Pilote Journal #631 cover detail for Lucky Luke's 25th anniversary
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Celebrating Lucky Luke’s 25th Anniversary with — Moebius ?!?

In 1971, “Pilote Journal” published its 631st issue. The theme of the issue was the 25th anniversary of Morris’ Lucky Luke, a character that had started at “Le Journal de Spirou” in 1946 but moved to Pilote (where its writer, Rene Goscinny was editor-in-chief) for a number of years starting in the late 1960s.

The magazine is filled with new short stories featuring various creators’ takes on the character — turning him into everything from a vampire to a pulp hero to a samurai to Robin Hood.

But the most memorable part of the issue is one that you can mostly appreciate without knowing a lick of French. It’s one where even an American audience could understand why it’s so cool. It’s the moment in the issue where Lucky Luke creator/artist Morris and Blueberry artist Jean Giraud each do a page of the other’s series.

If you’re not familiar with the name Jean Giraud, you probably know him better by the pen name he took up when he switched to more fantasy and science fiction-oriented stories: Moebius.

We’ll get to those two pages in a minute, but there are a couple of other interesting things to an American audience worth pointing out.

The Cover

Pilote Journal #631 for Lucky Luke's 25th anniversary

In 1983, bowing to the pressures of public opinion over the bad health effects of smoking (and possibly to clean up the character for any potential American audience), Morris took the ever-present cigarette out of Lucky Luke’s mouth and replaced it with a bit of straw. It wasn’t a story point at the time, though Matthieu Bonhomme has made it so in his two excellent Lucky Luke books, “The Man Who Shot Lucky Luke” and “Wanted Lucky Luke“.

Nearly thirty years later, Marvel would follow suit with Wolverine and all of their smoking characters.

While Pilote’s audience is slightly older, in general, than Spirou’s, this is still a cover featuring a children’s comic book character smoking a cigarette and popping open a bottle of champagne.

In 2021, this would have Twitter in an uproar.

But, hey, it must be convenient to have a horse when you’re on the road and don’t have a bottle opener on you. Those teeth do a wonderful job.

This Valerian Ad

This has nothing to do with Lucky Luke, but check out this full page ad for “Welcome to Alflolol“. It is intense:

Crazy superhero-inspired Valerian and Laureline ad from Pilote Journal #631

That looks like Neal Adams drawing two superheroes. I’m assuming it’s still Jean-Claude Mezieres working in a completely different style, but who knows?

Pierre Christin is still going by his pen name, Linus.

And the punchline to the ad in the word balloons at bottom left is cut off from the page. The page just wasn’t wide enough to include it. Pity.

Moebius Draws Lucky Luke; Morris draws Blueberry

The whole reason I bought this magazine is for these four pages. They are some of the most amazing bits of craft work I’ve seen in comics, and I can’t wait to share them with you.

Page 1

The introduction to these pages talks about how Giraud and Morris are the two western specialists for the magazine. It goes on to talk about how there’s no way you could confuse the two because their styles are so different. Then, it says that Giraud offered to do a page of Lucky Luke as a gift to Morris on the occasion of the character’s 25th anniversary.

So here we have Giraud redrawing a Lucky Luke page in his Blueberry style. The page comes from Cinebook’s 13th volume in the Lucky Luke series, “The Tenderfoot.” I will now attempt to sum up the story behind this page:

Jasper the butler is with his boss, Waldo Badmington, who’s the dapper British fellow who looks very vaguely like Albert Uderzo wearing yellow. (Morris says it was not intentional, but he saw what people saw and was amused by it.) They’re coming to take over Waldo’s late brother’s estate. Sam the American Indian is in charge of the house now, and there’s some tensions there, but Jasper agrees to a blood ritual to become brothers with Sam, before the two ride off together at the bottom of the page to pick up Waldo’s bags from the train station. Jack Ready, the villainous next door neighbor, looks on in the last panel as skull-shaped smoke comes out of his cigarette.

The humor in the book comes from the posh Brit and his rules-following butler showing up in the American West and learning to get along with everyone, including their antagonistic neighbor who wants their inherited estate.

Here’s the original page from the album by Morris and Goscinny:

Tenderfoot page by Morris, featuring Lucky Luke

(Please forgive the quality of these ‘scans’. The pages are too big for my scanner, so these are phone pictures. The original printing wasn’t exactly high def, either. I’ve tried to lighten things up so you can see all the line work, particularly with Giraud’s pages.)

Here’s what Jean “Moebius” Giraud — always credited back then as “Gir” — came up with:

Jean "Moebius" Giraud redraws a page from Morris' Lucky Luke series

Go ahead and scroll back and forth a bunch of times to compare and contrast. I won’t blame you.

All of the same word balloons and caption texts are used and the panel layout is identical. The coloring changes, the characters change, and there are some slight differences in camera angles. Morris’ style as a humor cartoonist was typically all mid-shots, whereas Giraud would use a wider variety of long and closeup shots.

Giraud also shows more depth in his panels. Morris’ characters are usually lined up at the same distance from the reader in each panel. Giraud creates more depth by placing them at different distances. Take a look at that first panel, in particular, for how this works.

Panel 1 of Lucky Luke by Morris shows all the characters in line, at the same distance from the reader
Jean Giraud's version of this Lucky Luke panel adds depth by moving characters towards the reader.

Overall, the Giraud page is just more realistic. You can see the background textures both inside and out to indicate the dirty walls or the far off mountains. The body language is more subtle. While Morris’ Lucky Luke might laugh with a hand to his mouth and a knee in the air, Giraud’s smiles with subtle shift in his weight to one leg and his hands on his hips. He’s a much more reserved cowboy, though he finds things just as funny.

The coloring is more literal, but it does have hints of that classic Lucky Luke style with solid bold colors. Morris’ original page is heavily yellow. Giraud’s leans towards the red, particularly in panel four and the final panel.

You can also see how Giraud draws characters facing directly out to the readers, which Morris never does. Everything Morris draws is in profile or three quarters position.

Now, let’s talk about lettering! (Of course.)

The original Morris panel from "The Tenderfoot" has stacked word balloons because the speakers are out of order
Giraud rearranges speakers so the word balloons make sense

The most significant change in the page comes at the end of the second tier, when Giraud repositions the three characters on the panel so that the word balloon on the left goes to the person speaking first without having to cross over anyone or be stacked on top of another balloon. That sudden shift creates an awkward dynamic with the 180 degree rule, but I’d bet most people don’t notice it.

Morris tried to keep the order of the three characters consistent across all the panels in that tier. Giraud reversed things to get the balloons to fall more naturally and mixed in with the art instead of floating all above it.

(Also, you see again how Giraud arranges the characters on different planes, while Morris spreads them across the panel at the same distance.)

Giraud even went so far as to include the page number in the bottom right corner in his panel, as well. Likewise, he signs and numbers the page in the last panel at the bottom.

Page 2

The introduction to the next two pages indicates that Morris wanted to draw a Blueberry page as a thank you to Giraud for his Lucky Luke effort.

Morris chose a page from a story titled “La Mine de l’Allemand Perdu.” If my French doesn’t fail me, that translates out to roughly “The Mine of the Lost German.”

Here’s Giraud’s original story page, filled with all the ink brush textures, details, and heavy shadow work you might expect:

A page by Jean "Moebius" Giraud from his western Blueberry

It’s a good western moment. A man rides up on a horse to Joe’s Corral and gets jumped from the second story of the barn before being tied up and dragged into it. It’s a dramatic, violent moment.

Morris has to scramble a little to make it work as a Lucky Luke story, but does so masterfully:

Morris redraws a Blueberry page by Jean Moebius Giraud.  The Dalton Bros replace the four random bad guys.

Morris keeps all of the original camera angles, with only minor tweaks — the first panel is a little closer up, the second panel is slightly off to the side, but that’s about it. Everything else is note-for-note.

Morris takes more liberties with the word balloons to make the story more Lucky Luke-ish and to incorporate the buffoonery of the Dalton Brothers.

From an art layout point of view, you see Morris using characters at different distances from the reader in the same way that Giraud did. It’s a little weird to see a Lucky Luke page laid out like this, particularly with the two double-height panels on the left side of the page..

The biggest storytelling change is that the the bad guy jumping out of the barn is replaced by Rin Tin Can, the dog you might recognize from “Rin Tin Can’s Inheritance“, which I recently reviewed.

The coloring is interesting, too. Morris went for a style much closer to Blueberry than Lucky Luke’s. It’s watercolored instead of the flatter, more bold Lucky Luke color schemes. The color choices are far more naturalistic, to the point where the Daltons stand out almost uncomfortably on the page with their bright red masks and simple, bold green shirts.

It’s a perfect story to choose, though, since the Blueberry story features four bad guys, who are easily substituted with the Dalton Brothers, who give the dog a treat in the final panel. That’s not something that happens in Giraud’s story:

Jean Giraud Blueberry character is dragged away
Morris' Lucky Luke gets dragged away by the Dalton Brothers, rather nonchalantly

At the end, Lucky Luke gets tied up and dragged away after a good dog licking, but looks as bemused and unafraid of the situation as he does at the start of Matthieu Bonhomme’s “Wanted Lucky Luke“, before that scene got more serious. In fact, as he’s being dragged away, he asks the Dalton Brothers for a light for the cigarette in his mouth, as his hands are all tied up.

The rest of the page is hilarious as a counterpoint to Giraud’s more serious treatment of the script. The second tier, middle panel is notable because in the original Blueberry script, the character says “Hell.” In Morris’ version, he’s just spewing skull, lightning bolts, and the like to indicate cursing.

Unfortunately, the printing is so bad in the original magazine that I can’t quite make out what the sign says in the first panel.

There’s a lot more to discover across these four pages if you seriously compare and contrast them. Leave a comment below on what you found most interesting in comparing the two styles!

Are Ya Feeling Lucky, Punk?

Gotlib has two contributions of note in the magazines. The first is a three page installment of “Rubrique-a-Brac” titled “Lucky Luke Spaghetti”, which mixes Lucky Luke and Clint Eastwood’s A Man With No Name. Imagine Lucky Luke taking on all the Dalton Bros. at the same time, but with Eastwood’s demeanor and itchy trigger finger. And do it in the style of “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” It’s hilarious.

Here’s the middle page, with a scene you probably recognize.

Clint Eastwood as Lucky Luke by Gotlib

On the third page, “Lucky Luke” shoots down every Dalton Brother before they can touch their guns…

And then, naturally, things get weird with Gotlib peeling back the page to find a standard Lucky Luke story ending and a question of which actor should be there.

Gotlib’s Back Cover

Gotlib’s second contribution is the back cover. It is a masterpiece of bizarre meta work. You know how the last panel of every Lucky Luke story shows Luke and Jolly Jumper riding off into the sunset, from behind?

Gotlib's back cover to Pilote Journal 631 does a several on the Lucky Luke "Poor Lonesome Cowboy" final panel.

Gotlib flips it around. Here’s a rough translation of that first panel:

This is the end of the story. The lonely rider goes from behind. Singing his eternal and melancholy lament …. from behind … always from behind … facing the fires of the setting sun, the last rays of a dying sun burning his face … from behind … always from behind. .. but damn good night #$@&! Why not face it for once? For ten times?

He moves the “camera” in front of Lucky Luke and Jolly Jumper (check out that mirror image flip transition between panels 1 and 2!) and gives us ten possible alternate endings to a Lucky Luke adventure, one more outrageous, bizarre, and surreal than the last. Luke gets replaced by a monkey. Jolly Jumper turns into an elephant-headed beast for caveman Lucky Luke to ride. And the whole thing ends with Jolly Jumper spreading his wings and the pair flying away.

It is so crazy and un-Lucky Luke-ish that I love it.

Best Bonus of the Issue

You get two pages from “Asterix and the Laurel Wreath” in this issue. I’ll never say no to original Asterix issues…

Pilote Journal #631 Asterix spread

Let Us Take a Moment to Appreciate the Global Economy

When I found out about the Giraud Lucky Luke pages, I tracked down an exact issue number and went straight to eBay.

Right away, I found someone who had it for sale for just a few bucks in France. Thankfully, France has a postal option that costs about $5 to have the magazine shipped to America. (I, of course, ordered a couple other magazines at the same time to fill out the package. I can’t help myself…)

It costs $15 to ship something from Canada to America, but I can get a package from France to America in a couple of weeks for a five spot.

It’s a small, small world, indeed.

What do YOU think? (First time commenters' posts may be held for moderation.)

41 Comments

  1. Amazing, isn’t it? And it wasn’t even announced ahead of time like today’s internet buzz or anything. For us it was just wednesday. I’m not sure it’s even been collected anywhere.
    Anything by Gotlib, be it from La Rubrique-à-Brac or Les Dingodossiers is worth checking out, especially considering how so much of Pilote was influenced by Harvey Kurtzman and Mad Magazine, as well as the Monty Python, many more erudite than I have written extensively about it. Gotlib would blossom furthermore when he left Pilote to create his own mag Fluide Glacial. His riff on the Lee/Buscema Silver Surfer is one of the funniest things I have ever read.
    I have a few old reprints of that stuff in a box somewhere, not in great condition but to enjoy the pages it doesn’t matter, there might be a care package for you in the future 😉
    And yes it is indeed Mézières, probably inspired, most likely, by Jim Steranko. Those were the days. My generation was a bit late to the game but I caught up with so much of the good stuff by the late seventies-early eighties.

    1. I was wondering who would be the first to say that. 😉

      Someday, we’ll all turn around and I’ll have reviewed it all while denying I’m doing any sort of organized thing. It’ll be glorious!

  2. Hopefully, Cinebook will include this and other Pilote pages in a future Complete Collection volume.

  3. What do you think will be Lucky Luke’s next adventure which will come out later next year in 2022, and what would it be about? Wild Bill Hickok or The 1st Kentucky Derby in 1875?

    1. Did you know that Jul AKA: Julien Berjeaut was 1 of the candidates to be the next Asterix writer before Jean-Yves Ferri was soon to be selected by Albert Uderzo himself in 2011 the year that Uderzo retired in, at the ripe old age of 84 years old.

    2. And hopefully, Asterix writer Jean-Yves Ferri will help Jul out with the writing on Lucky Luke’s next adventure which would probably come out later next year in 2022.

  4. Here is The Lucky Luke series in chronological order for The Lucky Luke Agenda
    1. Dick Digger’s Gold Mine 1949
    2. Rodeo 1951
    3. Arizona 1951
    4. Under A Western Sky 1952
    5. Lucky Luke Versus Pat Poker 1953
    6. Outlaws 1954
    7. Doc Doxey’s Elixir 1955
    8. Phil Wire 1956
    9. Rails On The Prairie 1957
    10. The Bluefeet are Coming! 1958
    11. Lucky Luke Versus Joss Jamon 1958
    12. The Dalton Cousins 1958
    13. The Judge 1959
    14. The Oklahoma Land Rush 1960
    15. The Daltons’ Escape 1960
    16. Steaming Up The Mississippi 1961
    17. On The Daltons’ Trail 1962
    18. In The Shadow Of The Derricks 1962
    19. The Rivals Of Painful Gulch 1962
    20. Billy The Kid 1962
    21. The Black Hills 1963
    22. The Daltons In The Blizzard 1963
    23. The Daltons Always On The Run 1964
    24. The Wagon Train 1964
    25. Ghost Town 1965
    26. The Daltons Redeem Themselves 1965
    27. The 20th Cavalry 1965
    28. The Escort 1966
    29. Barbed Wire On The Prairie 1967
    30. Calamity Jane 1967
    31. Tortillas For The Daltons 1967
    32. The Stagecoach 1968
    33. The Tenderfoot 1968
    34. Dalton City 1969
    35. Jesse James 1969
    36. Western Circus 1970
    37. Apache Canyon 1971
    38. Ma Dalton 1971
    39. The Bounty Hunter 1972
    40. The Grand Duke 1973
    41. Rin-Tin-Can’s Inheritance 1973
    42. Seven Stories 1974
    43. The Dashing White Cowboy 1975
    44. A Cure For The Daltons 1975
    45. Emperor Smith 1976
    46. The Singing Wire 1977
    47. The Dalton’s Stash 1980
    48. The One-Armed Bandit 1981
    49. Sarah Bernhardt 1982
    50. The Hangman’s Noose 1982
    51. Daisy Town 1983
    52. Fingers 1983
    53. The Daily Star 1984
    54. Bride Of Lucky Luke 1985
    55. The Ballad Of The Daltons 1986
    56. The Cursed Ranch 1986
    57. Nitroglycerin 1987
    58. The Alibi 1987
    59. The Pony Express 1988
    60. The Daltons’ Amnesia 1991
    61. Ghost Hunt 1992
    62. The Wedding Crashers 1993
    63. Bridge Over The Mississippi 1994
    64. Kid Lucky 1995
    65. Belle Starr 1995
    66. The Klondike 1996
    67. The .O.K. Corral 1997
    68. Oklahoma Jim 1997
    69. Marcel Dalton 1998
    70. The Prophet 2000
    71. The Painter 2001
    72. Legends Of The West 2002
    73. The Beautiful Province 2004
    74. Tying The Knot 2006
    75. The Man From Washington 2008
    76. Lucky Luke Versus The Pinkertons 2010
    77. Lone Riders 2012
    78. The Dalton Uncles 2014
    79. The Promised Land 2016
    80. A Cowboy In Paris 2018
    81. A Cowboy In High Cotton 2020

    1. it just hit me that the number of non-Goscinny books now outweigh the ones he wrote, if you count the early Morris-only ones and everything after Le Fil Qui chante minus the odd short story. It’s kind of scary. I’m looking at the ten big Rombaldi integrale on my shelf right now sitting next to the 6 Asterix ones. It makes me furiously want to reread them one more time. I know I should not be so hard on the successors, there were some decent ones in there but when you’re spoiled with good writing at such a young age, it becomes a curse that keeps me from giving lower efforts their fair share. Hopefully someone can help me get over it and put them in a new perspective. LOL No I didn’t say it 😀

      1. Whoa, I hadn’t done the math on that, but that’s crazy. And I’m much harder on the non-Goscinny books than you are, though I think I’ve enjoyed the last couple Achde books with Jul more than you, as I recall.

        I hope you discover that new perspective someday. =)

  5. Did you know and have you read the Gameblog.fr article on the various caricatures in the Lucky Luke books at all? I recommend that you check it out and write an article on it someday but it’s in French and was posted on July 6th, 2021 by Gameblog.fr user Donald87.

  6. I didn’t know this site, it looks interesting.
    I did not find the article you mention, can you link to it here? I’m curious. I think Augie did a similar article for Asterix a while back, based on the information available on the official Asterix website. LL is not so developedOnly problem is, aside from the occasional hollywood star, most caricatures in LL are french personalities that probably mean nothing for non-french observers.
    Still as I was browsing that site, I found someone also reading old Spirou reliures :
    https://www.gameblog.fr/blogs/hecqdavid/p_135818_et-si-on-lisait-un-album-spirou-de-1960

  7. And there’s also one for Asterix caricatures that Donald87 posted on March 21st, 2017 too.

    1. And also do that for a future article too. As a new addition to the Asterix Agenda too.

  8. This year is Lucky Luke’s 75th birthday in 2021, as I said before in your other Lucky Luke related posts, and Lucky Luke’s 25th birthday was 50 years ago in 1971. It sees to look back 50 years later at something from a long time ago.

  9. Did you do this article in honor of Lucky Luke’s 75th birthday at all? Because, this year in 2021 is Lucky Luke’s 75th birthday you know as I’ve said in some of your other Lucky Luke related articles before.

      1. That edition of Spirou magazine came out 25 years ago in 1996, the same year as Lucky Luke’s 50th birthday.

  10. Will Spirou Magazine do something for Lucky Luke’s 75th birthday at all later this year?

      1. I think Spirou Magazine will have a Lucky Luke 75th birthday article in December of 2021 because Lucky Luke 1st debuted Spirou Magazine Almanac 1947 which came out on December 7th of 1946. AKA: the 5th anniversary of when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. And when the US entered World War II on the side of the allies.

  11. The reason why Morris moved Lucky Luke to Pilote magazine in 1968 was because of creative freedom. And why there are no saloon girls and not a lot of gun use in the Lucky Luke stories in Spirou magazine was because Spirou magazine was owned by Conservative Roman Catholics who thought that the showing of women’s legs and the use of a lot of gun violence was too inappropriate for young children which Spirou magazine was mostly aimed at back in the day. So, the 1st Lucky Luke book to have saloon girls was the 34th book in the series and the 1st book to be serialized in Pilote magazine Dalton City from 1969. While The Stagecoach and The Tenderfoot both from 1968 were 1st serialized in Spirou magazine in the mid 1960s but were published by Dargaud in album format in 1968 the same year Lucky Luke moved from Spirou magazine to Pilote magazine.

  12. The dialog on the bottom of the Aflolol Ad is the actual comic heroes, one asking “don’t you think they’re pulling all the cover to themselves?”, the other replying “let’s go back to work”. The two big figures are the authors depicting themselves as superheroes, text saying “fully drawn with pen and brushes”.

    1. I have now. It’s great, as was the entire issue. Well, I haven’t read the whole thing, but I flipped through it last night and picked out a few quotes. It looks great. I recognized some of the tributes from being on-line previously, but 95% of them were new to me.

      1. Achde must of been very sad when Raoul Cauvin died on the 19th of last month because Raoul Cauvin wrote a series from volumes 8-13, that was also created by Achde from 2000-2007 called CRS = Detresse that Achde did before taking over Lucky Luke and during his early Lucky Luke days, after the series creator Morris tragically died on July 16th, 2001 at the age of 78 years old.

    1. I think it’s just a style of the times kind of thing. The pompadour was pretty popular in the 1950s. Fun fact: The word “pompadour” comes from a mistress of France’s King Louis XV.

        1. More specifically, Pompadour is Babar’s royal valet and servant and is in charge of the Royal Protocol guidelines around the palace where Babar and his family live at, and in and around Celesteville. And is usually seen with the Prime Minister of Celesteville, Cornelius while doing King Babar’s paperwork and scheduling King Babar’s appointments. And is also is a minister and adviser to King Babar also.

  13. Have you seen the Hanna-Barbera Lucky Luke series that ran from 1983-1984 at all? You should watch it on YouTube for the Lucky Luke Agenda.

  14. It’s a terrible series. Low quality both on the sketchy art and poor writing that veers on the goofy side and loses all of the intelligence of Goscinny’s scripts.

    1. And also, the 26 books that were adapted as episodes in the Lucky Luke Hanna-Barbera series that ran from 1983-1984 were not usually faithful to the original 26 books they were based on.

      1. And go watch British YouTuber and reviewer Jeffery Kitsch’s spot the differences videos on YouTube on many Lucky Luke animated episodes from the Hanna-Barbera series that ran from 1983-1984, and the second Lucky Luke animated series that was not made by Hanna-Barbera that ran from 1990-1991. And Jeffery Kitsch also does spot the differences videos for Asterix, Tintin, and The Railway Series by Reverend Wilbert Awdry. Go check him out and if you have or have not seen the videos on YouTube before.

    2. Was Hanna-Barbera basically mean to original 26 Lucky Luke comics they adapted for the 1983-1984 Lucky Luke series they made or something like that at all?

    3. If Rene Goscinny were alive today, what would he think of the 1983-1984 Lucky Luke Hanna-Barbera series? Would he even like or not like it?

  15. Did you know that Lucky Luke writer Julien Berjeaut AKA: Jul in 2011, when Albert Uderzo retired at the ripe old age of 84 years old was one of the writers shortlisted to be the next Asterix writer before Jean Yves-Ferri was chosen instead by Uderzo himself?