By R. Goscinny & A. Uderzo translated by Anthea Bell & Derek Hockridge (Hodder Children’s Books)
Asterix the Gaul has, since its debut, grown to become one of the most-read comics series in the world, translated into more than 100 languages. The wily little hero, his gently bombastic bosom companion Obelix and an ever-expanding and unforgettable cast of bit players have also won hearts and minds through numerous animated and live-action movies, TV series, assorted toys, games and merchandising. They even inhabit their own theme park (Parc Astérix, near Paris).
More than 325 million copies of the 35 canonical Asterix books have sold worldwide over more than fifty years, making Goscinny & Uderzo France’s bestselling international authors.
One of their best and most charming collaborations isn’t a comic strip at all. Although it does star their greatest creation, How Obelix Fell into the Magic Potion When He Was a Little Boy began life as a magazine article penned by Goscinny for Pilote (#291 from 1965), with only a couple of spot-illustrations.
It languished unseen for years until 1989 when Uderzo converted and extended it into a superb, fully realised children’s picture book by crafting (with the assistance of colourist Thierry Mebarki and the design team of Crapule Productions) seven full page illustrations and six magnificent and subtly hilarious double-page spreads to augment the origin tale of the mightiest and mildest champion of ancient history.
Narrated by Asterix himself it is set when both he and his best pal were aged six and just learning how to be proper Gaulish warriors.
Obelix is fat, slow, simple and timid: a perfect target for the other boisterous boys. One day however, when the adults are all out bashing the Romans who are trying to conquer their indomitable, unconquerable village, Asterix convinces him to try a tiny taste of the Druid Getafix’s magic potion: the one which enables a tiny outpost of rural rebels to resist the full might of the empire.
Sadly, after sneaking into the wise man’s spooky house, there’s a bit of an accident…
Endearing and witty, this delightful tale is packed with the same wry humour as the cartoon albums whilst Uderzo’s sleek and dynamic comic art is suitably replaced here by gorgeous, evocative watercolour plates that mesmerise, beguile and – where appropriate – deliciously amuse…
The diminutive, doughty hero was created in 1959 by two of the art-form’s greatest proponents, René Goscinny & Albert Uderzo: masters of strip narrative then at the peak of their creative powers. Although their perfect partnership ended in 1977 with the death of prolific scripter Goscinny, the creative wonderment continued with Uderzo writing and drawing the feature until his retirement in 2010.
His last work on the feature was this compilation of new and old material which was designed to signify and celebrate 50 glorious years of his co-creation before – in 2013 – Asterix and the Picts opened a fresh chapter in the annals as Jean-Yves Ferri & Didier Conrad began a much anticipated and dreaded continuation of the franchise.
A wonderful adjunct to the adventures of France’s Greatest Heroes and a brilliant introduction for younger readers to the world of comics, How Obelix Fell into the Magic Potion When He Was a Little Boy is a book every home should have.
© 1989, 2009 Éditions Albert René/Goscinny-Uderzo. English translation: © 1989 Éditions Albert René/Goscinny-Uderzo. All rights reserved.