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Thursday, 3 December 2009

In Review: Lucky Luke - The Oklahoma Land Rush

Lucky Luke is the cowboy who can shoot faster than his own shadow and, in the French speaking world, is probably third in bande dessinees character popularity behind the behemoths of Tintin and Asterix with over 70 titles published - easily more than the other two put together. He was created for Spirou comic by Maurice De Bevere (Morris) in 1946 who wrote and drew it until 1955 when René Goscinny, in his pre-Asterix days, joined him as writer. Lucky Luke subsequently moved from Spirou into Goscinny's Pilote comic in 1967 and Morris and Goscinny continued their collaboration until Goscinny's death in 1977 when other artists and writers began to work on the title.

Surprisingly Lucky Luke has had quite some history in British publications, appearing first in the weekly comic Film Fun before being renamed as Buck Bingo in Giggle in 1967 before Giggle merged with Buster. English language books have been published by Hodder and Stoughton / Brockhampton in hardback in the early 1970s with the equivalent Knight softcovers in the mid 1970s. Hodder tried again in the early 1980s, while Ravette tried in the early 1990s and then finally Glo'worm in the late 1990s. However none of them have had quite the impact of the Cinebook publications which now number 20 different Lucky Luke titles - more than the rest of the UK publishers put together. According to Cinebook's newsletters, Lucky Luke is consistently their biggest seller with a new title released every other month and the latest is The Oklahoma Land Rush.

Cowboy Lucky Luke, on his horse Jolly Jumper, has been hired by the United States government to clear the territory of Oklahoma prior to the land rush for the territory in which settlers will stack a claim to the land and which is due to take place on 22 April 1889. Having ensured that the territory is clear of claim jumpers, he then follows the settlers as they stake their claims and build the town of Boomville which he effectively becomes sheriff of as he settles the squabbles and thieving of certain disreputable townsfolk.

This Morris and Goscinny book may be Cinebook's 20th Lucky Luke but it was originally published as the 14th album by Dupuis in 1960 as Ruée Sur l'Oklahoma with the story dating back to 1958 in Spirou. Goscinny's humourous story races along as Luke deals with each problem in turn as part of the overall story. Indeed the book perhaps shows its weekly comic origins in the multitude of stories within the main story covering as it does a much long period of time than you would expect of a typical humour story. Yet this is not a drawback as our hero often comes across the same characters that he had to deal with earlier in the story while Morris' art is fun and accessible despite having few backgrounds to play with during the land rush itself due to the desolate nature of the Oklahoman landscape.

Based on this book, it is easy to see why Lucky Luke is so popular. This is a quick, easy, fun read for adults which is eminently suitable for young readers and with Christmas coming up it could well be worth considering as a present for younger sons and nephews since, if they like this one, there are plenty more titles for them to collect.

• More details of the Lucky Luke books are on Cinebook's website.

• More details on Lucky Luke are on the official Lucky Luke website (in French).

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