How Obelix Fell Into the Magic Potion When He Was a Little Boy cover detail by Albert Uderzo
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“How Obelix Fell Into the Magic Potion When He Was a Little Boy” – Storybook Asterix

I don’t know what volume number this book would officially get. There isn’t one on the Orion Books edition I have here.  The story originally saw print in 1989, so that would put it somewhere around #30, but the story part of it was published in the mid-60s.  

It doesn’t matter.  It’s a beautiful book by Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo. I’m just thrilled to cover it now.   

How the Credits Fell Into the Magic Potion…

Writers: Rene Goscinny
Artist: Albert Uderzo
Translator: Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge
Published by: Orion/Hachette
Number of Pages: 39
Original Publication: 1989

How It Was Made

The text of this book comes from something Rene Goscinny wrote for Pilote Magazine in 1966.  They were doing a special issue on Romans, so he created this text story telling how Obelix fell into the magic potion as a child.  Albert Uderzo originally contributed three small drawings to illustrate the story.

In 1989, he went back and redid those drawings and made all new ones. The text remained as it was and the whole thing was packaged together into this book.

But Is It Good?

Yes.  It is very good.  It’s a delightfully sweet dessert to eat after the 34 course meal that is all the other books.  

To be fair, it’s a very slight story and we didn’t really need to read it, but you know what?  It’s cute, it’s beautiful, and it’s well told.  It’s simplistic, sure, and not terribly dramatic, but that’s not the point.

The point is that I had fun reading it, and I stared for a long time at every page, soaking up the art. Uderzo did a wonderful job creating a children’s storybook out of Goscinny’s short story.

The Art of Uderzo

This is a different style for Uderzo.  It evokes that storybook feeling. Parts of it reminds me of Winnie the Pooh.  It’s a nice sketchy style with lots of open areas for some less saturated colors.  The whole thing has a very dreamy feeling to it.

I can’t tell you how impressed I am with the art. It’s completely not a comic book. It’s a well-considered and well laid out illustration on every double page spread.  

There are no shortcuts.  Uderzo will draw a couple dozen characters if the need arises, which is does on a couple of occasions.  He only uses silhouettes for the characters in the extreme background.

Check out this page as an example, because there’s so much going on in it:

I love how Geriatric is bouncing away from the potion to help show its effects.  The gathering of men for the potion doesn’t put two people in the same pose.  

You have recognizable faces in there, too, including Asterix’s and Obelix’s fathers, Chief Vitalstatistix riding high on a shield (but it can’t be Vercingetorix’s!), and some lovely watercolor work in the trees and with the moss on the rocks between the houses.

Layout-wise, there’s a triangular shape to the way the houses and the people flow from right to left, which is neatly repeated in the shapes of the house fronts with those A-line roofs.

The art is sketched in, like Uderzo did loose pencils and then used short strokes with a pen to finish the art off.  Textures are well considered in the shadows, while space is left in more open areas for the art to approximate the textures and light values.

The art is also designed to fit the text inside it.  Negative space is carefully considered to insert the text of the story into.  Some pages are left blank except for a paragraph or two of the story, leading off with an ornate drop cap.

Uderzo also added little bits of dialogue as the captions for much of the art. It’s a smart way to make the art come alive.  It doesn’t just show you what the text is explaining.  It also contains a snippet of a scene, and puts the characters in further motion.

The book is a smart blending of art and type, which is how it should be.  I’m sure any children’s book illustrator would read this review and go, “Yeah, De Blieck, that’s table stakes. Stop being so wowed.”

Sure, but Uderzo is a comic book artist. He switched to a different format effortlessly with this book. He didn’t try to force panel-to-panel storytelling in here, nor did he layout his pages like he would particularly interesting panels in a story.

Obelix and his Dogmatix toy

One cute little bonus: Check out the toy dog Obelix is wheeling behind him for the entire book.  The text doesn’t mention it, but Uderzo draws this early example of Dogmatix on most every page with Obelix. It’s very cute.

Recommended

How Obelix Fell Into the Magic Potion When He Was a Little Boy cover by Albert Uderzo

Absolutely, positively, yes! It’ll only take you 10 minutes to read, but then you can go back and study more of the beautiful art.

— 2018.101 —

Buy It Here

As with all the Asterix books, it’s not available digitally in North America, so you’ll be buying this through Amazon.

(That Amazon link is an affiliate link. It won’t cost you a penny more, but the Amazon kickback from your purchase will help keep this site up and running.)

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

12 Comments

  1. This not being an actual BD, i don’t think it deserves to be numbered in the series but I suppose if the British edition does, more power to them. It’s just Uderzo showing off, how great he is as a artist in his prime will never be said enough and it’s really too bad he didn’t quit while he was on top.
    I suppose now, the only genuine Goscinny/Uderzo Asterix outing to be reviewed would be the BD version of the Twelve Labours, which probably isn’t even available in English, considering it was only published in French as a special edition (and I might say, it was quite hard to find as a collectible back in the day). So I guess you’re done for that particular part of your journey. It was quite a ride and I’m glad I was here to witness it. Congratulations on a job well done, Mr. D!

    1. I have access to “Twelve Labours,” yes, but it is in French. There’s no English version of it in existence, as far as I know. And as much as I’d like to review it, that’s too much work even for me. (And I’m already working on translating something myself for a future review, so stay tuned…)

      There is a storybook-format book covering the new “Magic Potion” movie, and I also have the book they did for the “Vikings” movie. Again, they’re both in French without hope of an English translation at this point. But you never know when the mood will strike me. =)

      So, yeah, the reviews of the Asterix series is officially over now, already one book past what I was expecting when I started.

      And I still have three or four articles about Asterix I want to finish writing to round things out, with another one or two that I might complete if I ever find the time. (One is very research-heavy.)

      Glad you enjoyed the ride. Thanks for all the comments and information along the away. It’s definitely made it more fun.

      1. I might be misunderstanding this but there is an English language version of 12 Tasks which came out with the movie. I have a copy and there are loads available for bobbins on eBay. Its a storybook similar to ‘How Obelix Fell’ and was great fun. One example below:

        https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/The-Twelve-Tasks-of-Asterix-The-book-of-the-film-by-Ren-Goscinny-Hardback-The/141896563635?epid=87553795&hash=item2109b1bbb3:g:rQYAAOSwNmVaYtZ8

        Am I missing something, is there a different edition or version of this?

        1. I almost made exactly the same comment, but I think that “BD version” in the comment above means it was a comic rather than a storybook.

          1. Yeah, I thought there was a more comic book-format version of the story. If this storybook is all there is, then I definitely wouldn’t bother. I see it on eBay.com, too, and the interior art is — not attractive.

            1. There is an English language BD version, it’s called Asterix Conquers Rome and was only ever published in the Asterix Annual 1980.

  2. I don’t own this one, but I did read it when I found it in a library about 25 years ago.

    It was nicely produced, but didn’t really make much of an impression on me. It’s very much a kids’ book the way the proper Asterix books aren’t.

  3. Sorry late to the party this page has only just popped up – I think I’m having cache issues again.

    Anyway I’m not to sure about this one. Don’t get me wrong it looks stunning. The way Uderzo turns his hand to illustrating this as a tradtional children’s book, almost in the vein of E.H. Shepards work on Winnie-the-pooh (pre-Disneyfication oh the irony!) to my inexpert eyes…. the trouble is the story.

    Augie is (of course) right, it cute and wonderfully told… I’m just not sure there’s really a story here that needs telling and the telling really underlines that.

    There’s some work on Obelix’s character but as its again written in the traditonal children’s book style this feels trite and contrived in light of Goscinny’s other work on the characters.

    Its fun but shallow and feels rather superfluous. Still if its getting a proper review from Augie it deserves a mark… shall we say 3 out of 10. Its beautful to look at, really nicely written even if I’m not sure why.

    On another note if this is the end of the trail, all be it for reviews, I’m certainly looking forward to the other articles to see what you some up with, can I just say thank you.

    You starting this has inspired me to re-read these treasured books, reflect and re-evaluate them in a way I haven’t before and for that I’m really grateful. As I am to JC, Dan and the other regular commentators. Augie may have started us, but its having the other insightful, often gloriously differing reflections that have made this even more special. For the last 12 months its been like a little book club and one I’ve looked forward to coming around so thank you all and thank you again Augie.

  4. My review has disappeared… I’ll hangfire in case it pops up as I don’t want to break the comments thread like I did last time…

    1. Your review is there. WordPress is funny about caching. I have to use the WordPress app on my iPad to see updates – and on desktop browsers I have to ctrl+f5 to see them. Otherwise I just get an old version of the page.