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Belgian comic book hero takes on racial segregation

A mural of comic book hero Lucky Luke. Credit: Pixabay

The next comic book in the Lucky Luke series will finally put the spotlight on black Americans, the scriptwriter of the series told AFP on Monday.

Created by Morris in 1946, written by René Goscinny from the mid-1950s, Lucky Luke is a beloved Franco-Belgian comic book series.

“Lucky Luke’s stories are supposed to take place during the Civil War and beyond, yet African-Americans are never represented in the albums, except in a marginal way,” explained Jul, the French screenwriter of Lucky Luke’s two previous albums, “The Promised Land” (2016) and “A Cowboy in Paris” (2018).

Throughout the 80 albums in the series, black people make sporadic appearances, often without dialogue.

The album “Un cow-boy dans le coton” (A Cowboy in the Cotton) will be released on 23 October. “It was conceived well before the death of George Floyd,” Jul said.

The album cover shows Lucky Luke, gun in hand, in a cotton field alongside a black sheriff. In the background are four Ku Klux Klan members with lit torches.

The story takes place in Louisiana. Lucky Luke has inherited a huge cotton plantation and will have to fight against the powerful in the region and against racial segregation. He is backed by his rivals – the Daltons – as well as Bayou Cajuns, white people left out of the prosperity of the South.

Besides the Daltons and Cajuns, Lucky Luke gets help from Bass Reeves, who in real life was the first black deputy sheriff west of the Mississippi. Born into a family of slaves, Reeves was considered one of the greatest gunslingers of his time and has arrested more than 3,000 criminals.

Since its creation, more than 300 million albums of the lonely cowboy have been sold worldwide. The series is translated into 29 languages.