The Daltons (Lucky Luke)
The Daltons are fictional outlaws who regularly appear in the Lucky Luke comic book series and are recurrent villains. They were created by artist Morris and writer René Goscinny. They are loosely inspired by the real-life Dalton Gang, and billed as their cousins.
The original gang's appearance
The "real" Daltons — Bob, Grat, Bill and Emmett — appear in the Lucky Luke adventure "Hors-la-loi" written and drawn by Morris in 1951. Morris drew them absolutely identical in everything but height, which varied from Bob, the shortest and most dangerous, to the tallest Emmett. At the end of the story the Daltons are all killed in a raid the town of Coffeyville, Kansas where two of the real-life Daltons, Bob and Grat, were also killed. (In real life, Emmett was wounded in the Coffeyville shootout and subsequently jailed, while Bill Dalton did not take part in the raid.)
The fictional cousins
Morris regretted killing the Dalton gang, which had proved popular with readers, and decided to invent a second quartet, introduced as cousins of the originals. By this point, the series had become more humorous and the violence featured was more slapstick and less lethal. These entirely fictional brothers are Joe, William, Jack, and Averell. They look just like their cousins and again each one of them is taller than the previous one, though they vary in personality: from Joe, the hot-tempered leader, to the dim-witted, child-like Averell whose thoughts are focused mainly on food. These Daltons have appeared in many of Lucky Luke's adventures, typically breaking out of jail at the beginning and being sent back by Luke at the end. The prison dog Rantanplan is often assigned to help Luke in tracking them down.
The Daltons also appear in a spin-off series "Rantanplan" as well as many episodes of various Lucky Luke animated series. In another spin-off, "Lucky Kid", they appeared in a story titled "Oklahoma Jim" in which they meet Lucky Luke for the first time as kids.
The shortest, oldest, angriest and least stupid of the brothers, Joe is the leader of the gang and masterminds their prison breaks and various schemes. Perpetually furious and motivated chiefly by an obsessive hatred of Lucky Luke and Rantanplan, Joe frequently beats up his younger brother Averell for his dim-wittedness. Joe is quick to draw his gun but fortunately not much of a shooter.
William and Jack Dalton
The middle brothers have somewhat colourless personalities and mostly act as a buffer between Joe and Averell, calming down the former and shutting up the latter. They often repeat the same sentence: "Calm down, Joe", "Joe, calm down". In their first appearance, William was a trigger-happy arms maniac and Jack a master of disguise, but those character traits weren't kept in the subsequent albums. William is usually the shorter of the two, but continuity mistakes sometimes switched them around: in Dalton City for instance, William is the taller of the two.
Averell is the tallest, youngest and stupidest of the Daltons. Obsessed chiefly with food, Averell is sometimes prone to eating various non-edible items, such as soap, which he finds delicious. His very limited understanding of any situation and tendency to goof make him the weakest link of the gang. Averell is actually rather good-natured and not particularly interested in criminal activities, but he has almost no will of his own and simply follows his brothers.
Later stories also feature the mother of the Daltons. Unlike her sons, Ma Dalton was a popular character in her area and the locals agreed to keep her well stocked in food. Not wanting to appear to be an object of charity Ma would do her shopping with an old gun, the way her male relatives would rob a bank. Customers and staff would just raise their arms and serve her with a smile.
Ma later returned to actual crime, allowing her sons to dress up as her in order to rob the banks more easily (the bank managers hesitate to admit that they had been robbed by an old woman).
Of all her sons, she appears to prefer Averell but she confesses to Joe he is the one she loves the most. She treats her grown-up sons as if they were still children: washing the mouth of one of them with soap when he uses abusive language and even spanking Joe. In La Ballade des Dalton, it's commented she used to remind Jack to put on his sweater whenever she took them to raids.
Ma Dalton was somewhat inspired by real-life Ma Barker.
Never appearing himself, but often mentioned, is the Daltons' father. Joe is supposed to be very much like him. He was a safe-cracker but decided to try out dynamite and was killed.
One story features Marcel Dalton, a bank owner living in Switzerland, a disgrace to the Dalton family, because of his honesty. He is Ma Dalton's only brother.
In the animated movie La Ballade des Dalton (and the adaptation comic album of the same name), an Uncle Henry Dalton is mentioned. He is only seen on a "Wanted" poster and a statue of him is also shown near the end (he looks much like Joe). He is referred to as a great bandit, inspiration and idol to Joe, Jack, William and Averell. In the movie the boys are told that Henry has died by hanging. His will stipulates that the boys inherit his fortune if they will kill the judge and jury which sentenced him to death. Henry is said to look like the Daltons' father, who was mentioned to have stayed in prison for 40 years.
Another uncle, Jim, who was hanged, is mentioned once in La Guérison des Dalton. A grandfather is mentioned once in the same comic, whose name is Franky Dalton, and he's Ma's father.
Appearance in albums
The Dalton brothers appeared in the following Lucky Luke albums:
- Les Cousins Dalton (12)
- L'Évasion des Dalton (15)
- Sur la piste des Dalton (17)
- Billy the Kid (20) (cameo)
- Les Dalton dans le blizzard (22)
- Les Dalton courent toujours (23)
- Les Dalton se rachètent (26)
- Tortillas pour les Dalton (31)
- Dalton City (34)
- Ma Dalton (38)
- L'Héritage de Rantanplan (41)
- Le Cavalier blanc (43) (cameo)
- La Guérison des Dalton (44)
- Le Magot des Dalton (47)
- La Ballade des Dalton et autres histoires (48)
- "Les Dalton prennent le train" dans "La corde du pendu et autres histoires" (50)
- Daisy Town (51)
- Fingers (52)
- La fiancée de Lucky Luke (54)
- Nitroglycérine (57)
- "Olé Daltonitos" and "Un cheval disparaît" in "L'alibi" (58)
- L'Amnésie des Dalton (60)
- Les Dalton à la noce (62)
- Belle Starr (64)
- Marcel Dalton (67)
- Le prophète (68)
- La légende de l'ouest (71)
- La Corde au cou (72)
- Oklahoma Jim (KL 2)
The Daltons in films
Several animated Lucky Luke films feature the Daltons, including:
- Lucky Luke (1971)
- La Ballade des Dalton (1978)
- Les Dalton en cavale (1983, a anthology film with episodes of the Hanna-Barbera Lucky Luke TV series)
The animated TV series of the early 1990s, which closely adapted the comics, also featured the Daltons. It is noteworthy that the comic "Hors-la-loi" was adapted to include the cousins, rather than the original Daltons, to avoid killing the four at the end. Nevertheless, in "Les cousins Dalton", the original brothers are still mentioned.
The Daltons appeared also in the first live action movie Lucky Luke and the follow-up TV series, in which they were portrayed by Ron Carey, Dominic Barto, Bo Greigh and Fritz Sperberg. Note that "Averell" was constantly misspelled as "Averill".
The Daltons starred in a 2004 movie titled simply Les Dalton, in which Joe (Éric Judor), William (Romain Berger), Jack (Saïd Serrari) (the order of the two was inverted; William was the larger) and Averell (Ramzy Bédia) find out about a magic sombrero which makes people invincible, and try to steal it in order to rob a bank. Lucky Luke was only an episodic character in the movie. Ma Dalton was in the movie as well, and she had three friends, all mothers of famous Western criminals (Jesse James, Butch Cassidy, Billy the Kid). The movie got poor reviews. Many fans complained that it lacked the humour and the spirit of the original books.
The TV animation series The New Adventures of Lucky Luke (started in 2001) includes the four Dalton brothers in most episodes.
Xilam Animation has produced an animated television series "Les Dalton", focusing on the characters of the Daltons. The series contains 78 episodes of 8 minutes and started to air in fall 2010 in France (source: "The Daltons let loose by Xilam"). Note that the order of the two middle brothers was inverted to Jack-William.
The Daltons in popular culture
Joe Dassin had a hit record, "Les Dalton," about the brothers. The final line, "Car ils étaient encore plus bêtes que méchants" notes that they were more stupid than evil. He also had a cameo appearance in the book "La corde au cou."
The themed attraction 'The Dalton Tower' at the theme park Walibi in Belgium is a "Drop Tower" type ride loosely themed upon the Daltons.