Asterix and Caesar's Gift cover detail for header image
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Asterix v21: “Asterix and Caesar’s Gift”

Writer: Rene Goscinny
Artist: Albert Uderzo
Translators: Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge
Published by: Orion (Hachette)
Number of Pages: 54
Original Publication: 1974

This volume worries me a bit.  Is the golden age of Asterix over now?  Is this the dividing line?  It’s not a bad book, but it feels different. Simpler.  I don’t know.

Or am I over-reacting to some minor tweak in the art that nobody else even sees?  Let’s explore together, shall we?

The Historical Backstory

The inciting event is based on true Roman traditions.  In Julius Caesar’s time, a soldier served out his time and got paid handsomely for his service on the way out the door, often in plots of land and/or money.

Keep in mind, also, that in Caesar’s time, the soldiers worked for Caesar, not directly to the office of the emperor or the state.  It sounds like a fine line, but it’s a big difference. It’s why another military leader with a few legions loyal to him could turn around and come after the emperor to overtake the Roman Empire.  The soldiers were loyal to the man who led them into battle where they could cash in on the slaves and bountiful treasures they could steal from the cities they conquered.

Caesar had a lot of debts.  There was a certain profit motive to the Gallic Wars, and so everyone was happy.

This system would not be so great further down the line, when emperors would find themselves at war with their own generals who controlled legions against them. Roman Civil Wars were regular events for awhile there.

But I digress…

The Story of This Book

There's one soldier in this lineup who is clearly the drunkard. It's obvious.

Caesar has to decide what to do with a ne’er-do-well soldier who spent his twenty years drunk and, most likely, ineffective. Take a look at that lineup and you’ll know instantly which one I’m talking about.

Instead of crucifying him or strangling him in public or sending him to the lions for the public’s bemusement, Caesar shows his occasional — and often politically brilliant — leniency.  He instead has fun with the soldier. He gifts him a plot of land in the northwest corner of Gaul.

Caesar bestows Asterix's village on a bad soldier

Yes, Caesar bestows Asterix’s village upon this bad soldier. That’ll team him!

The soldier doesn’t realize this and, being a drunk, trades the plot to the local inn keeper, Orthopaedix, to pay for his food and alcohol. Orthopaedix takes his family — his wife and daughter — out to the country, to settle down in their new plot of land and to lead a prosperous new life.

Orthopaedix can now live his dream of living in the country

This inn keeper and his family are the purest victims of this story.  Sure, the wife is a bit of an antagonistic power-hungry shrew, but she didn’t ask for this trouble.  She didn’t do anything to tick off Caesar.  The family, like the villagers who now laugh at them for their silly mistake, has been wronged by Rome’s leader — or, more specifically, the one drunken soldier.

So the village welcomes them with open arms and offers them a place in their village, right?

Sure, that would make sense, but it would also make for a short story.

Chief Vitalstatistix shows some leadership and sets them up in a house to make a new inn.  The village could use one.

They throw a big party for the opening night of the inn and things go wrong. Tempers typically flare, a fight erupts, the bar is trashed.  Worst of all, the two wives get off on the wrong foot.

Orthopaedix is ready to pack it in and move to Lutetia, where his wife originally wanted to go.  But now she wants more. She wants her husband to be somebody, and she thinks he’s the perfect candidate to be the Chief.  And, surprisingly, the villagers aren’t necessarily sure she’s wrong.

Asterix Electioneering

Ultimately, this book is about politics and electioneering. Don’t worry, it’s not a treatise on politics from one side or the other.

It’s about the inherent silliness of elections.  While we may all breathlessly champion the representative democracy we live with and how important one person/one vote is, there’s certainly a lot of unquestioned silliness and ceremony that goes on around it.

We let people vote who don’t know who the candidates are or who’s running.  They rally around a song as much as an idea. People vote based on who looks better or whose name sounds friendlier or which party they’re running under.  (Look down the ballot sometime and you’ll find some ridiculous political party names.)

Debates are held, but they’re all for show.  It’s verbal gladiatorial battle, where opponents land cheap points and the audience cheers on their favorites.  The rules must be upheld even if they don’t make sense or feel completely arbitrary.

When in doubt in a debate, bring some pointless statistics
To this day, politicians do love throwing numbers around.

In the days of the great Roman Republic — which was all but dead by 50 B.C. — elections often turned on who best bribed who, or whose army was stronger. When the empire started, they stopped bothering with the votes and succession turned into a bloodline, a big bank, and a strong backing force of men with swords and sandals.

Remember “Asterix and the Big Fight“? That’s the one where Chief Vitalstatistix was challenged for his role with a public boxing match.

Hey, if the voting population is as ignorant as most are, who’s to say that a fist fight isn’t the best way to decide a leader?

I’m feeling REALLY cynical today.

A Couple of Couples

In “Asterix and Caesar’s Gift,” the challenge to Vitalstatistix really comes not from Orthopaedix, but from his wife, Angina.  She’s the one who controls most every one of his moves, right from the start of the tory.  When he’s offered the plot of land, the first he does is run to his wife to see if it’s a good deal.  She’s not terribly happy to be in the village at first.  The residents are a little too “rustic” and weird for her.

But if she’s going to be there, she might as well make sure her husband comes up through the ranks. And she can effectively bribe just enough people to force an election.  Buy a few fish here, compliment the right people there, send her daughter out to woo Obelix for a vote, and suddenly Vitalstatistix looks like the mean old father the teenagers want to run away from.

Part of the humor of all of this is that the two couples — Vitalstatistix and Impedimenta on the Village side, and Orthopaedix and Angina on the Roman side — are so much alike.  I’m almost surprised there’s no point in the book where one of them doesn’t say to their counterpart, “We’re a lot alike, you and I.”

Again, this reminds me of 60s sit-comics.  There’s the trope of the henpecked male being controlled by his overbearing wife.  It’s not one that would fly too well these days, but for this particular character, it works.

Remember Vitalstatistix's brother-in-law? Here's a reference.

It comes close.  Vitalstatistix and Orthopaedix bond early on over a shared dislike of their brothers-in-law and Lutetia.  (Remember “Asterix and the Laurel Wreath“?)

Impedimenta and Angina's first meeting.

But Angina and Impendimenta don’t have that same realization.  They’re too busy working behind the scenes to ensure their husbands’ future at the top of the social food chain.  Keeping up appearances was very important back in those days.

The village didn’t quite have a full caste system with slaves or anything crazy like that, but there’s definitely the feeling of different stratas. Getafix, Asterix, and Obelix wind up being separated just a bit from the rest of the village.  And Impedimenta enjoys the benefits of being married to a man at the top of everything, above the smelly fish sellers.

How Bad Does It Get?

Obelix turns his back on Asterix, and not in the cute way where they hug it out and make up thirty seconds later. Asterix wants to get rid of the new family, but Obelix enjoys their daughter too much to let her go.

OK, so it does get cleared up a few pages later:

Asterix and Obelix make up

…but that’s only temporary and falls apart again when you turn the page.

“NUDGE!” is the best sound effect I’ve read this year.

Here Come the Romans!

The only way to unite the people of this fine village which is on the brink of civil war is the oldest trick in the book: Find another enemy they can all agree to hate.

Geriatrix runs on the platform of Villagers First

No, not foreigners!  The Romans!  They’re attacking!

(Geriatrix gets some great moments in this book, running as a third party as the anti-foreigner candidate.  He’s about as close to pointed topical political commentary as this book comes. Remember, Rene Goscinny wrote this 40 years ago.  Everything in life is cyclical….)

The drunken Roman soldier returns!  He’s changed his mind and wants his land grant back.  He goes to the local Roman camp to request their help to get this done.

The problem is that the politics of the village have gotten so crazy that the Druid Getafix withheld all magic potion for everyone’s safety.  And when Asterix discovers the impending Roman invasion, he can’t get the village’s help to fight back, because they’re too busy watching the Chief debate his political rival.

Eventually, he gets their attention. The rocks catapulting into the village help, too.

The highlight of the book for me is this battle between the Village and the Romans.  Uderzo goes all out in drawing the Romans’ siege items.  I haven’t studied Roman military history closely enough to give you all the names, but there’s lots of moving towers and walls and catapults and formations.  And the village uses a couple battering rams and a few quickly-mixed batches of magic potion to drive them all back in typically hilarious fashion.

Not Serialized Original Art

This is the first Asterix volume that was created specifically for the album.  It was not first serialized in Pilote magazine.

I knew that going in, and I wondered/worried what effect that would have on the storytelling.  At first glance, I didn’t see anything too unusual.  Uderzo still works primarily in four tiers per page.  There’s an obvious division halfway down the page to indicate where Uderzo was working in half-page segments.

The most noticeable change, at first, was the lack of a number in a circle in the bottom right corner of the top half of each page.  Uderzo wasn’t numbering the half pages anymore, only the full pages.

The original art of Uderzo up to this point is classic Franco-Belgian cartooning.  Instead of drawing the full page on one art board, he’d turn the art board on its side to make one half of the page.  Effectively, he’s drawing twice-up on the same size paper, just taping them together on the long sides.   For the magazine, I guess they sometimes only needed to fill a half-page, perhaps for an ad on the other half?

From what I can tell looking through original art scans available on the web, Uderzo still worked at that size for the books after the magazine.  He just didn’t need to label the half-page numbers anymore.  There was no need for a half-page break for an ad in an album.

But, in the second half of the book, there are a lot more two-tier panel heights in the middle of the page.  He started to combine the second and third their into one tall tier for lots of sequences. It’s not unheard of.  He’s done it in most every book since the start, but they seemed to be more frequent in this book.  I wonder if that’s cause-and-effect or just coincidence.  Maybe that was the mood Uderzo was in when he laid out this story.

I also wonder how that works with the original art.  Does he have to tape two pages together before he starts drawing those layouts?  I did a few searches through different search engines and ComicArtFans.com to see if I could find any examples showing pictures of the original art used on such pages.  I couldn’t find any. All the examples I’ve seen were split perfectly down the middle.

The internet is so good for so much that we take it for granted. Then I get frustrated researching these silly niche topics, because it gets harder to find results.

Is the Art Simpler?

Something is still bothering me with the art in this book and I’m still not sure I can explain it or quantify it.  It just looks…. simpler.  I flipped back through previous volumes to make some mental comparisons to try to figure this out, and I have a couple of ideas.

First, this book came during the time when Albert Uderzo’s brother, Marcel, wasn’t inking him.  He took a few books off, but will be back with the next one.  I didn’t see these problems in the last two books, though, which Marcel also didn’t ink. Maybe there was a different uncredited inker on this book?  Was Albert Uderzo inking himself? Or did he farm that out to a different third party, whose style maybe doesn’t mesh with Uderzo’s pencils as much as I’d like it to?

The one thing that stood out to me in this book is how often the backgrounds were just solid colors.  The number of panels where one or two characters are talking from the waist up or higher seems to increase.  Also, more shots outside from a wider angle don’t fill in the background details. You have enough in the foreground to tell the story, and then the rest of the world in the background doesn’t exist.

Uderzo’s storytelling style has always included close-up shots at key moments.  Usually, they’re saved for a key character moment, like when someone is making a proclamation or realizing something.  Sometimes, Uderzo smooshes the character down to the bottom of the panel to make room for a large word balloon.

In some panels, it feels like characters are drawn slightly larger in the panels, which might be to draw less backgrounds by using a closer angle, or by having a larger figure that obscures more of the background.

This panel feels cramped:

The village laughs at Orthopaedix in front of a simplified green lawn that's sparsely drawn.

The down angle feels weird.  All the characters being cut off on the left side feels arbitrary.  The giant solid green section for grass with no details looks odd.  And then the next two panels need to fit in word balloons and so rise up into the panel above them.

Am I just asking too much?

In this book, there feels like a larger-than-usual number of close-up shots.  There’s a larger-than-usual number of panels using the old comic strip trick of placing solid blacks for a background around the character to obscure the background or stop from having to draw anything back there.  Maybe this is Uderzo playing with some new techniques, though?

There are also a lot of profile shots in this book.  Angina, in particular, shows up from the side more often than not.

Three inconsistent panels with random background issues

What is going on with this sequence?  The house in the background comes and goes across the three panels. The bushes in the second panel should be between Obelix’s feet in the first, but there’s blue sky showing there.  If you’re going to make the background disappear in the third panel, then the moon should disappear, too.

The thatched roof off to the far left also disappears in the third panel.  Was it all just too busy with Geriatrix in the foreground to include it? The house Geriatrix is sitting in front of is completely redrawn from panel to panel, too.  there’s no consistency with the stone work.

I don’t mean to nit-pick, but I started noticing all these things adding up.

The innkeeper's family stands behind barrels

And what’s up with this panel?  Is there a joke that couldn’t be translated?  Is it just a visual gag that the three characters align perfectly with the barrels and look like they’re popping out of them?  Did Uderzo just not want to draw feet?  I hear that’s an issue with some artists….

Did the restoration kill the book?  Were so many lines lost before the 2004 reprint that the raw material they had to work from was so devoid of the usual details that they couldn’t replace them?  I see a lot of characters drawn in outline, but without detail textures sketches in, or enough variation in the line weights.

This is all what bugs me about this book.  I’ve been analyzing it through both the printed 2004 version and the remastered 2010 edition available digitally on Izneo.  I can’t put my finger on it.  There’s no one piece of damning evidence I can use to justify this opinion.  It’s an overall feel, I guess.  I could try to quantify it by counting wide panels versus closeup or something, but that wouldn’t solve anything.

Sad to say, but the overall effect remind me a bit of when Looney Tunes moved to the UPA style in 1948 and everything went from being lush and painted to being simpler shapes.  OK, it’s not THAT bad, but it does feel flatter somehow.

Hey, The Movie Borrowed That BIt

Leading into the climax of the book, Asterix finds himself behind enemy lines in the Roman camp without any magic potion.  This is, needless to say, a perilous spot for him.  He manages to bluff his way out, partially.  The Romans know he’s always full of the magic potion, so they give him plenty of space.

When Asterix runs instead of attacking them, they realize he’s powerless and press an assault.

This bit is borrowed in the movie, “Asterix and the Mansions of the Gods,” where Asterix confronts the Romans, powerless, in an even more bold-faced attempt to bluff them out of his way.

Goscinny, Uderzo, Caricatures, and MAD Magazine

Orthopaedix is based on a French actor who died a decade before this book.  His name is Andre Alarme, and Uderzo nailed the likeness here:

French actor Andre Alarme looks an awful lot like Orthpaedix
Andre Alarme (left) and Orthopaedix (right), in case you weren’t sure…

I haven’t concentrated too much on all the caricatures Uderzo has done over the course of the series, but there’s usually at least one character in each book patterned after a real world person, often a French film star.

Let’s look at one scary potential alternate universe:

Rene Goscinny spent time in America in the years before Asterix.  While in New York City in the late 1940s, he worked in a studio and became friends with a few American cartoonists you’ve likely heard of: Will Elder, Jack Davis, and Harvey Kurtzman.

Goscinny went back to Paris in 1951 to take a job editing at the World Press agency, where he would meet Albert Uderzo and start working on a series of smaller strips until they finally started working on Asterix in 1959.

What if Goscinny never returned to France?  What if Goscinny became a co-creator of MAD Magazine? And wif he needed more people who could do caricatures like Jack Davis?  And what if he heard of some young upstart cartoonist back in France by the name of Uderzo?

Imagine MAD Magazine with Goscinny and Uderzo alongside Davis, Kurtzman, and Elder.

I don’t know MAD’s history terribly well, but I picture Goscinny and Uderzo, being the odd ducks out in that scenario and wanting to own their own stuff doing a little work on the side.  And maybe Asterix gets made that way.

Or maybe it never does.  Like I said earlier, scary.

But those early issues of MAD would have been even better, don’t you think?

I think this is a case where everything worked out for the best in our world.

A Quick Comedy How To

I remember reading something Gary Larson wrote in one of the “Far Side” collections 25 or 30 years ago.  He said that the comedy of his gag panel came because it showed the moment just before or just after the event.

The example he gave was a panel where the chef was rearing back to throw a baseball at a dunk tank a lobster was sitting over, as I recall.  He had drawn it out at the moment where the ball was hitting the target and the lobster was falling, but it wasn’t as funny.  The tension of the moment just before the incident gave the gag life.  Making the reader take the extra step and taking pride (just a little) in the fact that they figured it out made it funnier.

I’ve been thinking of that lately, and there’s no better example of it in this book than this panel at the bottom of page 18:

Orthopaedix gets a fish in the face

First, there’s the word play humor from Goscinnny’s script/Bell’s translation.  But then you see the fish about to hit him in the side of the face and it’s even funnier.  That fish perfectly encapsulates the “moment before” theory that Larson had.  I think it’s even funnier than if it was hitting him on the panel.

It’s an almost subtle gag and I bet some people racing through the story and anticipating the page turn didn’t even see it.

Best Name in the Book

I’m not giving it to Orthopaedix, because I don’t think the name has anything to do with the character there.  Also, as an American, having to type “ae” always trips me up, even with Julius.

I considered Angina, though I think Agita would have been an even better name for her.

So I’m going with their daughter’s name, which is completely nonsensical to the story. Obelix refers to her as Zaza, but her full name is Influenza.  It’s a simpler choice than usual for me, but it was a bit of slim pickings in this book.  And Eggsandlettus does nothing for me as a name.

Recommended?

Asterix and Caesar's Gift cover by Albert Uderzo

I’m not so sure. This one feels a little “thin” to me.  It’s a village-based Asterix tale, which I normally love, but the villagers act even more stupidly than usual in service to the plot.  I’m prepared to buy a lot to get a funny story, but at some point, I just groan.  Thankfully, Goscinny uses that initial hesitance of the characters to write something that makes more logical sense, but that initial hump left a bad taste in my mouth.

Combine that with this being the first book I can remember in the history of Asterix where the art didn’t look as good as previous volumes, and I have some problems.

Is it worse than “Asterix in Switzerland”? No, not really. The art is the bigger disappointment than the story . We’ve had tales in the past where you have to accept a momentary bad decision or leap in logic to get to the funny stuff, and I’ve been OK with that.  Here, though, something rubs me a little wrong.

I knew we’d be heading into some uncertain waters with Asterix in the upcoming volumes, but I didn’t think I’d start noticing problems so fast.  Maybe this is just a momentary bump, and we’ll be back to normal with the next book.

Oh, wait, it’s “Asterix and the Great Crossing”?  I’ve been fearing that book for awhile.  I haven’t read it in years, but I remember that it includes Native Americans in it, and I don’t want to be making excuses for bad stereotypes next week.  We’ll see….

— 2018.059 —

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

18 Comments

  1. This one is a thinly veiled mirror of our presidential elections. In 68, for the first time, De Gaulle was challenged by someone from his own side, after running unopposed so far, you know, being a war hero and all. And the situation aroused again in 74, since President Pompidou died early and this must have come out right in the middle of a free for all presidential campaign.
    As for the art, we discovered much later that Uderzo developed over the years physiological problems with his drawing hand, so he started using assistants. This has been sort of a trade secret for a long time, not well documented even today, so I can’t say for sure when that actually started. 74 feels early, but I can’t say for sure if your hunch is right.

    1. Thanks for the political back story. That makes a lot of sense. I can see how this story might mirror one of those years. If Asterix was an American book in recent elections, the problem likely would have been with 12 people running for the same office early on. I can see story possibilities there, too, but I’m not about to attempt to write an Asterix script anytime soon. I know my limits. 😉

      I had heard about Uderzo’s hand issues, but I always assumed that happened much later than this one. But that’s just an assumption. Has anyone done a long career-spanning interview with Uderzo? Does he do many interviews other than the shallow surface-level ones with the regular media? There needs to be a serious inspection of his career and Asterix in particular while he’s still with us. There are, I’m sure, a lot of fascinating stories behind-the-scenes left to tell. I don’t see much of that in English, but perhaps there are French sources I just don’t know about.

      On the other hand, Asterix is such an institution in France, I can also see how Uderzo wouldn’t want to air any “dirty laundry” long after the fact. I’m not even looking for the scandalous gossip, but just the answers to questions people like us might have who’ve looked too closely at the books. 😉

      1. I’m surprised no one has done a biography of Uderzo (from what I can see??? I could well be wrong). Such a culturally significent figure. Same is of course true of Goscinny.

        1. There are a few books, but none very in-depth or critical. You wouldn’t find investigative journalism here, although the Goscinny-Uderzo family feud might make for a mildly entertaining saga. Not sure what is available in english. My guess is that when Uderzo dies, people will start to talk.

      2. Ever since he became extremely rich, Uderzo has been very secretive about his work, never openly admitting the amount of work he was actually doing on the series. Officially it was always a one-man operation. See how his brother was treated, that’s very indicative of the situation. He’s not doing in-depth interviews other than the usual laudative PR stuff. This is the complete opposite of the other superstar of BD, Hergé, who was always very transparent about his studio and who was doing what.
        Our political system, since 1958 is a true democracy in which people vote directly for the president; the official campaign is state-sponsored, lasts about 2 months, then we have a 2-round election. First round is open to all who get the required minimal support (usually 5 to 10 candidates) then the second round, 2 weeks later, the two candidates with the most votes face off in the decisive election, preceded by a televised debate. 74 was the very first one if i remember well. In this book, Goscinny captures the feel of the debate delightfully.

  2. I’ve always been a writer man more than an artist man, so if there was a drop in the quality of the at I didn’t notice it.

    This one has always been one of my favourites, but it falls just short of Asterix and the Roman Agent and Mansions of the Gods, so I’ll give it a high 4.5/5.

    There’s a lot of humanity in this book. It’s nice to see Caesar’s sense of humour at work. He’s a great character. As a kid I don’t think I ever spotted how Vitalstatistix feels a kinship with Orthapedix, because their wives both have successful siblings in Lutetia. Pretty much every characters quite likeable in this except of course Tremensdelerius and Geriatrix who shows a nasty xenophobic side here.

    I love the little sight gag with Fulliautomatix smashing Cacofonix’s Lyre in the first shot of the village.

    The final missing piece in the books is finally here – the mismatched shield bearers. Everything is complete.

    Best pun name for me is Egganlettus – though Influenza is good too.

  3. Augie I adore you, the work you’ve done here is simply magnificent. The fact that you’ve got me reading my Asterix books a service I will never be able to repay… and sure all the regular commentators here disagree about this volume and that volume, but man I love this story and I just don’t pick up the issues you have with it. I find that fascinatating. I completely agree with Dan rather than being a sign of a problem rather its up there with the very best, to which from Dan’s list I’d add Soothsayer… anyway I digress.

    Okay looking back after having read the review I can see, defo see, there are a lot more close-ups and panels with little or no backgrounds, but I’ve never noticed that before to be honest and certainly hasn’t affected my enjoyment. In fact in some ways it really works as it provides almost televisual coverage of the political characters this story creates. The ‘acting’ amd meladrama is drawn all the more to the fore and its a really interesting contrast to Corsica with its sweeping landscapes … though there too there were blank panels when the focus shifted to the tension between characters.

    Much like Soothsayer I think an apparent slight plot is actually a real aid to the story as it always time and room for the social commentry, in this case the political satire… or rather as Augie points out the satire of politics to breathe and the new characters to grow and feel the space they need to and what wonderful characters they are and how beauty the playful way our regular cast are used. Once again I find the humour wonderful and sharp, the satire simple and cutting and the Roman’s are again used fantastically.

    I think the real star of the show is Asterix… which is of cause an odd thing to say, but so often he’s overshadowed in his own story, but here we get him used really well. Its not a task, or mission he’s in the midst of the events until, smart cookie he is he takes the bull by the horns and wits and bravery to… well actually achieve very little and its the Roman’s chuckin’ bloomin’ great rocks at the village to kick our Gauls out of their stupour and into action. Its a very nice balance of making Asterix feel significent and heroic, yet still deceptively making him not the be all, end all solution to every problem. I really appreciate that, kinda reminds me of Eisner’s Spirit.

    So yeah all in all while not the absolute best, one of them and a trimuph. Its a

    11.5 (By Toutatis I’m glad I left those gaps!)

    As for names okay it might have twisted the DTs to the TDs but it still works and I’m surprised my favourite Tremensdelirius hasn’t got a mention

    1. I didn’t choose Tremensdelerius because I didn’t recognise it. I just looked it up in the dictionary (well, delirium tremens) and it’s a good fit, but I have to understand a pun straight off to consider it.

      1. And that’s why I didn’t pick Tremensdelerius, either. 😉 It almost fits my usual categories for liking a name, but it was just a little too far away from my vocabulary to win it.

        1. Ah… maybe I should be worried, so many I’ve not understood until this project … and this one… I got…. hmmmmm

    2. Thanks, Dan. Glad to hear you’re enjoying the Asterix re-read and the unintentional book club that’s spawned in these comments. That’s been the best surprise of this whole process so far. =)

      And you’re right — it’s great to have Asterix as the true central hero of this book. He’s hilarious when he’s the only one making sense and nobody pays attention to him…

  4. Thanks Augie for another thought-provoking article. Personally I’ve always liked this book and didn’t notice the artistic shortcomings, but now you point it out, I see what you mean.
    Is it just me, or is it a bit creepy that Obelix falls in love with Zaza, who looks about 15, and that Zaza’s mother encourages this for an ulterior motive? I don’t know how old Obelix is, but he’s certainly no teenager!
    Re: in-depth interviews with Uderzo, I don’t know about written ones, but there are two different 52-minute TV interviews available on YouTube in which he speaks about his life’s work on Asterix.These are in French only (unless you can get any sense out of YouTube’s automatic translation subtitles!). These are youtube.com/watch?v=p_-tiQTeqBg and youtube.com/watch?v=2WL4HUEScpw

    1. Yeah, that Obelix/Zaza thing is a bit odd. Maybe she’s supposed to be early twenties which would make it better. Of course in those days, 15 would have been considered adult.

      Probably best not to think about it.

      1. Yeah I did find this uncomfortable but out it down to Zaza actually being about 16 / 17 and Obelix being early twenties – then tried to stop thinking about it.

      2. Yup, 16 would have been the age when boys became soldiers, as I recall, so that’s probably about right for adulthood. I would have to think Obelix would be much older, but I don’t think the older man/younger woman thing was all that uncommon back then. Of course, so many of the marriages at a higher station were contracted/arranged for political purposes… Really, Zaza’s mother trying to set her up with Obelix for political purposes seems perfectly natural, though this is a little more passive/aggressive. 😉

    2. Thanks Jim! =) And thanks for the links — the automated english translations are, indeed, painful, but I picked up a few things here and there from the first one I skimmed. I’ll check out the second next and cross my fingers. I’d really like it to be interesting….

  5. Sorry, I forgot to add: if you want to see several dozen examples of original Asterix artwork, the Jewish Museum in London has an exhibition about Asterix until September 30. It’s supposed to focus on Goscinny but features a lot of Uderzo’s original art (plus Morris and Tabary). It’s a relatively small exhibition and doesn’t say much new information, but I found the art interesting. Probably not worth travelling from outside the UK for this alone, but if you happen to be in London anyway this summer…
    http://www.jewishmuseum.org.uk/asterix

    1. Oh coool. Thanks for the heads up I happen to be in London this Summer and will definately check this out.