Eurocomics heroes are seldom superheroes, and the lack of capes, powers and similar visual Sturm Und Drang have quite often deemed hem less suitable for a general audience film, much unlike X-Men, Spider-Man or Hellboy. Sure, there’s Steven Spielberg’s much awaited Tintin adaptation, and there are lots of smaller-scale projects, aimed at a more local market (such as De Texasrakkers, blogged about before). But on the whole, only one character has made it into a series of internationally acclaimed (and successful) films: Astérix the Gaul, with stories that exquisitely matched the unique combination of adventure, satire and hijinx from the albums (and probably also thanks to Gérard Dépardieu’s fantastic rendition of Astérix’ pal, Obélix).
But another hero is making his presence known on the silver screen, wearing blue jeans, a yellow shirt and a big, white, ten-gallon hat. Yes, it’s Lucky Luke, the man who shoots faster than his own shadow. Slated for release in October, it’s the story of the Poor Lonesome Cowboy returning to Daisy Town, the place where he grew up. In this town, which is now ruled by outlaws like Pat Poker and Billy The Kid, Lucky Luke confronts the killer of his parents. But don’t expect a dark and broody Batman-like tale: the movie is supposed to be a faithful adaptation of the comic books, which combined suspense and adventure with lavish splashes of slapstick and satire.
(one of the English-language editions of Lucky Luke’s albums published by Cinebook)
In an interview with Le Figaro, director James Huth tells how he has tried to track down Lucky Luke’s back story across the many, many stories. It turned out that, except for the first album, Lucky Luke has never killed any opponent, but still, he seemed to carry along a heavy burden, never committing to anything or anybody, and always riding off into the sunset. Huth has tried to insert that back story into his film, without betraying the tradition of creators Goscinny and Morris. Lucky Luke is not a glib macho man – he is a quintessentially European cowboy, always upright and strong, and talking French without anybody noticing it.
Lucky Luke was created by Belgian cartoonist Maurice De Bevere (or Morris) in 1946 for Le Journal The Spirou, but only after Morris started working with René Goscinny (who later would also father Astérix), Lucky Luke became one of the classic titles in the Franco-Belgian tradition. The stories, which were set in a mythical far west, typically the phlegmatic cowboy entering some border town and righting the pestering wrongs there. They played on the clichés of the genre, with humour that nowadays probably would be considered quite racist (lazy Mexicans, sneaky Chinese), but also with a special sort of benign satire, mirroring contemporary social platitudes. Especially the asides by Jolly Jumper, Lucky Luke’s faithful horse, give the books an extra level of meaning.
It’s not the first time that these books have been turned into films. No less than three series of television cartoons (one of them co-produced by Hannah-Barbera, hot on the trail of the success that the Smurfs had proved to be) and four animated features films were made along the years. Italian action star Terrence Hill starred in two live-action films, which weren’t that much of a success. The 2004 film, Les Daltons, showed that moviegoers liked a comic adaptation that stayed close to the visual style of the books, and paved the way for the latest one.
Wim Lockefeer is disappointed to learn that with his native Belgium being metric he can only get a ten litre cowboy hat, which just isn’t the same; you can read more from Wim on his Ephemerist blog.