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Asterix v16: “Asterix in Switzerland”

Writer: Rene Goscinny
Artist: Albert Uderzo
Translator: Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge
Published by: Orion (Hachette)
Number of Pages: 48
Original Publication: 1970

I liked this book better once it got to Switzerland.  The Roman orgies didn’t do much for me…  But there are still lots of laughs.

Politics and Corruption

Varius Flavus is an interesting character.  Flavus is the classic case of the corrupt politician.  Don’t hate the player, though, hate the game. He’s just optimizing the position in the game of politics for his own benefit.

OK, OK, so you can hate the person.  The thing is, anytime you change the game to beat back a player, the player always finds another way to skirt around the rules to benefit themselves.

And that is why you can’t have anything nice.

Governor Flavus plots his riches in one year

Flavus is the Roman Governor of Condatum, a post to which he’s only appointed for a year. This is his moment.  It’s a post he intends to take full advantage of.  He skims a “little” off the top of all the money that’s coming in, rather than passing it on to Rome.  He plans on partying, living the high life, and retiring a very wealthy man before all is said and done.

We’ve seen this kind of person in our lives or in the news. It’s not like Flavus invented this, nor is he the end of it.  Turns out, corrupt politicians are not a recent invention. (By “recent,” I mean “from the last 200 years or so.’)

You and I see the fatal flaw in his plan, though, and would avoid it like the plague, I should hope.  Varius Flavus views himself as being untouchable. He’ll get away with it because he knows that he is the exception.

And if he does get “caught,” not to worry.  He’ll treat the tax collector to the life he’s living and corrupt him, too.  Who can’t be bought, after all?

Inevitably, the tax collector comes in from Rome and has questions.  Unfortunately for Flavus’ plans, he’s not easily bought.

When Caesar audits you, there might be trouble.

Thus starts “Asterix in Switzerland.”

Goscinny is writing a silly children’s humor book, and I just spent three hundred words analyzing fundamental human behavior and the unforeseen consequences of political machinations.  That’s why Goscinny’s so good at what he does.

However, there is one flaw in this book that harms it. It doesn’t ruin it entirely, but it does cause me to knock it down a couple pegs further than I think a few others might.  Let’s start there:

Balance in All Things

“Asterix in Switzerland” feels imbalanced to me.  The extended orgy scene at the beginning is a little self-indulgent. The great stuff doesn’t start until we get Asterix and Obelix on the road. The Swiss folks in the book are adorable and funny.  The Romans are just disgusting — except the tax collector, who turns out to be the most honorable guy in the book.

In fact, he’s so well respected that he is invited to the Gauls’ banquet at the end of the book — the first Roman to get such an honor!

Let’s talk about that opening part of the book first, though.

Asterix is labeled as a children’s book and, yes, the kids will appreciate it on a whole different level from the adults, who’ll appreciate it on a whole different level from the adults with a passing knowledge of French culture in the 1960s.

Your typical Fellini-esque Roman Orgy in France

That all said, this is a kids’ book that starts with an extended scene set in a Roman orgy before moving to Switzerland for a fondue orgy.  It’s not quite the orgy you’re thinking of.  At least, that’s not what Goscinny and Uderzo show.  This is more a party of over-consumption.  The Romans eat too much bizarre food.  The Swiss orgy features melted cheese and a celebratory spanking or two.

Kids will just find it silly.  Adults will

There’s only so much gluttony I can take before I want to avert my eyes. Watching fat Romans getting drunk and over-eating is something I can only enjoy in small doses, I’m afraid.  Goscinny pushes it way past that, though, and I didn’t really want to read all that much of it.

Why did Goscinny push it so far?  This is where cultural differences and the passage of time come in.

The Roman orgy is a parody of a Fellini film.  So that explains why it landed so flat for me.  I’m not enough of a film buff to suffer through those movies.  And why Goscinny would want to spend so many pages referencing that movie for “Asterix” is a bit beyond me.  It sets up the story well enough, but the gluttony and laziness isn’t all that fun to spend so much time in.

Obviously, this isn’t the first time the series has referenced popular movies of its time.  “Asterix and Cleopatra” had a cover that directly parodied the Elizabeth Taylor “Cleopatra” movie poster, after all.  Various actors have shown up in caricature and in small parts here and there.

This one just isn’t in my wheelhouse, I’m afraid, and so it starts the book off on a sour note.

Bring In The Villagers

Vitalstatistix gives Asterix and Obelix the job of shield-bearer.

The book really begins in Asterix’s village, with a two page gag sequence in which Chief Vitalstatistix fires his shield-bearers and looks for replacements in Asterix and Obelix.  It doesn’t work out so well, but it is a good bit of physical humor.

It also has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the book. This feels like the remnants of serialized storytelling, where Goscinny and Uderzo spent a couple of pages fooling around and making funny stuff while they plotted the main plot.

Meanwhile, back at the orgy, the tax auditor arrives from Rome and isn’t susceptible to the governor’s attempts to woo his favor.  So Flavus poisons him.  Yes, this is an Asterix book that follows up an orgy with an attempted murder via a poisoned drink.

Flavus puts on a big show of trying to help with a series of completely and hilariously useless doctors.  It’s so over-the-top that  even the auditor knows Flavus is full of it.

The auditor, instead, sends for the Druid Getafix for help.  Getafix brings Obelix and Asterix with him.  (Dogmatix, too!)  The antidote for the poison requires a flower that grows in Switzerland, and so off the boys (and their dog) go to fetch the flower to save the Roman.

Nice guys.

This is where the fun begins.

Swiss Cleanliness

I remember seeing Billy Joel once talk about visiting his aging mother in Austria.  OK, that’s not Switzerland, but I’m going to go with “close enough” for this story.

He mentioned that as he walked the streets of the city, he saw the elderly often out on the streets, sweeping up.  They were active and not hidden away in nursing homes.  He was impressed with how the elderly in the country were treated as contributing members of society and how they liked to help keep the place neat.

One of the biggest running gags in this book is how clean the Swiss like to keep everything.  It shows on everything from road signs — where the arrow pointing to Switzerland is far cleaner than the one pointing to Gaul — to the floors of the hotel to the conditions in the bank’s underground vault.  The gag goes from being the main joke of a panel or a sequence of panels to being a small throwaway gag in the background of another.  Goscinny mixes it up well to get a lot of mileage out of a joke without losing its punch.

But that’s not all!  Nope, what else do you think of when you think of Switzerland?  The other two things that come to my mind are watches (Swatch, especially) and private bank accounts.  Yes, they’re both in this book.  The owner of the hotel is serious about tracking the time all day and night with the help of his hourglass.  And, at one point, Asterix and Obelix are hidden in the vault of a Swiss bank.  That’s the scene you see a bit of on the cover of this volume.

Oh, yes, and cheese.  Now, I mostly think of Swiss Cheese with all the holes in it, but there’s a lot more besides that.  Coincidentally, I heard a podcast recently that talked about fondue, the cheeses of Switzerland, and the great Swiss Cheese Cartel.  It’s a great episode of Planet Money, “The Fondue Conspiracy.”  It talk a lot about how popular the dish became in the 1970s, around the time this book was created. (Basically, they had a LOT of cheese to sell, and melting it was a fast way to sell a lot of it.)

Great Moments in Switzerland

The Gauls spend a lot of time trying to keep away from the Roman soldiers when they could just punch them out and be about their way. They did that at the border crossing, though, and to great effect.  Once the first soldier was punched out, the rest turned their blocks out of self-preservation.

The self-preservation of the border guards on the Swiss border

You can also see in this panel how much cleaner the sign is on the Swiss side.

(Side note: I’m too much of a font nerd.  Every time I see “Helvetia,” I read it as “Helvetica.”)

That cover scene where Obelix and Asterix hide in the basement vault is worth a mention, too.  It reminds me of all the times they got locked up in jail only to punch their way out.

Ultimately, it’s funny not because they fool the Romans but because they destroy the Swiss banker’s reputation and business.  OK, so that’s more mean than funny, but the way the guy overreacts is kind of funny.  The real punchline to the whole thing is when he admits that dealing with the Gauls is so irksome that it makes him want to be neutral.

The Swiss banker wants to be neutral.

And then there’s the climactic chase through the mountains of Switzerland, where the book hits its comedic stride.  Obelix overdoses on wine and passes out.  Sure, after the orgies and the attempted murder, let’s add in some drunken humor.  I’m almost surprised at this point that Goscinny didn’t have everyone take a smoke break in the middle of this book.

Asterix rids Obelix as a sleigh down a snowy Swiss mountain

Thus begins a sequence where Asterix is dragging Obelix behind him, only in the end to use him like a sled through the snowy side of the mountain.  It’s a great collection of “Weekend at Bernie’s”-type gags told well by Uderzo, who even adjusts panel shapes to give you the tall point of view you’d need for their mountain climbing attempt.

And This Bit of Tired Weirdness

The Antar gas guy in Asterix

Here’s a joke that Americans won’t get without Google’s help.  I had to look it up, because it was so obviously referencing something I knew nothing about..

That’s the logo of a gas company in France by the name of Antar.

Here’s where it gets weirder: In some early English translations, he was replaced by The Michelin Man, a/k/a Bibendum.  (Yes, the Michelin Man has a name.  I’m learning something new every week with these books…)

It’s just a weird inclusion in the book. It’s a talking mascot in a completely different style from the rest of the book used for a single panel gag.  Was Pilote Magazine looking for new sponsors or something?

Also, the English translation, to this day, references the Michelin Man in the next panel:

A fat joke about a Viking makes less sense than about The Michelin Man

That Antar mascot guy is not fat. The Michelin Man sets Obelix’s joke up so much better. Nobody bothered to update the one-liner since the removal of Bibendum.

Bonus reading: “7 Things Asterix Got Right About Switzerland. (And 4 He Didn’t.)”

Best Name in the Book

Honestly, there’s no big standout name.  It’s almost a coin flip.  Varius Flavus is fitting for his over-consumption.  I like Caius Eucalyptus because it brings Australia to Rome.  What about the simplest choice, Geometrix?

Vexatius Sinusitis

The tax auditor’s name is Vexatius Sinusitus.  Given his long a pointy nose, I think he wins.

You may more strongly favor another of those, and I won’t fight you on it.

Two Completely Random Things

There are moments early in the book when I saw Obelix and thought it was Andre the Giant’s character from “The Princess Bride.”

Obelix occasionally acts like Andre the Giant's character in "The Princes Bride."

Try to read that panel in the Giant’s voice.  It works out.

They’re both massively huge and not terribly bright, but pure of spirit and character.  I doubt Goldman was thinking of Obelix when he wrote “The Princess Bride,” but there’s a solid comparison there.

Recommended?

Asterix in Switzerland cover by Albert Uderzo

It’s funny. Even in the parts I don’t want to revisit all that much, there’s a lot of humor. I like a lot of it. This one just isn’t as good from front to back as a lot of the others have been.  I’d go with another book first, but I’d never say skip this one entirely.  You definitely do not want to miss the yodeling or the mountain climbing.  But, then, you can get that on “The Price Is Right” or a Ricola commercial.

I’m kidding.  Just kidding.  Asterix is still funnier than American morning television…

— 2018.045 —

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26 Comments

  1. But, but, but… Asterix in Switzerland is one of the best ones! That got an easy 4.5/5 – and isn’t currently sitting fourth from top of my ranked list of Asterix books so far.

    I have to admit, I liked the orgy scenes – particularly the fondue ones. What is this mention of “tofu” though? Do you have a different definition of “tofu” in America or did you mistype “fondue”?

    Strangely, the final scenes where you said the book hit its stride we’re the was the weakest section for me. Not bad by any stretch, but I prefer the buildup.

    The worst bit of the book is clearly the Michelin man. I’ve got the edition where they printed the drawing of the Michelin man with the colours of the other one: https://flic.kr/p/27gKZFp. Either way, it looks terrible. The French character looks so artificial he looks like a cardboard cutout and the Michelin man is worse. I almost prefer my copy which has both faults.

    And damn! My parents had a Mac in the house when I was a kid, so I’ve always read that as Helvetica. I didn’t realise it wasn’t until you pointed it out.

    The pun name of the book for me was Curius Odus.

    1. When all is said an done this year, I think this is the book I’m most likely to come back to for a second shot. I stand by everything I said, though part of me wonders if I’m not being too hard on it because maybe I was in a bad mood when I read it or something. Who knows? Everything is so subjective. But I don’t HATE the book, so maybe there’s hope for the future….

      Cirius Odus made me giggle when I read it. It would be a good contendor.

  2. True, some of the bits you find weird in the pacing, are due to the serialized nature of the story in Pilote, one page per week; that was the last page of the magazine, the one we could browse through at the newsstand without opening the magazine (that was a big no-no, you had to buy first) so there had to be something meaty there every week.
    As a kid, the Antar gag is the one that got the bigger laugh out of me. The first oil crisis wouldn’t hit us until 74 so 1970 was still the golden age of gas stations in Europe, popping up everywhere in cities and motorways like mushrooms and there was a big competition between the big three, Esso, Total and Antar, the latter being the underdog of sorts, so they got smart and invented the giveaway. They flooded the country with keychains sporting this guy’s features on it.
    [Expired eBay auction deleted]
    I was only 5 in 1970 but I read this book the first time when I was about 7 or 8 and I still vividly remember the craze of collectible keychains with company logos on them (similar to later cloisonne pins, pogs, and so on). I probably still have a metal box full of these somewhere in storage.
    The cleanliness of Switzerland isn’t just a cliché, it’s true. I used to live by the French border, next to Geneva for a good many years and I used to cross over on weekends (to buy chocolate and american comics, what can I say?) so I can give first-hand testimony that Geneva is the cleanest city I’ve ever been to, zero littering makes it a huge contrast with french cities at the time.
    Also fairly true of Switzerland, that country has a way higher proportion of elderly inhabitants, due to its enclaved situation in Europe and lack of natural resources; so is Luxembourg, also a bank haven, make of it what you will.
    Also not a big fan of italian cinema myself, so I would definitely concur, this orgy scene is gross. But very popular. Too bad we would see a lot more of this on screen in the 70s, with the renowned BBC series I Claudius and later the UK movie Caligula (I seem to remember Helen Mirren’s assets prominently featured in that one. Teenage, you know…).
    This is the book where I discovered what an edelweiss is, sweet memory when you could still learn botanics from funnybooks 🙂

    1. I remember lots of keychains when I was a kid. I didn’t think of it as a fad but more of a marketing tool. But I bet it was a holdover from the 70s. (I was born in 76, so the timing is pretty close.)

      The collectible pins are back in now because they’re relatively easy and affordable to make, and have very good profit margins. Their popularity at comic book conventions is starting to grow now and you’re going to see them at every table at every comic con in the next year or so, I’d bet.

      And I learned edelweiss from “The Sound of Music.” I’m guessing my parents explained that it was a flower, since the lyrics aren’t ever direct about it. When I saw it referenced in this book, I had a flashback to that.

  3. Well Switzerland was a bit of a surprise for me. In my head, since last re-read too many years ago, this was in my top three and my favourite of the traveling stories and while this absolutely deserves its place in the current golden age of Asterix, I don’t it will repeat that feat.

    As ever its all about context and we can’t lose sight about the fact it is absolutely brilliant.

    Highlights include the fact that the back drop of Switzerland seems to perfectly play to Uderzo’s astonishing ability to show nature in all its beauty. It shows the romans again as villians, but gloriously rounded in their variety with such extreme demonstrations of this volume, from the lazy good for nothings in positions of power to the honourable and decent tax collector. The comic is of course hilarious, I mean laugh out loud funny. I love the fact that Goscinny makes it clear that enough is enough with the shield bearer jokes and in doing so hits some of the very best shield bearer jokes! The story is solid. Everything this comic is fantastic.

    The thing that I particularly love is it exemplifies what I mean when I talk about vile and sinister villians in Asterix. It has a real darkside to it. The orgies genuinely scared me as a kid reading this. Those in attendance looked so unpleasent. Varius Flavus is just gloriously hideous. There is even clear illusions to sado-machochism. The true genius of all this is that I was oblivious to these darker elements as a kid, aside from hating the folks at the party and it was all just silly nonsense. Yet with seemingly no effort on Goscinny’s part he’s weaved in different meaning and implications for me to find as an adult. Just supreme.

    I come from the 2000ad generation, having a dark underbelly weaved into child’s fiction is what makes my world turn. So far from putting me off as it does Augie a little, this turns me onto this book all the more.

    So all that said why isn’t this my favourite to date… and the honest answer is – dunno. Having typed this up a couple of weeks after reading this one I can’t actually think why this isn’t my favourite to date. However I can’t ignore that when I read it, I knew it wasn’t quite as good as either Roman Agent or Cauldron. Only two reasons I can think of for this, one I dread and that’s that I’m taking all this beauty, hilarity and delight for granted after reading so much superb Asterix over the last few months. Christ alive I hope that’s never going to happen. So I assume its just those small, subjective choices you make when you are reading stuff that is this good that there really is nothing to stop you saying its all beyond good. So anyway this one gets

    10.5 out of 10

    Some details I have two favourite pun names, both from the worst of our Romans. It could have been the previously mentioned Varius Flavus, perfect for our orgy dwellers. I think however I’ll give it to Curius Odus as I’ve always figured he would have one!

    Also I’ve never seen the version with the Antar sign before having my original, old UK version still, which has the Michelin Man in, which I’ve always thought was very odd and looked out of place but figured he was something known in France as MIchelin are big in Formula 1 and this was just a very odd thing to have thrown in. Thanks for clearing that one up Augie.

    Finally the last piece of my vision of perfect Asterix appears here for the first time and it really is so insignificent, but to me ‘important’ and that is the potion gould with the leather cross straps rather than the smoother looking ceramic bottle… see said it wasn’t worth trying to work out!

      1. To be honest I shouldn’t have, but for whatever reason it’s always been there for me?!?

    1. Isn’t it sad that I felt myself nodding in agreement when I read your comment, Colin, that is a feeling I have almost every time I read a new book “Why does this guy bother writing if he can’t be half as good as Goscinny was 50 years ago?” “Why does this one dare doodling figures on a page since he can’t hold a candle to Uderzo?” We’ve been blessed to be introduced to these wonderful creators at such an early age that I sometimes wonder if it’s a blessing or a curse.
      Btw, good catch on the gourd; 1970 is about the time that Astérix & Co. begin to give in to the sirens of marketing, licensing, model sheets and al. on a grander scale, away from the oddball commercial endorsements of the early days (you can find Asterix on cigar boxes in the early days, of all things. Go figure). For about 10 years now we’ve seen the characters’ proportions slowly evolve into what is soon going to be the reference, the canon for the series and by that point, Dargaud uses this as a launching pad to build an empire in the publishing industry.

      1. It’s interesting to hear this is the time Asterix became a marketing juggernaut – alas… or maybe luckily … not much reached these shores. The strip does seem complete at this point and I wonder how much the two are connected?

        JC while you are here can I ask how ‘Mansion’ was published? Page at a time, for the most part, obvious exception aside, I was imagining that reading it today… I know getting ahead of myself!

        1. Sure thing, mate 🙂
          The last story prepublished in Pilote is Corsica in 1973, since the following year the magazine becomes monthly after Goscinny abandons his editorial position. And, sadly, dies shortly thereafter. Mansion was prepublished in 1971 from Pilote 591 to 612. I’s only over 22 issues so I’m counting 2 pages per week + 1 or 2 extra pages for the beginning of the story and same for the end. It’s faster than Switzerland which was published over 31 issues, thus having a combination of one-pagers and two-pagers. That made me curious so I went further back and checked that Roman Agent was over 22 issues as well, in fact they’re all 22 or 23 issues after Britain which is 28 issues. It means that being the most popular series in the mag, it also served as variable of adjustment until that point, whenever other strips were running over. Thanks Colin, I would never have double-checked if not for your question. The french wikipedia pages for each album are a treasure trove of information and there are plenty of personal pages giving additional analysis, so much so that I shouldn’t have to rely on my sometimes lousy memory any more ;-b
          As I was researching this, I found this site where are gathered most if not all of Pilote covers that have Asterix on them. For anyone interested, a sweet slice of history:
          https://www.villageasterix.com/t2997-pilote-le-journal-d-asterix-et-d-obelix

          1. Arh JC you are a source of insightful delight. Thanks for the linkie and sharing the invaluable perspective which is adding a ton to my enjoyment of this re-read.

          2. Also why isn’t there a book of these covers, some of those covers are GREAT… actually of course maybe there is a book of the covers its just not landed in the UK.

          3. Those covers would make for excellent bonus material in the backs of the books. At some point, I can imagine Hachette’s next “new edition” of the series being the same as the current collection, but with eight bonus pages in the back of sketches, rare covers, alternate panels (Michelin Man, for example.), and maybe some critical analysis. And you’ll have to pay for it all over again,and then some since the books would be longer. UGH

            Still, it would be nice to have all that stuff.

          4. Oh, and I join Colin in thanking you for the link. That’s a fun page to scroll through.

            It’s amazing to think that they were producing these books so quickly. 40+ pages in 20 weeks of this high a quality is insane. And repeatedly. For a decade, they kept churning them out, without a huge drop in quality.

      2. I’ve always meant to do a post since book one that compares the various designs of the characters through the years and how much they’ve changed. Maybe we’re far enough in now that it would make sense to do so. Or, maybe I should wait to the very end so we can watch the decline…. =(

        1. The writing goes downhill terribly, but IMO, the art never loses a thing. It changes and becomes looser and more dynamic, but doesn’t lose a thing.

    2. Interesting comment about 2000ad. I’m English, but I hadn’t started on 2000ad at the age when I read Asterix in Switzerland. I think British (and likely a lot of European) senses of humour tend to run a bit darker than Americans. Maybe that’s why we find the orgy scenes more palatable than Augie.

      1. Possibly, UK comics for me have always been edgier, grittier than franco-belgian “Big Nose” outings, even besides 2000AD; as a kid I was a big fan of B&W pockets from MonJournal publisher, they had Adam Eterno, Janus Stark and all those DC Thomson war stories that had no real equivalent here. Garth was fun too.

    3. Very good point on the variety of Roman bad guys in this book. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but it’s a great point in favor of the book. Heck, a Roman gets invited to the banquet, so you know you’re getting the whole spectrum, with extremes at both ends — the murderous orgy-thrower on one side, and the tax guy on the other side who is just doing his job.

      The American version of the “hidden orgy meaning” stuff is Chris Claremont’s X-Men. That’s filled with a ridiculous amount of subtle and overtly obvious sadomasochism. Heck, just look at the Hellfire Club sometime. And then there’s all the characters who got tied up to stuff and beaten. Adult me isn’t sure whether to laugh at it or be shocked about how much stuff just goes over kids’ heads who wouldn’t know.

      Re: Leather cross-straps. I should have known. I think the Asterix mermaid I drew this month had the cross straps, because I did a Google Images search for reference. It must have pulled a more recent image for me. Dumb luck, really.

  4. I always enjoyed ‘Asterix in Switzerland’. Maybe not one of the very best books, but definitely from the golden age of Asterix. Varius Flavus is a great villain. His scheming and plotting reminds me of those TV dramas set in ancient Rome where all the courtiers and politicians are planning to murder each other (‘I Claudius’, ‘Rome’, etc).
    I find the orgy stuff quite funny though I suppose it is a strange thing to have in a children’s book – the word ‘orgy’ always suggests sexual misbehaviour rather than just eating and drinking too much. Re the difference between American and European attitudes towards adult themes in comics, this reminds me: when Tintin was first published in the US in about 1959, its US publisher, Golden Press, insisted that Herge redraw a number of sequences showing Captain Haddock getting drunk. It was felt that US critics and librarians would object to showing alcoholism in a children’s book, even though these sequences were not controversial in Europe. There’s an article about this on tintinologist.org.
    Re Antar: as JC Lebourdais says, the 1970s were full of promotional battles between petroleum companies offering giveaways (Green Shield Stamps, etc). Ironically, Antar’s French rival Total had a big tie-up with Asterix in the UK, where the books were given away at filling stations.

    1. I just came across this great website, kudos to you for the excellent reviews. Regarding this issue, am I the only one that noticed the Goth chieftain that appeared in ‘Asterix the Legionnaire’? In this issue, if I’m not mistaken, he is a member of the audience, sleeping, at the Geneva conference. Obelix even stares at him in surprise with a couple of ?? in the dialogue bubble.

      1. Thanks, George! Glad you found us here! I just took out my copies of the books to take a look. And, yeah, you might be right there. It does look like the same Gothic chieftain. It’s POSSIBLE that it’s just Uderzo’s basic look for a Gothic warrior, and Obelix’s question marks are from his amazement that they actually sleep, BUT — the similarity is just too much. I think you caught onto something there. Good catch! =)

  5. Just found this site because I was looking up the Michelin Man / Antar business. Thanks for answering that for me – never heard of Antar before. Just replaced my destroyed ’80s copies with newer omnibus editions, and was interested in the change in that joke. Another odd thing about it is that, in my ’80s copy (which I haven’t got rid of yet), the drawing of the Michelin Man is transparent and you can still see Antar behind/through him.