Asterix and the Big Fight, volume 7, cover detail by Albert Uderzo
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Asterix v7: “Asterix and the Big Fight”

Writer: Rene Goscinny
Artist: Albert Uderzo
Colorist: Marcel Uderzo
Lettering: Bryony Newhouse
Translator: Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge
Published by: Orion
Number of Pages: 48
Original Publication: 1966

 

Let’s get ready to rumble!

Take Away The Unfair Advantage

After trips to Egypt, Italy, and multiple cities across France, we return to Asterix’s village for an entire book.  Yes, we get lots of Roman jokes, but this is not a book about exploring the cultural differences between the Gauls and some other country.  This is a story about the Village’s fierce independence and the indomitable reputation that helps to protect it from the Roman invasion.

It’s also about the plot device that is the Magic Potion, and a bit of Gallic tradition that threatens the village.

“Asterix and the Big Fight” answers this question: What happens to the village when it doesn’t have any Magic Potion?  What if Getafix forgot the recipe?

The Druid Getafix loses his memory and laughs at the entire situation and all the people around him.

When Obelix lands a menhir on top of Getafix, we get the great sit-com trope of all time: amnesia.  We accept it here, because it’s so cartoonish and is funnier beyond just the plot point. Getafix doesn’t just forget everything, but he acts like a crazy child who finds everything around him to be hilarious.  That annoys some of the villagers, while worrying the ones who can think two steps ahead.

With no recipe and no Magic Potion, the village is doomed. The Romans will conquer them.  Obelix still has his powers, and can still take on a crazy number of crazy Romans, but Caesar can just throw 25,000 soldiers at him and even Obelix needs a nap once in a while.

If we’re dealing in sit-com level set-ups, wouldn’t dropping a second menhir on him magically fix everything?  Don’t worry; Goscinny answers that question in a wonderfully timed moment near the end of the book.  (We’re talking Samuel L. Jackson in “Deep Blue Sea” levels of good timing.  Uderzo stages it masterfully.)  It might be the biggest laugh I got out of the book, just from the timing of the thing.

The Big Fight

When the Romans get wind of their good luck that the Druid is decommissioned, they find a local Gallic chief to challenge Vitalstatistix to a fight for control of both villages.  As the tradition goes, it’s winner take all:

Tradition dictates the chiefs of competing Gaulish villages will fight for control of both villages

The Romans use Chief Cassius Ceramic, a square jawed muscular chief who’s sure to take out any opponent in thirty seconds in a fight ring.  He’s also portrayed at a wussy simpleton who can’t accommodate the Romans quickly enough. He even adopts the toga as his preferred dress.

Asterix’s people have to send out Chief Vitalstatistix who, though a hero of earlier wars, isn’t exactly in tip top shape.  Asterix begins his training by explaining that his shield carriers won’t be able to carry him through the upcoming battle.

It’s a massacre waiting to happen.

 

The Gauls and the Romans

As Julius Caesar stormed across Europe in the 50s BC, he used all sorts of tactics to conquer every village he came across.  He even found villages who’d work with him rather than be destroyed.  They were quick to join his forces and adopt to Roman norms.  Honestly, they were doomed to death otherwise.  Caesar’s forces were overwhelmingly strong to most all of these small villages. The closest the Gauls ever came to resisting Caesar is when they banded together and attempted to fight the Romans off.  Even that didn’t work, though.

What happens when good Gauls turn into Wannabe Romans? Asterix v7 "Asterix and the Big Fight" has the answers!
There should be a question mark in the word balloon on the right side. It fell out in the new remastering. Whoops.

Goscinny makes light of the two types of Gauls on the book’s first page.  The Gauls, you see, were well known for their light complexions, long hair, and mustaches.  Asterix and Obelix both fit that description. If you wanted to assimilate with Roman culture, the first thing you needed was a hair cut. Caesar demanded in as a sign of concession to Rome.

In the opening panel of this book where we see a fine example of the first type of Gaul: They live in a village that’s accepted the Pax Romana. The men are getting their hair cut.  And the huts are getting Roman columns added to their fronts, even though it looks ridiculous and makes no structural sense.

The other type of Gauls are — well, Asterix’s village is all that’s left of those.

 

Wonderful Visual Gags

Uderzo more than carries his weight in this book.  Some the set-ups are pure visual storytelling gags that Uderzo has to pull off.  The most challenging of them all relates to Ceramic being carried on his shield and having to do an about face. When he turns around AND the people carrying his shield turn him around, he winds up still facing forwards. That’s a lot to get across in a comic book. Uderzo pulls it off.

It's tough to coordinate a turnaround when standing on a shield

Overall, the acting in this book is the best in the series so far. Everyone is acting to the cheap seats in the back of the theater.  It’s great to look at these pages and study how animated everyone looks.

Whether it’s a guard doing a double-take or an angry Roman leader upset over a change in circumstances or Obelix acting upset because he’s being blamed for something, every character in this book is doing something interesting on every panel on every page.  From their walk cycles to their gestures to their facial expressions, Uderzo hits his stride here.

How Much Is This Book Written By Bell and Hockridge?

The Roman-Gauls want to be as Roman as possible, including using aqueducts to get water from the stream that already flows through their village.
This one works without changing anything in the translation. We’ll give this one to Goscinny.

Like the previous “Asterix and Cleopatra” story, Rene Goscinny packs this book within an inch of its life with gags.  He never lets up.  Visual and verbal gags show up in almost every panel.  And, more than once, when Goscinny breaks out the pun stick, he hits every character with it on the panel.  He can compound a single joke and do a half dozen variations of it on the same panel. Normal words get mangled up into something new and pun-worthy on a regular basis.

When I stop to think about the process, though, it dawns on me that so much of what shows up in the English translations of Asterix can’t possibly come from Goscinny.  A lot of the humor relies on puns and twists on the English language.  This is not a book that could possibly be directly translated from the French.  There’s no way that would work. Bell and Hockridge take the panels Goscinny gives them, and then fills them up with all the little gags and turns of phrase that make the laughs.

It’s almost like Goscinny is creating a framework for the humor of Asterix.  The translators do a lot of work from there to make the book as good as it is in its native tongue.  Thankfully, the English translations have some of the best translators of all time.

Even at the most basic level of Dad Humor, this book is funny.  If nothing else, it wears you down with its constant barrage until you appreciate the work that goes into every page.

We’ll talk about a couple examples a little later, but Goscinny also writes to Albert Uderzo’s strengths.  There are lots of visual gags in this book that no script alone could pull off.  And when it comes to just the verbal gags, Uderzo sells them hard to make sure they land right.

Best Names of the Book

This is a much slower book than usual, as far as funny names go.  The cast is not large.  The Romans acting up against Asterix got all the good names.  Nebulus Nimbus as a Roman Centurion isn’t funny, in and of itself, until there’s a reference to his head being in the clouds.  His right hand man, the evil-looking Felonius Caucus, is well named. Together, they hatch their plot with the help of turncoat Chief  Cassius Ceramic from the village of Linoleum.  The Chief nearly wins for the play on Cassius Clay’s name there.

There you go.  That’s about everyone you need to know about in this book.

Except this woman, who is the assistant to the Druid they hope can help Getafix get out of this fix:

asterix v7 Miss Bicarbonatofsoda, assistant to the Druid Psychoanalytix

That’s Miss Bicarbonatofsoda.

Yeah, she wins the book.  Can’t go wrong with a name like that.

 

Recommended?

 

The Asterix Agenda v7 Asterix and the Big Fight by Goscinny and Uderzo cover

Yes, by Toutatis!

This one gets a big thumbs up from me because it blends Goscinny’s story so well with Uderzo’s masterful art.  It directly addresses a weak spot in Asterix’s village’s defense.  And it’s just plain funny.  After the slight letdown of the previous volume, this one comes back strong. It never lets up.  It’s rapid fire gags from start to finish.

— 2018.023 —

 

Buy It Now

Izneo now offers Asterix in English throughout Europe (and possibly Canada).  So we’ll add them into this list no

Click here to buy digital BD comics albums through Izneo.com

Obviously, I need to figure out a better graphic for Izneo with these books…

 

Izneo.com Preview

Yes, we get previews, too!  (I don’t know if this will show up in the U.S., but the rest of the world can look, at least.

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

40 Comments

  1. This book gets a 4/5 for me.

    It’s the prototype for the village set book – which most of my favourite Asterix books are. It’s not totally fully formed though in there so the cast. No Fulliautomatix, Unhygenix or Impedimenta, and a man turns up for two panels who might be Geriatrix, but that’s it. Still, it is lots of fun. I particularly like the Roman dressed as a tree (and his owl). I also like the ending, which is mirrored in Asterix in Britain. That’s a punch nearly as good as George McFly punching Biff in Back to the Future.

    I can still remember when I was a child, being drawn in by the cover of this one. It just had so much going on – at least it seemed that way at the time. Looking at it now, there are exactly three things happening.

    My favourite pun name from the book: Psychoanalytix.

    1. I like the stories set in the village, as well. A quick analogy: My favorite Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes tended to be the ones set entirely on the ship. I’m not sure why. But there it is.

      As much as I love watching Asterix pick apart the other European countries, I still want to know more about his own home. There are so many characters left there to mine for humor. And we’ll get there, I know…

  2. Am I right in thinking that the interview with Vitalstatistix at the start of ‘Asterix and the Class Act’ is connected to this story, or does that come later? This is the page at the start where he’s giving a modern day press conference, like a boxer might do.

    1. I don’t know for sure, though it fits. It might fit other books, too, like (I’m thinking) “Asterix and the Chieftain’s Shield.” I’ll yield the floor to the more knowledgable experts on this one….

    2. Everything in The Class Act is leftovers published in Pilote out of continuity that were too short to make it into an album. They finally published it to get Goscinny material out long after his death, like a posthumous Elvis scraps album. You’d have to go back to the original Pilote publication to pinpoint where it actually fits and if the link you’re seeing is more than just a coincidence.

      1. Looking at the art style, I don’t think it was produced as early as Asterix and the Big Fight. The text itself clearly only fits as the first page of the book.

        At a guess, I’d say that’s probably an extra page Uderzo knocked together to introduce all of the older stuff that followed.

  3. Trivia question: in which Asterix is the fishmonger introduced, thus allowing for some of the most hilarious gags / fights for the whole rest of the series? No googling!

    1. Looking at the order the stories come in – and assuming it’ll be in a book at in the village, I’m going with Asterix and the N.ormans. Failing that, Asterix and the Roman Agent.

        1. Yep. That’s the first book (and of my faves). Such a great addition to the cast of characters in the village and a classic sequence involving the dog and the kid… But I’ll leave that up to our host here to discuss then the time is right.

          1. Yep I remember when I looked at this a while ago being very surprised how late in the series he first appeared. He feels so central to my sense of what makes the village complete.

            I’m again surprised by how long its taking to get a fully formed Fulliautomatix in as well. Still one of the joys this re-read is being reminded of all this stuff.

  4. Well its getting a bit dull me just coming here proclaiming the comic I’ve just read the best so far but…

    This is the best so far and as such Asterix and the Big Fight gets a

    9 out of 10.

    As Dan says the fact that its the first set in the villiage is a big part of that. These less expansive stories, those focused on the characters we know are allowed so much more time to breathe and the plots are more involved and less driven by the theme and setting…

    … well actually that’s probably unfair of Cleopatra as we noses (see what I did there) that one balances the two perfectly… but I’m getting distracted.

    Anyway Big Fight does this, even though it doesn’t have most of the village and its characters in place. That said it does a glorious job with Chief Vitalstatistix, really fleshing him out from the prop he’s been up to this point. There’s much fun to had with the Romans as well and I do adore it when that happens, they act of such great foils for the regular cast and this book provides a great example of this. From Tick inspiring (surely) hedge camo, the various antics of Infirmofpurpus (who would have pun of the book in normal circumstances but I’ll come to that soon), to the inglorious garrison’s advance at the end it all works so well.

    Two other great things about the Roman’s in this story – Felonius Caucus is such a delight, well he’s not but he’s genuinely creepy and a prototype of the real dark and sinister villians that darken stories to come. I love him.

    Most importantly Totorum – I think the first time we’re had one of the other Roman forts in the series aside Compendium. AND for that reason its get pun of the book.

    So all of this and so much more, great story, great characters, and so much fun, just so much fun the humour is glorious, in your face, relentless and good here. The comic is a delight and that’s before I’ve mentioned the art that takes another step forward, inch by beautiful inch getting to the perfection it will become.

    So yeah it might be boring to yet again say, best yet, but it can’t be avoided as its true… thing is I know the best is still to come!

    1. “Well its getting a bit dull me just coming here proclaiming the comic I’ve just read the best so far but…”

      You know Asterix in Britain is next, right?

      “Most importantly Totorum – I think the first time we’re had one of the other Roman forts in the series aside Compendium. AND for that reason its get pun of the book.”

      Now you mention it, I’ve just realised that I have no idea what the pun is in Totorum.

        1. Yeah “Tot of rum” it is (well I assume). Its the weakest of even the four forts puns but the fact it was there was what counted! I always had a soft spot for Aquarium for some reason?

        2. Damn. That means I’ve been pronouncing it wrong all these years. I’ve been saying tote-er-um.

          1. I believe they tried to preserve the original pun from French, in which this camp is called Babaorum (which is a sort of cake with rum in it). The other camps in French are Laudanum (some kind of old medication), Aquarium and Petibonum (little man)

          2. Heh, “tot of rum” shows up in context in “Asterix the Legionnaire.” I’ll talk about that next week. 😉 (If I could include images in these comments, I’d drop the panel in right here. Sadly, I can’t. I should look for a plug-in for that…)

      1. So this is a problem with translation in general: ASTERIX IN BRITAIN, in the original French, is filled with language-specific gags related to ENGLISH, namely the French literal translation of British (or just plain English-language) expressions such as Goodness gracious! My goodness! The result is absolutely hilarious in French, but I can only assume it gets lost in an English language translation. These are puns that would work in any other language BUT English. So I’m sorry, non Francophones, you’ll be missing out on some of the funniest jokes in the book.

        1. That would be the perfect album to do a podcast comparing both versions. Anyone wants to join me?

          1. That could be interesting, actually. The other thing they do in the French book is reverse adjectives when British characters are speaking (e.g. hot water versus water hot) but of course that would get lost in translation in the English version. It’s a running gag throughout the book and it’s hilarious. Oh well. At least the jokes about British food transcend language 🙂

          2. “The other thing they do in the French book is reverse adjectives when British characters are speaking (e.g. hot water versus water hot) ”

            Theses French people are crazy

      2. You know I don’t have too many presumptions about Britain, I remember lawns, a Union match, tea and the prison break joke taken to its logical conclusion. I’m intrigued to see what I got, I don’t remember being particularly bad or good…

    2. That’s a good point: For a book set in the Village, it doesn’t use more than four of its characters as active participants. (Cacofonix is there for brief comic relief, but doesn’t do anything.) We’re with the core three in this book, plus Vitalstatistix. Two or three other characters have tiny speaking roles, but barely in support of anything. There’s still so much of the Village left to open up…

      That hedge camo gag made me laugh out loud. =)

      It feels to me like we’re turning a corner with Asterix. Between this and “Cleopatra”, it feels like Goscinny has settled into his storytelling with the series and is piling in more throwaway gags in per panel. The books fill more FULL now. I loved the first three books, but they feel lighter by comparison to “Cleopatra” and “Big Fight.”

      1. Full is a really good word to use and certainly captures my feeling about the balance between story and humour. I’d guess its easy to add the humour if you allow you story to be the driver than the other way around?

        1. That’s always the key with this kind of book: Make sure there’s a story, and not just a string of gags. If it’s just the comedy bits, it’ll feel pointless, even if you do find yourself laughing at lots of stuff. You might as well just do a gag-a-page comic strip style book. (See “The Rugger Boys” review that I just posted today.)

          This is why I think “Banquet” is the least of the books in the series so far. The story just isn’t that exciting, even though there’s lots of GREAT gags in the book.

  5. That said, the reverse is true as well: Francophones who don’t speak English would be missing out on all the language jokes relating to English while reading the original books in French. So I guess the moral of the story is, be bilingual, and don’t miss out on anything 🙂

    1. I’m bilingual and I’ve never read the english versions until now. I’m amazed at how good they are, albeit significantly different from the original. It’s not as bad as when you brits butchered our Magic Roundabout, but still 😉

      1. I haven’t read any of the ASTERIX books in English, but the series has the reputation of being very well translated. Unfortunately, that is not the case for other hugely popular French / Belgian series, which is a crying shame.

        1. The translations are so good it’s almost confusing to me as a reviewer to be crediting Goscinny for so much stuff that very likely should go to Bell and Hockridge. That’s why I wrote that section of this review just to put it out there to keep me honest. If in the future I leave them out, I want to be able to point to this one to say that I have, at least, mentioned the issue. I’m not completely ignorant…

  6. Also, Andre Franquin’s Marsupilami makes a cameo appearance on 1 of the signs in the carnival sequence in the Menagerix: See the Fabulous Animals stand.

    1. That’s Because, Rene Goscinny wrote some episodes of Andre Franquin’s Modeste and Pompon for Tintin magazine and Le Lombard publishing. At the time in 1966, The year this story came out in, Rene Goscinny was working on Lucky Luke at Spirou magazine and Dupuis publishing. But 2 years later in 1968, Morris and his Lucky Luke series moved to Dargaud’s Pilote magazine. Thus since 1968, Lucky Luke has been published by Dargaud for 52 years now! And Lucky Comics who publishes the Lucky Luke books starting from the 32nd book “The Stagecoach” is a company owned by Dargaud publishing.

      1. After Andre Franquin left Tintin magazine in 1959 after his contract there was up, Franquin then went back to Spirou magazine to focus more on his more famous series that he’s known for. Such as Spirou and Fantasio which he took up from Jije in 1947, Gaston Lagaffe, and Marsupilami. Dino Attanasio best known for Signor Spaghetti which he did with Rene Goscinny at Tintin magazine, took over Modeste et Pompon after Franquin went back to Spirou magazine in 1959.

  7. Centurion Nebulus Nimbus is a caricature of Italian dictator during and before World War 2 Benito Mussolini.