Lucky Luke by Morris
Lucky Luke - 'Sur la piste des Dalton' (1962).

The Belgian author Morris is best known for his humorous cowboy series 'Lucky Luke' (1946), whose adventures he has drawn for nearly his entire career. Together with René Goscinny he made a funny satire of the western genre, particularly every Hollywood cliché. The series spawned unforgettable characters like Luke's wisecracking horse Jolly Jumper (1947), the crooked Dalton gang (1951) and the mind boggingly stupid prison dog Rantanplan (1960). Morris used a simple, but effective drawing style. He applied dynamic cinematographic techniques and atmospheric colours in his lay-out. He also did a lot of research to give the backgrounds a historically accurate look, combined with cameos of Wild West legends and Hollywood actors. All these efforts gave 'Lucky Luke' the look and feel of a genuine western. 'Lucky Luke' inspired films (both animated as well as live-action), TV series, songs and video games. Even Morris' death hasn't kept the "poor lonesome cowboy" from riding, with new albums still being produced by his successors. It made the series a global success on par with Hergé's 'Tintin' and René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo's 'Astérix". In fact, in terms of album production: 'Lucky Luke' is the best-selling Belgian comics series in the world, making Morris the most widely read Flemish comic artist too. Last but not least, the cartoonist also coined the enduring honorary title "Ninth Art", to describe the comics medium. 

Lucky Luke, by Morris
Lucky Luke - 'L'Élixir du Docteur Doxey' (1952-1953).

Early life and career
He was born in 1923 in Kortrijk as Maurice De Bevere. His father was head of a pipe factory. Morris was Flemish and spoke Dutch as a result, but general audiences have often mistaken him for a Walloon. Indeed, contrary to most Flemish comic artists Morris didn't publish in newspapers. 'Lucky Luke' ran in Spirou and Pilote, both French-language magazines. He also collaborated with French-speaking scriptwriters and publishers. Many dictionaries, overviews, essays, exhibitions, articles and books about Flemish comic authors have therefore often ignored or overlooked him. Usually out of ignorance, though Geert De Weyer in his book 'België Gestript' (2015) claims that he once encountered people who refused to acknowledge Morris as a Flemish comic artist, merely because he didn't publish in Dutch as his first language. The misunderstanding still lives today in some circles. Ironically enough Morris is effectively the best-selling Flemish comic artist in the world! He is also one of the few Flemish comic artists to actually enjoy a truly international career. Morris was also a true Belgian patriot. He deliberately gave Lucky Luke an outfit which looks like the colours of the Belgian flag (black, yellow, red).

As a child, Morris bought magazines such as Robinson, Hop-là and Mickey Mouse Weekly and was strongly influenced by Hergé, Walt Disney, Floyd Gottfredson, Harold Knerr and Elzie Segar. Another influence on his later work was the painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. But he was most inspired by film. Morris enjoyed going to the cinema, particularly westerns. He owned a film projector and made flip books for his friends. While he studied at St. Joseph college in Aalst, he spent most of the lessons caricaturing his Jesuit teachers in his notebooks. They were understandably not amused and predicted that he would never amount to anything in life. As an act of revenge, Morris later modelled the faces of the gravediggers and undertakers in 'Lucky Luke' after those of his former educators.

Lucky Luke by Morris
Lucky Luke - 'Calamity Jane' (1967).

While Morris studied Law at the University of Leuven, he actually wanted to become an animator. During World War II, he came into contact with Belgian animator Jules Luycks. In 1944 he worked as a cel inker for the Belgian animation studio Compagnie Belge d'Actualités (CBA), where he met Eddy Paape, André Franquin and Peyo. After the war, Morris made illustrations and cartoons for the Flemish newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws, and various cartoons and cover illustrations for the weekly magazine Le Moustique. The Dutch-language version of Le Moustique, Humoradio (from 1958 on Humo), also published his work.

Cover for Humoradio (Le Moustique), by Morris (1949)Cover for Humoradio (Le Moustique), by Morris (1949)

Lucky Luke in Spirou (1947-1968)
By the end of the 1940s, Morris became one of the driving forces behind Spirou magazine, and together with his colleagues Jijé, Franquin and Will he established the so-called "School of Marcinelle", a comical style of drawing and storytelling that characterized Spirou during its heyday. These four artists would be referred to as "The Gang of Four", as they all worked in Jijé's home studio in Waterloo at that time. While Franquin and Will took over Jijé's 'Spirou et Fantasio' and Fernand Dineur's 'Tif et Tondu', Morris created a comic strip of his own. On 7 December 1946, he launched the first Belgian western series, 'Lucky Luke'. At the time Hergé's 'Tim l'Écureuil' (1931) and 'Popol et Virginie' (1934) had been the earliest Belgian western comics, but remained one-shots. Cowboy comics were nevertheless very popular among Belgian readers, but most titles were imported from the U.S. In Spirou itself Fred Harman's 'Red Ryder' had ran for years with tremendous popularity and many of the early 'Lucky Luke' stories still echo its influence. An obscure feature by Jack A. Warren called 'Loco Luke' (1935-1936) in the American comic books New Fun Comics and Popular Comics might also have been an inspiration.

Right from the start, 'Lucky Luke' already featured the title hero and his trusty white horse Jolly Jumper. During the first five years they would be the only recurring characters. The early stories were still searching for their form and more straightforward slapstick cowboy adventures. Morris also used a different graphic style, influenced by Hollywood cartoons. The characters have a more roundish look, big eyes and even four fingers on each hand. Morris hoped that his comic strip could be adapted to animation and therefore deliberately designed and staged his early comics like 1940s cartoon shorts. The first 'Lucky Luke' episode 'Arizona 1880' debuted in L'Almanach Spirou 1947 (published late 1946), and was then continued in the magazine itself, where the series remained a popular mainstay until 1968. 

Lucky Luke by Morris
Lucky Luke - 'La mine d’or de Dick Digger' (Spirou/Robbedoes, 1947).

Travel to the United States
In 1948 Morris, Franquin and Jijé travelled to the U.S.A. and Mexico. Officially, they wanted to find inspiration for new stories, particularly Morris, who made a lot of photographs and sketches of prairie and desert backgrounds. But he also secretly hoped to meet Disney and convince him to turn his comic strip into an animated cartoon. While Disney showed no interest, Morris did encounter several people who would push his style into a different, more versatile direction. During his six year stay in the U.S. he met Jack Davis and Harvey Kurtzman and assisted them with the foundation of the satirical comic book Mad at EC Comics. The nervous, caricatural and energetic parody style of Mad would have tremendous influence on 'Lucky Luke'. While in the States, Morris provided the illustrations for 'Puffy Plays Baseball' (1954, text by Mary Taylor). It was a children's book in the series Little Owl Books, the answer of New York-based Cross Publications to the popular Little Golden Books by Simon & Shuster.

Puffy Plays Baseball
'Puffy Plays Baseball'.

The Daltons
In the 'Lucky Luke' story 'Hors-la-loi' (1951) Morris introduced no less than four new cast members: the Daltons. The Daltons are four brothers who are infamous outlaws. He based them on the real-life 19th-century criminal gang the Daltons, which inspired a movie he saw once: George Marshall's 'When the Daltons Rode' (1940). Morris made his version more comical. All four brothers look identical, but differ in size. Luke killed the bandits in their debut story, but the cartoonist then realized he'd made a mistake. They had potential and readers seemed to like them too, so a few years later they returned in the story 'Les Cousins Dalton' (1957), albeit in the guise of their identical cousins. Each brother received his own characteristic individual behaviour. Dwarf-sized Joe is the gang's aggressive and hot-tempered leader. Jack and William, each a head higher, act as the voices of reason. Averell, the tallest of the four, is also the stupidest and most hungry. They would remain Luke's main nemeses.

René Goscinny (1955-1977)
During his travels in the United States Morris had also met French scriptwriter René Goscinny, who also tried to get into animation. Both men shared a love for the animated cartoons of Walt Disney and Tex Avery. Back in Europe, Morris asked him to write scripts for 'Lucky Luke', since he preferred to concentrate on drawing. Earlier stories by Morris were decent, but he had trouble putting his ideas into a tight script. Goscinny was more experienced in this matter. Their first story together was 'Des Rails sur la Prairie' ('Rails on the Prairie') and ran in Spirou from issue #906 (26 August 1955) until #929 (2 February 1956). He remained the series' scriptwriter for the next 22 years, writing narratives for 35 albums in total. This period is often seen as Lucky Luke's golden age. Goscinny introduced funnier stories and transformed the comic into a parody of the western genre. In 'Des Rails sur la Prairie', for instance, readers first saw Luke ride into the sunset in the final panel, much like the closing credits of a typical Hollywood western. He sang "I'm a poor lonesome cowboy (and) I'm a long, long way from home" (in some versions it's "far, far way"), which would become both Luke's signature song as well as the trademark ending of every album. The song itself, however, wasn’t invented by Morris. It’s an old country song first collected and written down by folklorist-musicologist John Lomax in his anthology book 'Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads' (1910). The song was featured in the western film 'Along Came Jones' (1945), sung by Gary Cooper. Since then versions have been recorded by the Norman Luboff Choir (1955), Win Stracke (1958), Ed McCurdy (1968) and Mylinda Farr (2016). The version featured in the 'Lucky Luke' animated feature 'Daisy Town' (1971), however, has new and different lyrics. 

Goscinny also fleshed out the characters. Luke was transformed into an inhumanly fast gunslinger, "able to shoot quicker than his own shadow". Jolly Jumper became a sarcastic observer and commentator. The Daltons became more hilarious idiots. And, last but not least, Goscinny also invented a new recurring cast member: the stupid dog Rantanplan. 

Lucky Luke by Morris
Lucky Luke - 'La Guérison des Dalton' (1975).

Rantanplan was first seen in 'Sur La Piste de Dalton' (1960). He is a guard dog in the same prison where the Daltons are usually kept. Goscinny based his name on the famous heroic film dog Rin Tin Tin, though there's nothing heroic about Rantanplan. Arguably the "dumbest dog of the Far West" - as many call him - he is so stupid that he never realizes what is going on around him. Most of the time he is either asleep, looking for food or simply in everybody's way. In some stories he is only seen at the start and the end, when Luke travels to the prison. But other times Rantanplan follows either the Daltons, or Luke, and becomes a nuisance for everyone involved. Jolly Jumper in particular utterly loathes the creature. Rantanplan quickly became popular with readers too. 

Lucky Luke by Morris
Lee Van Cleef as bounty hunter Elliot Belt in 'Chasseur de Primes' (1972).

Western atmosphere
Morris and Goscinny studied the history of the Wild West and spent time in the theater watching western movies. Many episodes are inspired by real-life mid to late-20th-century historical events set in the Far West. Luke has been a participant during Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, the Pony Express and the first transcontinental railroad through the United States. He additionally met real-life historical characters, including adventurers Buffalo Bill, Calamity Jane, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, writer Mark Twain, painter Frederic Remington, journalist Horace Greeley, religious leader Brigham Young, sherrif Wyatt Earp, judge Roy Bean, police officer Allan Pinkerton, actress Sarah Bernhardt, village idiot Joshua Norton and legendary outlaws Billy the Kid, Jesse James, Black Bart, Soapy Smith and Belle Starr. Still, it never got too artsy or serious. Goscinny shaped 'Lucky Luke' into a clever pastiche of cowboy stories, both from dime novels, Hollywood movies, spaghetti westerns and, of course, other western comics. Every stock character is there: ultra-fast sharp shooters, careless gamblers who are frequently tarred and feathered, grouchy old-timers, lynch-happy mobs, morbid caretakers, monosyllabic Native Americans who make spelling mistakes while sending smoke signals, Chinese laundry owners, African-American laborers, siesta-holding Mexicans, overly feared outlaws and the cavalry riding in to save the day. Morris was never fond of the westerns made after 1970, when many of the ancient stereotypes were removed out of political correctness, realism and a more historically accurate approach. He kept referring to older cowboy movies, even though younger audiences have often never seen these pictures and are therefore less bound to recognize the clichés once associated with the genre.

Joss Jamon by Morris
Inventive storytelling in 'Lucky Luke contre Joss Jamon' (1958).

Graphically, the panel lay-outs and direction were inspired by cinematographic techniques. Different kinds of perspective and camera viewpoints gave 'Lucky Luke' a more dynamic look which reminded readers of a typical Hollywood western. Pictures like 'Stagecoach' (1939), 'Union Pacific' (1939), 'Jesse James' (1939), 'When the Daltons Rode' (1940), 'The Westerner' (1940, which featured Judge Roy Bean), 'Billy the Kid' (1941), 'Belle Starr' (1941), 'Western Union' (1941), 'Calamity Jane' (1953), 'Pony Express' (1953), '7th Calvary' (1956) and 'Gunfight at the O.K. Corral' (1957) all inspired plotlines for new stories. Despite his research, Morris always portrayed a cartoony version of the Far West, based on how many people imagined it to be, rather than strive for complete historical accuracy. To bring the point down he often gave characters the looks of famous movie stars. The phlegmatic western actor Gary Cooper inspired Luke's heroic persona. Other caricatured actors were Jack Palance ('Lucky Luke contre Phil Defer', 1956), James Coburn ('En remontant le Mississippi', 1961), Randolph Scott ('Le Vingtième de Cavalerie', 1965), David Niven ('Calamity Jane', 1967), Wallace Beery, Alfred Hitchcock ('La Diligence', 1968), Mae West ('Dalton City', 1969, 'Western Circus', 1970, 'Sarah Bernhardt' 1982), Lee Van Cleef ('Chasseur de Primes', 1972), W.C. Fields ('Western Circus', 1970) and Louis de Funés ('Le Bandit Manchot', 1981). He sometimes even gave his colleagues a cameo, such as René Goscinny (Pete in 'Lucky Luke contre Joss Jamon', 1958), Victor Hubinon (Barry Blunt in 'À l'ombre des derricks', 1962) and Albert Uderzo (Tenderfoot in 'Le Pied-Tendre', 1968).

Billy the Kid cover by MorrisCalamity Jane cover by Morris
Simple but effective covers for 'Billy the Kid' (1962) and 'Calamity Jane' (1967).

Color work
But Morris' coloring was remarkable too. He would regularly color entire characters or backgrounds red, blue or yellow, giving his panels depth and focus, just like Marie Severin did in her coloring for EC Comics. Accompanied by his stylized and schematic drawing style, the 'Lucky Luke' pages are very orderly and legible. This also comes to blossom in the cover designs of the albums, which stand out for their simplicity, often featuring just one or two characters with backgrounds in a spot color.

Hors la loi by Morris
The end of 'Hors-la-loi' as it appeared in Spirou/Robbedoes in 1951, and the official album publication in 1954...

As popular as 'Lucky Luke' was, it still often met with censorship. Publishers felt that the series was too violent for young readers. In some of the earliest stories Luke actually murders some of his opponents in cold blood, such as Bob Dalton in 'Hors-la-loi' (1954) and Phil Defer in 'Lucky Luke contre Phil Defer' (1956). These segments were toned down before appearing in Spirou, or later in the album publications. It got to the point that Dupuis' editors felt that revolvers ought to be used as little as possible. A rather impossible request for a western comic. But as the series became more humorous, 'Lucky Luke' indeed became less morbid. People still fired guns, but Luke now used his bullets to disarm his opponents, rather than wound them. Caretakers and vultures still reminded of violence in the Far West, but deaths no longer happened.

Interestingly enough, the fact that Lucky Luke had been a cigarette smoker since the very beginning and other characters frequently smoked too, was never an issue. It wasn't until the album 'Fingers' (Dargaud, 1983) that Luke quit his habit, under pressure of U.S. focus groups who wanted to adapt 'Lucky Luke' into an animated TV series. 

Hors la loi by Morris
...and the original version, which did end up in a pocket book in the collection 'Gags de Poche'.

Move to Dargaud
Creative freedom was one of the reasons why Morris and Goscinny ultimately left Spirou and Dupuis in 1968.  'Lucky Luke' now became a staple in Goscinny's own comic magazine Pilote, while new stories were published by Dargaud. It allowed him to make gun violence more prominent again. Another more daring element were the additions of female dancers in saloons. Though their legs in stockings might be somewhat risqué to some, Morris otherwise kept 'Lucky Luke' more or less the same as it was before. When Pilote was discontinued in 1989 the 'Lucky Luke' stories were published through Morris' own company Lucky Productions, until a joint venture between him and Dargaud in 1999 changed the title in Lucky Comics. 

Spirou cover by MorrisPilote cover by Morris

Twelve issues of a short-lived Lucky Luke monthly magazine were published by Dargaud from March 1974 to February 1975. Dutch artist Henk Albers and scriptwriter Yvan Delporte made original short stories with 'Lucky Luke' for this magazine; the first without involvement from the official authors. Another attempt at a Lucky Luke magazine was made in June 1994 by Semic, but after the eighth issue in January 1995 it folded too. In June 2014 Mondadori France launched a trimestrial magazine. 

Lucky Luke after Goscinny's death
Sadly enough Goscinny died in 1977. Morris continued 'Lucky Luke' with many writers in the following decades, such as Bob de Groot, Vicq, the duo Xavier Fauche/Jean Léturgie, Guy Vidal, Lo Hartog van Banda and others. Morris also participated in the launch of spin-off series like 'Rantanplan' (together with Michel Janvier, Jean Léturgie, Bob de Groot and Vittorio Leonardo) in 1987 and 'Kid Lucky' (with Conrad, Yann and Léturgie) in 1995. After Morris' death in 2001, 'Lucky Luke' has been continued by Achdé and Gerra in a new series of albums published by Lucky Comics.

Movie poster for the 'Le Juge' film, rendered in Morris' style. 

Live-action films
In the 1970s 'Lucky Luke' was adapted to the big screen, just like Morris always wanted. The very first film, 'Le Juge' (1971) was a French-Italian co-production, co-directed by Jean Girault - most famous for the 'Gendarme de St. Tropez' franchise - and Federico Chentrens - who made spaghetti westerns. 'Le Juge' was based on the 'Lucky Luke' album 'Le Juge' ('The Judge') about Roy Bean. Even some of the movie posters were directly based on artwork by Morris. Yet, oddly enough, Luke himself was completely absent from the picture. He was replaced by a character named Buck Carson, played by Angelo Infanti (best known as Fabrizio, Michael Corleone's bodyguard in Sicily, in 'The Godfather', 1972). The lack of Lucky Luke in a so-called "movie adaptation" likely killed 'Le Juge' at the box office. Since then the picture faded away into obscurity. 

It took 20 years before a new live-action adaptation came along: 'Lucky Luke' (1991). This time it actually starred all of Morris' characters. Terence Hill - who also directed the picture - played Luke. Ron Carey, best known as a regular in Mel Brooks' comedies, portrayed Joe Dalton. The other Daltons and Jolly Jumper were also present. Hill, who'd made funny western parodies in the past with Bud Spencer, made this adaptation as a tribute to the comics, which he enjoyed very much. Unfortunately the picture wasn't well received and flopped. The movie was also a companion to a 1992 TV series, 'Lucky Luke', which starred the same actors and aired on Canale 5. Produced by Paloma Films and Reteitalia, it only lasted eight episodes. Hill's adopted son Ross died in a road accident during production, so the remaining five episodes were never made. 

In 2004 Philippe Haïm made the first 'Lucky Luke' live-action film after Morris' death, 'Les Dalton' (2004). Till Schweiger (best known as Sgt. Hugo Stiglitz in Quentin Tarantino's 'Inglorious Basterds') received the role of Luke, while the comedy duo Éric Judor and Ramzy Bedia played Joe and Averell Dalton. A French-German-Spanish co-production, it was one of the most expensive pictures made in these countries. Yet, again, it bombed at the box office. Five years later James Huth directed 'Lucky Luke' (2009), with Jean Dujardin in the title role (best known as the male lead in the silent film 'The Artist', 2011). Huth's picture was slightly based on the animated film 'Daisy Town', but with a different plot. Critics and audiences praised its style, though the story was widely panned. 

Animated feature films
Since 1955 Belvision, the animation department of Tintin magazine, often adapted comics from their own magazine to the screen, but also produced cartoon versions of other popular Franco-Belgian comics. Therefore there was no problem producing a 'Lucky Luke' movie. Goscinny directed the picture and wrote the screenplay, being already experienced in these matters since 'Astérix et Cléopâtre' ('Astérix and Cleopatra', 1968). It premiered as 'Lucky Luke' (1971), but would later be retitled 'Daisy Town' when it became available on video a decade later. 'Daisy Town' features the rise and fall of a western town, which Luke protects from the Daltons and a Native American invasion. The story wasn't based on a pre-existing album, but a completely new script by Goscinny. The film was a critical and commercial success. In 1983 it received an album adaptation in the comics series too, albeit drawn by Pascal Dabère (who remained anonymous at the time). 'Daisy Town' is also notable for its soundtrack by Claude Bolling, He wrote a musical score for Luke's trademark song in the comics, 'I'm a poor lonesome cowboy', with lyrics by Jack Fishman, sung by Pat Woods. This song version of 'I'm a poor lonesome cowboy' has since been used in other animated adaptations too. Among them Goscinny and Morris' next feature film, 'La Ballade des Dalton' ('The Ballad of the Daltons', 1978). A co-production with Avco Embassy Pictures, it featured mainly the same team who made 'Les 12 Travaux d'Astérix'  ('The Twelve Tasks of Astérix', 1976), thus explaining a similar plot. The story revolves around the Daltons who have to fulfill their late uncle's will and murder 12 people to inherit his fortune. The picture was again a box office hit and well received. Sadly enough Goscinny died before its premier. Dabère would adapt this animated film into a comic book version again later. One of the animators on these two classic 'Lucky Luke' feature films was Nic Broca

In 1983 a new 'Lucky Luke' animated feature hit theaters, 'Les Dalton en Cavale' (1983). Produced by Hanna-Barbera - who also made the animated TV series around the same time - it was basically an anthology film of three episodes from the series. Olivier Jean-Marie's 'Tous à l'Ouest' (translated as 'Go West! A Lucky Luke Adventure' (2007) was produced by the same animation studio who made the 2001-2003 TV series by Xilam. The plot was loosely based on the album 'La Caravane' ('The Caravan'). 

Animated TV series
In 1983, Hanna-Barbera adapted 'Lucky Luke' into a TV cartoon series, in co-production with France 3 and Gaumont. Under pressure of child focus groups several elements of the series were toned down, such as the gun violence. In the more political correct times, racial stereotypes were removed, including African-American, Mexican and Native American side characters. The caretakers were notably absent as well. Strange enough, the dancing girls were briefly seen in the opening titles, but never in the episodes themselves. The most important change was Luke's smoking habit. After 37 years he finally became a non-smoker. His eternal cigarette was changed in favour of a straw. This was also the only notable change made in the comics series itself. But Morris' admirable deed didn't go unnoticed. On 7 April 1988 he was awarded a medal by the World Health Organization. In 1991 a new animated TV series based on 'Lucky Luke' was produced by IDDH, followed by yet another one a decade later, 2001-2003, by Xilam.

Lucky Luke - La Diligence, by Morris (1968)
Lucky Luke - 'La Diligence' (1968).

'Lucky Luke' is one of the best-selling European comics in the world, sharing the honorary stage with Hergé's 'Tintin' and René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo's 'Astérix'. The adventures of the "poor lonesome cowboy" have been translated in Dutch, English, Welsh, German, Spanish, Catalan, Portuguese, Italian, Greek, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Estonian, Icelandic, Polish, Hungarian, Czech, Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian, Slovene, Arabic, Turkish, Hebrew, Bengali, Tamil, Vietnamese, Indonesian and Afrikaans. In most languages the title (character) remains the same, except for Icelandic ('Lukki-Láki'), Serbian ('Talični Tom') and Turkish ('Red Kit', in a nod to Fred Harman's 'Red Ryder' and Guido Martina and Pier Lorenzo De Vita's 'Pecos Bill', which appeared in Turkey as 'Pekos Kit'). Famous celebrity fans of 'Lucky Luke' have been comic artist Pom, comedian Urbanus, actors Tom November and Terence Hill, comedian Laurent Gerra (who became Lucky Luke's scriptwriter in 2004), economist Jacques Attali and French Minister of Foreign Affairs (1997-2002) Hubert Védrine. Belgian rock singer Arno Hintjens, aka Arno, wrote his hit song 'Lonesome Zorro' (1989) in reference to Lucky Luke. In January 2005 former Turkish Prime Minister Turgut Özal claimed that he "only read 'Lucky Luke'." In The Netherlands the Dutchman Rutger Gret often went to cosplays dressed as Lucky Luke. Thanks to his striking resemblance to the character, publisher Ballon Media/ Standaard even hired him to play "the Official Lucky Luke" during promotional events of Morris' comic. 

Cultural impact
In 1967 French singer Joe Dassin recorded a song, 'Les Dalton', inspired by the comic strip. Marcel Amont did the same with his song 'Lucky Luke' (1968). After the German punk band Die Ärzte split up, singer and drummer Bela B. formed another band named Depp Jones, inspired by 'Les Dalton dans le Blizzard' (1963). In this particular story the Daltons decide to use a different name to avoid being identified as the Daltons. Averell is named 'Jim Jones' or, as the German translation goes: 'Depp Jones'. Fil Auwera, bass player of the Belgian rock band Kitchen of Insanity, named himself 'Phil IJzerdraad' in the album liner notes, referring to the Dutch name of the character 'Phil Defer'. French comedian Élie Sermoun is well known for a series of sketches built around Jolly Jumper. Last but not least Jean Roba gave Morris a recurring role as Boule's teacher in his comics series 'Boule et Bill'. 

The Ninth Art
Another part of Morris' cultural legacy is that he is credited with naming comics "the Ninth Art". Between issue #1392 (17 December 1964) and # 1523 (22 June 1967), Morris and Pierre Vankeer wrote a section for Spirou magazine called 'Neuvième Art: Musée de la Bande Dessinée', in which they presented the world of early comics. This coined the term "ninth art" as a prestigious way to refer to comics. Although the phrase had appeared in an article by Claude Beylie for La Vie Médicale eight months prior to Morris and Vankeer's first article, its creation is generally attributed to Morris. The number "nine" refers to the other eight previously numbered art forms: architecture (1), sculpture (2), painting (3), dance (4), music (5), poetry (6), cinema (7) and television (8). The term became more mainstream among comic scholars with the appearance of the essay 'Pour un neuvième art, la bande dessinée' (1971) by the French journalist Francis Lacassin.

Fingers by Morris
Lucky Luke replaces his trademark cigarette for a straw, in 'Fingers' (serialized in VSD magazine from 13 July 1983 on), an album written by Dutch writer Lo Hartog van Banda.

Parodies of Lucky Luke
Naturally the series wasn't safe for parody. This led to predictable porn spoofs like 'De Sex Avonturen van Lucky Luke' (1982) by Paul Schuurmans, which was later republished as 'La Vie Sexuelle de Lucky Luke' (1993) by Jan Bucquoy. In both cases they were sued. Far more interesting were the spoofs by professional artists. In December 1971 Gotlib reimagined 'Lucky Luke' as a spaghetti western and also spoofed the final panel of each 'Luke' story from a different silly perspective. while Claire Bretécher made a feminist satire: 'Lucky Lite.' Jean Giraud took a page from the Lucky Luke album 'Le Pied-Tendre' ('Tenderfoot') and redrew it in his own realistic style. Morris returned the favour by redrawing a page from Giraud's 'Blueberry' story 'La Mine de L'Allemand Perdu'. Turkish artist Abdullah Turhan parodied 'Lucky Luke' in '49 Şaban Tagor'a Karşi'. 

Plagiarism of Lucky Luke
Certain Turkish 'Lucky Luke' albums, published by Yurdagül Yayınları, were pure plagiarism. Local artist Ferdi Sayışman copied entire stories from 1962 on, by simply redrawing all the panels. In 1968 'Lucky Luke' was first translated in Greece by Themos Andreopoulos. Together with his assistant Konstantinos Rabatzis and scriptwriter George Marmaridis he subsequently created the blatant rip-off 'Láky Blou' ("Lucky Blue", 1971).

Homage comics series
In 1985 various French and Belgian comic artists paid tribute to Morris with the collective parody comic book 'Rocky Luke' (Goupil, 1985). Since 2016 other authors are invited to make their own rendition of 'Lucky Luke'. The first to create an homage was Matthieu Bonhomme, who gained much praise with his album 'L'Homme qui tua Lucky Luke' (2016). He was followed by Guillaume Bouzard, who gave a more satirical look on the series in 'Jolly Jumper ne répond plus' (2017), and Mawil, whose 'Lucky Luke sattelt um' (2019) transforms the poor lonesome cowboy into a cyclist. 

Graphic contributions
In 1980 Morris was one of many Belgian comic artists to make a graphic contribution to the book 'Il était une fois... les Belges'/'Er waren eens Belgen' (1980), a collection of columns and one-page comics, published at the occasion of the 150th anniversary of Belgium.

In 1972 Morris received the Grand Prix Saint-Michel for his entire oeuvre at the Festival of Angoulême. On 27 June 1992 'Lucky Luke' was honored at the same festival with a big exhibition, with Morris receiving the Grand Prix Spécial. The cartoonist also received the BD d'Or (1989) at the Grand Prix du Salon de la BD in Porto, Portugal, and the 'Gouden Potlood' (1998) at the Festival of Middelkerke. Both Waterloo and Kortrijk named him a honorary citizen, in respectively 1995 and 1996, while the city of Menton gave him a Médaille d'Or (1999). Morris was also knighted in the Order of Leopold II (1979). In 2005 he ended at the 79th place in the Walloon edition of "Les Plus Grandes Belges" ("The Greatest Belgians"). In the Flemish version of that same contest he ended at nr. 360. 

Lucky Luke - Les Dalton se rachètent, by Morris (1965)
Lucky Luke - 'Les Dalton se rachètent' (1965).

Final years and death
Morris passed away in 2001. As a notoriously thrifty man, he one day noticed damage to his roof. Rather than hire a specialist the already 77-year old man tried to repair it himself, but fell from the ladder. He survived, but had to be hospitalized and later died from a stroke.

Legacy and influence
Morris left behind one of the best-selling comics series in the world and coined the term "Ninth Art", which is still used to describe comics in books, essays, articles and documentaries. He was a strong influence on Belgian artists like Conz, Luc Mazel, Erik Meynen and Marcel Remacle. In France he inspired Didier Conrad (for instance in his 'Donito' series), Nikita MandrykaJacques Tardi and William Maury, in Switzerland Zep, in Germany  Flix, while in the Netherlands he counts Henk Albers and Peter de Wit among his followers. Morris' coloring method also appears in the Dutch comic 'Elsje' by Gerben Valkema. Artist Henk Albers and writer Jan van Gelderen were allowed to make 'De Wereld van Lucky Luke' ('Lucky Luke's World'), an educational series about the Wild West, for the Dutch comic magazine Pep. Albers also worked with scriptwriter Yvan Delporte on four reworkings of fairy tales with characters from 'Lucky Luke' for the Lucky Luke monthly magazine in 1974. Last but not least, the Mexican-Spanish artist Alberto Murguia was a great admirer of Morris too.

In June 1993 a comic book wall was dedicated to 'Lucky Luke' in the Rue de la Buanderie / Washuisstraat in Brussels, as part of the Brussels' Comic Book Route.  In 1994 he and Jolly Jumper received a statue in the Parc Reine Astrid in Charleroi, on 5 April 1997 Luke got another one in Morris' birth town Kortrijk and on 29 July 2000 Luke, Rataplan and Joe Dalton were given another statue in Middelkerke, designed by Luc Madou. Unfortunately the Middelkerke statue became subject of vandalism a month later, was repaired on 18 April 2001 and cast in bronze in 2008. In 2001 Luke received a mural painting in the Avenue Gambetta as part of the Comic Book Route in Angoulême, France. The Dutch city of Almere named two streets after respectively Lucky Luke and Rantanplan in 2003, as part of their 'Comics Heroes District'. On 16 November 2016 Lucky Luke also received a comics mural in the Populierlaan in Middelkerke. 

Morris, signing in Hannover (Photo courtesy of Henrik Bernd). 

Books about Morris
For those interested in Morris' life and career Stephane Beaujean's 'L'Art de Morris' (Dargaud, 2015) is highly recommended.

Series and books by Morris in stock in the Lambiek Webshop:


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