The Daltons (Lucky Luke)
The Daltons are fictional outlaws who regularly appear in the Lucky Luke comic book series and arch-enemies to Lucky Luke. 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. While the real-life Dalton brothers are depicted as evil and successful, these Daltons are depicted as less skillful and more prone to fighting between the siblings. All four Daltons are depicted as identical except for in height and intelligence, with the oldest brother Joe being the shortest and smartest, and the youngest brother Averell being the tallest and dumbest.
Their storylines often begin with the gang escaping from prison, followed around by prison dog Rantanplan as they try to carry out whatever plans Joe Dalton, or their mother Ma Dalton, has in mind. Usually the gang ends up back in jail at the end of the story as Lucky Luke rides off into the sunset. The characters have appeared both in the comic book version of Lucky Luke as well as the animated series, the film, the tv series and were also part of the spinoff series Rantanplan and starred in their own short story animated show that made its debut in 2010.
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 in 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).
In the most recent Lucky Luke story, history is being retold again as Emmett is indeed shown to have survived the Coffeyville shoot out and has since fathered a son which the cousins Daltons are now laying claim to. Just as Averell takes after Emmett (Both being the tallest member of the gang) Emmett Jr. takes after Averell in him being an enormous glutton and drawn to Averell's childish nature.
The fictional cousins
Morris regretted killing the Dalton gang, which had proved popular with readers, and decided to invent a second quartet that are 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, Jack, William 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 childlike 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 Dalton is the leader of the gang who frequently 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 youngest brother Averell for his dim-wittedness. Joe is quick to draw his gun but is fortunately not much of a shooter.
When the brothers split up in "To each on their own" Joe is the only one who continues robbing banks, coaches and trains while settling in a ghost town reveling in his new found wealth. He sometimes sings a parody on Lucky Luke's signature tune in which instead of "I'm a poor lonesome cowboy and a long, long way from home" he sings, "I'm a rich lonesome outlaw and a long, long way from home".
William and Jack Dalton
William Dalton and Jack Dalton are the middle brothers who have somewhat colorless 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" and "Joe, calm down". In their first appearance, Jack was a trigger-happy arms maniac and William a master of disguise but those character traits weren't kept in the subsequent albums. When Morris created the brothers, William was usually shortest of the two, but in some stories, as well as animated series, William becomes the tallest of the two. Yet their personalities stays the same.
In "To each on their own" William goes out and becomes the boss of an illegal gambling hole while Jack becomes a corrupt politician. In both cases when Lucky Luke arrives with warrants for their arrest he finds that both brothers have used their new found status to get legal impunity.
Averell Dalton is the tallest, youngest and most stupid 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. He likes rather girlish things such as sewing and dancing. As a result of his good behavior his rewards for his capture are often very low unlike his brothers.
However, as shown in several albums, Averell is perfectly capable of taking care of himself when out on his own. He boldly calls Lucky Luke out for hand-to-hand combat in the album in which he's introduced (and inadvertently triggers a brawl in the street outside the saloon he and Luke are in). And after the brothers split up in "To each on their own" Averell befriends an Italian chef who he helps by working in the kitchen, expanding the line of dishes and later becomes involved with extortion of other surrounding restaurants and Mafia practices to expand the brand. Again as Lucky Luke arrives with a warrant for his arrest, he finds that Averell, thanks largely because of his new "family" has gotten legal impunity. Despite usually being tender-hearted, Averell sometimes is quite nasty. He also has a changing relationship with Rantanplan. In some books, he seems to like him, but in others he hates him, swears about him and kicks him. Notably, despite his enormous affinity for food, Averell is a mediocre cook at best, but hates having the quality of his food questioned as seen in Dalton City, where he asks for Joe's gun when Lucky Luke criticizes his specality, curry and eggs (though the virtually omnivorous Rantanplan still likes the dish).
There were other Daltons that either appear or are mentioned where they are the fictional relatives of the historic Daltons:
- Never appeared, but was once mentioned in a Dalton episode, is an uncle Abigail. He left the boys a cow.
- Later stories of Lucky Luke also feature the mother of the Daltons named Ma Dalton who was the fictional aunt of the historical 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 has said that Joe 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 in his job and was killed in the explosion.
- 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 and the Dalton Brothers' uncle.
- 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 was hanged. His will stipulates that the boys inherit his fortune if they will kill the judge and jury who convicted him. Henry is said to look like the Daltons' father who was mentioned to have stayed in prison for 40 years. After the Daltons are arrested, Henry's fortune is given away to charity.
- Another uncle named Jim is mentioned once in La Guérison des Dalton where he is mentioned to have been hanged.
- A grandfather is mentioned once in La Guérison des Dalton whose name is Franky Dalton. He is Ma Dalton's father.
- The most recent addition to the Dalton family is Emmett Jr. who as the name implies is the son of Emmett Dalton. He is very much like Averell, a glutton and a fun loving goofball.
Appearance in albums
The Dalton brothers appeared in the following Lucky Luke albums:
- Lucky Luke contre Joss Jamon (11) (one-panel cameo)
- Les Cousins Dalton (12) (proper introduction)
- L'Évasion des Dalton (15)
- Sur la piste des Dalton (17)
- Billy the Kid (20)
- Les Collines noires (21)
- Les Dalton dans le blizzard (22)
- Les Dalton courent toujours (23)
- Les Dalton se rachètent (26)
- L'Escorte (28)
- Tortillas pour les Dalton (31)
- Dalton City (34)
- Jesse James (35)
- Ma Dalton (38)
- L'Héritage de Rantanplan (41)
- Le Cavalier blanc (43)
- 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)
- Le Pony Express (59)
- L'Amnésie des Dalton (60)
- Les Dalton à la noce (62)
- Belle Starr (65)
- Oklahoma Jim (68)
- Marcel Dalton (69)
- Le prophète (70)
- La légende de l'ouest (72)
- La Corde au cou (75)
- Lucky Luke contre Pinkerton (77)
- Cavalier seul (79)
- Les tontons Dalton (81)
The Daltons in film and television
Several animated Lucky Luke films feature the Daltons, including:
- Lucky Luke (1971)
- La Ballade des Dalton (1978)
- Les Dalton en cavale (1983, an anthology film with episodes of the Hanna-Barbera Lucky Luke TV series)
The Hanna-Barbera cartoon in the 80s called Lucky Luke featured the fictional Dalton Brothers with Joe Dalton voiced by Frank Welker, Jack Dalton voiced by Rick Dees, William Dalton voiced by Fred Travalena, Averell Dalton voiced by Bob Holt, and Ma Dalton voiced by Mitzi McCall.
The animated TV series of the early 1990s, which closely adapted the comics, also featured the Daltons, including in "Hors-la-loi" in place of the original Daltons.
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 also starred in a 2004 movie titled simply Les Dalton, in which Luke barely appeared and which got poor reviews.
The TV animation series The New Adventures of Lucky Luke (started in 2001) includes the four Dalton brothers in most episodes.
Xilam has also produced an animated television series titled The Daltons, focusing on the characters of the Daltons. The series contains 78 episodes each lasting for 8 minutes and premiered in fall 2010 in France.
In other media
- Joe Dassin had a hit record, "Les Dalton", inspired by the characters.
- The Walibi leisure park in Belgium features a "Dalton Terror" drop ride loosely themed upon the Daltons.