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.
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.
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.)