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Lucky Luke

An American Cowboy - after all

Lucky Luke, a famous cartoon character, has been a beloved fictitious cowboy in Europe for the past 60 years bringing joy and entertainment to many readers and audiences. A recent discovery has unveiled the fascinating fact that the original character of the Lucky Luke cowboy was created by an American, Arthur A. Dailey, at least as early as 1934. Mr. Dailey, in 1934, created and wrote a series of radio programs for boys and girls around the main character "Lucky Luke" – a cowboy who had many adventures in the Old West.

Prior to writing the Lucky Luke show, Mr. Dailey wrote the "Lone Wolf Tribe" radio show in 1932. A station line-up from October 1932 shows a long list of stations in the major cities in the continental United States. Both were shows for young boys and girls based on Mr. Dailey’s love and life in the West where his characters originated – such as Chief Wolf Paw and Lucky Luke. The shows aired from the WBBM Air Theater in Chicago and were sponsored by William Wrigley Jr. Company and The Ice Cream Manufacturers Company of Cook County respectively. Actor and movie star Don Ameche was the narrator for the Lone Wolf Tribe. Listeners were given the opportunity to join the Tribe and receive the secret official Lone Wolf pin as well as the beautiful Lone Wolf Tribe book – once they sent in enough gum wrappers to qualify for the prizes. By the same token, the Lucky Luke show offered a contest and prizes, too – roller skates, bicycles, genuine Ingersoll Micky Mouse wrist watches and even a real live Shetland pony.

We have uncovered many scripts of the Lucky Luke radio shows. Below we show a snippet of one entitled – "Lucky Luke rides with Death" – where he described in vivid detail a cattle stampede incidence. The handwriting on the script is Arthur Dailey’s who made a few corrections before the show aired.

A snippet of a Lucky Luke script

WBBM aired the first "Lucky Star Ranch" radio show on June 2nd 1934 at 5:45pm. Below is an example of the relevant section from Chicago Tribune's "Today's Radio Broadcasts" section confirming the airing date and time.

Chicago Tribune radio log

We thank Chuck Howell, curator of the Library of American Broadcasting at the University of Maryland, who found the listings of the Lucky Star Ranch show in the Chicago Tribune. These radio shows aired every Saturday, Tuesday and Thursday.

Similarities Between Original Scripts and Comics

It was only in December 2008 that the Dailey (American) Lucky Luke radio scripts were discovered, and after careful thought and research, the link to the Morris (Belgian) Lucky Luke was made. With great respect and admiration for Morris and his furtherance of the Lucky Luke creation, we proceeded to compare his work to Dailey’s radio scripts.

Exactly how, when, and in what form Morris obtained knowledge of the Dailey Lucky Luke has yet to be established. However, there are numerous similarities between the original Dailey scripts and the Morris comic stories. Consequently, Morris must have known or heard about Dailey’s Lucky Luke, and used this knowledge to derive his masterful comics – still so appealing after all these years. At any rate, in comparing a few of Dailey’s radio scripts with the adventures in Morris’ early stories, we find the following:

  • Lucky Luke
    Here you have a cowboy who is a perfect shot ("Then I empty my gun at everyone of them that sticks his head out of his hole...and I never miss a shot."), who whistles for his horse, whose name is Lucky Luke - all characteristics shared by Dailey's original and the later comics.
  • Name of Luke's horse
    Arthur called Luke’s horse Joker after the joker in a deck of cards. (Dailey was a fearsome poker player.) Morris called him Jolly Jumper. Knowing that the Joker in a pack of cards is in Europe more commonly known as the 'Jolly Joker', we can understand how Joker became Jolly Joker and finally Jolly Jumper.

    Jolly Joker example 1Jolly Joker example 2Jolly Joker example 3[To the history of the "Jolly Joker": The extra "Joker" card is believed to have been invented by American Euchre players who, when modifying the rules sometime during the 1860s, decided that an extra trump card was required. Originally he was called "The Best Bower" and then later "The Jolly Joker". These Jokers, or extra cards, were first introduced into American packs around 1863, but took a little longer to reach English packs, in around 1880. One British manufacturer (Chas Goodall) was manufacturing packs with Jokers for the American market in the 1870s.]

  • Behavior of Horse
    In one of the many original episodes by Arthur Dailey, Lucky Luke jumps off a railroad bridge into a river, whistles for his horse that comes and pulls him out of the water just in time to stop the train running over Luke's friend. Morris has taken these already unusual skills of Luke and Luke’s horse and furthered them in his comics.
  • Lucky Star Ranch vs. Lucky Star Saloon
    Arthur Dailey's Lucky Luke worked on the Lucky Star Ranch. The Lucky Star Ranch is mentioned many times in Dailey's scripts. Morris has reused the same name for a saloon, the Lucky Star Saloon, depicted in an early story entitled "Desperado City".
    The Lucky Star Ranch, which was inspired by the famous Eatons' Ranch, is mentioned in every one of Arthur's scripts. Here are two examples from script #12.

    Be sure that you buy your ice cream from the store that belongs to the Lucky Star Ranch because only those stores have the Lucky Star Greenbacks and Lucky Star Greenbacks are valuable...mighty valuable.

    It's old Pete...Pete the round-up cook of the Lucky Star, and he's calling the cowboys and cowgirls to supper...beating on his dishpan so they can hear him way out there on the range.
    Lucky Luke in fron of the Lucky Star Saloon.
  • Sage City vs. Sin City
    Some of the original Dailey scripts take place in "Sage City". Some Morris comics take place in "Sin City".
  • character naming 'convention'
    Mr. Dailey liked to use an old American Western custom and give his characters names with similar sounding first and second name, for example: Lucky Luke, Tim Torrance, and Bronco Bob. The same name convention can also be found in Mr. Morris’ comics. In addition to the name of Lucky Luke we find Dick Digger, Pat Poker, Joss Jamon, Caesar Cigarette, Bill Boney, and Dr. Doxey. In addition, it seems unlikely that Morris, a non-native English speaker, independently chose the name "Lucky Luke" for his cowboy character as Arthur A. Dailey did twelve years earlier.
  • Lucky Luke's Double
    Lucky Luke's DoubleArthur wrote in script 11 about a story where Lucky Luke rides into a city where he looks just like another person in the city whose name is Jim. From that coincidence all kind of funny and strange things are taking place. Morris created a strikingly similar story with the name 'Le Sosie de Lucky Luke' (Lucky Luke's Double), where Luke rides into a city in which a certain Mad Jim looks just like him, which causes all kind of confusion and mayhem. The fact that Lucky Luke has a double by the name of Jim both in the original Arthur Dailey scripts as well as in the later Morris comics removes any doubt that Morris derived his character from the Dailey original.

    Here is a side by side comparison between the beginning of the script and the beginning of the comic:
    One day...I ride down out of the hills into a part of the country I've never been in before. I don't know anybody in this part of the west...and nobody knows me.

    Now...away over towards the west...a-dancing in the heat waves...at the foot of some mountains...I can see a little town...a-setting out there...looking kind of lonely and forlorn.

    I touch my spurs to "Joker"...and we are on our way to pay this little burg a visit.

    Long about sun-down...we reach the town. It's just like any little old cow-town...just one street...with a few buildings...a store...a post-office...a jail...a couple of dance halls...and a long line of hitching rails. And all the town was built on one side of the street...with all the buildings facing north...so they would be in the shade most of the day.

    Well...I ride down the main street looking the place over.

    Cowboys are a riding in and out of town...folks are standing around in front of the stores...a-talking and a-laughing...and the dance halls are whooping it up to beat the band.

    I bring "Joker" down to a walk...and we taken our time moseying along the street.

    Suddenly...I notice everybody is stopped their talking...the cowboys have pulled up their horses...everybody is looking at me...and just a-staring as if they are looking at something they can't make out.

    It makes me a little uneasy...because I can see my presence in this town is causing a commotion...a kind of a silent commotion. But I have nothing to fear...so I tie "Joker" and my pack horses to the hitching rail...and go into the general store to buy some supplies for myself.

    The store keeper takes one look at me...and then starts to back away as if he's seen a ghost. The few folks that are inside take one look at me...then they make a bee-line for the door...and head for the street...a-banging the door after them.

    The store-keeper is now hanging on to the counter. He's trembling all over. He's as white as a sheet. Finally he says in a squeaky, scared kind of voice. "Why, why Jim," he says. "I thought you were dead...dead and buried. You ain't really dead are you?" He says to me.

    Well now...I didn't think I was dead. Nobody told me I was. So I told him...as far as I knew...I was still alive. "But," I added, "my name isn't Jim. It's Luke...Lucky Luke is what most folks call me."

    Lucky Luke looks like Mad Jim.

  • Cattle Stampede Through Town
    Arthur writes in script 5 about a cattle stampede through a town where people flee and posts and buildings come crashing down. In the comic story "Lucky Luke and Desperado City" one can see an identical scene of cattle charging through a town, people are running for their life and a roof supported by a post is crashing down.
    On…on…they charge! They reach the town! They are charging down the street…smashing wagons and posts. Now…they're closer to the river! Mad!...blind with thirst!...they crash into anything…and everything…that's in their way. Now…they're smashing into the shacks…all around them buildings are crashing to the ground! Nothing can stop those crazy animals…nothing but the river! From Lucky Luke and Desperado City.
  • And other story lines
    There are several other story line similarities between Dailey's original radio scripts and the comics:
    • In "Adventures in the West": The lasso cracks: Features Luke as cowboy who solves a theft of cattle.
    • In "Arizona": A good laugh: Luke tames a horse.
Arthur Dailey developed his stories from his long time first hand experience of the West. The Lucky Star Ranch on which Lucky Luke works was inspired by Arthur's experience of his many years on Eatons' Ranch. Arthur started to spend his summers on Eatons' Ranch in 1912 and he returned to Eatons' until his death in the early seventies. Over the years he filled every role at the ranch from cook and waiter to wrangler and dude. Many of these experiences found their way into Lucky Luke stories. In the early twenties Arthur created Eatons' own newsletter the Wranglin' Notes. For this publication he created a unique masthead illustration shown below.

Arthur Dailey's masthead for the Eatons' Ranch Wranglin' Notes.

A few years later in the early 30s the Lucky Star Ranch radio shows aired featuring the adventures and stories of Lucky Luke.

In speculating on this link between Dailey and Morris, we know that the Dailey Lucky Luke radio shows were widely heard in the continental United States. Is it possible that in 1934, or somewhat later, these radio shows were also broadcasted in Europe, perhaps the UK, or to some other radio station throughout Europe with broadcasts in English? Another way these stories could have found their way to Europe and to Morris is via the radio script writing courses Dailey taught at Northwestern University. Could Arthur have used his real radio scripts as examples and reading material in his classes? Maybe this reading material found its way to a European university or European students from where it found its way to Morris. Further, thousands of Europeans visited Eatons', the first dude ranch in the world, to experience the life of a real cowboy. Dailey spent every summer on Eatons' ranch. He was employed there in every possible function from cook, waiter, wrangler and seasoned dude. He was an integral part of Eatons'. His magnificent photos are covering to this day the walls of Eatons'. Anybody visiting the ranch would certainly get to know Mr. Dailey, either in person, or through his photos and his legacy at the ranch. Any of these Europeans who visited during the 20s, 30s, and 40s could potentially have communicated the information about Arthur Dailey to Mr. Morris. Arthur Dailey also exhibited his wonderful cowboy photos in Europe in photographic salons. Another avenue how Morris right there in Belgium could have learned about Arthur Dailey and his work as Western photographer, illustrator and story teller.

Looking at all these multiple ways of how the information of Arthur Dailey's stories could have been transported to Europe, one understands that it is not a mystery anymore how Morris could have learned about Arthur Dailey and his stories.

In any case, we are hoping that, with the publishing of this information, we may hear from people who may be able to shed further light on how this history evolved. It is also hoped that, with this discovery, Lucky Luke will enjoy even greater success. The interesting part for all concerned is that this information has come to light - now, 75 years later.

All comments are welcome!

Arthur Dailey as a Story Teller and Illustrator

Chicago Daily Tribune, January 29th, 1932.Before creating all these stories and almost before he started taking pictures, Dailey expressed himself through illustrations, cartoons, and comics. He was involved in publications as illustrator, designer, photographer and writer. But above all Arthur was a story teller. He told stories in his early illustrations for the Daily Illini. He was the first to teach radio script writing classes and did so at Northwestern University in the Medill School of Journalism as the article from the Chicago Tribune from 29th January 1932 describes.

Arthur Dailey loved the Old West. He was a founding member of the exclusive club, The Westerners, and he spent a significant amount of time living the life of a cowboy. This first hand experience informed his writing of western stories and adventures.

Mr. Dailey shot hundreds of magnificent photographs (see the Museum Collection for a sample of some of his best photos) depicting the lives of cowboys. Arthur is somebody who mixes every aspect of his life with the images of the Old West. It is not a surprise that he created Lucky Luke, a cowboy with fascinating stories to tell – and the Lone Wolf Tribe – all stories based on the many tales he heard listening to and working with cowboys and Indians.

Copyright © 2008 Mary T. Dailey and Deep Blue LLC.
All Rights Reserved.

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    Lucky Luke Original Stories Vol. 1 by Arthur A. Dailey
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Lucky Luke Original Stories Vol. 1 by Arthur A. Dailey
Lucky Luke Original Stories Vol. 1

These are the five first original Lucky Luke stories (radio scripts) that Arthur A. Dailey wrote. They aired from WBBM Air Theatre in Chicago in 1934 and were heard on many other stations throughout the continental United States.

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Arthur A. Dailey21 Dec 2008$25.00

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