Asterix and the Class Act cover detail by Albert Uderzo
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Asterix v32: “Asterix and the Class Act”

“Asterix and the Class Act” is an Asterix clips show!

No, it’s better than that.  These are clips you’ve likely never seen before, unless you maintained your “Pilote” subscription throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

Clip Show Credits

Writers: Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo
Artist: Albert Uderzo
Translator: Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge
Published by: Orion/Hachette
Number of Pages: 48
Original Publication: 2003

What’s It All About?

Published in 2003, “Asterix and the Class Act” strings together a series of short Asterix stories, most of which come from Pilote Magazine in the 1960s, where Asterix was originally serialized. There are additional stories from other times and places, and even a brand new story directly for this book.  (You had to draw in the super collectors with something, I suppose.)

The book is a nice glimpse into some aspects of Asterix’s publishing history that I’ll cover as we go along, with a few stand out moments and stories.  Most of it is, indeed, just filler for a couple of pages when necessary.  It’s not bad, but two pages is hardly enough time to get something going that will be too terribly funny.

This is a book likely appreciated more by an Asterix scholar than by an average fan.  From that point of view, it’s a pretty good book.  It helps solidify a couple of opinions/theories I’ve had, plus shows how good the characters and series can be, even in short bursts.

The Stories

The first page of the book is recycled from an introductory or promotional page done for “Asterix and the Big Fight.”  It’s Chief Vital Statistix holding a press conference. He sits up on a dais behind a covered table, a bank of microphones in front of him.  He answers questions from the press in a perfect politician’s voice.  As it turns out, this is meant to be a riff off of France’s then-president, Charles De Gaulle.  No doubt, he was a plane talker.

(Yes, I just went for a Goscinny/Bell-level pun there with De Gaulle, whom they named an airport after.)

(If you have to explain the joke, it isn’t funny.)

(Moving on…)

It is weird to see an Asterix character in front of a piece of technology that was still 1800 or 1900 years away…  But it’s still fun!

“Asterix and the Class Act” – 2 pages – 1966

Did Asterix and Obelix go to school in the Village? Yes, they did!

It’s the first day of school and none of the kids in the Village want to go back.  So Asterix and Obelix run around collecting them.  In the end, there’s a cute turnaround where Obelix shows his lack of knowledge and has to go back to school.

It’s fun to see Uderzo drawing the kids this early in his Asterix run.  We didn’t see much of them in the main stories until later in the book’s run, it feels like.  I think Uderzo liked drawing them, too, because he used them more in his own books.

We first saw the children in school in “Asterix the Gaul,” where the Bard was teaching math.  He used a stone tablet to write on in front of the class, though.

Here, their teacher, Getafix, is writing on something that looks more like a black chalkboard. Oh, how times have changed.  Asterix has gotten positively modern.

I bet if Uderzo had just drawn another two books, Getafix would be teaching off a whiteboard.  (I’m not holding my breath for a “smart board.”)

“The Birth of Asterix” – 4 pages – 1994

The fathers of Asterix and Obelix like a good row

This one puts some continuity pieces together.  It’s set in the year 35 Before Caesar in honor of Asterix’s 35th anniversary.  I guess that makes it about 85 or 87 B.C. (BCE), depending on how you measure “before Caesar.”

Again, it’s Uderzo writing more kids for himself to draw.  This time, it’s our standard cast of characters as kids. It’s Asterix and Obelix’s birthday, which we learned in “Asterix and the Actress” was the same day and time.  In that book, it must have been about their fortieth, in which case they’re aging very well.  The Magic Potion is an elixir towards smoothing out those wrinkles!

Here we meet their parents again, but also see Vitalstatistix, Getafix, Fulliautomatix, and the Bard as kids.  From this, we learn that Asterix and Obelix are younger than most of the rest of the usual cast.

Geriatrix doesn’t look much different.  He’s just always been old.

As it turns out, all the kids look exactly like their parents in Asterix’s world.

The story does get a few good laughs in, though, as we get the Village’s first ever fish fight.  Kids will be kids and say such hurtful things, and those will funnel up to the parents whose apples didn’t fall far from their own trees and — well, this is a village of fighters. It is funny to see Asterix and Obelix’s fathers running around with fish in their hands.

If you’re going to run with this idea that the two leads in the series were born at the same time, this isn’t a bad story to tell.  It’s cute and it has a few laughs. I like it.

“In 50 B.C.” – 3 pages – May 1977

This is a try-out that Goscinny and Uderzo put together to try to sell Asterix to North America via National Geographic.  It retells the origin of the series, basically, in comic strip form.  There’s a gag at the end of every two or three panel strip.  Goscinny does a good job, in particular, at poking fun of the French in the two tiers I’ll reprint here:

Goscinny and Uderzo make light fun of the French in the short story, "In 50 B.C."

For what it’s meant to be, it’s not too bad.  But part of the fun of Asterix is watching things steamroll.  Seeing the puns flow across panels, and the gags build upon themselves is where things get really funny.  Cutting out after every third panel to start a new joke from scratch is just not as satisfying.

It’s just the wrong format for the series. It was worth a try, but it was not meant to be. They were better off not concentrating on it.  Of course, Goscinny died not long afterwards, so it wouldn’t have mattered…

“Chanticleerix the Gaulish Cockerel” – 5 pages – 2003

It's the birds of France and Italy in a fight. This all feels so very familiar....

This is the original story Uderzo wrote and drew for this book.

I’ve said before that it’s obvious he loves to draw animals, and this is the perfect expression of that.  When given the chance to do any kind of short story he’d want to do, he drew a book about a rooster.

And it’s not a bad little story. It was inspired by an idea for a Dogmatix spin-off animated movie Uderzo and Goscinny had had in the 70s, which helps explain why Dogmatix gets involved in it.  Dogmatix talks!  (We’ll see if he talks in his upcoming television series.  I’ll bet he does. All modern animation is insanely talkative, because it’s cheaper to animate lips than whole bodies.)

There’s a cute twist at the end for how well Obelix understands Dogmatix that I’m sure some people won’t like.  I have no problem with it, maybe because a short like this almost feels so easy to ignore, or because the whole story is so different from the norm that this feels like an alternative take on the Asterix world.  It’s cute and the animals have great attitudes.

In television terms, this short story is the back door pilot for a Dogmatix series.  Ten years later, that’s finally happening…

It’s fun to see Dogmatix drawn larger than an eighth of an inch on the page, too.

“For Gaul Lang Syne” – 2 pages – 1967

This story is all about the mistletoe.  Obelix has the bright idea to use the “kiss under the mistletoe” tradition to grab a smooch with Panacea. Things don’t quite go as planned, but Obelix kisses a series of all the wrong people instead: Getafix, Scarlatina (who?!?), and even a Roman soldier.

The final tier is super cute and funny, as Panacea finally smooches — Dogmatix.  Awwwww…

I liked it. It feels like classic Asterix material, and they made it at a time when one might argue Goscinny and Uderzo were just getting into the swing of the series.

“Mini Midi Maxi” – 2 pages – 1971

Mrs. Geriatrix models clothing in Gaul. Impedimenta is jealous.

This one made me laugh out loud.  It’s the first story in the book that did so.  There are a couple of things going on at the same time here that make it work so well. The conceit of the story is that the narrator is explaining to a modern audience (in “Elle” magazine, where this was published) how Gaul’s women dressed back in the day.  (Think of those old Disney shorts where the narrator would explain what Goofy is doing, disastrously.)

Mrs. Geriatrix is in the center of every panel, posing for the reader and showing them everything the narrator is talking about, from the length of her skirt and tunic to the cut of her bodice.

That’s layer one.

The second layer is all the craziness that’s actually happening on the panel.  Impedimenta — Chief Vitalstatistix’s wife — is upset that she wasn’t chosen for this job.  The two husbands then come onto the scene to try to sort things out, but they have short tempers and bad communication skills.  Things get worse.

Unhygienix gets called in and the fish start flying until it’s an all-Village fight, with Getafix rushing to the melee to try to stop it, as a fish hangs in mid-air aimed straight at him.

I love this one.  It’s two pages, moves fast, builds things up fast, and does funny stuff in fine Asterix tradition.

“Asterix as you’d have never seen him before…” – 3 pages – 1969

This is a funny play on styles for Uderzo who both wrote and drew this one. It’s Asterix done in five different ways, as reactions to reader suggestions for what style the stories should be done in.  Done wrong, this might look horribly defensive.  I think Uderzo did this one right, casually poking fun at the suggestions by rewriting them to be over the top, while showing off his skills in cartooning.

Albert Uderzo paints like MAD Magazine, I think

The first image is actually a painting.  To me, it looks like a Jack Davis/Harvey Kurtzman piece.  It feels like it’s going for the MAD Magazine style, borne of people that Rene Goscinny once worked with in America.  I saw one normally reliable resource on-line say Uderzo drew it in a “Disney style,” likely because there’s a Mickey Mouse reference in the fake letter from a reader.  If anything, given the appearance of dynamite and bombs and bullets in the piece, I’d say it was more a Warner Bros. style, a la Wile E. Coyote.

But I still think this is MAD-style here.

“The Lutetia Olympics” – 4 pages – 1986

Paris made a bid for the 1992 Olympics in 1986. As part of that, Albert Uderzo drew a poster and a four page story.

Asterix makes a pitch for the 1992 Olympics in Paris.

It’s a cute little story.  I like the names in this story, specifically Partipolitix and his assistant, Civilservix.  There’s a good gag with Vitalstatistix falling off his shield (again), Caesar barking orders, and Asterix and Obelix saving the day in Paris.  Uderzo’s art is solid, and he throws in some good wordplay that doesn’t overdo it or play things too obviously.

Paris didn’t wind get the games that year, but it wasn’t Asterix’s fault.

“Springtime in Gaul” – 2 pages – 1966

Springtime in Gaul includes fairy creatures. Of course. Uderzo wrote it.

Uderzo gave Goscinny the issue off and wrote this one, himself.  So, of course, the story starts with a small magical man frozen in the snow, who eventually is revived to fight off another flying magical man intent to do harm.

Yup, that’s Uderzo writing his fantasy stories again.

The art is OK, but I’m still not a fan of Asterix fantasy stories.  It feels like some of those latter Smurfs television episodes where they started to include all sorts of fantasy characters to keep the show going.  (Not that little blue creatures in white hats aren’t fantasy, themselves, but the writers still needed to look outside them and go even MORE fantastical to keep things going.)

 

“The Mascot” – 4 pages – 1968

The Gauls do love to give the Romans a good thumping in "Asterix and the Class Act"

The Romans kidnap Dogmatix because they want a mascot. It would be good for morale.  They didn’t realize whose dog this was, and that turns out to be their ultimate undoing.

Goscinny’s script packs a lot of story in these four pages, and carefully picks which things to show and which to explain in the caption boxes to keep things moving in a story with a constrained page count. Plus, there are Romans to beat up, and that happens a lot…

An idea like this could easily be expanded and turned into an entire album, but Goscinny did well in keeping things focused and direct.  I like the story, and it’s always good to see Dogmatix in action, even if it’s still at his standard eighth of an inch of space at the bottom of the panel.

“Latinomania” – 1 page – 1973

Latin words are tricky things. They sneak right up on you.

A simple one page gag, but a solid one.  I laughed out loud.  If you’re a word nerd, you’ll love it, too.  Goscinny sought to show the silliness of people complaining about English words invading French by showing Roman words showing up in French in Asterix’s day.  I don’t want to give anything away, but the whole page is great.

Interestingly, the introduction to this story points out that all the stories in this book dating back to the 1960s have not only been re-colored (and were likely recolored again a few year later in the remastered editions), but also re-inked.  I’m not sure if that was to help bring them up to modern style guides, or just to cover up for bad negatives they might have had to republish the stories from.  I’d be curious to find out, though….

“The Authors Take the Stage” -1 page – 1962-1963

Albert Uderzo once did a painting of himself and Rene Goscinny as Obelix and Asterix, respectively. That’s what this page is all about.  That, and I guess it’s setting up the next two stories:

“The Obelix Family Tree” – 5 pages – 1963

Obelix has a descendent featured in this story co-starring Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo

Keep in mind that this story doesn’t have a point or an ending or anything like that.  It’s still entertaining for five pages.  In it, Goscinny and Uderzo meet a descendant of Obelix’s. They take him to Paris with them to meet the staff of Pilote magazine.   The descendant, of course, brings his menhir with him and wreaks havoc all over the place.

It’s clearly done in the early days of Asterix, because Obelix’s proportions are still much squatter, but it’s well drawn and funny even if it’s pointless.  There’s a family tree for Obelix’s clan that takes up a whole page with some funny examples throughout history. If you’re better versed in European history, it might appeal to you even more than me.

It’s an enjoyable short story, and it’s fun to see Uderzo draw himself and Goscinny again.

“The Birth of an Idea” – 1 page – 1962

Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo plot out an Asterix story

Wasn’t there a “Valerian and Laureline” book where Pierre Christin and Jean-Claude Mezieres are seen plotting a “Valerian and Laureline” story?  I can’t find it right now, but I’m pretty sure it exists. And if it does, this is the Asterix edition of that gag, but funnier. Of course.

In this super short story, Goscinny and Uderzo crack each other up while plotting a story outside a French bistro, much to the bemusement and concern of on-lookers.  It’s told mostly in pictographs and sound effects and almost no no clear dialogue. When Goscinny whispers something to Uderzo, it’s written out as “rhubarbrhubarbrhubarb”.

It’s a fun and silly three-quarters of a page gag.  It’s very early in Asterix’s run, but should be just as things are starting to take off.  It feels like such an innocent and fun-loving little story, that I love it all the more.

Recommended?

Asterix and the Class Act cover by Albert Uderzo

Yes, if you’re already an Asterix fan. It’s a great collection of material from across the ages that would best be appreciated by someone who’s long followed the Gauls in their Village.

It’s a typical anthology book in that there’s a mix of quality to the pieces.  I don’t think there are any terrible pieces, but some are better than others.  Even Uderzo working solo hits a couple of high points in this book.

— 2018.094 —

Bonus Panel

I had to include this somewhere.  Schulz à la Uderzo:

Albert Uderzo draws Asterix and Obelix like Charles Schulz's "Peanuts"

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

29 Comments

  1. I love ‘The birth of an Idea’ and how it shows Goscinny and Uderzo’s working style. They really did think up the books together, though it’s revealing that Uderzo never wanted a ‘co-plotter’ credit or anything like that during Goscinny’s lifetime.
    I’m sure they loved throwing ideas around for the names. In Goscinny’s other work, are there also lots of puns or is it particular to Asterix? Uderzo clearly loved them too.

    1. He doesn’t pun in “Lucky Luke,” but from what I’ve read that was at Morris’ request. I believe his other book, “Iznogoud” is filled with the funny stuff. I have one of those books here, but I haven’t read it yet.

      1. Oh there are a lot of puns in Lucky Luke in the French version. But they are more subtle and understated, since Morris indeed didn’t appreciate that stuff. Who did the English translation for those? is is B&H or someone else, since it was originally a different European publisher (Dupuis instead of Dargaud for the first 20 or so books), that might explain the difference?

  2. I’m a bit of a fan of Asterix and the Class Act, but that might well be as for so long we’d not had a good Asterix book and this one, while not a classic is pretty good fun. The experimentation and different ways stories are told work really well and its interesting to see how the anthology format means as a whole this comic falls between two stalls.

    Firstly it lacks Goscinny’s ability to glorious craft a long form story, supreme plotting and characters. At the the same time the shorter format means by its very nature it removes Uderzo trait of drifting from the core story and losing the pacing.

    As with any anthology there is a great deal of variance in the quality of the stories but they all almost uniformly have a few good gags, having regular ‘cute’ character moments. Cute is probably a good way to describe this album actually. As an Asterix fan I’m really glad it exists, the text piece introductions give good context. Its not something that in anyway you’d recommend to someone unfamiliar to the series as by its nature its not really a good introduction.

    Still I’m I’m a pretty big fan. My favourite story being ‘Asterix as you have never seen him before’ I’d have loved to have seen more stuff like that.

    Anyway as ever Augie’s write up captures most of the detail as deftly as ever. However he makes one glaring error in his review – there’s no favourite pun and while its not a single story there are plenty of good names to enjoy. Personal favourite is probably Civilservix as it has a rather unfortunate second meaning!

    Great volume and a nice refreshing change and a healthy reminder of how much fun Asterix, Obelix and the rest are before we get to… well get to… next time…

    5 out of 10 – remember while that’s not a high score in Asterix terms that is still as good as 80% of comics I read on my Asterix scale and so don’t get distracted!

    1. “Cute” is a good word. It’s almost like a victory lap — the series is about to come to an end, so let’s look back and celebrate the leftover bits and pieces we haven’t though about in a while. It’s no the right format for the best possible Asterix stories, but as short gags, I appreciate the variety and the style and the craft exercise that these shorts are.

      As for the next book — oh, my, this is proving to be an interesting one to write up. I might surprise some people on this one…. 😉

  3. It’s telling that earlier on in this list, I’d always read the book several days before the review came out, and now I have to dutifully finish the book before I read the review. Hence my delay.

    There have been a couple of worse ones recently, but I found this generally unsatisfying. That’s fine though. It’s the nature of these books which collect little curiosities from here and there. The high points were probably the Latin one and the one about their births (even though I still hate the idea of them being born on the same day).

    The dogmatix/c o ckeral story was an abomination. Dogmatix has always been a dog who thinks like a dog and doesn’t have any more understanding than a dog. Him talking was bad and Obelix understanding it just makes it worse.

    Best pun name for me is Partipolitix.

    I give this one 2/5.

    1. I have to agree with Dan here, unsatisfying is also what I felt at the time. I seem to remember getting this book as a giveaway extra for some kind of anniversary, so I didn’t feel too bad about it, but Asterix, even by Goscinny, does not do well with short stories, it has to unfold some kind of long form plot so that the humour can fit in. And none of these stories were ever meant to be published in an album, they are fill-in stories from Pilote to satisfy the reader between books, or to fulfill some weekly theme the magazine frequently had in the early days, where every creator would chip in with their characters in some impromptu fashion; those were hit and miss at best, to give Pilote readers a sense of a Bullpen akin to what Marvel was doing at the same time. The book was republished later as a proper album, long after Goscinny’s death, as an attempt to bring back older readers disappointed by the turn the series was taking under Uderzo alone. So that wasn’t more than a cash grab on Uderzo’s part.

      1. As a completist in some ways, I’m not nearly as cynical as you. I want to see all this stuff, and if that means cramming it in one book years down the line, I’m fine with it. I just want to see it, if only out of intellectual curiosity.

        I wish they’d take the text pages out of Gomer Goof and put them in an album all their own at the end, too. 😉

        The big thing that helps with this volume is the text introductions to each short. Having them placed into some kind of historical context is key. I like this book as something completing the historical record.

        1. A few years ago there was a big Intégrale of Gaston in which they put all the strips back in chronological order and added a treasure trove of material from the Mag that had never been put in Album form before. Not sure what the print run was but it’s hard to find even on eBay. In this one, you see the progression of the art getting progressively scratchier and scratchier and the stories getting darker with the introduction of the snarky seagull and the Cat of Hell, as well as modern themes like pollution creeping up in the stories.

          1. Would love to see the equivalent for Asterix, if such a thing doesn’t exist in French, covers, some history etc etc. A proper artistic history and collection of the oddities in a chronological order.

    2. By the way Idéfix (Dogmatix) was the subject of a series of children’s books where he has adventures on his own with other sentient talking animals, so there might be where the idea originated for that. If you are an Asterix completist (as I once was) you can go looking for those on eBay.

      1. I see “Idefix and the Clown Fish” on there right now. As completist as I’m feeling this year, though, I think I might pass. I’m too lazy to translate all that stuff myself. 😉

        There is, however, a pin of Idefix riding a Dolphin that’s slightly tempting after the fiasco of the last book….

          1. Just the one, and she’s 10 now. She actually does read a couple of my books. Just the other day, she came into my den to grab one of the “Dance Class” books on the shelves to read. I love the art in those books. It’s only a matter of time before she looks up to the next shelf and pulls down the Smurfs books, right? 😉

          2. I’m breaking the kids in slowly. I’m using a brilliant (if a little safe and middle class for a 2000ad child) British comic called The Phoenix (curiously rarely talked about) to get the kids into a weekly comics fix. They are both very into Bone and I read other bits and bobs to them. There’s Smurf albums in both their rooms, but they never really take off. With any luck their love of Asterix films will get them reading the comics soon enough and then the big 2000ad push will start!

    3. It’s almost over. The end is nigh. Hang in there! We’re exploring a broad scope of storytelling over a wide swatch of time here. We must follow the journey, not the product.

      Or something.

      At this point, post-Goscinny, it’s a different book and a kid’s book and whatever changes Uderzo wants to make, he can make. I’m just rolling with the punches. If Dogmatix is Shakespeare and playing the Snuffalupagus to Obelix’s Big Bird — well, that’s weird, but OK. I’ll buy it for the gag.

      I’m with you on Patripolitix, though. Sorry, Colin. 😉

  4. Have a look at this there is a nice early Uderzo page towards the end
    np7.mj.am/lnk/AMAAACEGrMQAAXQApYIAAAlE-m0AARpyHzwAFX-WAABR5gBb_tgPtIZKBUFIRECfFfqQy5GcTgAAVyc/2/LoniQfpNdufTkE4pbL__xQ/aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuaHViZXJ0eWJyZXluZS5jb20vaW1hZ2UvY2F0YWxvZy8wMDBWRU5URVNfQVVYX0VOQ0hFUkVTLzAtMTgtMTItUExBTkNIRVMvSHViZXJ0eS1CcmV5bmUtQXVjdGlvbi1jYXRhbG9ndWUtZGVjZW1icmUyMDE4LVBsYW5jaGVzLnBkZg

    1. Only 5,000 for that page? It’s a steal — Uderzo in his pre-Asterix prime. I know, people only want his original Asterix art, but that’s a great page. I likk the “Al Uderzo” signature, too. (Ooh those Schuiten pages are beautiful, too…)

      I used to be on the list to get the annual Christie’s auction book for their BD auctions, but it seems I’ve fallen off it. Still grateful I can download the PDFs for free, though. And now, more of these European art auctions seem to be popping up. I had never heard of this one before, but I can’t stop paging through this catalog. Thanks for the link!

        1. It’s a big PDF file, so give it time and try to load it on a desktop/laptop and not a phone. That might help. I downloaded myself a copy already. =)

      1. You’re welcome. I agree with you about Uderzo’s early work, he was already above the crowd back then.It’s definitely a good investment considering it might very well skyrocket in value as soon as he buys the farm.
        The main auction houses for BD in France are now Artcurial, Millon and Huberty. They all make it easy for you to bid online so… Santa’s coming to town lol

        1. Morbid, but true. I need to go take out a small loan to start my “art investment” career. $10,000 into Uderzo can be worth a ton in ten years…

          1. A few years ago, I met this guy in Belgium who bought a couple of Franquin pages back when he was still alive. When I met him, the second page was hanging on the wall of the house he bought with the first one 😉

          2. Looks like we hit the “5 comment deep limit” here, so this goes to JC — Love the story about the house! That’s great. I know of one original art collector here who paid for his house at least in part with some Jack Kirby art. And all of that is why my art collecting life was short-lived. 😉

  5. Wow there now and its fascinating. His earlier work seems so much more developed than the early Asterix work? Or is that just me. Its as though he was starting again to create a whole new style. Thanks so much for the pointer. So much other glorious artwork to boot!

    1. Jehan Pistolet and Oumpah-Pah are two of Uderzo series he did that are chronologically just before Astérix. Luc Junior is from the early fifties and probably never translated into English but if you can get your hands on a digital version of the french book it’s well worth looking at just for the art. Hachette reprinted some of these when they took over the assets from Dargaud, so I’m sure there are some digital files around. Of course I would never send you links to torrent files as that would be naughty. I’m sure Uderzo’s wiki has a full list of all he did before his Gaul times.

  6. Paris’s bid for the 1992 Summer Olympics unfortunately sadly lost to Barcelona, Spain as host city for the games of the 25th Olympiad of the modern era. Albertville, France hosted the 1992 Winter Olympics luckily which was the last year that both Winter and Summer Olympics were held in the same year.

    1. But luckily Paris will host the 2024 Summer Olympics, or the games of the 33rd Olympiad of the modern era.