Lucky Luke, v61: “Daisy Town”
Here’s the summary from the Cinebook website:
“In the Old West, towns grow like mushrooms. And the birth of a new city inevitably draws in desperados of all kinds. When Lucky Luke spends the night in brand new Daisy Town, he’s forced to do a little cleaning up, and his skills rather impress the local population. So much so that they offer him the job of sheriff. The city is soon crime-free – until the Dalton brothers ride into town…”
Entry Level “Lucky Luke”
I’ve read about 15 “Lucky Luke” albums. They’re great classic bits of humor writing. Rene Goscinny didn’t need to prove that he could do that after “Asterix,” but “Lucky Luke” certainly proves he’s not a one hit wonder. (I’m not sure of the timing. I think he actually started “Lucky Luke” first, but I read “Asterix” first, so it all fits in my mind…)
And, of course, Morris’ art, sense of comedic timing, and acting is impeccable.
Combined, they make for great comics.
In my review of Lucky Luke v50: “Seven Stories,” I said that I would usually recommend “The Oklahoma Land Rush” as an entry-level “Lucky Luke” tale.
I take that back.
“Daisy Town” is the best entry point for this series I’ve yet read, and the best one I’ve read so far from the point of view as pure comedy.
The way Goscinny structures this comic is pitch perfect. You see how a small town develops in the old west and how it attracts the bad people and causes issues with the local Indian tribe. We see the same archetypes (and, yes, stereotypes) populate the town quickly. It’s like a Greatest Hits version of Lucky Luke.
There’s a reason for that, which I’ll get into much later…
Cartoon Old West
“Daisy Town” is the story of the birth, growth, and maturity of a frontier town. Goscinny and Morris tell it all in 48 pages. Goscinny gives you the blimp-level view of how these things work. Along the way, he pokes a bit of fun at the circumstances that allow it to happen. The book-ending fight between the town and the local Indian tribe is a prime example of that. There’s a knowing nod from both sides that what they’re doing is ridiculous. Save a little face, play a little politics, and you can all move on with life. It’s not quite as life and death as it might seem to be.
“Lucky Luke” is a cartoonish take on the Old West. Imagine the late 1800s as you might have seen them in a movie or TV show as a kid. Cowboys versus Indians, crazy bar scenes, the player piano, the high noon showdowns, etc. “Lucky Luke” plays into all of that, and it works.
Picture all the cartoon violence they don’t let you get away with on television anymore — guns that fire repeatedly and never hit anyone, knives tossed across the bar, drunken cowboys played for laughs, etc. This is a book we would have read as kids that’ll probably get you in trouble in some places today. (Cinebook officially rates it as 8 and up, which seems right to me.)
And then add in Lucky Luke, the cowboy who shoots faster than his shadow and is able to pull off moves like this:
So, yeah, don’t expect historical accuracy, though there’s a lot of stuff in the series that’s based on real people, places, and events. Just enjoy the story and the way they tell it. It is still a product of its time, in many ways, and keep that in mind if you have to. (Lucky Luke gave up smoking in the 1980s, officially, but was still rolling his own cigarettes in this book. On the cover, he’s got the straw piece in his mouth.)
Morris’ direction with the art sells every gag to the heights. Goscinny’s story has great rising action in it, to the point where the final scene includes the Old West equivalent of rush hour gridlock and confusion involving multiple parties. I won’t spoil it here, but it did make me laugh out loud.
The Daltons, Again
I’m kind of sick of The Daltons, to tell you the truth. They often feel played out, like we’re just seeing dumb personality traits personified for the sake of giving Luke something to work against. Not that that isn’t true in most comedies, but it’s always these same four guys. I’d like to see new villains.
But they worked here for me. It’s not that they’re doing anything new or suddenly developing well-rounded multi-dimensional personalities. No, it’s just that they’re used so perfectly. They show how weak-kneed and lacking in true leadership the townsfolk are, how self-defeating they can be, and how good Lucky Luke is at his job. They succeed at all of that.
It’s also made me wonder if I’m starting to turn a corner with the Daltons. Maybe I’m getting used to them enough that I am starting to like them showing up as often as they do? Let me get back to you on this after I’ve read another three or four books…
Writing Against Drawing
The opening pages are also a great case of how writing can work with acting.
Rene Goscinny doesn’t just explain what’s happening in umpteen caption boxes while Morris blandly illustrates it. They work together, or against each other for comedic effect.
Goscinny refers to “the essential,” but you wouldn’t know what that is without Morris’ drawing of a saloon. Jail is referred to just as “the obligatory.” And on it goes.
Here, let me just give you the first three pages of the book, which builds up Daisy Town and introduces Lucky Luke to it. Click on the images for bigger versions.
This is where “the essential” comes into play. It’s such a perfect name for a saloon in a Wild West town. Clever and poetic, both.
And, of course, there’s a good gag on the last tier involving “some punch.” I wonder what the original French language on this one was. Give credit to translator Jerome Saincantin for the gag, in the meantime.
Goscinny builds on “the essential” with “the obligatory” and “the rest” on page two.
Pay careful attention to the third tier, where the piano player plays as the movers off-loaded the piano, He never misses a beat. Every saloon needs that guy and he must start immediately!
I love the mortician in this series. I love that dark, morbid humor. It’s handled so lightly, but it strikes my particular funny bone.
Check out the visual gag at the top, showing which way you can shoot at a busy street corner. Great gag.
And then Lucky Luke moseys into town in the last two tiers. His is the characteristically calm one walking through a throng of craziness, from fighting in the streets to bar brawls in the saloon. Things only get funnier from there.
The Daisy Town Movie
i.e. The Origin Story for This Album
It was titled — wait for it — “Daisy Town.”
The movie was meant, for obvious reasons, to be an introduction to the world of Lucky Luke, and used some bits and pieces from prior albums to fill out its plot and cast.
That would explain why I think this is such a good entry point for new readers of the series. They wrote it that way.
It also explains how Goscinny wrote a book published in 1983, when he died in 1977. It’s an adaptation of the movie he was a writer on, basically.
I’ve watched a little bit of it ion YouTube (since taken down), and it didn’t surprise me to see some of the jokes from the album ran longer in the movie.
Point of trivia: This English language version of the movie was done with Rich Little. He did all the voices for the movie, which is why most sound like the types of celebrities he used to impersonate.
Even more interestingly, they made a promotional video for the movie, showing how it was made. It features an interview with Morris as he draws on his sketchpad, and Goscinny who comically hammers away on his typewriter. It’s in French, so I can only pick out a phrase here and there, but it’s still fun to watch Morris draw…
And Then They Made the Movie Again
In 1991, Terence Hill did a live action version of this story. It was an Italian production shot in the American southwest.
If you’re an Amazon Prime member, you can watch it today at no additional charge.
It served as a pilot for a television series that only lasted 8 episodes.
Yes, of course it is. In fact, it’s the first book I’d now recommend to someone looking to try Lucky Luke for the first time. And now we know why! It’s the comic based on the movie based on the comic that is, in parts, based on history and Hollywood.
Just read it; it’s funny.
(This is Pipeline BD 100 review #9 of 100 for 2017.)