Maurice De Bevere (1 December 1923 – 16 July 2001), better known as Morris, was a Belgian cartoonist and the creator of Lucky Luke. His pen name is an alternate spelling of his first name.
Born in Kortrijk, Belgium. He went to school in the well-known Jesuit college in Aalst, whose suits inspired him for those of the undertakers in his Lucky Luke series.
His math teacher told his parents the boy would unfortunately never succeed in life, as he passed the math classes doodling in the margin of his math books.
Morris started drawing in the Compagnie Belge d’Actualités (CBA) animations studios, a small and short-lived animation studios in Belgium where he met Peyo and André Franquin.
After the war, the company folded and Morris worked as an illustrator for Het Laatste Nieuws, a Flemish newspaper, and Le Moustique, a French-speaking weekly magazine published by Dupuis, for which he made some 250 covers and numerous other illustrations, mainly caricatures of movie stars.
He died in 2001 of a pulmonary embolism.
He created Lucky Luke in 1946 for Spirou magazine, the Franco-Belgian comics magazine published by Dupuis. Lucky Luke is a solitary cowboy who travels across the Wild West, helping those in need, aided by his faithful horse, Jolly Jumper. The first adventure, Arizona 1880, was published in L’Almanach Spirou 1947, released on 7 December 1946.
Morris became one of the central artists of the magazine, and one of the so-called “La bande des quatre” (Gang of 4), with Jijé, André Franquin and Will. He did not work at the house of Jijé, contrary to the other two, but all four became very good friends, stimulating each other artistically.
Together they laid the foundation for the “Marcinelle school”, the typical style of comics of Spirou which contrasts both stylistically and thematically with the “Ligne claire” used by the group of artists associated with Hergé in Tintin magazine.
In 1948, Morris, Jijé and Franquin travelled to the United States (Will was too young and had to remain in Belgium). They wanted to get to know the country, see what was left of the Wild West, and meet some American comic artists.
Morris stayed the longest of the three and only returned after 6 years. In the meantime he had worked for Mad, and met René Goscinny, a French comic artist and writer, who would write all the Lucky Luke stories between 1955 to his death in 1977.
Goscinny was then still fairly unknown, but would become the most successful European comic writer, initially with Lucky Luke and a few years later with Asterix.
The years in the USA became crucial for Morris, not only because he met Goscinny, but also because he gathered a great deal of documentation for his later work, and became familiar with the Hollywood films of the time. Morris introduced in the following years many cinematic techniques in his stories, like freeze-frames and close-ups.
Walt Disney’s style influenced him, which can be seen in the very round lines that characterize the early Lucky Luke albums. Many characters in his comics are also clearly based on famous American actors such as Jack Palance, Gary Cooper, W.C. Fields and William Hart, although he also caricaturizes unexpected figures like Louis de Funès or Serge Gainsbourg.
The first 31 adventures were published by Dupuis, but in the late sixties, Morris left Dupuis and Spirou and went to Dargaud and Pilote magazine, which was started by his friend Goscinny.
In 1984, Hanna-Barbera made a series of 52 cartoons of Lucky Luke, thereby augmenting the popularity of the series even further. 52 more cartoons were made in the early 1990s, and three live action movies followed. A few videogames based on the series were also made, e.g. for the PlayStation 1 and the Game Boy Color.
Lucky Luke is currently the best selling European comics series ever, with over 300 million copies sold in more than thirty languages.
Unlike many of his contemporaries, Morris never worked on several series, although he made a great deal of illustrations for stories in the forties and fifties. In the nineties, he did make Rantanplan, a spin-off from Lucky Luke, starring the dumbest dog in the West.
In 2005 he ended on the 79th place in the French-speaking version of the election for The Greatest Belgian.