Cinebook continue their English language translations of the Lucky Luke books with their 24th book The Judge based on the real life Judge Roy Bean who lived in Texas during the late 1800s. While the character is probably best known to British audiences through the 1972 Paul Newman movie The Life And Times Of Judge Roy Bean, if even half the tales of the real Judge Bean are true then he is an obvious character to be incorporated into a humorous western strip like Lucky Luke.
The story begins with Lucky Luke agreeing to lead a cattle drive from Austin, Texas to Silver City, New Mexico during which he is arrested by Judge Roy Bean as a cattle thief. Frustrated by the bizarre trial that the judge conducts in his own saloon, Luke escapes and ends up helping Judge Bean against an even more crooked judge attempting to set up his court in the same town.
The story uses many of the quirks of the real Judge Bean from holding court in his own saloon to expecting jurors to buy drinks during the court’s recess. Indeed it would seem that the more bizarre the judicial method related in the book, the more likely it is to be based on fact. Even the illustration of his saloon, The Jersey Lilly, with its hoardings advertising both justice and ice beer is based on the real building in Langtry, Texas.
While Cinebook credit the book solely to Morris (Maurice De Bevere), the character’s creator, this is actually the fourth of the Lucky Luke series to be written by Rene Goscinny with art by Morris. Also while this book’s copyright date is given as 1971, this story first appeared as Le Juge in Spirou issue 1021 in 1957 and would go on to be published in 1959 as the 13th Lucky Luke book. Yet despite The Judge being over fifty years old, it has lost none of its wit and humour. Nor does the Lucky Luke series seem to have lost any of its popularity with comic book readers despite its age since the latest book regularly goes to the top of Cinebook’s own sales chart with the previous one issued often in the number 2 slot.
From the Chinese undertaker trying to help his own business along during the trials by crying “Give him rope!”, to the tame liquor swilling bear, Lucky Luke -The Judge is a fun read for both children and adults.
• There are more details of the Lucky Luke books on Cinebook’s website.
• There are more details on Lucky Luke on the official Lucky Luke website (in French).