Morris created the most famous comic book cowboy
The creator of Lucky Luke, Maurice De Bevere, was born in Kortrijk in December 1923 and became famous under the pseudonym Morris. For fifty-five years, the cartoonist would know just one character. A choice he would never regret, as this lone cowboy would earn him international fame and success.
After learning animation techniques, he became an inker at the age of 20 at the CBA, a Belgian animated cartoon studio. When the studio closed, Morris joined Franquin and Will, who were working in Waterloo under Jijé. Together, they formed the famous quartet known as "The Gang of Four". In 1945, he routinely illustrated the covers of "Le Moustique" and a year later, he created the famous cowboy dressed in Belgium's colours (black waistcoat, yellow shirt and red scarf) and his faithful equine companion, Jolly Jumper.
Their first adventure appeared in Spirou magazine at the end of 1946: Arizona 1880 followed by La mine de Dick Diggers. Arizona would be published as an album in 1951. In the meantime, Morris and Franquin accompanied Jijé's family (the Gillain family) on a trip to the United States and Mexico. While in New York, Morris met a little man with a funny face, René Goscinny, with whom he would work on his return to Europe in 1955. Their collaboration began with Rails on the Prairie and only ended with the death of the famous screenwriter. The cartoonist then worked with various other authors.
It has been said that Morris only created one character, which is both true and false, because the different personalities that his famous cowboy meets during his travels have to be taken into account, starting with the Dalton brothers, who were real-life bandits of the West. Lucky Luke's main adversaries appear in the album Hors-la-loi where the four brothers all perish during their last hold-up. Due to their success, the cartoonist brought them back to life in the following album as their cousins/doppelgängers in Lucky Luke contre Joss Jamon and as stars in their own right in Les Cousins Dalton. Other "real" characters were genuine stars including Calamity Jane, Jesse James and Billy the Kid, not forgetting his four-legged characters, starting with Jolly Jumper, the philosophical horse and bodyguard, with the ability to speak who is a bit like the cowboy's Sancho Panza, since he brings him back down to earth when he is lost in his reveries. Not to mention Rantanplan, the stupidest dog in the West, a clear caricature of Rintintin, the German shepherd assistant of a cavalry regiment and the hero of a TV series aimed at young people (broadcast in Belgium from 1958). Between 1987 and 2011, he had his own comic book and a cartoon series in 2006.
Morris embarked on his final gallop aged 77, in Brussels, despite the death of his creator, Lucky Luke would continue his adventures, thanks to the cartoonist Achdé. Translated into more than 30 languages, Lucky Luke still enjoys unprecedented success to this day.
Copyright Photo: J.-J. Procureur/Dupuis