Lucky Luke volume 11: Western Circus


By Morris & Goscinny, translated by Frederick W Nolan (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1-905460-55-7

Lucky Luke is a rangy, good-natured, lightning-fast cowboy who roams the fabulously mythic Old West, having light-hearted adventures with his sarcastic horse Jolly Jumper whilst interacting with a host of historical and legendary figures.

His continuing exploits over seventy years have made him one of the best-selling comic characters in Europe (68 individual adventures totalling more than 300 million albums in 30 languages thus far), with the usual spin-off toys, computer games, animated cartoons and a plethora of TV shows and live-action movies.

Lucky was created in 1946 by Belgian animator, illustrator and cartoonist Maurice de Bévère (“Morris”) and first seen in the 1947 Annual (L’Almanach Spirou 1947) of Le Journal de Spirou, before launching into his first weekly adventure ‘Arizona 1880’ on December 7th 1946.

Working solo until 1955, Morris produced nine albums of affectionate sagebrush spoofery before teaming with old pal and fellow trans-American tourist Rene Goscinny, who became the regular wordsmith as Luke attained the dizzying heights of legend, commencing with ‘Des rails sur la Prairie’ (Rails on the Prairie), which began serialisation in Spirou on August 25th 1955.

In 1967, the six-gun straight-shooter switched sides, transferring to Goscinny’s own magazine Pilote with ‘La Diligence’ (The Stagecoach). Goscinny created 45 albums with Morris before his untimely death, from whence Morris soldiered on both singly and with fresh collaborators.

Morris died in 2001 having drawn fully 70 adventures, plus some spin-off sagas crafted with Achdé, Laurent Gerra, Benacquista & Pennac, Xavier Fauche, Jean Léturgie, Jacques Pessis and others, all taking their own shot at the venerable vigilante…

Lucky Luke first amused British readers during the late 1950s, syndicated to weekly anthology Film Fun and again in 1967 in Giggle, where he used the nom de plume Buck Bingo.

In all these venues – as well as the numerous attempts to follow the English-language successes of Tintin and Asterix albums – Luke sported a trademark cigarette hanging insouciantly from his lip. However, in 1983 Morris – no doubt amidst both pained howls and muted mutterings of “political correctness gone mad” – deftly substituted a piece of straw for the much-travelled dog-end, which garnered him an official tip of the hat from the World Health Organization.

The most recent and successful attempt to bring Lucky Luke to our shores and shelves comes from Cinebook (who have rightly restored the foul weed to his lips on the interior pages, if not the covers…), and it’s clearly no big deal for today’s readership as we’re well past sixty translated books and still going strong.

Lucky Luke – Western Circus was the 25th collaboration – and now available both in English on paper and as an e-book – first published in Europe in 1970. The story is a classic range rider spoof of B-Movie westerns, with the laconic wanderer in fine form as he helps the (outlandishly) needy and deals with an iconic baddie in a most unique manner…

It all begins as our hero flees an Indian war party until saved by a most unlikely benefactor: soused circus impresario Captain Erasmus Mulligan (a deft tribute to the legendary W.C. Fields) and his pal Andy – a rather threadbare and motheaten Indian Elephant…

Soon Luke is helping fix a broken wagon and enjoying a free show courtesy of the far-travelled Western Circus; a talented band a bit past their best, who all came west to avoid clashing with insufferable showman P.T. Barnum…

The genial gunman’s private viewing is suddenly interrupted by an attack from the still-incensed braves of Chief Lame Bull, but Luke – and Andy – soon convince the raging warriors to watch the performance instead. Further violence is then forestalled by the arrival of a cavalry troop who escort the entertainers to Fort Coyote, a thriving township controlled by skeevy entrepreneur Corduroy “Diamond Tooth” Zilch.

The circus hits town just as the ambitious Zilch is promoting his annual Grand Rodeo, and when the populace seem more enthralled by even these tatty newcomers rather than Zilch’s old familiar festival, the big man decides The Show must not go on…

Before long his increasingly insidious antics devolve into utter farce and even a small-scale Indian war, and Luke and Jolly are compelled to slap on the greasepaint and join in with motley…

A deliriously rambunctious romp, Western Circus offers fast-paced, seductive slapstick and dry wit in copious amounts for another merry caper in the tradition of Destry Rides Again and Blazing Saddles. Superbly crafted by comics masters, it provides a wonderful introduction to a unique genre for today’s readers who might well have missed the romantic allure of an all-pervasive Wild West that never was…
© Dargaud Editeur Paris 1970 by Goscinny & Morris. © Lucky Comics.

Lucky Luke


By Morris & Goscinny, translated by Luke Spear (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1-905460-49-6

It’s hard to think of one of Europe’s most beloved and evergreen comics characters being in any way controversial, but when changing times caught up with the fastest gun in the West (“so fast he can outdraw his own shadow”) and the planet’s most laconic cowboy moved with them, the news made headlines all over the world.

Lucky Luke is a rangy, good-natured, lightning-fast cowboy who roams the fabulously mythic Old West, having light-hearted adventures with his sarcastic horse Jolly Jumper and interacting with a host of historical and legendary figures. His continued exploits over nearly seventy years have made him one of the best-selling comic characters in Europe (68 individual adventures totalling more than 300 million albums in 30 languages thus far), with the usual spin-off toys, computer games, animated cartoons and a plethora of TV shows and live-action movies.

He was created in 1946 by Belgian animator, illustrator and cartoonist Maurice de Bévère (“Morris”) and first seen the 1947 Annual (L’Almanach Spirou 1947) of Le Journal de Spirou, before launching into his first weekly adventure ‘Arizona 1880’ on December 7th 1946.

Working solo until 1955, Morris produced nine albums worth of affectionate sagebrush spoofery before teaming with old pal and fellow trans-American tourist Rene Goscinny, who became the regular wordsmith as Luke attained the dizzying heights of superstardom, commencing with ‘Des rails sur la Prairie’ (Rails on the Prairie), which began in Spirou on August 25th 1955.

In 1967, the six-gun straight-shooter switched sides, transferring to Goscinny’s own magazine Pilote with ‘La Diligence’ (The Stagecoach). Goscinny co-created 45 albums with Morris before his untimely death, from whence Morris soldiered on both singly and with fresh collaborators.

Morris himself died in 2001 having drawn fully 70 adventures, plus some spin-off sagas crafted with Achdé, Laurent Gerra, Benacquista & Pennac, Xavier Fauche, Jean Léturgie, Jacques Pessis and others, all taking a crack at the venerable franchise…

Moreover, apart from that very first adventure, Lucky (to appropriate a quote applied to the thematically simpatico TV classic Alias Smith and Jones) “in all that time… never shot or killed anyone…”

Lucky Luke was first spotted in the UK syndicated to weekly anthology Film Fun during the late 1950s and again in 1967 in Giggle, where he was renamed Buck Bingo.

In all these venues – as well as the numerous attempts to follow the English-language successes of Tintin and Asterix albums – Luke sported a trademark cigarette hanging insouciantly from his lip. However, in 1983 Morris – no doubt amidst both pained howls and muted mutterings of “political correctness gone mad” – deftly substituted a piece of straw for the much-travelled dog-end, which garnered him an official tip of the hat from the World Health Organization.

The most recent and successful attempt to bring Lucky Luke to our shores and shelves comes from Cinebook (who have rightly restored the foul weed to his lips on the interior pages, if not the covers…), and it’s clearly no big deal for today’s readership as we’re well past sixty translated books and still going strong.

Tortillas for the Daltons was the tenth of their 63 albums, now available both on paper and as e-books. As Tortillas pour les Daltons it was first published in Europe 1967: the charming cowboy’s 31st sagebrush foray and Goscinny’s 22nd collaboration with Morris, offering a beguilingly exotic and action-packed visit across the fabled Rio Grande in search of justice and good times…

It all begins in jail as vile owlhoots Averell, Jack, William and their slyly psychotic, overly-bossy shorter brother Joe Dalton are roused from their cosy comfort zone with the shocking news that they’re all being moved to a less crowded penitentiary – one situated near the Mexican border…

The infamous Dalton Gang are incorrigible criminals and no effort is spared to make sure they arrive at their destination. The warden even assigns faithful prison hound Rin Tin Can to the large escort but has apparently forgotten that the vain, friendly and exceedingly dim pooch is utterly loyal to absolutely everybody and no use at all in any kind of crisis…

Parking up for the night by the mighty border, the soldiers and security are sadly unaware that a gang of banditos are eyeing up the iron-studded coach and wondering just what manner of gringo valuables it might contain…

Despite striking with typical dash, verve and flamboyance, the gaudy thieves are ultimately quite disappointed with their haul, but in America the public breathes a huge communal sigh of relief that the Daltons are no longer a menace to their property. Sadly, the Mexican government kicks up such a fuss at the unwelcome additions to their population that the US authorities summon Lucky Luke to Washington DC and beg him to retrieve the contentious criminal tourists…

Not that the Daltons have actually broken any laws yet. They’ve been spending all their time trying to convince bandit supremo Emilio Espuelas that they are as good at being bad as any Mexican.

Whilst he may not accept that, the sinister sombrero-wearer is pretty certain that the odd quartet will be an unnecessary and costly burden. It takes all Joe’s efforts to convince him not to kill them outright. Eventually however, the burly brigand agrees to accept them as apprentice thieves. That tenuous situation almost ends when the assembled scoundrels scout the sleepy village of Xochitecotzingo and Joe a has a fit. The little loon has seen Lucky Luke riding into town with dumb mutt Rin Tin Can in tow.

After his introduction in 1962’s Sur la piste des Dalton, (On the Daltons’ Trail) Rantanplan – “dumbest dog in the West” and a wicked parody of cinema canine Rin-Tin-Tin – became an irregular feature in Luke’s adventures before eventually landing his own spin-off series title. The moronic mutt is in top form here, spreading confusion and mirth far and wide especially after meeting his cross-border counterpart – a clever chihuahua named Rodriguez

Joe Dalton’s devious mind goes into inventive overdrive after spotting his laconic nemesis: determined that Emilio must not learn of the hero’s presence, else he sell the brother back to the emissary of America for a tidy profit…

As Luke avails himself of the local hospitality and acquaints himself with the friendly foreigners’ funny customs, Joe leads the multinational miscreants in a good old US bank raid but has failed to take into account the hamlet’s lack of a proper venue to store money…

As international relations go into a steep decline, the extremely suspicious Espuelas is ready to cut his losses. In town, Lucky is experiencing similar difficulties lost in translation. The local law enforcers have a long tradition of keeping the peace by not asking for trouble by chasing outlaws…

Eventually, however, the canny cowboy drums up a little support, just as Joe convinces Emilio to rob the lavish ranchero of the region’s richest man. Sadly for them, that’s exactly where Lucky and Rin Tin Can are staying…

When noble Don Doroteo announces a grand party, the villains are tempted beyond their ability to resist. Emilio even finds a way for the Daltons to be useful at last. Disguised as a Mariachi band, the gringos can move about the event in preparation for a classic Mexican raid – but only if nobody asks them to play or sing…

Sensibly devolving into total farce and a ferocious gunfight, Tortillas for the Daltons is a wild and woolly comedy romp, offering fast-paced, seductive slapstick and wry cynical humour in another delicious yarn in the tradition of Destry Rides Again and Evil Roy Slade, superbly executed by master storytellers and providing a wonderful introduction to a unique genre for today’s kids who might well have missed the romantic allure of an all-pervasive Wild West that never was…
© Dargaud Editeur Paris 1971 by Goscinny & Morris. © Lucky Comics. English translation: © 2008 Cinebook Ltd.

Lucky Luke volume 9: The Stage Coach


By Morris & Goscinny, translated by Luke Spear (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1-905460-40-3

Win’s Christmas Gift Recommendation: Classic Seasonal Adventure… 9/10

One could quite convincingly argue that the USA’s greatest cultural export has been the Western. Everybody everywhere thinks they know what Cowboys and Indians are and do, but the genre has migrated and informed every aspect or art and literature all over the planet. Comics particularly have benefited from the form, with Europe continuing to produce magnificent works even in these latter years when sagebrush sagas are less dominant in America than they have been for decades.

This side of the pond, westerns were a key component in every nook and cranny of popular fiction from the earliest days. Newspapers were packed with astoundingly high quality strips ranging from straight dramas such as Gun Law and Matt Marriott to uniquely British takes like Bud Neill’s outrageous spoof Lobey Dosser, whilst our weekly anthology kids comics abounded with the episodic exploits of Texas Jack, Desperate Dan, Colorado Kid, Davy Crockett, Kid Dynamite and more.

As previously mentioned, Europe especially embraced the medium and expanded the boundaries of the genre. In Italy Tex (Willer) remains as vital as ever as it approaches its 70th anniversary, far outdistancing later revered and much-exported series such as Captain Miki, Il Grande Blek, Cocco BillZagor, Larry Yuma, Ken Parker, Magico Vento and Djustine.

The Franco-Belgian wing also has a long tradition and true immortals amongst its ponderosa Pantheon: from all ages-comedic treats such as Yakari, OumPah-Pah, Chick Bill or The Bluecoats to monolithic and monumental mature-reader sagas like Jerry Spring, Comanche, Sergeant Kirk, La Grande Saga Indienne, Buddy Longway or the now-legendary Blueberry

Topping them all in terms of sales and fame however is a certain laconic lone rider…

Lucky Luke is seventy years old this year: a rangy, good-natured, lightning-fast quick-draw cowboy who roams a fabulously mythical Old West on his super-smart horse Jolly Jumper, having light-hearted adventures and interacting with a host of historical and legendary figures of the genre.

He’s probably the most popular Western star in the world today. His unbroken string of laugh-loaded exploits has made him one of the best-selling comic characters in Europe (83 albums selling well in excess of 300 million copies in 30 languages at the last count), with spin-off toys, computer games, animated cartoons and even a passel of TV shows and live-action movies.

As alluded to above he was dreamed up in 1946 by Belgian animator, illustrator and cartoonist Maurice de Bévère (“Morris”) for that year’s Seasonal Annual (L’Almanach Spirou 1947) of Le Journal de Spirou, before launching into his first weekly adventure ‘Arizona 1880’ on December 7th 1946 in the famed weekly comic.

Prior to that, Morris had become acquainted with future comics super-stars Franquin and Peyo while working at the CBA (Compagnie Belge d’Actualitiés) cartoon studio and by contributing caricatures to weekly magazine Le Moustique. He quickly became one of “la Bande des quatre” (The Gang of Four) comprising creators Jijé, Will and Franquin: all leading proponents of the loose, free-wheeling art-style dubbed the “Marcinelle School” which dominated Spirou in aesthetic contention with the “Ligne Claire” style used by Hergé, EP Jacobs and other artists in rival magazine Tintin.

In 1948 the Gang (all but Will) visited the USA, meeting American creators and sightseeing. Morris stayed for six years, encountering fellow Franco-tourist René Goscinny and scoring some work from newly-formed EC sensation Mad whilst making copious notes and sketches of the swiftly vanishing Old West.

That research resonates on every page of his life’s work.

A solo act until 1955, Morris produced another nine albums worth of affectionate parody before formally teaming up with Goscinny, who became the cool cowboy’s regular wordsmith. Luke rapidly attained the dizzying heights of superstardom, commencing with ‘Des rails sur la Prairie’ (Rails on the Prairie), which began serialisation in Spirou with the August 25th 1955 edition.

In 1967 the six-gun straight-shooter switched sides, transferring to Goscinny’s own magazine Pilote with ‘La Diligence’ (The Stagecoach). Goscinny & Morris produced 45 albums together before the author’s death in 1977, after which Morris continued both singly and with fresh collaborators.

Morris passed away in 2001, having drawn fully 70 adventures, plus launching the spin-off comics careers of Rantanplan (“dumbest dog in the West” and a charming spoof of cinema canine Rin-Tin-Tin). The immortal franchise was left to fresh hands, beginning with Achdé, Laurent Gerra, Benacquista & Pennac who have carried on the undying tradition.

Curiously, apart from the initial adventure, Lucky (to appropriate a quote applied to the thematically simpatico Alias Smith and Jones) “in all that time… never shot or killed anyone”. He did however smoke prodigiously, like all the cool cowboys and – if the stereotype still applies – most Frenchmen…

Lucky Luke was first seen in Britain syndicated to weekly comic Film Fun, then reappeared in 1967 in Giggle, renamed Buck Bingo. In all these venues – as well as the numerous attempts to follow the English-language successes of Tintin and Asterix albums from Brockhampton and Knight Books – Luke had a trademark cigarette hanging insouciantly from his lip, but in 1983, Morris – no doubt amidst both pained howls and muted mutterings of “political correctness gone mad” – substituted a piece of straw for the much-travelled dog-end, which garnered him an official tip of the hat from the World Health Organization.

Unquestionably, the most successful attempt at bringing Lucky Luke to our shores and shelves is the most recent. Cinebook – who have rightly restored the foul weed to his lips on the interior pages, if not the covers – have translated 60 albums thus far with the 61st scheduled for a December release.

The Wagon Train was their ninth – still readily available both on paper and as an e-book – and first published on the Continent in 1964 as Lucky Luke – La Caravane: the 24th European release and Goscinny’s fifteenth collaboration with Morris. It’s also one of their most traditional tales; playing joyously with the tropes and memes of the genre and clearly having as much fun as the future readers were going to…

In begins in dusty Nothing Gulch as a bedraggled procession of “Prairie Schooners” limp into town. Expedition head Andrew Boston is arguing with unscrupulous guide Frank Malone who is demanding even more money before completing his commission to bring the hopeful settlers to California. When heated words are replaced with gunplay, a dusty observer ends the fracas before blood is shed…

Boston has heard a lot about Lucky Luke and promptly starts a multi-pronged charm offensive to get the Sagebrush Stalwart to take over guiding the party to the fabled Golden State. Our hero is flattered but not interested, until Boston wheels out his big guns and has the kids ask in their own unique ways…

Despite being prepared to use children to emotionally twist the cowboy’s arm, the twenty or so wagon-loads of pioneers are an affable if odd bunch from all over the world and soon Luke is leading them across prairies and through deserts and mountains.

However as the days pass an exceedingly large number of accidents and mishaps occur and before long it cannot be denied that somebody is clearly attempting to sabotage the expedition…

As close calls and near-death escapes mount Lucky splits his attention between blazing a trail and playing detective but the list of suspects is just so large. Anybody from the undertaker in his hearse to the inventor in his constantly evolving horseless converter-car (there’s more than a passing similarity to TV’s Whacky Races here!); the suspiciously French Barber/Surgeon, creatively foul-mouthed mule driver or even the no-nonsense School Marm could be the culprit. But then again there are so many others who act out of the ordinary…

Nevertheless, the voyage proceeds and as the would-be homesteaders survive the temptations of bad towns and other dens of vice and iniquity, bad food, and inclement weather a sense of community builds. Sadly that’s soon tested to the limit when word comes of that Sioux Chief Rabid Dog is on the warpath…

Despite all these traditional trials and tribulations Luke persists and before long the Promised Land is reached and a vile villain is finally exposed…

Cleverly barbed, wickedly ironic and joyously packed with classic cowboy set-pieces, this splendidly slapstick spoof of a crucial strand of the genre is another grand old hoot in the tradition of Destry Rides Again and Support Your Local Sheriff (maybe Paint Your Wagon, Evil Roy Slade or Cat Ballou are more your style?), superbly executed by master storytellers for any kids who might have missed the romantic allure of an all-pervasive Wild West that never was…

And in case you’re worried, even though the interior art still has our hero chawin’ on that ol’ nicotine stick, trust me, there’s very little chance of anyone craving a quick snout, but quite a strong probability that they’ll be addicted to Lucky Luke Albums…
© Dargaud Editeur Paris 1971 by Goscinny & Morris. © Lucky Comics. English translation © 2007 Cinebook.

Lucky Luke Volume 8 Calamity Jane


By Morris & Goscinny, translated by Pablo Vela (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1-905460-25-0

Lucky Luke is seventy years old this year: a rangy, good-natured, lightning-fast quick-draw cowboy who roams the fabulously mythic Old West on his super-smart and stingingly sarcastic horse Jolly Jumper, having light-hearted adventures and interacting with a host of historical and legendary figures of the genre.

He’s probably the most popular Western star in the world today. His unbroken string of laugh-loaded exploits has made him one of the best-selling comic characters in Europe (82 albums selling in excess of 300 million copies in 30 languages at the last count), with spin-off toys, computer games, assorted merchandise, animated cartoons and even a passel of TV shows and live-action movies.

He was created in 1946 by Belgian animator, illustrator and cartoonist Maurice de Bévère (“Morris”) for L’Almanach Spirou 1947 of Le Journal de Spirou (the Christmas Annual), before springing into his first weekly adventure ‘Arizona 1880’ on December 7th 1946.

Prior to that, Morris had met future comics super-stars Franquin and Peyo while working at the CBA (Compagnie Belge d’Actualitiés) cartoon studio and contributing caricatures to weekly magazine Le Moustique. He quickly became one of “la Bande des quatre” (Gang of Four) comprising creators Jijé, Will and Franquin: all leading proponents of the loose, free-wheeling art-style dubbed the “Marcinelle School” which dominated Spirou in aesthetic contention with the “Ligne Claire” style used by Hergé, EP Jacobs and other artists in rival magazine Tintin.

In 1948 said Gang (all but Will) visited America, meeting US creators and sightseeing. Morris stayed for six years, meeting fellow tourist René Goscinny, scoring some work from newly-formed EC sensation Mad whilst making copious notes and sketches of the swiftly vanishing Old West.

That research resonates on every page of his life’s work.

A solo act until 1955, Morris produced another nine albums worth of affectionate parody before formally partnering with Goscinny, who became his regular wordsmith. Lucky Luke rapidly attained the dizzying heights of superstardom, commencing with ‘Des rails sur la Prairie’ (Rails on the Prairie), which began serialisation in Spirou with the August 25th of 1955. In 1967 the six-gun straight-shooter changed horses in midstream, transferring to Goscinny’s own magazine Pilote with ‘La Diligence’ (The Stagecoach).

Goscinny & Morris produced 45 albums together before the author’s death in 1977, after which Morris continued both singly and with fresh collaborators. Morris passed away in 2001, having drawn fully 70 adventures, plus beginning spin-off adventures for Rantanplan (“dumbest dog in the West” and a charming spoof of cinema canine Rin-Tin-Tin).

The immortal franchise was left to fresh hands, beginning with Achdé, Laurent Gerra, Benacquista & Pennac who have produced another ten tales to date.

Curiously, apart from the initial adventure, Lucky (to appropriate a quote applied to the thematically simpatico Alias Smith and Jones) “in all that time… never shot or killed anyone”. He did however smoke, like all the cool cowboys did…

Lucky Luke was first seen in Britain syndicated to weekly comic anthology Film Fun, then reappeared in 1967 in Giggle, renamed Buck Bingo. In all these venues – as well as the numerous attempts to follow the English-language successes of Tintin and Asterix albums from Brockhampton and Knight Books – Luke had a trademark cigarette hanging insouciantly from his lip, but in 1983 Morris, no doubt amidst both pained howls and muted mutterings of “political correctness gone mad”, substituted a piece of straw for the much-travelled dog-end, which garnered him an official tip of the hat from the World Health Organization.

Unquestionably, the most successful attempt at bringing Lucky Luke to our shores and shelves is the current incarnation. Cinebook (who have rightly restored the foul weed to his lips on the interior pages, if not the covers…) have translated 58 albums thus far. Calamity Jane was their eighth, still readily available both on paper and as an e-book edition.

It was first published Continentally in 1967: the 30th European offering and Goscinny’s twenty-first collaboration with Morris. It’s also one of the team’s better tales, blending historical personages with the wandering hero’s action-comedy exploits and as such it’s a slice of Horrible Histories-tinged Americana you can’t afford to miss.

It all begins with our hero taking a welcome bath in a quiet river, only to be ambushed by a band of Apaches spoiling for a fight. Their murderous plans are ruined by a bombastic lone rider who explosively drives off the raiders in a hail of gunfire before stopping to laugh at the embarrassed Luke. His cool, confidant rescuer is tough, bellicose, foul-mouthed, tobacco-chewing and infamous: although born Martha Jane Cannery most folk just call her Calamity Jane

She’s becomes more amenable after learning who Luke is and over coffee and a scratch meal, mutual respect develops into real friendship. Recounting her (remarkably well-researched) history she learns in return why Luke is in the region: someone has been supplying the Indians with guns just like the ones that almost killed him earlier…

Keen to help, Calamity joins Lucky and they ride into frontier town El Plomo and another little crisis. The saloon prefers not to serve ladies… until Jane convinces them to change the policy in her own unique manner.

The glitzy dive is owned and operated by unctuous, sleazily sinister August Oyster who instantly suspects that legendary lawman Luke is there because of his own underhand, under-the-counter activities…

As the cowboy heads off to check in with the sheriff, Calamity gets into games of chance and skill with the sleazy Oyster and his hulking henchman Baby Sam, swiftly causing an upset by winning his hotel and saloon. Happily, Lucky is back on the scene by the time the grudging grouse has to officially hand over his money-making venture.

Flushed with success, the new proprietor starts making changes and no man cares to object to the Calamity Jane Saloon and Tearoom (Reserved for Ladies). They’ll happily buy her beer and whiskey too, but not even at gunpoint will they eat her crumpets…

Oyster and Baby Sam are frantic, however: the saloon was crucial to their side business selling guns to renegade Apaches and they have to get it back before increasingly impatient Chief Gomino takes matters into his own bloodstained hands…

Still hunting for the gunrunners and pretty certain who’s behind the scheme, Luke is constantly distracted by the petty acts of sabotage and even arson plaguing Calamity, but even as he finds his first piece of concrete proof, Oyster instigates his greatest distraction yet: organising the haughtily strait-laced Ladies Guild of El Plomo to close down the insalubrious saloon and run its new owner out of town…

Never daunted, Luke calms his tack-spitting pal down and deftly counterattacks by sending for an etiquette teacher to polish rough diamond Jane enough to be accepted by the ferocious and militant guildswomen. It is the greatest challenge urbane and effete Professor Robert Gainsborough (an outrageously slick caricature of British superstar actor David Niven) has undertaken and his eventual (partial) success leaves him a changed and broken man…

Stymied at every turn, the panicking August Oyster is soon caught red-handed by the vigilant vigilante, but it is too late. Frustrated and impatient, Gomino has decided to raid the town in broad daylight and seize his long-promised guns and ammo from their hiding place.

The terrifying marauders however have not reckoned on the steely fighting prowess of Lucky Luke and the devil woman they superstitiously call “Bang! Bang!”…

Cleverly barbed, wickedly witty and spectacularly playing with the key tropes of classic sagebrush sagas, this raucous romp is another grand escapade in the comedic tradition of Destry Rides Again and Support Your Local Sheriff, superbly executed by master storytellers as a wonderful introduction to a venerable genre for today’s kids who might well have missed the romantic allure of an all-pervasive Wild West that never was…

Also included here is a photo pin-up of the actual Martha Jane Cannery in her gun-toting prime and, in case you’re worried, even though the interior art still has our hero drawin’ on that ol’ nicotine stick, trust me, there’s very little chance of any reader craving a quick snout (or crumpets wild west style), but quite a strong likelihood that they’ll be addicted to Lucky Luke albums…
© Dargaud Editeur Paris 1971 by Goscinny & Morris. © Lucky Comics.

Lucky Luke volume 7: Barbed Wire on the Prairie


By Morris & Goscinny, translated by Luke Spear (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1-905460-24-3

Lucky Luke is a good-natured, lightning-fast gunslinger who roams the fabulously mythic Old West, having light-hearted adventures with his sarcastic horse Jolly Jumper, interacting with a host of historical and legendary figures. His continued exploits over seven decades have made him one of the best-selling comic characters in Europe (over 80 collected books and more than 300 million albums in 30 languages thus far), with the usual spin-off toys, computer games, animated cartoons and a plethora of TV shows and live-action movies.

He was created in 1946 by Belgian animator, illustrator and cartoonist Maurice de Bévère (“Morris”) and was first seen the 1947 Annual (L’Almanach Spirou 1947) of Le Journal de Spirou, before launching into his first weekly adventure ‘Arizona 1880’ on December 7th 1946.

Prior to that, while working at the CBA (Compagnie Belge d’Actualitiés) cartoon studio, Morris met future comics superstars Franquin and Peyo, and joined weekly magazine Le Moustique as a caricaturist – which is probably why (to my eyes at least) his lone star hero looks uncannily like the young Robert Mitchum who graced so many memorable mid-1940s B-movie Westerns.

Morris quickly became one of la Bande des quatre or “The Gang of Four” comprising Jijé, Will and his old comrade Franquin: the leading proponents of the loose, free-wheeling artistic style known as the “Marcinelle School” which predominated in Spirou in aesthetic contention with the “Ligne Claire” style used by Hergé, EP Jacobs and other artists on Tintin magazine.

In 1948 said Gang (all but Will) visited the USA, meeting American comics creators and sightseeing. Morris stayed for six years, linking up with fellow traveller René Goscinny, scoring some work from the newly-formed EC sensation Mad and making copious notes and sketches of the swiftly vanishing Old West.

That research would resonate on every page of his life’s work.

Working solo until 1955, Morris produced another nine albums worth of affectionate sagebrush spoofery before reuniting with Goscinny, who became the hero’s regular wordsmith as Luke attained the dizzying heights of superstardom, commencing with ‘Des rails sur la Prairie’ (Rails on the Prairie), which began in Spirou on August 25th 1955.

In 1967 the six-gun straight-shooter switched sides, transferring to Goscinny’s own magazine Pilote with ‘La Diligence’ (The Stagecoach). Goscinny eventually produced 45 albums with Morris before his untimely death, from whence Morris continued both singly and with fresh collaborators.

Morris himself died in 2001 having drawn fully 70 adventures, plus some spin-off sagas crafted with Achdé, Laurent Gerra, Benacquista & Pennac, Xavier Fauche, Jean Léturgie, Jacques Pessis and others all taking a crack at the venerable franchise…

Moreover, apart from that very first adventure, Lucky (to appropriate a quote applied to the thematically simpatico TV classic Alias Smith and Jones) “in all that time… never shot or killed anyone”…

He was first seen in Britain syndicated to weekly comic Film Fun during the late 1950s and again in 1967 in Giggle where he was renamed Buck Bingo. In all these venues – as well as the numerous attempts to follow the English-language successes of Tintin and Asterix albums – Luke had a trademark cigarette hanging insouciantly from his lip. However in 1983 Morris – no doubt amidst both pained howls and muted mutterings of “political correctness gone mad” – deftly substituted a piece of straw for the much-mauled dog-end, which garnered him an official tip of the hat from the World Health Organization.

The most recent and successful attempt to bring Lucky Luke to our shores and shelves comes from Cinebook (who have rightly restored the foul weed to his lips on the interior pages, if not the covers…) and Ma Dalton was the seventh of their 58 (and counting) albums, now available both on paper and as e-books.

Chronologically the album Des barbelés sur la prairie, first appeared in 1967: Luke’s 29th chronicle and Goscinny’s 20th collaboration with Morris, offering an engagingly classic confrontation and deviously diabolically bloodless solution wherein all the laconic lawman’s legendary speed proved as nothing when battling bad men with numbers, tradition and intransigence on their side…

It all begins with a suitably mock-heroic paean to western mythology, eulogizing the role of cattle and birth of cowboys before introducing overfed, self-satisfied cattle baron Cass Casey, casually chowing down on cow meat in boisterous cow-town Cow Gulch.

The big man is blissfully unaware that salad-farmers Vernon and Annabelle Felps are currently building a home and planting their crops on the small parcel of the prairie they recently purchased. That means nothing to Casey’s men as they indifferently guide a mooing massive herd through house and garden alike…

When the vegetable man heads into town to remonstrate with the cattle king, Vernon would have killed for his impertinence but for the quiet yet lethally loaded intervention of a wanderer trying to eat his steak in peace…

Casey thinks he’s powerful enough to do whatever he wants, but within seconds he’s the only man drawing down on the legendary Lucky Luke. A little whilst the burly boss’ hand is healing, the Lone Rider is accompanying Vernon back to a home-cooked meal of tasty greens. He’s still there when vengeful Casey sends his thundering herd back to trample everything.

Not long after, Cass’ men are all trussed up, those steers are stampeding though Cow Gulch and Vernon has done the unthinkable…

As the authors brilliantly detail, back then the battle between settlers and ranchers reached obsessive fever pitch after barbed wire was invented. Despite being used to fence off legally owed property, the stuff was so contentious to free ranging cattlemen that shops stocking it would be destroyed and cowboys reacted with unimaginable fury when it was used…

The very mention of it causes local stores to shut for business but Vernon is implacable and mail-orders a few bales. In response, the coach carrying it to him is robbed and vandalised and the Felps’ house is razed to the ground… again.

Hating bullies, Luke adopts a cunning disguise and sneaks a shipment past the ever-vigilant vigilantes and before long the wide open prairie has its first enclosure…

Casey reacts in the expected manner and before long a full-fledged war is brewing.

When Luke organises and trains all the other crop-growing Settlers, Casey increases his night raids and shattering cattle stampedes.

Once Luke decides to get personally involved and bring in more wire, the Cow King calls in all the other cattle barons who congregate in town for a big dinner before taking decisive final action. The prognosis looks bleak for everybody…

And then the Western Wonder has a most intriguing notion which seems certain to end the mounting crisis in a bloodless manner and give all parties concerned an appetite for conciliation…

Fast-paced, seductive slapstick and wry cynical humour beef up this splendidly trope-heavy tribute to classic westerns: another grand old hoot in the tradition of Destry Rides Again and Cat Ballou, superbly executed by sublime storytellers and providing a wonderful introduction to a unique genre for today’s kids who might well have missed the romantic allure of an all-pervasive Wild West that never was…
© Dargaud Editeur Paris 1971 by Goscinny & Morris. © Lucky Comics. English translation © 2007, Cinebook Ltd.

Lucky Luke volume 6: Ma Dalton


By Morris & Goscinny, translated by Frederick W. Nolan (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1-905460-14-4

It’s hard to think of one of Europe’s most beloved and evergreen comics characters being in any way controversial, but when changing times caught up with the fastest gun in the West (“so fast he can outdraw his own shadow”) and the planet’s most laconic cowboy moved with them, the news made headlines all over the world.

Lucky Luke is a rangy, good-natured, lightning-fast cowboy who roams the fabulously mythic Old West, having light-hearted adventures with his sarcastic horse Jolly Jumper and interacting with a host of historical and legendary figures. His continued exploits over nearly seventy years have made him one of the best-selling comic characters in Europe (over 80 collected books and more than 300 million albums in 30 languages thus far), with the usual spin-off toys, computer games, animated cartoons and a plethora of TV shows and live-action movies.

He was created in 1946 by Belgian animator, illustrator and cartoonist Maurice de Bévère (“Morris”) and was first seen the 1947 Annual (L’Almanach Spirou 1947) of Le Journal de Spirou, before launching into his first weekly adventure ‘Arizona 1880’ on December 7th 1946.

Prior to that, while working at the CBA (Compagnie Belge d’Actualitiés) cartoon studio, Morris met future comics superstars Franquin and Peyo, and joined weekly magazine Le Moustique as a caricaturist – which is probably why (to my eyes at least) his lone star hero looks uncannily like the young Robert Mitchum who graced so many memorable mid-1940s B-movie Westerns.

Morris quickly became one of la Bande des quatre or “The Gang of Four” comprising Jijé, Will and his old comrade Franquin: the leading proponents of the loose, free-wheeling artistic style known as the “Marcinelle School” which predominated in Spirou in aesthetic contention with the “Ligne Claire” style used by Hergé, EP Jacobs and other artists on Tintin Magazine.

In 1948 said Gang (all but Will) visited the USA, meeting American comics creators and sightseeing. Morris stayed for six years, linking up with fellow traveller René Goscinny, scoring some work from the newly-formed EC sensation Mad and making copious notes and sketches of the swiftly vanishing Old West.

That research would resonate on every page of his life’s work.

Working solo until 1955, Morris produced another nine albums worth of affectionate sagebrush spoofery before reuniting with Goscinny, who became the regular wordsmith as Luke attained the dizzying heights of superstardom, commencing with ‘Des rails sur la Prairie’ (Rails on the Prairie), which began in Spirou on August 25th 1955.

In 1967 the six-gun straight-shooter switched sides, transferring to Goscinny’s own magazine Pilote with ‘La Diligence’ (The Stagecoach). Goscinny eventually produced 45 albums with Morris before his untimely death, from whence Morris continued both singly and with fresh collaborators.

Morris himself died in 2001 having drawn fully 70 adventures, plus some spin-off sagas crafted with Achdé, Laurent Gerra, Benacquista & Pennac, Xavier Fauche, Jean Léturgie, Jacques Pessis and others all taking a crack at the venerable franchise…

Moreover, apart from that very first adventure, Lucky (to appropriate a quote applied to the thematically simpatico TV classic Alias Smith and Jones) “in all that time… never shot or killed anyone”…

Lucky Luke first appeared in Britain syndicated to weekly comic Film Fun during the late 1950s and once again in 1967 in Giggle where he was renamed Buck Bingo. In all these venues – as well as the numerous attempts to follow the English-language successes of Tintin and Asterix albums – Luke had a trademark cigarette hanging insouciantly from his lip. However in 1983 Morris, no doubt amidst both pained howls and muted mutterings of “political correctness gone mad”, deftly substituted a piece of straw for the much-travelled dog-end, which garnered him an official tip of the hat from the World Health Organization.

The most recent and successful attempt to bring Lucky Luke to our shores and shelves comes from Cinebook (who have rightly restored the foul weed to his lips on the interior pages, if not the covers…) and Ma Dalton was the sixth of their 54 (and counting) albums, now available both on paper and as e-books.

Chronologically it was the cowboy’s 38th chronicle and Goscinny’s 29th collaboration with Morris, offering an engagingly riotous romp and a stupendously shocking showdown situation wherein all the laconic lawman’s legendary speed proved as nothing when facing a foe he could not draw against…

It all begins after another suitably heroic escapade with our hero is relaxing in boisterous Cactus Junction when he stumbles upon the strangest hold-up he’s ever seen, as a little old lady holds up the local butcher at gunpoint and gets away with a steak and some scraps for her cat. Baffled, he tracks her to the store next door where a similar scenario occurs.

On questioning the shopkeepers Luke is informed that proud old Ma Dalton has fallen on hard times and the sympathetic merchants have all agreed – even though her creaky old six-gun doesn’t work – to let her “rob” them whenever she runs out of the necessities of life such as tea, soap, food and scraps for her horrible cat “Sweetie”…

And yes, the engaging old biddy is indeed the mother of Luke’s intolerable arch-enemies: those vile owlhoot miscreants Averell, Jack, William and their devious, slyly psychotic, overly-bossy shorter brother Joe

Sadly, Ma isn’t as sweet as everybody thinks. She knows full well what the infamous Dalton Gang are all about. Her lads are still in jail after the last time the tall busybody put them there, but as she writes them a letter they are again making a break for it. It’s easier than usual this time since the prison is a multi-story affair made mostly from wood…

As it burns to the ground the warden thinks he’s pretty smart chaining Joe to faithful prison hound Rin Tin Can but has forgotten that the vain, friendly and exceedingly dim pooch is utterly loyal to absolutely everybody.

The outraged authoritarian only realises his mistake when the boys abscond, taking the deliriously unresisting mutt with them…

After his introduction in 1962’s Sur la piste des Dalton, (On the Daltons’ Trail) Rantanplan – “dumbest dog in the West” and a wicked parody of cinema canine Rin-Tin-Tin – became an irregular feature in Luke’s adventures before eventually landing his own spin-off series title. The moronic mutt earns his spurs here, being a literal drag on the villains’ progress until he tries chasing Sweetie after the boys sneak home. Ma however is a stern and commanding pet owner who paralyses the pooch with one curt command…

As they lay low, old family pressures build again at the Dalton shack. Dim, sneaky Averell was always Ma’s favourite and as he again sops up all her attention Joe, Jack and William settle upon a scheme to make some cash whilst they’re hiding out. It revolves around the fact that Daltons all look remarkably similar and, once the moustaches are off and they’re wearing her old dresses, the boys can pass for their mum in any shop or bank in the region with Lucky Luke none the wiser…

However when Averell starts joining in and queering the guileful gig, the “old dear” is seen in stores miles apart in Alfalfa City and Tumbleweed Town, swiping cash and guns rather than vegetables and soap, and the canny cowboy quickly puts two and two together…

Soon the infamous family are on the run with Lucky and Jolly Jumper hard on their heels. But it’s guile and not gunplay that will win the day since nobody expects the gangling gunfighter to draw down on a little old lady. She just might end up as “the one who got away”…

Fast-paced, seductive slapstick and wry cynical humour colour this splendidly mad ride: another grand old hoot in the tradition of Destry Rides Again and Cat Ballou, superbly executed by master storytellers and providing a wonderful introduction to a unique genre for today’s kids who might well have missed the romantic allure of an all-pervasive Wild West that never was…
© Dargaud Editeur Paris 1971 by Goscinny & Morris. © Lucky Comics.

In the Shadow of the Derricks: Lucky Luke volume 5


By Morris & Goscinny, translated by Luke Spear (Cinebook)
ISBN: 978-1-905460-17-5

Lucky Luke is a rangy, good-natured, lightning-fast quick-draw cowboy who roams the fabulously mythic Old West on his super-smart horse Jolly Jumper, having light-hearted adventures and interacting with a host of historical and legendary figures of the genre.

He’s probably the most popular Western star still active in the world today. His unbroken string of exploits over nearly seventy years has made him one of the best-selling comic characters in Europe (81 albums selling in excess of 300 million copies in 30 languages thus far), with spin-off toys, computer games, animated cartoons and even a plethora of TV shows and live-action movies.

He was created in 1946 by Belgian animator, illustrator and cartoonist Maurice de Bévère (“Morris”) for the 1947 Annual (L’Almanach Spirou 1947) of Le Journal de Spirou, before launching into his first weekly adventure ‘Arizona 1880’ on December 7th 1946.

Prior to that, Morris met future comics super-stars Franquin and Peyo while working at the CBA (Compagnie Belge d’Actualitiés) cartoon studio and contributing caricatures to weekly magazine Le Moustique.

Morris quickly became one of “la Bande des quatre” (The Gang of Four) which comprised creators Jijé, Will and Franquin: the leading proponents of the loose and free-wheeling artistic style known as the “Marcinelle School” which dominated Spirou in aesthetic contention with the “Ligne Claire” style used by Hergé, EP Jacobs and other artists in Tintin Magazine.

In 1948 said Gang (all but Will) visited America, meeting US creators and sightseeing. Morris stayed for six years, meeting fellow traveller René Goscinny, scoring some work from newly-formed EC sensation Mad and making copious notes and sketches of the swiftly vanishing Old West. That research resonates on every page of his life’s work.

Working solo until 1955, Morris produced another nine albums worth of affectionate sagebrush parody before teaming up with Goscinny, who became the regular wordsmith. Luke rapidly attained the dizzying heights of superstardom, commencing with ‘Des rails sur la Prairie’ (Rails on the Prairie), which began in Spirou on August 25th 1955.

In 1967 the six-gun straight-shooter switched teams, transferring to Goscinny’s own magazine Pilote with ‘La Diligence’ (The Stagecoach). Goscinny produced 45 albums with Morris before his death in 1977, after which Morris continued both singly and with fresh collaborators.

Morris died in 2001 having drawn fully 70 adventures, plus the spin-off adventures of Rantanplan (“dumbest dog in the West” and a charming spoof of cinema canine Rin-Tin-Tin), after which Achdé, Laurent Gerra, Benacquista & Pennac took over the franchise, producing another five tales to date.

Moreover, apart from the initial adventure, Lucky (to appropriate a quote applied to the thematically simpatico Alias Smith and Jones) “in all that time… never shot or killed anyone”…

Lucky Luke first appeared in Britain syndicated to weekly comic Film Fun and reappeared in 1967 in Giggle where he was renamed Buck Bingo. In all these venues – as well as the numerous attempts to follow the English-language successes of Tintin and Asterix albums from Brockhampton and Knight Books – Luke had a trademark cigarette hanging insouciantly from his lip, but in 1983 Morris, no doubt amidst both pained howls and muted mutterings of “political correctness gone mad”, substituted a piece of straw for the much-travelled dog-end, which garnered him an official tip of the hat from the World Health Organization.

The most successful attempt at bringing Lucky Luke to our shores and shelves is the most recent. Cinebook (who have rightly restored the foul weed to his lips on the interior pages if not the covers…) have translated 53 albums thus far. In the Shadow of the Derricks was the fifth, now available both on paper and as an e-book edition.

As À l’ombre des derricks, it was first published in 1962: the 18th European release and Goscinny’s ninth collaboration with Morris. It’s also one of the team’s many tales blending historical personages with their wandering hero’s action-comedy exploits and as such it’s a wry condemnation of the oil business both in terms of unchecked commercial adventurism and ecological impact and one of the earliest negative opinions of the trade in comics…

It all begins with a little history lesson on how a toxic contaminant farmers once hated and dreaded finding on their land rapidly became a treasured commodity able to turn rational souls into greed-crazed prospecting zombies, after pioneer Edwin Laurentine Drake (popularly known as Colonel Drake and notoriously renowned as the first man to drill for oil in America) set up shop in Titusville, Pennsylvania in 1857.

Two years later his invention of the “Oil Derrick” triggers the first oil rush in history and prospectors come from far and wide to cash in on the new bonanza mineral. Terrified of the inrush of ne’er-do-wells and chancers, the Titusville City Council quickly telegraph for the greatest cowboy lawman in the world to come protect them…

By the time Lucky Luke rides in, the little city is a fetid sinkhole of greed and corruption which looks and smells as bad as it acts. The dignitaries who summoned him are now as enamoured of “black gold” as any transient prospector and the Deputy Mayor’s last official duty is to give Luke his sheriff’s badge before joining the deranged digging fraternity.

The crowning indignity comes when a passing prospector stops him from lighting a cigarette. The oil fumes are so prevalent and pernicious that one match might eradicate the entire town!

Setting to work, Lucky heads for the saloon and is accosted by a gang of thugs. The brutish Bingle is intent on scaring the lawman off but has completely underestimated his opponent…

Hauling the defeated desperado to jail Luke meets the only man in town immune to oil-fever. Old Sam Jigs loathes what the evil muck has made of his town and is happy to watch Bingle while Lucky goes to inspect Colonel Drake’s installation, meeting also the celebrity’s ingenious engineer Billy Smith.

The Colonel takes the sheriff on a tour of various claims and working wells, imploring him to try and restore some order to the wild and wicked region. However all the current fighting, feuding and wildcatting is as nothing to the growing depredations of smooth, slick, oily Texan lawyer Barry Blunt whom Luke first encounters when he stops a lynching.

The legal weasel has a plan to own every well in America and knows enough lawful dodges to trick or force all the other prospectors out of business before they’ve even begun. This is a new kind of opponent for the straight-shooter, who normally holds the Law in great esteem…

Blunt is inexorably forcing the independents to leave or sell up to him; his legion of legal wrangles and small-print scams backed up by a gang of ruthless cutthroats. One such is Bingle, whom the shady shyster tries to spring from jail, only to find that his hulking heavy doesn’t want to leave. He’s already struck oil while digging an escape tunnel…

When prospectors who won’t sell or quit start experiencing devastating oil-fires and unemployed townsfolk sell themselves into virtual slavery in Barry’s growing enterprises it’s time for drastic action, and Luke resolves to start using the spirit rather the letter of the law…

Soon Barry is in jail on trumped up charges and the villain shows his true colours. Busting out and setting the entire region ablaze, Blunt proves himself a suicidal madman: if he can’t own the oil, nobody will…

After the final showdown Lucky and Jolly Jumper resign, heading back home extremely relieved that goofy old Texas doesn’t have to put up with idiot oil hunters…

Cleverly barbed, wickedly ironic and spectacularly cynical, this witty romp is another grand old hoot in the tradition of Destry Rides Again and Support Your Local Sheriff (perhaps Paint Your Wagon, Evil Roy Slade or Cat Ballou are more your style?), superbly executed by master storytellers as a wonderful introduction to a unique genre for today’s kids who might well have missed the romantic allure of an all-pervasive Wild West that never was…

And in case you’re worried, even though the interior art still has our hero chawin’ on that ol’ nicotine stick, trust me, there’s very little chance of anyone craving a quick snout, but quite a strong probability that they’ll be addicted to Lucky Luke Albums…

© Dargaud Editeur Paris 1971 by Goscinny & Morris. © Lucky Comics.
English translation © 2007 Cinebook Ltd.

Jesse James: Lucky Luke volume 4


By Morris & Goscinny, translated by Frederick W. Nolan (CineBook)
ISBN: 978-1-905460-14-4

It’s hard to think of one of Europe’s most beloved and long-running comics characters being in any way controversial, but when changing times caught up with the fastest gun in the West (“so fast he can outdraw his own shadow”) and the planet’s most laconic cowboy moved with them, the news made headlines all over the world.

Lucky Luke is a rangy, good-natured, lightning-fast cowboy who roams the fabulously mythic Old West, having light-hearted adventures with his horse Jolly Jumper and interacting with a host of historical and legendary figures of the genre.

His continued exploits over nearly seventy years have made him one of the best-selling comic characters in Europe (81 collected books and more than 300 million albums in 30 languages thus far), with spin-off toys, computer games, animated cartoons and even a plethora of TV shows and live-action movies.

He was created in 1946 by Belgian animator, illustrator and cartoonist Maurice de Bévère (“Morris”) for the 1947 Annual (L’Almanach Spirou 1947) of Le Journal de Spirou, before launching into his first weekly adventure ‘Arizona 1880’on December 7th 1946.

Prior to that, while working at the CBA (Compagnie Belge d’Actualitiés) cartoon studio, Morris met future comics super-stars Franquin and Peyo, and worked for weekly magazine Le Moustique as a caricaturist – which is probably why (to my eyes at least) his lone star hero looks uncannily like the young Robert Mitchum who graced so many memorable mid-1940s B-movie Westerns.

Morris quickly became one of “la Bande des quatre” – The Gang of Four – which comprised creators Jijé, Will and his old comrade Franquin: the leading proponents of the loose and free-wheeling artistic style known as the “Marcinelle School” which dominated Spirou in aesthetic contention with the “Ligne Claire” style used by Hergé, EP Jacobs and other artists on Tintin Magazine.

In 1948 said Gang (all but Will) visited America, meeting US creators and sightseeing. Morris stayed for six years, meeting fellow traveller René Goscinny, scoring some work from the newly-formed EC sensation Mad whilst making copious notes and sketches of the swiftly vanishing Old West.

That research would resonate on every page of his life’s work.

Working solo until 1955, Morris produced another nine albums worth of affectionate sagebrush parody before reuniting with Goscinny, who became the regular wordsmith as Luke attained the dizzying heights of superstardom, commencing with ‘Des rails sur la Prairie’ (Rails on the Prairie), which began in Spirou on August 25th 1955.

In 1967 the six-gun straight-shooter switched sides, transferring to Goscinny’s own magazine Pilote with ‘La Diligence’ (The Stagecoach). Goscinny eventually produced 45 albums with Morris before his death, from whence onwards Morris continued both singly and with fresh collaborators.

Morris himself died in 2001 having drawn fully 70 adventures, plus spin-off sagas of Rantanplan (“dumbest dog in the West” and a charming spoof of cinema canine Rin-Tin-Tin), with Achdé, Laurent Gerra, Benacquista & Pennac, Xavier Fauche, Jean Léturgie, Jacques Pessis and others all taking a crack at the evergreen franchise…

Moreover, apart from that very first adventure, Lucky (to appropriate a quote applied to the thematically simpatico TV classic Alias Smith and Jones) “in all that time… never shot or killed anyone”…

Lucky Luke first appeared in Britain syndicated to weekly comic Film Fun in the late 1950s and again in 1967 in Giggle where he was renamed Buck Bingo. In all these venues – as well as the numerous attempts to follow the English-language successes of Tintin and Asterix albums from Brockhampton and Knight Books – Luke had a trademark cigarette hanging insouciantly from his lip, but in 1983 Morris, no doubt amidst both pained howls and muted mutterings of “political correctness gone mad”, substituted a piece of straw for the much-travelled dog-end, which garnered him an official tip of the hat from the World Health Organization.

The most recent attempt to bring Lucky Luke to our shores and shelves comes from Cinebook (who have rightly restored the foul weed to his lips on the interior pages if not the covers…) and Jesse James was the fourth of 50 albums (and counting) currently available both on paper and as e-book editions.

On the continent it was the 35th comic cowboy chronicle and Goscinny’s 26th collaboration with Morris, originally appearing in 1969 and featuring an engaging overlapping of real world history and fantastic fiction. You have been warned…

After an informative and funny graphic reintroduction to our splendid stars and their impressive capabilities, the saga commences as a recuperating gentleman named Jesse reads a book about Robin Hood and decides that he too is going to rob from the rich and give to the poor.

His first foray as a gun-toting social worker goes well except for the moral quandary resulting from giving a poor man all the money he’s just liberated and making him a rich one. Shakespeare-quoting brother Frank has a clever solution: if they keep the money, but keep passing it back and forth to each other, they can take from the rich and give to the poor at the same time and keep it in the family too…

To make sure nobody stays rich for too long they bring hulking practical joking cousin Cole Younger into the pact and set about making themselves the most feared and unwelcome bandits in Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri. After robbing banks and derailing trains throughout the region the gang heads for Texas where events are already unfolding to their eventual detriment.

In sleepy, prosperous Nothing Gulch two of the least undercover detectives ever employed by the Pinkerton Agency approach lean, laconic Luke. Agents Smith and Jones (not their real names) want his aid in apprehending the most wanted men in America, but our hero can only promise that since they’ve committed no crimes in Texas he will watch them and act accordingly if they do…

Satisfied with the compromise, the very Public Eyes retire to their camp outside town whilst Lucky proceeds to warn the locals of their impending guests. He is greeted with a wave of Texan bombast and bravado but realises the people are not-so-secretly terrified by the prospect of the James Boys…

The subjects of all that apprehension have just crossed the border into Texas and, after much pleading, foolishly allowed Cole to try his hand at derailing a train. The big lunk simply doesn’t have the knack for it however and soon Main Street is torn up as a runaway locomotive and still-attached carriages – having careened across county without benefit of rails – plough to a halt outside the saloon…

The spectacular event is the trigger for every citizen to pull their cash out of the town bank before the bandits do and spurs Luke into riding off and intercepting Jesse and Co to deliver a friendly warning.

Unfortunately Jesse is too proud to be told and the gang hit town only to discover the residents have taken even more extreme measures, donating enough cash to the town drunk to make him – comparatively – the richest man in Nothing Gulch…

With Lucky Luke watching and pickings slim, the James Boys begin a sly charm offensive to put everybody at ease but once the townsfolk calm down enough to put their money back in the bank all bets are off. Luring Luke away Jesse goes to work, raiding the Bank whilst Cole has another go at derailing, unaware that Lucky has second-guessed him and turned the gold-carry train into a trap…

However, on dragging the owlhoot back to town he finds the citizens so cowed that they organise a quick sham trial just so they can clear Younger of all charges and get him out of the district. Utterly disgusted, our hero and Jolly Jumper abandon the yellow Texans and Cole rides off to tell his cousins that the town is wide open for another raid…

In the shameful night time the citizens gather and something strange happens. Disgusted with themselves the ordinary folk talk themselves into a froth of righteous indignation and seek out Lucky. They need to redeem themselves and humbly beg the disgusted hero to join them as they prepare for Jesse James’ inevitable return…

Fast-paced, seductive slapstick and wry cynical humour colour this splendidly mad ride, making it another grand old hoot in the tradition of Destry Rides Again and Support Your Local Sheriff (perhaps Paint Your Wagon, Evil Roy Slade or Cat Ballou are more your style?), superbly executed by master storytellers and a wonderful introduction to a unique genre for today’s kids who might well have missed the romantic allure of an all-pervasive Wild West that never was…

And in case you’re worried, even though the interior art still has our hero chawin’ on that ol’ nicotine stick, trust me, there’s very little chance of anyone craving a quick snout – especially since Jolly Jumper is acting like a Greek chorus warning of the hazards of the evil weed – but quite a high probability that they’ll be addicted to Lucky Luke Albums…
© Dargaud Editeur Paris 1969 by Goscinny & Morris. © Lucky Comics.
English translation © 2006 Cinebook Ltd.