Lucky Luke is a lone cowboy who travels the Far West during the last decades of the 19th century, typically having run-ins with various gangsters and interfering with their crimes. His most recurring foes are the Dalton brothers, who he has captured and sent to prison numerous times. He has also encountered historical personalities like Napoléon, Roy Bean, Sarah Bernhardt, Buffalo Bill, Edwin Drake, James B. Eads, Virgil Earp,Morgan Earp, Wyatt Earp, Horace Greeley, Hatfield & McCoy, Rutherford B. Hayes, Doc Holliday, Calamity Jane, Abraham Lincoln, Jack London, Isaac C. Parker, Frederic Remington, Mattie Silks, Belle Starr, Mark Twain, Annie Oakley and a few more.His only company is Jolly Jumper, the brightest horse in the world, and occasionally Rantanplan, the stupidest dog in he world. His main characteristic is his easy-going personality and tremendous speed and accuracy with the gun. He is known as 'The man who draws faster than his own shadow' and pulls off some incredible stunts with his gun.
Lucky Luke was created by Maurice de Bevere (aka Morris). His first appearance in a comic is in a special issue of Spirou magazine, December 7, 1946. It started as a series of short gags, with round drawings and easy plots. Morris learns from some of the most important comic artists from Belgium like Jije, Franquin or Will.
In 1948 Morris goes to America, eager to know how does the biggest industry of comic books work. He meets Harvey Kurtzman, founder of Mad magazine, and gets a lot of ideas for his character. He created the Dalton brothers after finding archives of the real ones in New York's library. Morris stays in the USA and sends his work from there, which leads to some situations like losing some pages. In 1949, Dupuis publishes the first issue of Lucky Luke's own volume, "La mine d'or de Dick Digger" (Dick Digger's Gold Mine).
Morris meets Rene Goscinny, who was then planning an animation movie along with Jije, and asks him to join the Lucky Luke volume. Goscinny adds substance to the plots and creates supporting characters a lot funnier than the lone cowboy. He also has the idea of finishing every issue with the cowboy riding into the sunset singing "I'm a poor lonesome cowboy and a long way from home".
In 1957, after many fans demanding the return of the Dalton brothers, who were killed in an earlier issue, Goscinny and Morris create Joe, William, Jack and Averell, the Dalton cousins. In 1959, they create another key character, Rantanplan, a parody of Rintintin.
Lucky Luke was published by Dupuis since the beginning, as part of the Spirou magazine since 1946 and on his own volume since 1949, but in 1967 Morris is not satisfied with how his work is being distributed. After 21 years, the character moves to french publisher Dargaud, that continues his distribution as part of Pilote magazine and with his own volume simultaneously. It looks like a good decision since the popularity of the lone cowboy grows considerably. During this period Goscinny deals with more modern subjects, like the exploitation of native indians or the lure of profit.
In 1973, Lucky Luke leaves Pilote magazine and starts a wandering period. Dargaud tries to find a stable place for the series creating in 1974 a magazine titled "Lucky Luke" but it only lasts one year. The character spends another year in Tintin magazine, then returns to Spirou. The magazine Pif Gadget also publishes some stories of Lucky Luke, irregularly, from 1978 until 1992. This was a very unstable period, some stories being published in various publications simultaneously, earlier stories being re-published or no stories being published at all.
Since the death of Rene Goscinny, in 1977, Morris has a hard time finding a writer. He works mainly with Jean Leturgie and Xavier Fauche. Their relationship lasted around ten issues andended up in court. Fauche and Leturgie created a similar character called Cotton Kid. Morris will work with many writers, but will never fill the place that left the irreplaceable Goscinny. During 24 years, apart from Fauche and Leturgie, Morris works with Vicq, Bob De Boot, Lo Hartog Van Banda, Guy Vidal, Claude Guylouis, Eric Adam and Patrick Nordmann.
In 1991, the volume moves to Lucky Production, a publisher founded by Morris' friends and wife to manage the lone cowboy's ongoing series. They publish as well a volume dedicated to the dog Rantanplan and another one called Kid Lucky, about the youth of Lucky Luke. Both volumes have good sales, but Morris cancels Kid Lucky after only two issues. Lucky Productions associates later with Dargaud and creates Lucky Comics. The volume continues and all past issues are published once more.
Morris dies in 2001. Dargaud's director, Philippe Ostermann, entrusts artist Achde and writer Laurent Gerra to continue creating new stories. They start a new volume called "Les Nouvelles Aventures de Lucky Luke" (The New Adventures of Lucky Luke). From 2009, Tonino Benacquista and Daniel Pennac join the team. The idea is to use the scripts of Gerra and those of Benacquista and Pennac to publish Lucky Luke issues more frequently. Achde remains as the artist. After three issues written by Gerra, the duo Benacquista/Pennac wrote issue #4, published in 2010: "Lucky Luke contre Pinkerton".
In the beginning, Lucky Luke is already a lone cowboy, but he is also violent, lout, unpleasant and rude. He doesn't hesitate to shoot Mad Jim down in "La Mine d'Or de Dick Digger", the first issue, the same way he does to the Dalton brothers in #6 "Hors-la-loi" (Outlaws).
Rene Goscinny changed his personality. He stops killing and instead uses his skills to disarm his enemies and, of course, to take their hats out. He becomes an Avenger. His main missions are to chase crooks and bandits, to catch the Dalton cousins, to keep watch on dangerous prisoners and to keep damsels out of harm's way. Sometimes, he exercises as a cowboy and leads cow herds across the west. He also leads pioneers caravans, escorts important people and represents the government, specially the Indian Affairs Board, but also the president of the USA. He offers protection to private companies (telegraph, express delivery, railroad, stagecoach, shipping transport, transport of funds) and protects any town when the sheriff or the mayor flee.
Apart from being "faster than his shadow", Lucky has other characteristics. He has nerves of steel and no fear. He always comes to the aid of the weak and takes care of other people's goods unselfishly, having turned down rewards in numerous occasions. He is also a lady's man, gallant and courteous. We don't know almost anything about his family or his home. He talked about his grandfather in two issues and receives most of his messages in a town called Nothing Gulch.
In 1971, the first animated feature film of Lucky Luke is released, written by Goscinny and Morris. There is a second film, released in 1978, written by Goscinny and Morris as well, along with Pierre Tchernia.
In 1983, Hanna-Barbera produced their own animated TV series of Lucky Luke. It doesn't succeed in the USA, but is a hit in Europe and it won a Pulcinella Award in Italy.
In 1991, French animation studio IDDH made the second season of the animated TV series.