“Black lives matter” in the new “Lucky Luke”? For the first time in its 74-year history, a black main character appears in the current volume. What does this say about dealing with racism and stereotypes in comics?
By Alex Jakubowski, hr
Bass Reeves was the first black marshal west of the Mississippi. It actually did exist. Even descending from slaves, he is said to have arrested several thousand gangsters in his career. He plays a leading role in the new “Lucky Luke” band. Author Jul says: “In his day it was really a myth, a legend of the Wild West. Because American historiography has erased all blacks – all those who did not fit the Hollywood legend – it has gradually been forgotten.” So now he rides alongside the cowboy, who shoots faster than his shadow, into the consciousness of the politically correct readership.
After Lucky Luke was last allowed to drive to Paris, the author couple Achdé / Jul sent him on the trip again – this time to Louisiana. He inherits a cotton plantation there, wants to hand over the plant to the black workers and makes unpleasant acquaintance with the racist Ku Klux Klan. In the end, he himself gets into a tight spot, receives unexpected support from his eternal adversaries, the Daltons, and finally has Bass Reeves by his side.
How do you portray slavery in comics?
“We asked ourselves: which topic has never been covered in Lucky Luke, which topic, which area?” Says Jul. “There are a lot of ‘Lucky Luke’ tapes in which our cowboy gets to know another group of American society : the Italians, Irish, Chinese. ” But in the eighty volumes the Jews and blacks were missing, according to the author. “The fact that this album is coming out right now is a coincidence, but perhaps it simply comes from the fact that comic book authors and cartoonists draw from current affairs, they draw from everything that surrounds them.”
The two makers have already dealt with Judaism in the volume “The Promised Land”. Now it comes to the story of the slaves in the southern states, which of course is full of atrocities. Therefore it was not easy for the makers to keep the usual joke that characterizes a “Lucky Luke” album. In addition, there was a great danger of falling into stereotypes with the figure drawings. Similar to how this is still the case in “Asterix”, where the black pirate is depicted in the lookout with thick, red lips, or in earlier “Lucky Luke” tapes itself.
Draftsman Achdé absolutely wanted to avoid this:
“Then I was very careful not to make the same mistakes as they were made earlier, which were the expression of a certain time. Morris (the first” Lucky Luke “artist) was criticized – albeit much later – for the Blacks in the ‘Am Mississippi’ band have thick, red lips and so on. I didn’t want that. I wanted to show that they are a population group like any other, just with a different skin color.
New awareness of racism in comics
Indeed, the consciousness of the cartoonist has changed today. Overdrawings, as they are common in comics – just as they are in caricatures – are reconsidered and used more consciously. Comics expert Volker Hamann says: “Fortunately, stereotypes in comics have diminished in the past few years and nowadays mainly affect classic comics, most of which are still timeless and legible beyond their problem areas – if the readers can correctly classify the historically relevant facts and circumstances . “
In the meantime, at least in comic circles, there is a regular discussion as to whether or not certain cartoonists pursued racist motifs with the depiction of their characters. The best-known example is likely to be the discussion about “Tintin” artist Hergé, whose comic “Tintin in the Congo” from the years 1930/31 repeatedly caused debate. Racism in comics is also examined from a scientific point of view. And dealing with it is reflected in the behavior of comic artists today.
Lucky Luke meets Oprah and Barack
The way we deal with racism in comics has of course changed over the decades, says Hamann: “Stereotypes, regardless of whether they are racially motivated or not, are always grateful triggers of humor, which fortunately has also become more differentiated over the years . And that is where racism and vilification have no place. “
The current “Lucky Luke” wouldn’t be a real “Lucky Luke” if the album didn’t include allusions to the present day. Achdé and Jul gave two black children the names Oprah and Barack. One wants to be a journalist, the other President of the United States. Because both are allowed to go to school, something could actually come of their blossoming imagination.
And while the Lonesome Cowboy rides into the sunset as usual at the end of the comic, his partner Bass Reeves has a dream based on Martin Luther King: “That blacks will one day be treated like all Americans. That they will finally be ‘freer than theirs Shadows’ live. “