Lucky Luke is a Western comics series created by Belgian cartoonist Morris in 1946. Morris wrote and drew the series single-handedly until 1955, after which he started collaborating with René Goscinny, Astérix creator, a partnership that lasted until his death, in 1977. Afterwards, he collaborated with several other writers, until his own death, in 2001. French artist Achdé has drawn the series since Morris's death, also with the help of other writers.
The series takes place in the American Old West and stars the titular Lucky Luke, a gunslinger known as the "man who shoots faster than his shadow", and his intelligent horse Jolly Jumper. Lucky Luke is pitted against various villains, either fictional or inspired by American history or folklore. The most famous of these are the Dalton Brothers. The stories are filled with humorous elements parodying the Western genre.
Lucky Luke is one of the best-known and best-selling comics series in Europe and has been translated into numerous languages. 81 albums have appeared in the series as of 2019, and 3 special editions/homages, at first published by Dupuis, then from 1968 by Dargaud, and from 1999 by Lucky Comics. Each story was first serialized in a magazine: in Spirou from 1946 to 1967, in Pilote from 1967 to 1973, in Lucky Luke in 1974-75, in the French edition of Tintin in 1975-76, and in various other magazines since. The series has been adapted to various other media, such as animated films and television series, live-action films, video games, toys, and board games. About half of the series' adventures have been translated into English. Lucky Luke comics have been translated into 23 languages, including many European, African and Asian languages.
First appearance of Lucky Luke and Jolly Jumper in Arizona 1880 (1946)
Both a tribute to the mythic Old West and an affectionate parody, the comics were created by the Belgian artist Morris who drew Lucky Luke from 1946 until his death in 2001. The first Lucky Luke adventure, Arizona 1880, appeared in the French version of the Franco-Belgian comics magazine Spirou in october 1946, later appearing in the Almanach issue of Spirou on December 7, 1946. After several years of scripting the strip himself, Morris began a collaboration with René Goscinny who became the series' writer for a period that is considered the golden age of the series. This started with the story Des rails sur la Prairie published on August 25, 1955 in Spirou. Ending a long run of serial publications in Spirou, the series shifted to Goscinny's Pilote magazine in 1967 with the story La Diligence, subsequently leaving publisher Dupuis for Dargaud.
Although always described as a cowboy, Luke generally acts as a righter of wrongs or bodyguard of some sort, where he excels thanks to his resourcefulness and incredible gun prowess. A recurring task is that of capturing bumbling gangsters the Dalton brothers, Joe, William, Jack and Averell. He rides Jolly Jumper, "the smartest horse in the world" and is often accompanied by prison guard dog Rantanplan, "the stupidest dog in the universe", a spoof of Rin Tin Tin.
The chronology of the albums is deliberately murky, and in most albums no particular year is given. The villains and incidental characters based on real persons lived over most of the mid-to-late-19th century. For example, in the album Daily Star, Lucky Luke meets a young Horace Greeley, prior to his moving to New York in 1831. Judge Roy Bean, who was appointed judge in 1882, appears in another album, and in another album yet, Lucky Luke takes part in the 1892 Coffeyville shootout against the Dalton gang. Lucky Luke himself appears unchanged in all stories.
Except in the first few stories, where he shoots and kills Mad Jim and the old Dalton brothers gang in Coffeeville, Luke is never seen to kill anyone, preferring to disarm people by shooting weapons out of their hands.
Phil Defer was killed in the first publication in Le Moustique, but in the later album collection, this was changed into a debilitating shoulder wound.
In the final panel of each story, except the earliest, Lucky Luke rides off alone on Jolly Jumper into the sunset, singing (in English) "I'm a poor lonesome cowboy, and a long way from home...".
Historical figures who have appeared in Lucky Luke
Morris, who had been criticized over Lucky Luke's cigarette for a long time, answered his critics: "the cigarette is part of the character's profile, just like the pipe of Popeye or Maigret". It is claimed that Morris was forced to remove cigarettes Lucky Luke smokes from his strip and Lucky Luke who "used to be a heavy smoker", had to give up smoking for "commercial reasons", apparently to "gain access to the American market". On World No Tobacco Day in 1989, the magazine Spirou published a militantly anti-tobacco issue, #2668.
Morris received an award from the World Health Organization in 1988 for replacing Luke's omnipresent cigarette with a wisp of straw in the story Fingers (1983).
In the 2007 animated film Tous à l'Ouest: Une aventure de Lucky Luke, Lucky Luke is seen using what appears to be a nicotine patch and mentions that before that he had to "chew on a piece of straw for a while" right after he quit smoking. In the 1994 story Le Pont sur le Mississippi (The Bridge Over the Mississippi), he is seen rolling a cigarette again, although he claims it was just to hide his boredom. And in Sarah Bernhardt (1982), when Bernhardt's cook lights a fire to make a cake, despite Luke's strict orders not to, Luke is seen rolling a cigarette in an irate mood. He then strikes a match, only for it to be blown out by Jolly Jumper, who reminds him of his own "no fire" orders.
A spin-off series called Rantanplan starring Luke's dimwitted canine sidekick began in 1987. It has been written over the years by several successive teams of writers and artists. The character also got a 76-episode animated television series in 2006.
A second spin-off series called Kid Lucky was designed in 1995, aimed at attracting a younger readership. This starred Luke as a little boy, a format that had been very popular with Spirou. Two albums starring this version of the character were released as part of the main series: Kid Lucky and Oklahoma Jim. These were credited to veteran writer Jean Léturgie and unknown artist Pearce, who was later revealed to be a joint pen name for Yann Lepennetier and Didier Conrad. The series was scrapped due to poor sales and the two albums removed from the official list of Lucky Luke albums. The series was however re-launched in 2011 as Les aventures de Kid Lucky d'après Morris, with Achdé now solely in charge of it. To date, Achdé has written four Kid Lucky albums, L'apprenti Cow-boy, Lasso périlleux, Statue Squaw and Suivez la flèche, released in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017, respectively.
78. Cavalier seul, 2012, by Daniel Pennac and Tonino Benacquista (Lone Riders)
79. Les tontons Dalton, 2014, by Laurent Gerra and Jacques Pessis (The Dalton Uncles)
80. La Terre promise, 2016, by Jul (The Promised Land)
81. Un cow-boy à Paris, 2018, by Jul (Cowboy in Paris)
1. L'apprenti Cow-boy, 2011 (Cowboy in Training)
2. Lasso périlleux, 2013 (The Dangerous Lasso)
3. Statue Squaw, 2015 (Statue Squaw)
4. Suivez la flèche, 2017 (Follow the Arrow)
Special editions and homages
L' homme qui tua Lucky Luke, 2016, by Matthieu Bonhomme (The Man Who Shot Lucky Luke)
Jolly Jumper ne répond plus, 2017, by Guillaume Bouzard (Jolly Jumper Stops Responding)
Lucky Luke sattelt um, 2019, by Mawil (Lucky Luke Saddles Up)
Apart from the collections mentioned below, Lucky Luke comics were published in British comic book magazines such as Film Fun Comic or Giggle (in 1967). The Giggle version had Luke's name changed to "Buck Bingo".
Brockhampton Press Ltd, Leicester, began publishing the books in hardcover and softcover, with six titles from 1972 to 1974, translated by Frederick W Nolan. Brockhampton became part of Hodder & Stoughton Ltd in 1976, and under their children's imprint, Knight Books, Hodder published mini-sized paperback editions of the first six books, in 1976 to 1977. In 1980 and 1982, Hodder & Stoughton published three new titles as Hodder Dargaud, as well as reprints of the previous six.
Cinebook Ltd have been publishing English language translations of Lucky Luke since 2006. One new volume is released every two months. In India only, Euro Books, a division of Euro Kids International Ltd. published English versions of 24 Lucky Luke titles in 2009.
In 1991, a new series of 26 episodes was produced by IDDH, with the collaboration of Morris.
The 1992 live-action Italian television series, Lucky Luke, also known as The Adventures of Lucky Luke, was based on the films of the previous year, and again starred Terence Hill.
In 2001, Xilam produced the 52-episode animated series Les Nouvelles aventures de Lucky Luke (The New Adventures of Lucky Luke). It was made available on an eight-disc DVD set with French and English audio tracks. This series also featured Colonel Custer who in this incarnation is an Indian-hater and a dwarf.
Xilam produced two further animated series involving Lucky Luke: Rintindumb (2006) and Les Dalton [fr] (2010).
Over the years, several Lucky Luke video games have been released for many platforms, most of them by Infogrames, and only released in Europe (the only ones released for the North American market were the Game Boy Color and PlayStation versions).
A Lucky Luke game was also developed for mobile phones by The Mighty Troglodytes. Lucky Luke: Go West was released in Europe for the PC, Nintendo Wii and Nintendo DS in the end of 2007.
In 2013, French publishers Dupuis and Anuman Interactive announced the development of a new Time Management game: Lucky Luke: Transcontinental Railroad (set in the 1860s) on PC, Mac, iOS and Android.
In the 2010 Obsidian Entertainment-developed, Bethesda Softworks-published fourth major installment of the popular Role-playing video game series Fallout, Fallout: New Vegas, posters appear in-game, as well as in some loading screens, stating "There's a new sheriff in town and he's looking for deputies [...] Become a part of the human dignity bloc". Accompanying this text is an image of a frontier-era sheriff doing a Finger gun motion with both hands. Aside from the star-shaped sheriff badge he wears, the sheriff is dressed identically to Lucky Luke, sporting his trademark white hat, yellow shirt, black vest, and red bandana tied around his neck.
In 2015, Danish reggaeton band Camilo & Grande released a single called Lucky Luke, in which they liken their lives to that of Lucky Luke.