THE artist behind one of the most striking cartoons in response to the Charlie Hebdo massacre is from Greenock, the Tele can reveal.

James MacLeod’s striking illustration, above, has been beamed across the world by newspapers and TV stations during their coverage of last Wednesday’s outrage, which saw terrorists gun down 12 people during a raid at the French satirical magazine’s office.

The 48-year-old is originally from Denholm Street but now lives and works in Indiana, USA, where he is a Professor of History at the University of Evansville as well as editorial cartoonist at the Evansville Courier and Press newspaper.

His cartoon went viral in the wake of the Paris tragedy and has been broadcast by the likes of the BBC, ITV, CNN, Yahoo and Al Jazeera as well as being published in titles such as the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Times of Israel and Toronto Star.

James, who moved to America 16 years ago, says he has been overwhelmed by the reaction.

He told the Tele: “I’m really amazed. It’s been surreal and I was on national TV on Saturday.

“On the one hand it’s exciting to see your work in the Wall Street Journal and on the websites of the BBC and ITV but on the other you just wish that the occasion to draw the cartoon had never arisen.” Like people across the world, the former Ardgowan Primary and Greenock Academy pupil was shocked and stunned by the terror attack.

But his background and profession meant he felt a duty to act in a show of solidarity toward the victims, their families and free speech.

James, who has been drawing professionally since 2007, said: “As both a history professor and editorial cartoonist I was very much aware of Charlie Hebdo’s work, and the previous attack and ongoing threats.

“As a political cartoonist, my immediate reaction to what happened to the staff of Charlie Hebdo was horror and disgust initially, but then I immediately started working on a cartoon.

“I knew it had to convey the message that ultimately free expression triumphs over brute force.

“I think it is extremely important that artists send a message to these people.

“It is also extremely important that everybody else does too.” James’ cartoon has also featured on the NBC network in America, the Huffington Post and was relayed by the Associated Press global news organisation as their main story from their Paris bureau.

The Greenock man, whose dad Lachlan MacLeod was a well-known Free Presbyterian minister in Greenock from 1965 to 1993, believes last week’s shootings were an assault on basic freedoms.

He said: “I think it is very clear what they are attacking — they are attacking several different things at the same time.

“First, they’re attacking the right of cartoonists to draw what they choose.

“Second, they are attacking the right of journalists to publish what they choose.

“Third, they’re attacking the principle of freedom of expression.

“And finally, they are attacking the principle of freedom and individual liberty itself.

“This is a battle between the forces of brutality and the forces of the enlightenment.

“Clearly artists and journalists and politicians in a democracy should be defending all of the above.”