Luke is quick on the draw;Books

26th February 1999 at 00:00
TES Primary examines the appeal of comic-strip characters

The European tradition of bandes dessinees (witty and graphically sophisticated comic strips of which Asterix and Tintin are the best known over here) is something UK publishers would do well to import in bulk.

Lucky Luke, the man who shoots faster than his own shadow, has been a hero of the bandes dessinees in more than 30 languages for many years. Rene Goscinny (the writer of Asterix) and the Belgian artist Morris began to collaborate on the stories in 1955, although Morris had created the character in 1947.

Unlike Asterix and Tintin, Lucky Luke has never had a chance to become familiar to British readers. Now Glo'worm has published three new titles (Calamity Jane, Dalton City and Jesse James, with The Tenderfoot to follow in March). These might win him new readers, unless the heroic cowboy figure has become less appealing over time. I hope it hasn't.

Lucky Luke is a cool, laconic individual - definitely French rather than American - who might easily have been played by the young Jean-Paul Belmondo. The lock of blue-black hair hanging out under the front of his hat is one of his trademarks; the other is the perpetual cigarette (the only time we see him without one in his mouth is when he's rolling a new one). He was born in smokier times, and the publishers are stuck with the cigarette (it would probably require a surgical operation to separate Lucky Luke from it).

These four adventures are brimming with puns and slapstick. I'm glad to see the villainous Daltons here (four identical brothers, perfectly graduated in size from the tiny and ferocious Joe to the large and dim-witted Averell), who make up for the lack of a large supporting cast such as we find in Tintin or Asterix. Lucky Luke is accompanied everywhere by his suave and intelligent horse, Jolly Jumper. In any case, as he frequently sings, he's a "poor lonesome cowboy".

Glo'worm's Lucky Luke titles (distributed by Turnaround at pound;4.99 each): Calamity Jane translated by Pablo Vela; Dalton City, The Tenderfoot and Jesse James by Frederick W Nolan. KS2 worksheets are also available Philip Pullman's latest novel for children,I Was A Rat, will be published by Doubleday in April

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