Asterix and Caesar's Gift cover detail for header image

16 Asterix Panels Papercutz Might Want to Translate Differently

As Papercutz begins its multi-year campaign to rewrite Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge to make for a more modern, American translation of Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo’s comics, this is a good time to look back at the 38 albums in the series and make suggestions.

A series like Asterix that dates back to the 1950s is bound to have some material in it that doesn’t fly anymore. I’ve compiled a few panels here for Papercutz’s consideration.

If they want to get these books into schools, for example, they’re going to have their work cut out for them in cleaning things up.

Playing with Language

The first one everyone thinks of is Getafix’s name. It comes too close to condoning drug dealing, right? (Please drip that sentence with an appropriate amount of sarcasm.)

Comparing the Magic Potion maker with a drug dealer is just beyond the pale in these post-Just Say No days.

Once they get his name changed, they can start looking at his dialog. This example is from very late in the series, but still:

Getafix explains the ABCs, starting with -- ass

I don’t know how they work around it. Redrawing the donkey might be in order here.

In many ways, this is almost the least of Asterix’s offenses.

Voluptuous Arteriosclerosis

Can we refer to a man as being “voluptuous”? Do we want to use such a big word, and do we want to use a word that generally is used to denote the size and curviness of a woman? Is it too “suggestive” for young American ears? And are we fat-shaming the military leader?

Also, is the “ave” salute too close to a “Heil, Hitler” salute? Do all outstretched Roman arms need to be redrawn or repositioned somehow?

I wish I was joking about this, but you know how things work in this day and age… Speaking of which:

Obelix is not fat

Asterix contains fat jokes. Such casual fatphobic (I saw that word used on Twitter the other day, so it must be real) humor is to be shunned. Obelix has a very positive attitude towards his body image. We should stop making a running gag of all the times supporting characters accidentally trip over this land mine.

All jokes based on wordplay in and around “fat” need to be removed.

Obelix first points out that the Romans are crazy

In this day and age of greater mental health awareness, we should be very wary about using the “C” word in any context. I suggest replacing it with “confused,” perhaps.

Likewise, Bone’s use of “Stupid” in relation to his rat creatures diminishes the rats’ mental capactiy, which might be a genetic predisposition beyond their control. Why bully the rat creatures like that?

Getafix introduces the Druid Valuaddetax

I suspect Valuaddetax will be translated to something the school children of today will better understand. I’m predicting Carboncreditax.

Caesar's architect, Squaronthehypotenus

Maybe you haven’t seen the shambles that Common Core has wreaked upon math education in this country today, but “Squaronthehypotenus” will never fly. Nobody would get it.

Three inconsistent panels with random background issues

I originally showed this panel in my review of “Asterix and Caesar’s Gift” because the background disappears in the third panel. I show it today because we’re not allowed to say “foreigner” anymore.

Of course, this is Geriatrix, the old man who is saying it. It’s in his character to use that word, even by today’s standards. But, you know how language goes now. I don’t expect to see this one in the new translation.

Politics

It's an Asterix reunion with characters from previous volumes

Here’s a reference to the British Labour party. That one is going away for sure. What will it be replaced by? Will it still be a political reference at all?

By the way, those characters speaking in the British accent are actually British. So it makes sense for them to make such references and speak with the extra “U” letters…

Pop Culture References

The Beatles appear in Asterix in Britain, of course

Kids today don’t know who the Beatles are. Papercutz will want to label this group as being a Korean pop boy band to appeal to their new, younger audience.

Here’s a photo I took recently so you can see the similarities:

NCT 127 are the new Beatles for Asterix in 2019

Honestly, if Uderzo drew characters that stiff and vacant in the eyes, Asterix never would have made it past volume 1.

Times Change, Attitudes Change, and Holy Crap They Did That AFTER 2000?!?

The manga villain, Nagma, has yellow skin and a bad accent

This might be a good argument for the recoloring of the book, too, actually… And the accent of this alien creature will also need to go.

Women like to shop. That's what Albert Uderzo taught me.

Honestly, this is the book I most look forward to seeing how Papercutz attempts to translate their way around. It’s “Asterix and the Secret Weapon,” the one in which — spoilers! — Asterix defeats a fierce squadron of Roman warrior woman by setting up a shopping mall for them.

I’m not kidding. That’s the book’s punchline.

It’s either brilliant satire or cringeworthy misogyny. I’ve read both opinions and, I have to admit, I tend to think it’s mostly in the latter category.

Fulliautomatix makes weapons for Asterix's village

Wait, you thought “Getafix” was bad?!? Wait til you see “Fulliautomatix” or his father, “Semiautomatix”. I assume Papercutz will replace all gun humor in the series. That might be worse than “Getafix.”

I Don’t Care What It Takes…

Asterix is saved from a horrible oceanic fate by a passing dolphin who gives him a ride back to shore. Sure, why not?

…can we just delete this moment entirely?!?

Adult Beverages

The British drink warm beer, which is really a weapon against everyone else.

There’s a lot of wine in the “Asterix” series, and even references to beer. We can’t acknowledge the existence of those beverages to school-age children. They’ll have to go.

This exclamation, at least, is easily changed to “ROOT BEER!”

Chlidren of the 80s: Remember the video game, “Tapper”, and how it went from being beer-centric to root beer-centric? This is that all over again.

Roman soldiers break open barrels of local wine, looking for magic potion

That’ll make this whole sequence very tricky…

Long Live Vercingetorix drunk

And good luck explaining this guy… He would have been played by Foster Brooks in a live action Asterix movie in the 1970s. Today, he’s a warning against conspicuous consumption.

Good Luck to Papercutz

They have their work cut out for them. They can’t hope to appease the old school Asterix fans while targeting new Asterix fans. They can’t appeal to younger fans using older references and socially indelicate language. It’s quite the pickle.

What do YOU think? (First time commenters' posts may be held for moderation.)

7 Comments

  1. Quick question Augie: do you have any plans on reviewing Asterix and the Chieftain’s Daughter for your ‘Agenda’ any time in the future?

      1. Quick update: It’ll be done for early next week, though my podcast quick review of it will be available tomorrow morning. It’s coming, I promise! One way or the other, I’ll get it done before Wednesday the 13th, because I’ll be out of town after that for a little while and won’t have a chance to work on it anymore.

  2. I think Papercutz are probably wasting their time and money with this venture. I’m reminded of a daily competition that used to be the radio in Ireland, called the ‘Just a minute Quiz’. People would ring in and have a minute to answer as many questions as they could in that time. The questions were usually pretty easy but sometimes you’d still get some dummy who couldn’t answer any of them. In such instances the host became famous for his tongue in cheek catchphrase ‘never mind, they just didn’t suit you’. Similarly, I’d say it’s probably the case that Asterix doesn’t suit Americans.

    1. Augie actually helps to make my point above when he says about the Secret Weapon: “It’s either brilliant satire or cringeworthy misogyny. I’ve read both opinions and, I have to admit, I tend to think it’s mostly in the latter category.”

      So, you see the great tendency in American thinking seems to be for something to be either one thing or the other, there can be no in between, no grey areas, no nuance. In reality, the book in question is neither brilliant satire or cringeworthy misogyny.

      1. Or, you can read what I said as positioning myself along a spectrum that leans in one direction over the other, but doesn’t commit to the extreme. There is far too much polarization in this world, though, I agree. Too many people believe in absolutes and ignore the middle, where the truth so often takes root. And I don’t think it’s just America, for that matter…

  3. I can’t see why Fulliautomatix would need a name change : as far as I could figure, his name was a reference to things like washing machines being described in the advertising as “fully automatic”. Granted, it’s a dated phrase – nowadays, everything is fully automatic! – but I don’t believe it’s a gun reference. Semiautomatix, though… 😬!!!
    By the way, I just stumbled onto your site and have spent so much time this morning browsing, I’ve bookmarked it! I’m in the UK, and have always been surprised – well, shocked, to be honest – that there are SO many European comics that never made the short journey across the Mare Britannicum. I love the art style, and much prefer them to American comics.