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The Daltons
The Daltons are fictional outlaws who regularly appear in the Lucky Luke comic book series and are recurrent villains. They were created by Morris and writer René Goscinny. They are loosely inspired by the real-life Dalton Gang.

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 smallest and most dangerous, to the tallest Emmett. At the end of the story the Daltons were all killed in a raid the town of Coffeyville, Kansasmarker where two of the real-life Daltons, Bob and Grat, were also killed (Emmett was injured and jailed and 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 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.

Joe Dalton

The smallest, oldest 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.

Jack and William 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". Originally, William was a master of disguise and Jack an arms maniac, but those character traits weren't kept. William is usually the smaller of the two, but continuity mistakes sometimes switched them around: in Dalton City for instance, William is the tallest of the two.

Averell Dalton

Averell is the tallest, youngest and most stupid of the Daltons. Obsessed chiefly with food, Averell is sometimes prone to eating various non-edible items, including 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.

Other Daltons

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 hesitant to admit that they had been robbed by an old woman).

She loves Averell 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.

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.

In the animated movie La Ballade des Dalton, 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 ("a natural death" as Joe puts it). His will stipulates that the boys inherit his fortune if they will kill the judge and jury which sentenced him to death.

Appearance in albums

The Dalton brothers appeared in the following Lucky Luke albums:

  • Lucky Luke contre Joss Jamon (11) [this plot is set after "Les Cousin Dalton"]
  • Les Cousins Dalton (12)
  • L'Évasion des Dalton (15)
  • Sur la piste des Dalton (17)
  • 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 Ran-Tan-Plan (41)
  • La Guérison des Dalton (44)
  • Le Magot des Dalton (47)
  • Daisy Town (51)
  • La Ballade des Dalton et autres histoires (55)
  • L'Amnésie des Dalton (60)
  • Les Dalton à la noce (62)
  • Marcel Dalton (67)
  • Le prophète (68)
  • La légende de l'ouest (71)
  • La Corde au cou (72)

The Daltons in films

Several animated Lucky Luke films feature the Daltons, including:

The Daltons starred in a 2004 movie titled simply Les Dalton, in which Joe, Jack, William and Averell 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.

The Daltons in popular culture

The themed attraction 'The Dalton Tower' at the theme park Walibi in Belgium is a "Drop Tower" type ride loosely themed upon the Daltons.

Sources and references

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