Gunslingers Against Racism: Lucky Luke and Bass Reeves
No "Lucky Luke" adventure has been so bad.
In the 99th volume in the series, the Lonesome Cowboy comes to Louisiana, where after the Civil War the white plantation owners continue to treat the blacks like livestock and hide their own bodies, degenerated from doing nothing, under Ku Klux Klan caps to protect them from lit crosses to rant about the superiority of one's own "race".
Not pleasant either: while you eat lobster at lunchtime, you ponder how you want the servants to be whipped for dessert.
Lucky Luke visits the old south because an admirer of his much-celebrated heroic existence left him a cotton plantation.
400 black people work there, and a palace in the neo-Hellenistic style serves as a mansion.
The cowboy is alienated with the pomp, after all, he rides with his black marshal bass friend Reeves in this lustfully spun "Gone with the Wind" end-time ambience.
We can reveal this much: The black-and-white fighting unit of Lucky and Bass will clean up the racists.
Incestuous Irish breed
The white southern families have names like Flaherty and Glenroy, they teach about the danger of "mixed marriages" and are portrayed as a degenerate, even incestuous Irish breed.
This is a big break that the current illustrator Hervé Darmenton (Achdé) and the current author Julien Lucien Berjeaut (Jul) are making in the cosmos of Lucky Luke.
They ride and fight together: scenes with Lucky Luke and his friend Bass Reeves
Photo: Egmont Ehapa Media / egmont.de
Because it was always the broad-chested, red-headed and quarrelsome guys with Irish names who advanced the Wild West, as we knew it from earlier stories by the Lucky Luke inventor Morris - the stagecoach horses with curses drove through the most dangerous Indian areas, the telegraph poles bravely sat in the most adverse weather conditions and always rode in at the last moment to rescue the settler treks with the cavalry.
For most of his early epics, with which Morris (at times together with his partner, the author René Goscinny) built the fame of his hero, Morris was based on the westerns of John Ford, the legendary Irish-born directing bully who created his perfectly formed frontier -Epen populated mostly with Irish ruffians.
Seen in this way, the Irish-tinted "Gone with the Wind" subway tableau, which Achdé and Jul are now designing, marks an important change in time in the Lucky Luke cosmos: the time of diversity has dawned.
Lucky Luke was always a fine guy, but while he got around quite a bit on his adventures, he had no real interest in other cultures most of the time.
He let the Indians drum and break their wheels, watched funny Afro-Americans out of the corner of his eye with amusement when he was on the Mississippi by steamer, and he mostly rode calmly past Mexicans who dozed under their sombreros, faceless and without history.
Black Power and Cajun cuisine
Against this background, it is astonishing how Achdé and Jul are now able to credibly stage the Wild West as a multicultural experience space.
Black law enforcement officer Bass Reeves, a historically authenticated figure, speaks the Cherokee and Seminole language.
In a secondary line, the Daltons in the swamps of Louisiana get to know the advantages and disadvantages of the French-influenced Cajun cuisine.
But above all, Lucky Luke, as the involuntary heir of the former slave plantation, sees himself confronted with the racism that African Americans are exposed to and that they are now opposing.
One figure is reminiscent of the black activist Angela Davis, another of Barack Obama.
Different forms of resistance and self-empowerment are shown.
It's amazing how exciting, funny and detailed Achdé and Jul decorate this "Black Lives Matter" extension of the old white Western sociotope.
The break with the French Lucky Luke forefather Morris and his Irish role model John Ford is perhaps not that big.
Even Ford himself had credibly expanded the close character ensemble of his early stagecoach, settler and army films in later years and told them empathetically from the perspectives of black sergeants and ailing natives.
"Torches in the Cotton Field" also throws an interesting spotlight on the debate about the so-called Cancel Culture, which also revolved around the classic "Gone with the Wind" cited here: Why unwind a strong figure with historical weaknesses when you are in can shine all the more truthfully in a new context.
Lucky Luke is welcome to ride into the sunset for a few more decades.
Icon: The mirror