Cinebook have hit the big 4-0 as far as Lucky Luke is concerned with Phil Wire. This particular book dates back to 1956 when it was published in French as the eighth Lucky Luke title, Lucky Luke Contre Phil Defer, and it was both written and illustrated by Luke’s creator Morris (Maurice de Bevere).
The small settlement of Bottleneck Gulch has a single saloon called the Ace of Spades, run by Lucky Luke’s friend O’Hara, until one day when a disreputable bar owner, O’Sullivan, comes to town and opens another identical saloon called the Ace Of Hearts. The two owners are soon at each others throats until O’Sullivan decides to hire gunslinger Phil Wire to kill O’Hara. Lucky Luke and Phil Wire have a disagreement on the stagecoach to town and when Luke arrives at Bottleneck Gulch alone he is mistaken by O’Sullivan for Phil Wire. However when Luke discovers what O’Sullivan wants to do, he teams up with O’Hara to get back at O’Sullivan, at least until Phil Wire finally reaches town.
It sounds like a complicated plot but Morris sets the scene well to get the two sets of disparate characters well and truly mixed up in each others affairs for the amusement of his readers. He is then more than capable of keeping the story and jokes running for the 35 pages of the story before, of course, good triumphs over evil in the end. The book also include an amusing short 9 page story, Lucky Luke And The Pill, to bulk the book out to the usual 48 pages.
In comparison to the more typical Morris drawn and Rene Goscinny written Lucky Lukes, Phil Wire’s artwork shows Morris’ early style for the character. The artwork here is more cartoony than became normal for the series, with Luke having a more rounded face that readers became used to, while the secondary and supporting characters are more caricatured and less well-defined. Yet the book is no poorer for it
I did go through the book thinking that I was missing something about Phil Wire’s name and to an extent I was. The character’s French name, Phil Defer, is a play on the French for wire, fil de fer – it’s unfortunate that is just not a joke that translates. However the main ‘joke’ in the book that requires no translation is the identity of Phil himself as Morris draws him as a caricature of Jack Palance, an actor best known for his cowboy roles, and it is a constantly entertaining joke.
Lucky Luke – Phil Wire is an entertaining early example of the series which shows just how quickly Morris got the basic idea of his cowboy character correct and so was able to set the scene for the dozens of other Lucky Luke titles which followed.
• There are more details of the English language Lucky Luke books on Cinebook’s website.
• There are more details on the original French language Lucky Luke on the official Lucky Luke website (in French).