Wednesday, October 29, 2008


I always get a kick getting a load of various European and other decidedly non-Amerigan peoples' views of the United States because on one hand they're so off-kilter yet on another they can see things about this nation that the reg'lars never would in a million years. True, Europeans have rather funhouse-mirror-distorted views of the States and the way we all exist in Lindsay Hutton's case f'r example (he being one of the bigger Ameriganophiles I've had the pleasure of coming across...he even likes crappy current Amerigan tee-vee shows!), they're all agog over Ameriga and anything even remotely Amerigan to the point where they'll watch nothing but Amerigan tee-vee programs and actually think everyone over here drives around in Cadillacs and have swimming pools in their backyards. And we're all cowboys as well which strikes me funny because if you saw anyone dressed up as one of 'em in these parts he's probably standing in front of the Ho-Mo-Tel if you know what I mean. On the other hand some of these continental types can be of such a stridently Marxist air that they loathe the land and anyone who walks on it, much preferring the simple Worker's Paradise of the thirties-era Soviet Union (this opinion is also held by various people over here, usually expressed vividly on PBS documentaries and in high school history textbooks). I guess that's what you would expect from someone whose views on Ameriga were formed from old Ben Shahn paintings, but frankly I guess these Euros are entitled to their views no matter how "blinkered" they may's almost as bad as my views of people in the maybe Great Britain who seem to get their jollies bashing in Irishmen then defend themselves with hefty references to their own proud culture.

The perhaps not-so-twisted takes of Amerigana that the Europeans at revel in is just one reason why I like to watch and/or read their own homespun spins on Amerigan kultur, and for an especially addled treat it's great seeing just how them furrners handle what I would call pretty unique Amerigan entertainment, most notably the good ol' western.

Gotta admit that I really do find it strange that westerns would ever have caught on one iota overseas. Really, why would anyone outside of the borders on the US of Whoa even be interested in such entertainment which if anything seem custom made for 1950s kids to watch on UHF channels on rained-out Saturday afternoons. But hey, the land of tea 'n strumpets was able to produce a series such as FOUR FEATHER FALLS (even if it was in Supermarionation!) and weren't both Adolf the H and Al Einstein fans of that one kraut western writer who name has slipped my mind (don't worry, I'm sure Mike Snider will remind me in the comments section)? Of course what follower of the European comic scene would even dare to forget Belgium's Morris and Goscinny, the pair who were able to create one of the biggest stars bred of the Amerigan West, none other than LUCKY LUKE?

Being a guy who faithfully re-reads TINTIN IN THE LAND OF THE SOVIETS every few months and still has the heavy duty love pangs for Yoko Tsuno, I felt it natural to get hold of some Lucky Luke books that were not only translated into English but being peddled via ebay. And hey, even with the standard Euro Marcinelle School style and naturally second-hand take on the Old West, I can really dig into these Lucky Lukes just the way I used to dive head first into those classic 25-cent 52-then-48 page DC comics which not only had an all-new story but the Golden Age classic that I was more or less geared up for. And, thankfully, these Lucky Luke books are pretty much void of any of the preachy and overwrought messages that are continually pounded into kids' grey matter these days to the point where the only hope I can find for the future of kids' television is for an animated MR. A series to counteract the years of Captain Planet and the rest of those bludgeoning neo-Communists that are in such hefty supply these days.

Of course they're great, and an alternately spoof/homage to the westerns of yore done by Belgians no less is such a bright idea that I'm surprised LUCKY LUKE hasn't accrued a bigger following on this side of the ocean. Clearly influenced by not only the imported Westerns that had been appearing in Europe for some time but by home-grown product, LUCKY LUKE's a guy who's a combination of the early Western stars (William S. Hart, Tom Mix, Ken Maynard) and the rash of 30s/40s stars who seemed to have a second life on television at least until the past ten years. Parody perhaps, but still with an air of realism and of course some actual western history tossed in even if Luke seems to have met up with more real life western figures than a standard run of RIFLEMAN and BONANZA reruns could come up with!

Mixing standard b-movie schtick with smart comedy and a homage to Old Hollywood as well...a spitting image W. C. Fields appears in WESTERN CIRCUS while the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, David Niven and even Serge Gainsbourg have made cameos...LUCKY LUKE does succeed with its typical continental flavor despite its definitely Amerigan setting. Still it is fun reading these stories where Luke tangles not only with his longtime adversaries the Dalton Brothers, but Calamity Jane and Jesse James, and I really could have seen a vast Amerigan market for these comics from the get-go since they sure do read better'n some of the n-th rate crankout westerns I've come across during my many moons of collecting. The artwork as I said is in that standard Olde World style, but even I detected a touch of classic-period Jack Davis in the decor and the way Goscinny draws backwoods kids. Wonder if this is intentional or not.

But once I get down to it, I find it hard to ignore the overpowering Euro flavor of LUCKY LUKE which I guess is to be expected but maybe dilutes the Amerigan nature of the stories somewhat. Perhaps it's the art or maybe even the at-times back-translation way the dialog reads, but LUCKY LUKE reminds me of something that is supposed to be Amerigan, come off Amerigan and even smell Amerigan, but there's something sideways-glancing strange about it. Sorta like the 1962 Zil...the famous Soviet limo had an Amerigan-looking grill and body and a sorta Amerigan sleekness that wouldn't've been outta place on the highways of the day, but there was just something about this vehicle that had all kinds of bells and sireens going off in your congested beanie until you realize that this particular auto was just one big Communist Plot!!! At times I kinda get that same feeling reading LUCKY LUKE but heck, it's sure great to read something that was born and bred of post-World War II entertainment value even if it really ain't of true blue breeding.

But LUCKY LUKE is still captivating enough as a more than valid form of fun late-night reading entertainment, and I sure wish that the earlier stories (with even better artwork not so much beholden to the patented mainland style) were readily enough available in English or even Sanscrit if I could get hold of 'em! And surprisingly enough the series is continuing despite the deaths of its creators, although I understand that the anti-tobacco bluenoses have succeeded in having Luke's ever-hanging cigarette replaced by a blade of grass, which even earned the praise of the World Health Organization! Maybe I ought to toss out all of my LUCKY LUKE books on the basis of that bit of disturbing information, but I refuse to have my enemies rule my tastes in comic reading yet!


Lindsay Hutton said...

Chris - my rose-tinted specs are well and truly cracked. You mean the Yoo-ess off A isn't the promised land? I thought that Lucky Luke drawing was Lobey Dosser for a wild second...

Christopher Stigliano said...

Lindsay, nice try but I don't think it could compare to the Western strip version of GUNSMOKE (or as it is called your way GUN LAW) with alla that gratuitous violence, swearing and nekkid broads!!!! Anyone out there know where I can find a collection of strips?

Christopher Stigliano said...

I believe that the German writer of westerns both admired by Hitler and Einstein was Karl May.