The Asterix Agenda: A Pipeline Portal
At the start of 2018, I created The Asterix Agenda. Its goal was simple: Review every volume of “Asterix” that Albert Uderzo drew.
There are 34 of those, plus one picture book.
It took all year, but I did it.
I also reviewed a couple of movies, wrote some thought pieces on different aspects of the series, drew the characters as mermaids, reported on some breaking Asterix news, and generally let the free Gauls take over my life for a year.
This page is the ultimate guide to The Asterix Agenda, with links to everything I’ve ever written about Asterix on PipelineComics.com.
Reviewing All the Albums
To break up this list of reviews, I’ve grouped them into the categories created by Peter Kessler in his book, “The Complete Guide to Asterix.”
He divided Uderzo’s run into five time periods. I stretched out the last one to include the books Uderzo did after Kessler’s book saw print in the 1990s, then added a new one for the new creative team on the series.
1959 – 1964
The Rough-Hewn Menhir
The first 25 books in the series were written by Rene Goscinny with art by Albert Uderzo.
In this first section, we look at the books done first as serials in Pilote Journal, which Goscinny started as the editor. The serials were collected into albums later, and by the third volume began racking up some pretty impressive sales numbers. (See also “Asterix: The Pilote Publication Guide“.)
As you can see, the character designs started out a bit different from where they wound up. Uderzo was discovering these characters as he drew the book, week by week.
The stories were strong from the start, though. This is not the kind of series you’d recommend people start reading with the fourth volume because the earliest ones were no good. While the art style was still developing, even the earliest books’ stories are laugh riots.
1965 – 1967
The Burnished Cauldron
Kessler refers to this as the Golden Age of Asterix — the moment when Uderzo worked out the early kinks in his art style.
He specifically says he didn’t name it “The Golden Age” because they are necessarily the best books. I think some, however, might think they are.
I think you might be able to lump “Asterix and Cleopatra” along with “Asterix the Legionary” in the top ten, at least.
Personally, I rate “Asterix and the Banquet” as the least of the first ten volumes.
The Teeming Village
1968 is the point at which Uderzo dropped all his other work to concentrate on “Asterix.” It’s crazy that he had time to do anything else while he was speed drawing the first 10 books, but he did.
Kessler believes this extra time to work on Asterix led to more expressive characters from Uderzo.
It’s also the time the Village characters seemed to expand into slightly larger roles. Heck, they even joined Asterix on an adventure in “Asterix and the Olympic Games.” Goscinny wasn’t afraid to try new things, even within the formats he had created for the series so early on.
“Asterix and the Cauldron” is a madcap chase book. “The Mansions of the Gods” is a parable on gentrification and over-development. “Asterix and the Roman Agent” is about the inherent jealousies of the human condition. “Asterix and the Chieftain’s Shield” taps into French history. It’s a great mix of strong books.
Characteristix and Sophistix
These are the final books written by Rene Goscinny before his untimely passing during production on “Asterix in Belgium.”
It includes a visit to America, a great lesson in economics, a savage takedown of self-proclaimed seers, and more fun with Caesar.
Objectively, I’d say the best two books here are “Asterix and the Soothsayer” and “Obelix and Co.” Subjectively, for reasons I went on at great length about in my review, “Asterix in Belgium” is a personal favorite.
The Real and the Cartoon
This is the Solo Uderzo era. After Goscinny’s death, Uderzo took his time to decide that he wanted to carry on. Once he did, the books came out on whatever schedule he wanted to do them on. There’d often be three or four years between books, whereas he and Goscinny had churned them out at a rate of a book a year (and occasionally more) in the 1960s.
Uderzo’s solo stories turned towards the more magical and fantastical as time went by. He told stories with more children and animals scurrying about. Magic carpets, helpful dolphins, sudden new powers, and centaurs ruled the day, for better or (more would argue) worse.
It was Asterix: The Saturday Morning Cartoon Edition.
I’m throwing in “How Obelix Fell Into the Magic Potion When He Was a Little Boy” here because it fits chronologically. Goscinny wrote it, but Uderzo did all new drawings for the book and added a couple captions and bits of dialogue to finish it off. It’s a very different style from Uderzo, and definitely worth a read.
The Next Generation
After threatening to retire many times, Albert Uderzo finally did in 2011. A few years later, a new team took over the title. Uderzo chose Jean-Yves Ferri to be the writer, and an artist from Uderzo’s studios was set to draw the book. He, unfortunately, got cold feet and dropped out. Didier Conrad came in to take over.
Ferri and Conrad have done four books together so far, with a fifth announced for October 2021.
Didier/Conrad Reviews Redux
I read and reviewed these three books before embarking on The Asterix Agenda. After reading all of the 34+ original volumes in the series, I took a second look through the books. Placing the books in the context of the overall series as they were fresher in my mind turned out to be great grist for the mill. Here now are the links to my reviews written after reading all the rest of the books in a compressed time frame:
Additional Asterix Books
Besides the 38 books I’ve listed above, there are other Asterix books you can find out there. That even includes a “Where’s Waldo?” style book. There’s actually two of those — one where you find Asterix, and one where you look for Obelix. I haven’t reviewed those. (Yet.)
I did, however, review two others:
“Asterix on the Warpath” is a pop-up book that’s insanely detailed, featuring a wide variety of three dimensional affects that impressed me.
“Asterix et Ses Amis” is an all-star effort of European comics creators paying tribute to Albert Uderzo on the occasion of his 80th birthday. The line-up is insane. This book has never been translated to English. I picked out a few highlights that I translated from the French as I read. If you’ve ever wanted to see Uncle Scrooge meet Asterix, this is the book for you!
Asterix at The Movies
Asterix is a comic book, so of course there are movies!
While there were animated movies based directly on the books as early as the mid-1960s as Asterix hysteria began, live action took a turn in the 1990s and 2000s, before they went with three-dimensional computer animation for the last couple.
The early animated ones are easy and cheap to find in various places.
The live action films are a mixed bag. You can buy Blu-rays and DVDs with English subtitles or dubs, but they’re not always easy to find, cheap, or available in America. Your best bet is Amazon.
Streaming is hit and miss, but I put together “The Complete Asterix and Obelix Movie Streaming Guide.”
The more recent animations — the two CGI ones, specifically — have been generally commercially and critically successful.
I’ve had the chance to watch and review a couple of the movies. Here are those links. I think “The Mansions of the Gods” is the stronger movie, but they’re both entertaining in their own ways.
The History of Rome and Gaul
Over the course of compiling these reviews, I learned a lot about the history of the time, c. 50 B.C. Julius Caesar is a fascinating fellow, and the stories about him are worth a read.
Here, then, are some of those:
It is, without a doubt, the greatest Caesar story of all time. This is the probably true historical tale of the time a gang of pirates kidnapped and ransomed Julius Caesar, and how Caesar took immediate control of the situation.
Also, a note to all the other faux historians who like to tell this story: The pirates were not Sicilian. They were Cilician, from the other side of Turkey from Italy.
Julius Caesar was kind enough to write down all his adventures during the Gallic War leading into the period that Asterix is set during. Whether for historical purposes or, more likely, political gain, these Commentaries have been studied ever since.
They’ve also been a punchline in a couple of different Asterix volumes. I explain them in this piece.
One of the Latin phrases you read a lot over the course of “Asterix” is “Alea Jacta Est.” That comes from the end of the Gallic War period as Caesar returned to a Roman that didn’t want him. This article explains what happened there and how, just maybe, we’re not saying it right. Also, it includes every panel where the phrase is used in “Asterix.”
He appears on the very first page of “Asterix the Gaul,” but who is Vercingetorix and how did he come to be the one to surrender to Caesar on behalf of all Gaul-kind? As with so much of the history of the time period, this is a dramatic story.
The Thought Pieces
You can’t read this many Asterix album and not have some unrelated thoughts.
It’s an unspeakable thing, but I dared to speak it. Heck, I wrote a whole essay about it. What if the Gauls put away their pride for one blinking moment and just surrendered to Caesar? Wouldn’t that lead to a better quality of life for them? This is me at my heretical best.
Also, I Photoshopped up a Frenchman waving a white flag. That might be the most stereotypical thing I’ve ever done for this site.
The Village is horribly mismanaged and Chief Vitalstatistix is an awful leader. The proof of that is in the short-sightedness of how they handle the Magic Potion situation. The Druid Getafix is a classic Bus Factor of 1 situation. If a bus ran him over one day, the whole Village would be done.
Shortly after I wrote this piece, the trailer for the “Asterix and the Secret of the Magic Potion” movie came out. I haven’t seen it yet, but it addresses the subject of making a plan to replace Getafix, should he retire.
That’s a much cleaner and less morbid way of tackling the same subject….
Various and Sundry
During a trip to Atlantic City, NJ, I spent some time visiting one of the last remaining hotels and casinos on the Boardwalk there, Caesars. This is my photo essay.
I wrote this tongue in cheek, and it’s turned out to be the most popular Asterix-related thing I’ve written on this site. It’s my countdown of the best ten Asterix albums of the first ten Asterix albums. Basically, they just get better as the series moves along. (Except “Asterix and the Banquet,” which was a disappointment.)
I went back later and compiled a Top 10 list of books from the Goscinny and Uderzo years.
In writing these reviews week after week, I came across a number of other Asterix sites that were of great help providing background information, character name lists, and opinions on all the books. This is my listing of those sites as well as the other references I used.
One of the best things about YouTube is the way it keeps videos alive from long ago that very few people would likely ever care about. I love looking up favorite artists to see if there’s any videos of them drawing.
Thankfully, with Albert Uderzo, he’s popular enough and enough of a media darling that we have this great video of him drawing. I also point to a few other videos of Uderzo in this article, including one of him showing off Parc Asterix to a reporter.
Asterix and the Fine Arts
Wikipedia references the painted works from the likes of Évariste Vital Luminais as a possible influence on the designs of Obelix and Asterix. They were popular in the 19th century.
I’d say the resemblance is uncanny, but there are classic traits associated with the Gauls of the time that, of course, all the characters of Asterix fit into. (Long hair, mustaches, etc.) But it is funny to look at a painting like this one, done 100 years before Uderzo first drew Asterix, and see such a similarity.
It’s also funny to see how far Uderzo came in just those first ten years of drawing the book. I spoofed a meme to show how that worked: