An animated series based on the European comic book about an American cowboy described as "The man who shoots faster than his shadow." Lucky Luke, with his horse Double Six, travels the Old...
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An animated series based on the European comic book about an American cowboy described as "The man who shoots faster than his shadow." Lucky Luke, with his horse Double Six, travels the Old West to right wrongs and bring evildoers (usually his traditional enemies the Dalton Brothers) to justice. Written by
Jean-Marc Rocher <email@example.com>
Not perfect, not all that a fan could have wished for but good entertainment
Mind you, dear reader, I'm writing this from a German perspective and the German-version of those 26 episodes produced by Gaumont & Hanna-Barbera Productions. Versions in your own country may hence vary.
Next to "Asterix" (and without bothering to check it up), I would presume that "Lucky Luke" was the second-most famous comics in Europe during the 1970's and 80's. If you'd collect one, you'd invariably come in contact with the other, so most people collected both series anyway. So, obviously a cartoon-series was produced and obviously the kids flocked to the television whenever it aired. Hence, fond memories for those who grew up around that time, but we have to admit that the show was not without flaws.
A good part of that is to be blamed on the Hanna-Barbera studios, which were notorious for cutting corners and to a point even understandable keep any costs as low as possible. It shows in the overall animation, which is a far-cry from the loving details of the comic-books. To mind come the classic "Tom & Jerry" cartoons and what they ended up looking like after HB-Productions got their hands on the franchise. There's a distinct difference in quality between the intro (I presume this was done by the French Gaumont), which looked like straight from the comic-book and the actual show itself. To be fair: the quality of the animation still beats many contemporary, shoddily CGI-assembled cartoons, but as a comic fan one would have expected a little more effort.
As to the stories themselves: they were of course adapted straight from the comics, which made it difficult since the episodes are only roughly 20 minutes long. Difficult to cram in the often complex, detail-loving stories of the comics into such short a space. Most episodes were so condensed or even taken completely out of context, that you often only the title and the title-figures reminded of the original stories. And of course the show was targeted primarily at kids and teens, while the comics enjoyed an audience of both young and old. That gave the show a childish air, filled with juvenile jokes rather than the wit of the comic, that didn't sit well with many fans. Catchphrases keep repeating themselves over and over, pointing toward lazy script writing, Jolly Jumper is way chattier and the dog, Rantaplan who in the comic only appears sporadically, usually involving story lines with The Daltons has a much permanent role as a (more often than not) annoying sidekick in the cartoons.
Like "Asterix", "Lucky Luke" was not mere slapstick or kid's entertainment, but also had a certain educational value (Goscinny was painstakingly about details, making the stories and places as authentic as possible), but don't expect to find any of that in the cartoons. Some oversensitive readers have criticized that many of the characters in the comic were way to "stereotypical". Hence, you had the lazy Mexican, the sneaky and reclusive Asians, the simple-minded and gullible Indians, etc., but same could be said about any other character in the comics. Most important though, none of these depictions were anywhere near spiteful, but rather lovingly 'over-stretched'. Don't expect any of that in the squeaky-clean cartoon either. Same goes for Luke's iconic cigarette, which makes no appearance, no doubt upon the insistence of the American production company. Of course, a few years later, when the anti-smoking-hysteria hit Europe as well, the cigarette in the comics was replaced by a straw as well, leaving many fans to lament that Lucky Luke simply wasn't the same anymore. Some hardcore fans have gone as far as to draw in their own pictures of cigarettes into the comic. Some merely defacing the drawings, others turning it into a real art, creating "alternative versions" that would make them worth a handsome price among collectors (but of course most hardcore fans would never sell their comics).
Overall, this analysis may give the impression that the cartoon-show was rather bleak. Not so. It does have redeeming values and, as said, a strong nostalgic factor for people who grew up with it. But it simply didn't get anywhere close to the original cult-comics. In fact, more than "Asterix", "Lucky Luke" seemed to have a much harder time translating to any other media, including a number of rather mediocre real-life-action films. Special praise must be given to the title-song and the ending credits "Poor, lonesome cowboy", which (if I'm correct) are identical in most countries, but with varying, local singers. In the German version, both songs are performed by Country & Schlager singer Freddie Quinn, and most viewers from my generation will probably still be able to whistle and sing along, even 30-odd years later.
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