In the comic “Rantanplans Arche” the cowboy has to face the adventure of veganism. And he has to deal with militant animal rights activists.
Lucky Luke leaves his steak for a good cause when he learns that a man is about to be lynched in the rancher’s nest Cattle Gulch. Not only is Ovide Byrde notorious for being an animal lover and a vegetarian, he also wanted to stop a couple of cowboys from beating up their horse.
lucky luke can prevent the worst and guides Byrde safely back to his farm, where a “Noah’s Ark” of injured animals awaits him. Including the “dumbest dog in the Wild West”, Rantanplan, who usually looks after the Daltons in prison. The otherwise useless barker finds a gold nugget, making Ovide Byrde a rich man.
The lovely animal idyll on the cover of the new album “Rantanplans Arche” makes western fans sit up and take notice: will the series “Lucky Luke” now be “tamed” and become a pure children’s series? Cute and cuddly to replace the dangerous Dalton brothers?
Cowboys, bandits, gunslingers
No, appearances are deceptive. Cowboys, bandits and gunslingers continue to play leading roles in the cosmos of Lucky Luke, the popular western parody invented by Belgian cartoonist Morris in 1946. The focus of the new album, however, is on the animals, which, apart from Jolly Jumper (Luke’s main interlocutor), are extras. Because the Scenarist Jul (Julien Lucien Berjeaut), who has been writing “Lucky Luke” since 2016, focuses this time on animal welfare.
As the Frenchman, born in Berlin in 1974, explained at the presentation of “Rantanplans Arche”, he came across it by accident when he was looking for a new topic and read that the diplomat Henry Bergh (1813–1888) had founded the first “Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals” founded in 1866 in the USA. Henry Bergh appears in a sequence on the album as a traveling lecturer whose ideas inspire few – including Ovide Byrde – to act.
However, Jul’s clever story goes even further: when Lucky Luke returns to Cattle Gulch after a few weeks, the place is suddenly called “Veggie Town” and everything has changed. The city is strictly vegan, meat eaters are now being hanged. The animal protection association of the new “ruler” Byrde calls itself “Rantanplans Ark” and sets the tone.
Animal love desperados
A group of brutal desperadoes – hired on the condition that they be vegetarian and love animals – led by Mexican Tacos Cornseed bring “order” to Veggie Town. And a new era is also in the offing for the nearby Comanche tribe, as the chief’s son is a convinced vegetarian and fights for it with “militant” means – his scream even hits Lucky Luke and Jolly Jumper to the core.
Draftsman Achdé, who continued to draw the Lucky Luke series in Morris’s style after Morris’ death in 2001, clearly enjoyed giving the animals more space in the new adventure. A flashback sequence in sepia tones shows in a humorous way how different animals in the Wild West have been treated or mistreated up to now.
The main character of the good-natured, goofy Ovide Byrde is based on the comedian Pierre Richard. Among the desperadoes, one woman stands out who bears the features of film actress and animal rights activist Brigitte Bardot.
parallels to the present
Scenarist Jul knows the tradition of “Lucky Luke” very well and knows that historical elements work particularly well when you show parallels to the present. The path from the first animal protection association in the USA, which contributed to the better treatment of livestock and animals for slaughter, to today’s vegan trend was a logical conclusion (Jul’s daughter is vegan!), which leaves plenty of room for absurdly funny situations.
Finally, with the chief’s son “Nimble Leek”, who was called “Hungry Coyote” before his awakening, the generational conflict is indicated, which today plays a major role in food and climate issues. At the same time, the danger of fanaticism is shown, which threatens when the progressive is interpreted too radically. Although Lucky Luke has given up smoking, he will probably still be able to treat himself to steaks in the future – in moderation.