“A cowboy in the cotton”: Lucky Luke confronted with racism in the plantations of the southern United States

“Un cowboy dans le coton” is the third collaboration between designer Achdé and screenwriter Jul. This time, the duo immerses us in the south of the United States where the Ku Klux Klan dictates its law, at the end of the 19th century.

With a cowboy in the cotton, the authors Jul and Achdé decided to tackle the theme of slavery. A first, since until then the comic book hero Lucky Luke had only crossed New Orleans for five pages in the album Up the Mississippi, published in… 1961.

In this new story, Lucky Luke inherits a large cotton plantation in Louisiana. But the cowboy has no intention of settling down as a landowner, and he decides to redistribute the land to black farmers just freed from slavery and working on the estate.

In this generous enterprise, Lucky Luke has to face the Ku Klux Klan and the large white landowners among whom racism is still deeply rooted. For once, he can count on the help of the Dalton brothers, but also on the support of Bass Reeves, the first African-American appointed deputy marshal west of the Mississippi. The character really existed. It is a tradition in Lucky Luke’s albums to introduce us to often overlooked faces in American history.

A cowboy in the cotton is the third collaboration between cartoonist Achdé and screenwriter Jul, after The promised land in 2016 which mentioned the emigration of Jews from Eastern Europe to the United States, and A cowboy in Paris in 2018.

Since the creation of Lucky Luke by Morris in 1946, the adventures of the lone cowboy have often provided an opportunity to address social themes. Jessie james (1969) dealt with the cowardice of crowds; Rivals of Painful Gulch (1961) family blood feuds; The tender foot (1967) of integration. But this time the authors tackle a particularly difficult subject. It was therefore difficult to find a balance between the parody of a western to which the reader, young and old, is accustomed, and the evocation of the terrible fate of African-Americans in the southern United States during the second half of the 19th century.

“A cowboy in the cotton” (Lucky Productions)

The authors succeed in the exercise by abandoning certain gimmicks of the series which could give the impression that the subject – serious – is only a pretext for the laughter: few caricatures of celebrities that Morris and Goscinny loved, for example. But the buffoonish interventions of the Dalton add some light moments to this poignant story. The Dalton who remain convinced until the end of the adventure that the Cajuns are Mexicans and that the Ku Klux Klan is an Indian tribe.

A cowboy in the cotton is Lucky Luke’s 81st album. It would almost make you dizzy to imagine that the lone hero is already 74 years old, and that he was born in a world totally different from ours, post-war France. Yet Jul and Achdé show us that Lucky Luke is timeless.

The New Lucky Luke: "A cowboy in cotton "
The new Lucky Luke: “A cowboy in the cotton” (Lucky Productions)

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