America’s got the Western, Italy its crazy excess in form of the great Spaghetti Western, Germany can, at least, call the romantic books and films about Winnetou and his blood brother Old Shatterhand his own. But what about the country of the connoisseurs: France? The country that gave the Statue of Liberty as a present to the United States. The country of great cinema. Is Western too rough for their sophisticated and sensitive tongues?
Well, it’s the great country of comics alike. That medium made it possible for them, especially Morris and the ingenious René Goscinny (who is also best known for Astérix and Iznogoud), to create Western. And they got a Western hero par excellence: Lucky Luke! The cowboy who shoots faster than his shadow!! He’s, at least in Europe, as well known as John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Henry Fonda, and Gary Cooper.
Since recently, alongside Lucky Luke there arises a new Western hero out from the drawing hand of the amazing Christophe Blain (Isaac, the pirate, Donjon). His name is Gus. He’s the hyper-long-nosed leader of the infamous gangster trio comprising of Clem, a redhead with pigtails erected like antennas, Gratt, the blonde, and of course Gus.
But can Gus and his bunch really compete with Lucky Luke, Jolly Jumper, and Rantanplan? The answer is: Yes and no. Why? Let me explain.
But at first, let me share with you some funny reading samples from Lucky Luke volume The Judge, and Gus volume Nathalie. (The texts in the balloons are in German. I tried to translate them. However, English isn’t my first language and the texts are in ordinary language which is, unfortunately, harder to translate than, take for instance, informative texts. Too bad! Anyway, those chosen samples won’t lose their humour.)
To give a short introduction. The bad guy in The Judge is Bad Ticket and, more or less, the opportunistic gravedigger. The sample begins after Lucky Luke revealed Bad Ticket’s intrigue to himself. The sample of Nathalie starts with Gus, Clem, and Gratt now returning from El Dorado, a town inhabited by promiscuous women. Whereas Gus and Gratt never got a chance in having fun with the hot ladies, Clem not only had a wild night with a woman they all were addicted to, he even fell in love with her and she with him. However, the problem is that Clem is married and got children, thus didn’t say a word to anyone about this affair.
Lucky Luke, “The Judge” (click on images to enlarge)
Gus, “Nathalie” (click on images to enlarge)
To, generally, put it in a nutshell: Whereas Lucky Luke is fantastic humour for young and old, Gus’ wit could be rather unsuitable for children. How can this difference be expressed?
Well, the humour of Lucky Luke lives from three aspects. First, there are stereotyped figures. But they are not cheap nor shallow. That’s one of the reasons which is why Lucky Luke is magnificent humour for young and old. Second, you find many exaggerations in each story, which are not to be taken seriously. Third, the jokes could be characterised more as slapstick and pun. Furthermore, the stories are characterised by innocence, harmlessness and diffusers. In other, more exemplary words, no pain is shown and nothing of disturbing character is brought forward. Somehow I would say, the background of Lucky Luke is an optimistic harmonic world order.
It’s the opposite with Gus. There is no optimistic harmonic world order. You see people beaten up, shot, you see injuries, threats, and casual sex, and so on. In other words, the readers are presented with a mature world. A fact that is expressed in four aspects. First, the figures have character an go through personal development. Second, you find exaggerations that better be taken seriously. Third, you won’t merely be faced with comical situations, but also with a serious and thoughtful air. Especially the third volume, called Ernest, is very atmospheric – promoted by very stunning paintings and colouring. Fourth, the jokes are more surprising and adroit, glib.
Apart from that, Lucky Luke and Gus differ in their different style of narration. Whereas Lucky Luke has a straight plot that continues at ease, Gus’ plots are erratic with quick cuts, the most time it continues franticly.
Last but not least, the main difference between Lucky Luke and Gus is that Lucky Luke is a good guy, the perfect son-in-law, on the contrary Gus is a desperado, but not an evil one, rather somehow an amiable one. However, not in the sense the cliché of Robin Hood is amiable.
To summon it up: I really enjoy reading both, because I like to laugh! 😀