(Astérix le Gaulois)
|Publisher||Dargaud, Éditions Albert René, Hachette for canonical volumes in French; others for non-canonical volumes (1976-1996) in French; Hodder, Hachette and others for non-canonical volumes (1976-1996) in English|
|Formats||Original material for the series has been published as a strip in the comics anthology(s) Pilote.|
|Publication date||29 October 1959-present (original); 1969-present (English translation)|
Asterix or The Adventures of Asterix (French: Astérix or Astérix le Gaulois [aste?iks l? ?olwa]; lit. "Asterix the Gaul") is a French comic book series about Gaulish warriors, who have adventures and fight the Roman Republic during the era of Julius Caesar in an ahistorical telling of the time after the Gallic Wars. The series first appeared in the Franco-Belgian comic magazine Pilote on 29 October 1959. It was written by René Goscinny and illustrated by Albert Uderzo until Goscinny's death in 1977. Uderzo then took over the writing until 2009, when he sold the rights to publishing company Hachette; he died in 2020. In 2013, a new team consisting of Jean-Yves Ferri (script) and Didier Conrad (artwork) took over. As of 2019 , 38 volumes have been released, with the most recent released in October 2019.
Asterix comics usually start with the following introduction:
The year is 50 BC. Gaul is entirely occupied by the Romans. Well, not entirely... One small village of indomitable Gauls still holds out against the invaders. And life is not easy for the Roman legionaries who garrison the fortified camps of Totorum, Aquarium, Laudanum and Compendium...
The series follows the adventures of a village of Gauls as they resist Roman occupation in 50 BCE. They do so by means of a magic potion, brewed by their druid Getafix (Panoramix in the French version), which temporarily gives the recipient superhuman strength. The protagonists, the title character Asterix and his friend Obelix, have various adventures. The "-ix" ending of both names (as well as all the other pseudo-Gaulish "-ix" names in the series) alludes to the "-rix" suffix (meaning "king") present in the names of many real Gaulish chieftains such as Vercingetorix, Orgetorix, and Dumnorix.
In many of the stories, they travel to foreign countries, while other tales are set in and around their village. For much of the history of the series (Volumes 4 through 29), settings in Gaul and abroad alternated, with even-numbered volumes set abroad and odd-numbered volumes set in Gaul, mostly in the village.
The Asterix series is one of the most popular Franco-Belgian comics in the world, with the series being translated into 111 languages and dialects as of 2009.
The success of the series has led to the adaptation of its books into 13 films: nine animated, and four live action (two of which, Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra and Asterix and Obelix vs. Caesar, were major box office successes in France). There have also been a number of games based on the characters, and a theme park near Paris, Parc Astérix. The very first French satellite, Astérix, launched in 1965, was also named after the comics character. As of 2017, 370million copies of Asterix books have been sold worldwide, with co-creators René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo being France's best-selling authors abroad.
Prior to creating the Asterix series, Goscinny and Uderzo had previously had success with their series Oumpah-pah, which was published in Tintin magazine. Astérix was originally serialised in Pilote magazine, debuting in the first issue on 29 October 1959. In 1961 the first book was put together, titled Asterix the Gaul. From then on, books were released generally on a yearly basis. Their success was exponential; the first book sold 6,000 copies in its year of publication; a year later, the second sold 20,000. In 1963, the third sold 40,000; the fourth, released in 1964, sold 150,000. A year later, the fifth sold 300,000; 1966's Asterix and the Big Fight sold 400,000 upon initial publication. The ninth Asterix volume, when first released in 1967, sold 1.2 million copies in two days.
Uderzo's first preliminary sketches portrayed Asterix as a huge and strong traditional Gaulish warrior. But Goscinny had a different picture in his mind, visualizing Asterix as a shrewd, compact warrior who would possess intelligence and wit more than raw strength. However, Uderzo felt that the downsized hero needed a strong but dim companion, to which Goscinny agreed. Hence, Obelix was born. Despite the growing popularity of Asterix with the readers, the financial backing for the publication Pilote ceased. Pilote was taken over by Georges Dargaud.
When Goscinny died in 1977, Uderzo continued the series by popular demand of the readers, who implored him to continue. He continued to issue new volumes of the series, but on a less-frequent basis. Many critics and fans of the series prefer the earlier collaborations with Goscinny. Uderzo created his own publishing company, Éditions Albert René, which published every album drawn and written by Uderzo alone since then. However, Dargaud, the initial publisher of the series, kept the publishing rights on the 24 first albums made by both Uderzo and Goscinny. In 1990, the Uderzo and Goscinny families decided to sue Dargaud to take over the rights. In 1998, after a long trial, Dargaud lost the rights to publish and sell the albums. Uderzo decided to sell these rights to Hachette instead of Albert-René, but the publishing rights on new albums were still owned by Albert Uderzo (40%), Sylvie Uderzo (20%) and Anne Goscinny (40%).
In December 2008, Uderzo sold his stake to Hachette, which took over the company. In a letter published in the French newspaper Le Monde in 2009, Uderzo's daughter, Sylvie, attacked her father's decision to sell the family publishing firm and the rights to produce new Astérix adventures after his death. She said:
However, René Goscinny's daughter, Anne, also gave her agreement to the continuation of the series and sold her rights at the same time. She is reported to have said that "Asterix has already had two lives: one during my father's lifetime and one after it. Why not a third?". A few months later, Uderzo appointed three illustrators, who had been his assistants for many years, to continue the series. In 2011, Uderzo announced that a new Asterix album was due out in 2013, with Jean-Yves Ferri writing the story and Frédéric Mébarki drawing it. A year later, in 2012, the publisher Albert-René announced that Frédéric Mébarki had withdrawn from drawing the new album, due to the pressure he felt in following in the steps of Uderzo. Comic artist Didier Conrad was officially announced to take over drawing duties from Mébarki, with the due date of the new album in 2013 unchanged.
In January 2015, after the murders of seven cartoonists at the satirical Paris weekly Charlie Hebdo, Astérix creator Albert Uderzo came out of retirement to draw two Astérix pictures honouring the memories of the victims.
Asterix Conquers Rome is a comics adaptation of the animated film The Twelve Tasks of Asterix. It was released in 1976, and was the 23rd volume to be published, but it has been rarely reprinted and is not considered to be canonical to the series. The only English translations ever to be published were in the Asterix Annual 1980 and never an English standalone volume. A picture-book version of the same story was published in English translation as The Twelve Tasks of Asterix by Hodder & Stoughton in 1978.
In 1996, a tribute album in honour of Albert Uderzo was released titled "Uderzo Croqué par ses Amis", a volume containing 21 short stories with Uderzo in Ancient Gaul. This volume was published by Soleil Productions and has not been translated into English
In 2007, Éditions Albert René released a tribute volume titled Astérix et ses Amis, a 60-page volume of one-to-four-page short stories. It was a tribute to Albert Uderzo on his 80th birthday by 34 European cartoonists. The volume was translated into nine languages. As of 2016 , it has not been translated into English.
In 2016, the French publisher Hachette, along with Anne Goscinny and Albert Uderzo decided to make the special issue album The XII Tasks of Asterix for the 40th anniversary of the film The Twelve Tasks of Asterix. There was no English edition.
The main setting for the series is an unnamed coastal village (rumoured to be inspired by Erquy[by whom?]) in Armorica (present-day Brittany), a province of Gaul (modern France), in the year 50 BC. Julius Caesar has conquered nearly all of Gaul for the Roman Empire during the Gallic Wars. The little Armorican village, however, has held out because the villagers can gain temporary superhuman strength by drinking a magic potion brewed by the local village druid, Getafix. His chief is Vitalstatistix.
The main protagonist and hero of the village is Asterix, who, because of his shrewdness, is usually entrusted with the most important affairs of the village. He is aided in his adventures by his rather corpulent and slower thinking friend, Obelix, who, because he fell into the druid's cauldron of the potion as a baby, has permanent superhuman strength (because of this, Getafix steadfastly refuses to allow Obelix to drink the potion, as doing so would have a dangerous and unpredictable result). Obelix is usually accompanied by Dogmatix, his little dog. (Except for Asterix and Obelix, the names of the characters change with the language. For example, Obelix's dog's name is "Dogmatix" in English, but "Idéfix" in the original French edition.)
Asterix and Obelix (and sometimes other members of the village) go on various adventures both within the village and in far away lands. Places visited in the series include parts of Gaul (Lutetia, Corsica etc.), neighbouring nations (Belgium, Spain, Britain, Germany etc.), and far away lands (North America, Middle East, India etc.).
The series employs science-fiction and fantasy elements in the more recent books; for instance, the use of extraterrestrials in Asterix and the Falling Sky and the city of Atlantis in Asterix and Obelix All at Sea.
With rare exceptions, the ending of the albums usually shows a big banquet with the town's inhabitants gathering - the sole exception is the bard Cacofonix restrained and gagged to prevent him from singing. While mostly the banquet is held under the starry nights at the village, there are some exceptions.
The humour encountered in the Asterix comics often centers around puns, caricatures, and tongue-in-cheek stereotypes of contemporary European nations and French regions. Much of the humour in the initial Asterix books was French-specific, which delayed the translation of the books into other languages for fear of losing the jokes and the spirit of the story. Some translations have actually added local humour: In the Italian translation, the Roman legionaries are made to speak in 20th-century Roman dialect, and Obelix's famous Ils sont fous ces romains ("These Romans are crazy") is translated properly as Sono pazzi questi romani, humorously alluding to the Roman abbreviation SPQR. In another example: Hiccups are written onomatopoeically in French as hips, but in English as "hic", allowing Roman legionaries in more than one of the English translations to decline their hiccups absurdly in Latin (hic, haec, hoc). The newer albums share a more universal humour, both written and visual.
All the fictional characters in Asterix have names which are puns on their roles or personalities, and which follow certain patterns specific to nationality. Certain rules are followed (most of the time) such as Gauls (and their neighbours) having an "-ix" suffix for the men and ending in "-a" for the women; for example, Chief Vitalstatistix (so called due to his portly stature) and his wife Impedimenta (often at odds with the chief). The male Roman names end in "-us", echoing Latin nominative male singular form, as in Gluteus Maximus, a muscle-bound athlete whose name is literally the butt of the joke. Gothic names (present-day Germany) end in "-ic", after Gothic chiefs such as Alaric and Theoderic; for example Rhetoric the interpreter. Greek names end in "-os" or "-es"; for example, Thermos the restaurateur. British names end in "-ax" and are often puns on the taxation associated with the later United Kingdom; examples include Valuaddedtax the druid, and Selectivemploymentax the mercenary. Other nationalities are treated to pidgin translations from their language, like Huevos y Bacon, a Spanish chieftain (whose name, meaning eggs and bacon, is often guidebook Spanish for tourists), or literary and other popular media references, like Dubbelosix (a sly reference to James Bond's codename "007").
Most of these jokes, and hence the names of the characters, are specific to the translation; for example, the druid named Getafix in English translation - "get a fix", referring to the character's role in dispensing the magic potion - is Panoramix in the original French and Miraculix in German. Even so, occasionally the wordplay has been preserved: Obelix's dog, known in the original French as Idéfix (from idée fixe, a "fixed idea" or obsession), is called Dogmatix in English, which not only renders the original meaning strikingly closely ("dogmatic") but in fact adds another layer of wordplay with the syllable "Dog-" at the beginning of the name.
The name Asterix, French Astérix, comes from astérisque, meaning "asterisk", which is the typographical symbol * indicating a footnote, from the Greek word (aster), meaning a "star". His name is usually left unchanged in translations, aside from accents and the use of local alphabets. For example, in Esperanto, Polish, Slovene, Latvian, and Turkish it is Asteriks (in Turkish he was first named Bücür meaning "shorty", but the name was then standardised). Two exceptions include Icelandic, in which he is known as Ástríkur ("Rich of love"), and Sinhala, where he is known as (Soora Pappa), which can be interpreted as "Hero". The name Obelix (Obélix) may refer to "obelisk", another typographical symbol, see Dagger (typography).
For explanations of some of the other names, see List of Asterix characters.
Many of the Asterix adventures take place in other countries away from their homeland in Gaul. In every album that takes place abroad, the characters meet (usually modern-day) stereotypes for each country, as seen by the French.
When the Gauls see foreigners speaking their foreign languages, these have different representation in the cartoon speech bubbles:
The various volumes have been translated into more than 100 languages and dialects. Besides the original French language, most albums are available in Bengali, Estonian, English, Czech, Dutch, German, Galician, Danish, Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish, Spanish, Catalan, Basque, Portuguese, Italian, Greek, Hungarian, Polish, Romanian, Turkish, Slovene, Bulgarian, Serbian, Croatian, Latvian, Welsh, as well as Latin.
Selected albums have also been translated into languages such as Esperanto, Scottish Gaelic, Irish, Scots, Indonesian, Persian, Mandarin, Korean, Japanese, Bengali, Afrikaans, Arabic, Hindi, Hebrew, Frisian, Romansch, Vietnamese, Sinhala, Ancient Greek, and Luxembourgish.
In Europe, several volumes were translated into a variety of regional languages and dialects, such as Alsatian, Breton, Chtimi (Picard), and Corsican in France; Bavarian, Swabian, and Low German in Germany; and Savo, Karelia, Rauma, and Helsinki slang dialects in Finland. Also, in Portugal, a special edition of the first volume, Asterix the Gaul, was translated into local language Mirandese. In Greece, a number of volumes have appeared in the Cretan Greek, Cypriot Greek, and Pontic Greek dialects. In the Italian version, while the Gauls speak standard Italian, the legionaries speak in the Romanesque dialect. In the former Yugoslavia, the "Forum" publishing house translated Corsican text in Asterix in Corsica into the Montenegrin dialect of Serbo-Croatian (today called Montenegrin).
In the Netherlands, several volumes were translated into West Frisian, a Germanic language spoken in the province of Friesland; into Limburgish, a regional language spoken not only in Dutch Limburg but also in Belgian Limburg and North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany; and into Tweants, a dialect in the region of Twente in the eastern province of Overijssel. Hungarian-language books have been published in Yugoslavia for the Hungarian minority living in Serbia. Although not translated into a fully autonomous dialect, the books differ slightly from the language of the books issued in Hungary. In Sri Lanka, the cartoon series was adapted into Sinhala as Sura Pappa.
Before Asterix became famous, translations of some strips were published in British comics including Valiant, Ranger, and Look & Learn, under names Little Fred and Big Ed and Beric the Bold, set in Roman-occupied Britain. These were included in an exhibition on Goscinny's life and career, and Asterix, in London's Jewish Museum in 2018.
In 1970 William Morrow published English translations in hardback of three Asterix albums for the American market. These were Asterix the Gaul, Asterix and Cleopatra and Asterix the Legionary. Lawrence Hughes in a letter to The New York Times stated, "Sales were modest, with the third title selling half the number of the first. I was publisher at the time, and Bill Cosby tried to buy film and television rights. When that fell through, we gave up the series."
The first 33 Asterix albums were translated into English by Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge (including the three volumes reprinted by William Morrow), who were widely praised for maintaining the spirit and humour of the original French versions. Hockridge died in 2013, so Bell translated books 34 to 36 by herself, before retiring in 2016 for health reasons. She died in 2018. Adriana Hunter is the present translator.
US publisher Papercutz in December 2019 announced it would begin publishing "all-new more American translations" of the Asterix books, starting on 19 May 2020. The launch was postponed to 15 July 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The new translator is Joe Johnson (Dr. Edward Joseph Johnson), a Professor of French and Spanish at Clayton State University.
The series has been adapted into various media. There are 18 films, 15 board games, 40 video games, and 1 theme park.
On 3 March, 2021, it was announced that Asterix the Gaul is to star in a new Netflix animated series directed by Alain Chabat. The series will be adapted from one of the classic volumes, Asterix and the Big Fight, where the Romans, after being constantly embarrassed by Asterix and his village cohorts, organize a brawl between rival Gaulish chiefs and try to fix the result by kidnapping a druid along with his much-needed magic potion. The series will debut in 2023.
Parc Astérix, a theme park 22 miles north of Paris, based upon the series, was opened in 1989. It is one of the most visited sites in France, with around 1.6 million visitors per year.