Asterix and Obelix's New Adventure

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 21, 2014 | Go to article overview

Asterix and Obelix's New Adventure


Byline: Michael Taube - Special to The Washington Times

ASTERIX AND THE PICTSBy Jean-Yves Ferri, Rene Goscinny and Albert UderzoIllustrated by Didier ConradOrion Children's Books Ltd., $14.95, 48 pages

Growing up in Canada, I had an abundance of U.S. comic books and comic strips to choose from. Yet one of my favorite high school memories was going with friends to the public library located next door to read its collection of great Franco-Belgian comics.

The BDs, or bandes dessinees (literally, drawn strips) such as Lucky Luke, Spike and Suzy, Nero, Gaston and Spirou et Fantasio, are a time-honored tradition in Europe. The strips were either reprinted in oversized comic albums after a storyline in a newspaper or magazine concluded -- or directly published in this format.

Many Franco-Belgian comics have since been translated into English. Americans would immediately recognize two titles, "The Adventures of Tintin" and "The Smurfs." A third title should also ring plenty of bells: "The Adventures of Asterix."

Created by Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo, Asterix made its first appearance in Pilote, a now-defunct French comics magazine, in 1959. The series takes place in 50 B.C. in a tiny Gaulish village that the Romans just can't conquer. The protagonists are Asterix ("a shrewd, cunning little warrior"), Obelix ("Asterix's inseparable friend"), and Getafix ("the venerable village druid"). The latter character's "specialty is the potion which gives the drinker superhuman strength," allowing the Gauls to constantly frustrated Roman legionnaires and many other individuals.

The Asterix series has been a huge success in France, Belgium and beyond. It's been translated into more than 100 languages, and 325 million albums have been sold worldwide. There have also been 12 films (including four live-action movies), plenty of merchandise, and a theme park in France.

With the recent release of the 35th album, "Asterix and the Picts," this legendary series has started a brave new chapter. Mr. Uderzo sold his stake in 2008 to the United Kingdom publisher Hachette, and the 86-year-old comic book legend is now retired. (Goscinny passed away in 1977.) Writer Jean-Yves Ferri and illustrator Didier Conrad are now in charge of the franchise, with Mr. Uderzo advising them.

In this exciting 48-page tale, Asterix and Obelix come across a man in the sea encased in ice. Getafix identified him as "a Pict from distant Caledonia," or what we know as Scotland, and gave him an elixir to regain his voice. …

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