Albert Uderzo turned 80 years old in 2007, two years after publishing “Asterix and the Falling Sky,” his final book.
To mark the occasion, his daughter pulled together 34 big name Franco-Belgian comics creators to do short stories or pin-ups, mostly with their own characters meeting Asterix and/or Obelix and/or Uderzo, himself.
They called it “Asterix et Ses Amis”. In English, that would be something like “Asterix and His Friends.”
Inviting Others to the Party
At the point they made this book, only one artist had ever drawn anything official starring Asterix in comics, and that was Albert Uderzo. Suddenly, more than thirty others tried their hand at it, using their own styles.
Many included Uderzo, himself, in their stories. It’s fun to see all the ways they incorporated him and how they chose to caricature him.
When Uderzo allowed the main Asterix series to continue, the artist chosen for the series came from Uderzo’s own studio. It was the artist who had inked him on the last few books. He was meant to keep the look consistent. When he dropped out, Conrad Didier came on and stayed fairly true to Uderzo’s style.
In “Asterix et Ses Amis,” though, the barn doors blew wide open. Everyone drew in their own style. And the results are tremendous. I’m not sure there are many of them I’d want to see draw an entire album, but I keep an open mind. It worked with creator-centric one-off books for series like “Spirou“, “Lucky Luke, and “Valerian and Laureline“.
In fact, I’d argue that it’s time to push the characters in a new direction and experiment more, with such a creator-centric Asterix story. I’m not sure Uderzo would want that, though. But when the day comes that Ferri and Conrad don’t want to spend two years on the next album, I’m sure it’ll be a possibility again…
First Thoughts on “Asterix et Ses Amis”
I flipped through the book with a huge smile on my face. With the turn of every page, a new creator or character popped up who I knew. Some of the names were surprising, while some made a lot of sense. Overall, the good far outweighed the bad — or, at least, the ones I didn’t like as much.
There aren’t any Smurfs in this book, sadly, but a lot of characters whose books I’ve read recently do show up here: Marsupilami, Lucky Luke, XIII, Ric Hochet, and Cedric, amongst them.
Oh, and Uncle Scrooge. Yes, there’s a story with Uncle Scrooge meeting Asterix and I just about did a back flip. That is so awesome! We’ll get to that one, I promise…
I’m not going to review every story from the book. It’s an anthology book with a whole lot of creators in a lot of different stories. It’s going to be a mixed bag for everyone, but I appreciate all the work.
It had to be a thrill for these artists to work on an Asterix book — well, a tribute book to Albert Uderzo that just happens to feature characters from the Asterix series. This is not part of the official canon of books. It’s not even published by the same publisher. Hachette didn’t do this book. It was Uderzo’s own company, Albert-Rene Press.
In the end, it’s the stories that count. Here, then, are some of the highlights for me.
Throw XIII Over the Wall
Jean Van Hamme writes one of the funniest one-pagers in the book, which is drawn by his “XIII” artistic partner, William Vance. Vance does a good job on this page of mixing the Asterix and Obelix cartoony style with his own super lifelike Real Human style.
The gist of it is that the star of XIII washes up on shore as Asterix and Obelix are taking a walk on the beach. The boys jump in to help, but they don’t understand the English the man is speaking.
Then, Obelix notices the “XIII” tattoo on the washed-up man’s shoulder and immediately recoils. This man must be a Roman! So they throw him over into a Roman camp.
There’s more humor derived from the roman numerals, as the Gauls suggest using a French number system instead that nobody has invented yet.
It’s a such a perfect little gag to play on their own property. Vance and Van Hammer need a great deal of credit for that page.
Van Hamme has another story in which Obelix meets
Conan Thorgal and the two fight over a boar they both want to eat. It’s most memorable for this sequence —
— where Thorgal, breaking an already fragile relationship, calls Obelix “fat.”
In this case, it’s Thorgal artist, Rosinski, handling the art. Like Vance, he maintains the individual styles of the two books. Obelix is a hair less cartoony, perhaps, but it’s still an obvious stylistic difference.
Zep’s Naughty Boy
Zep has a particularly funny two page story. Titeuf visits Asterix and Obelix because he wants to know where they get their courage from. They don’t fear anything. They don’t fear the Romans, the pirates, or anything else aside from the sky falling on their heads. He thinks that last part is silly.
Then they ask him what it is he’s fearing. If you’ve read any Titeuf, a story of a precocious boy who is filled with questions about girls, you might see this coming. But Titeuf lays out his problem. He’s not sure about a girl he’s going to kiss. How much tongue does he use? What should he do about the drool?
Asterix and Obelix, confirmed bachelors for life, look lost and dumbfounded. They immediately go to Getafix for a potion to fix this — and Asterix volunteers to jump into the vat as soon as it’s ready.
It’s a perfect two page gag that works with the guest character, and is drawn well, too. Asterix and Obelix aren’t drawn in Uderzo’s style, but they’re instantly recognizable and fit into Titeuf’s world.
Funny story: When I was typing in the text of the balloon you see above, Autocorrect kicked in and corrected “bouche” to “bouch.” It’s one character off, but that’s the difference between Titeuf asking about how much tongue to use when he’s kissing a girl on the mouth versus how much tongue to use when he’s kissing a girl on her butt.
When I discovered the error, I think I laughed harder than even Titeuf’s original punchline.
Milo Manara’s “Vendetta”
Yes, Milo Manara drew a two page Asterix story. In and of itself, that’s remarkable.
A Roman guard is welcoming back soldiers from Gaul, who all come in beaten and battered. One woman has had enough. This is the fourth fiance of hers who’s been beaten by those Gauls.
“Enough is enough,” she says! She hops on a horse and heads over to the Village to give them a piece of her mind.
Sure enough, she beats everyone up, dusts herself off, and says to them something along the lines of “For fifty years you’ve practiced on the Roman soldiers, now you know what Roman women can do!”
It’s the girl power story that almost balances out “Asterix and the Secret Weapon.” Of course it would be drawn by Manara, whose best known work in North America is a rather unfortunate Spider-Woman cover.
This story is very reserved for Manara. The woman is wearing a short top, but everything remains covered and there’s nothing gratuitous in the story.
But, still, you can’t help but giggle a little at the thought of a Manara Asterix story. He’s probably the last creator I would have imagined showing up in this book.
Kathryn and Stuart Immonen and the Animals of Asterix
Let’s not forget how much Albert Uderzo enjoyed drawing animals in “Asterix.” Kathryn Immonen and Stuart Immonen’s two page story features Dogmatix and some of his friends from the woods. You get a bear, a couple of boars, a bunny, and some birds
It also features a one panel Krypto cameo from Immonen, who was a Superman monthly artist for quite a time in the 90s:
Loosely translated: “Why is he wearing a cape?” “He must be one of those smart dogs. He’s not from around here.”
The rest of the story involves Roman soldiers trying to sneak into the Village via “The Cake of Troy.” Think of the Trojan Horse, but in the shape of a cake, instead. The grand finale is a fireworks display of Romans flying through the air.
Immonen draws it in something closer to his “NextWave” style, with everything simplified and lots of sharp angles. It’s a good look for a Dogmatic cartoon series, but that’s happening in a CGI style now, so never mind….
Lucky Luke Visits the Asterix and Obelix Totem
This is another favorite from the book. It’s just two pages and it’s filled with little in-jokes, but that’s kind of what this book is all about.
Believe it or not, it’s a sequel to “Asterix and the Great Crossing.” Lucky Luke and a friend named Albert Goldenfinger (who looks just like Uderzo, naturally) meet up with a Native American tribe that has a totem in homage to Asterix and Obelix. Yes, these are the descendants of the people those two met in “Asterix and the Great Crossing.”
There’s a bunch of little references along the way, right up to the end where the Natives gift Luke a drop of Asterix’s magic potion, at which point he’s able to outdraw his own shadow.
Yes, it’s a Lucky Luke origin story in disguise. Silly, but I laughed out loud.
The dog in the panel seen above is saying, “Those Indians are crazy!” Obelix would be proud.
There’s another story in the book called “L’Autre Grande Traversee”, in which Asterix and Obelix float out to sea again, only to land in the world of Marsupilami. Obelix mistakes the natives there for Romans. He’s good like that. Batem does that one-pager.
Donald Duck and Gyro Gearloose Bring Asterix and Obelix Home
Finally here’s one that’s right up my alley…
It’s the Chief’s birthday! Everyone has a present for him, except poor Asterix, who doesn’t have any ideas. What do you get for the man who already has everything? Not another shield, not another menhir, but what?!?
While thinking about this in the forest, he crosses paths with a duck who talks! It’s Donald Duck, whose time traveling ship made an emergency stop in Gaul on its way to the Jurassic. As luck would have it, Asterix and Obelix wind up on the ship and travel ahead in time to modern day Duckburg. There, they meet their biggest fans in the form of Huey, Dewey, and Louie. After signing autographs for all their friends for two hours, the two are left to find a birthday present from the future to give to the Chief, and they choose — Soccer.
While back in the village playing, Asterix declares that the Romans will never be allowed to play with them. I have to wonder if there’s a World Cup reference in there somewhere between France and Italy. I’m too lazy to look it up, though.
I love this three pager. It’s done in the full style of a Carl Barks type of story, which we already knew artist Vicar could do well. But he blends Asterix and Obelix in pretty neatly. It’s a time travel story, so don’t think too much about it. Just enjoy it for what it is. Vicar’s Obelix is dead-on model, while his Asterix is off just a tad.
I found that with most of the artists in this book. Most have a strong grasp on drawing Obelix, even when it’s in their own style. When it comes to drawing Asterix, it usually ends up slightly awkward.
The Ducks and the Asterix family of characters make for a good pairing. Think of all those globe-spanning adventures Uncle Scrooge got into, and then think of the ones Asterix has and the various precious items they’ve seen or own, like Vercingetorix’s shield or Caesar’s crown.
Unfortunately, this is only a three pages story, so they couldn’t do a longer adventurous story. And, also sadly, Scrooge is only it in for one panel. I’m glad Vicar snuck him in somewhere, though.
The only issue I have with the story is the lettering. It’s bad computer lettering. Check out all those crossbar-I characters. In a book filled with so many hand-lettered stories or fonts that approximate that better, this one sticks out for the wrong reasons.
I’m Sorry, But Ducks Live WHERE?!?
“Donaldville” is an awful renaming of “Duckburg.”
Not good at all.
And So Many, Many More
I know nothing about Serge Carrere’s other work, but his two-pager is beautiful.
There’s a pin-up from the creators of “Game Over” that appears on the back cover and inside the book, done in their unique style.
Christophe Arleston has a couple of stories in the book, paired with different artists from his other series. Since they’ve never been translated before, I can admire the art but know nothing about the series. Sorry, “Lanfeust” fans…
David “V for Vendetta” Lloyd has two pages, though I have to admit that it looks very awkward to me.
Gaston La Gaffe has a two-pager. Michel Vaillant, whose series has been recently revived, has a car race one-pager where Albert Uderzo races Obelix. He wins because Obelix stops for a boar.
Boucq gets three pages of an art school teacher working with students drawing Asterix as their live model.
I could go on and on…. There’s a lot of fun stuff in here.
Who Publishes It?
The book is published not by Hachette/Orion or Dargaud. This is a book from Uderzo’s company, Les Editions Albert Rene. It’s not part of the lineup of books you think of as the canonical 34 Goscinny/Uderzo books plus those by Ferri/Conrad.
In fact, they never translated it to English. Nor is it available digitally. As far as I know, there was never even a second printing, or a follow-up trade paperback edition. I wonder how much of that is contractual? Like, Disney was OK with Scrooge appearing because, hey, it’s Uderzo. Who can say no to him?
I can picture their contractual caveat, “But don’t start running this into multiple printings and formats.”
That’s purely speculative.
“Asterix et Ses Amis” is a vanity project done in house as a birthday present for the studio’s owner. It’s not part of the canonical line. It’s still very very cool.
I bought a used copy through Amazon (affiliate link) for less than ten bucks, but if you want a fresh, crisp, clean Brand New condition copy, it’s going to run you over $30.
That’s actually not that bad a deal. This is a super book.
It’s also why I’m probably going to have to eventually give in and pay a ridiculous price to get the latest Asterix Gallery book that just came out to celebrate his 60th. There’s no plans right now to translate or release that in English.
Being an American Asterix fans can be very difficult sometimes.
Absolutely, yes, particularly if you have any familiar with the Franco-Belgian comics scene and would thus know half the creators in this album at least.
It’s not in English so it’ll take some work to actually read the thing, but a used copy is cheap enough.
Seriously, it’s worth the price just for the art. The stories that I’ve read for myself have been more than worth the work of translating them in the Google Translate app.
— 2019.042 —