wolinski co-founded the satirical magazine L'Enragé with Siné during the student revolts in 1968. Wolinski collaborated with the comics artist Georges Pichard in the early 1970s to create Paulette, which appeared in Charlie Mensuel. His work has also been featured in the daily newspaper Libération, the weekly Paris-Match and L'Écho des savanes. Wolinski, a French Jew who was born in Tunisia, moved to France when he was 13. He was one of the founders of Charlie Hebdo.

Jean Cabut

Cabut, who worked under the name "Cabu," was the lead cartoonist for Charlie Hebdo. The 75-year-old began working for Hara-Kiri magazine in 1960 after leaving the Army. In a February 2006 issue of Charlie Hebdo, a Cabu cartoon depicted the Muslim prophet Muhammad, under the caption "Muhammad overwhelmed by fundamentalists,” crying : " So hard to be loved by jerks!" Cabu, who appeared regularly on French TV, was the father of the French singer and songwriter Mano Solo, who died in 2010.

Bernard Verlhac

Known by the pseudonym "Tignous," the 57-year-old Verlhac was a well-known cartoonist who worked for the magazine.