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.
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:
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.
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:
(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:
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.
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 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.
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:
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 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:
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.
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 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…
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.