Lucky Luke Volume 76 brings us the exception to the rule of these Lucky Luke adventures being fabulous things that riff of a simple template – and sadly, breaking away from the norm just doesn’t work too well when we deal with the adventures of Kid Lucky.
I covered Lucky Luke in depth a little while back, telling you how good it is, how much of a classic it’s been throughout the history of the strip and how the various eras of Luke all seem to have a sense of continuity, where one of the key elements that makes the strip work for so long is an adherence to a template. It’s this template, defined by Morris & Goscinny, that allows so many creators to come in, usually working with Morris, and still deliver a Lucky Luke tale that’s hugely satisfying.
So, after saying all that, we’re at Volume 76 in this Cinebook reprint series – and of course, here’s where it all goes off template.
Because here’s the Lucky Luke we’re reading about here in Oklahoma Jim…
Yep, it’s not the man who shoots faster than his own shadow, the coolest cowboy in the West, it’s the strange, somewhat misguided attempt to create a spin-off series – Kid Lucky.
Yes, Kid Lucky – immediately taking away so much of what makes Lucky Luke work so well. Like I say, it was designed as a spin-off series from 1995, although this volume and Kid Lucky came out as part of the main Lucky Luke series. It’s credited to veteran writer Jean Léturgie and newcomer Pearce (who was later revealed as the joint pen name for Yann Lepennetier and Didier Conrad). Ther’es just two volumes of this version of Kid Lucky, it was poorly received and scrapped.
And frankly, how much Morris actually had to do with this volume is anyone’s guess, although I imagine it was minimal at best as this volume came out during the last stages of his involvement in Lucky Luke – he passed away, age 77, in 2001 and this is a volume from 1997.
Here, Kid Lucky is travelling with Old Timer and arrives in Mushroom City. The gold miner kicks back and relaxes, but Luke finds himself being sent to… SCHOOL!
Yep, that goes down so well with the cowboy in training.
The problem with Oklahoma Jim is that it messes too much with the idea of what Lucky Luke is. The whole point of Lucky Luke is that it has this magnificent template of what happens in every story, so simple, so perfectly constructed, and all that really is needed for a great story is to play around with the characters and scenarios, whilst keeping everything pretty much the same. You know, it’s that same sort of template that works throughout so many incredible comics – look at Asterix, look at Tintin, and yes, Lucky Luke.
But as soon as you mess around with the template, you lose all of that formulaic brilliance and you lose the structure, lose the familiarity, and you have to get used to the whole new structure of the thing.
Gone is the confident, classically cool sharp-shooter and Instead, it’s Kid Lucky getting schooling, a slingshot instead of a six-shooter, bringing in the Dalton Brothers to fill his new teacher’s classroom. And instead of an adult Lucky Luke, we have the adult sharp-shooter in the shape of the dodgy Oklahoma Jim who comes into town with nefarious plans, looking to get himself some schooling and having at least one eye on Luke’s teacher.
It’s a difficult thing to come to terms with about this Kid Lucky, losing all of the familiarity of the strip that we’ve become used to, the classic storytelling that we’ve come to love.
Yes, there are enough funny gags to make it sort of enjoyable, with the lil’ Daltons providing all that comic relief, and plenty of flourishes playing on the ideas of the kid who will grow up to be the man – this sort of thing…
Yes, those sorts of things are fun and the whole book reads nicely enough. And certainly artistically, it’s near to what you expect, has all the hallmarks of Morris lite, but throughout the whole book I simply couldn’t get over the idea, the feeling, that although it’s fun enough, it’s not really Lucky Luke.
Lucky Luke Volume 76 – Oklahoma Jim – Art by Morris & Pearce, script by J Leturgie & Pearce, colours by Studio Leonardo. Published by Cinebook.