Wednesday, 23 October 2013

My Top 5 Asterix books

Top 5 Asterix books

I’m eagerly awaiting the release of Asterix & The Picts, the 35th Asterix book and the first book to be written by someone other than RenĂ© Goscinny or Albert Uderzo. It is written by Jean-Yves Ferri and illustrated by Didier Conrad.  Asterix was a huge part of my childhood, my parents would ply me with a new Asterix book for swimming extra lengths.  I even went dressed as Asterix to a fancy dress day at Primary School.  Dedication.

Here’s my top 5 books:

Asterix In Britain

I may be biased, but let’s remember Asterix doesn’t really venture much further north than Londinium, so it’s really Asterix In t’South.  But the plot is pretty solid, and an example where the magic potion will be of no use to simply smash the Romans as they try and protect their barrel.  It getting mixed up with wines, the Romans getting drunk and mix-ups, misadventures and, rugby games and mischief means the plot doesn’t just rely on British stereotypes and caricatures (my problem with Corsica for instance).  The film is excellent, with a great intro with the might of the Imperial Roman army being completely undermined by a pesky seagull.

Asterix and the Normans

This is one where factual history gets a little…elongated.  The Normans want to discover the meaning of fear, and so travel to Gaul to learn it’s art.  A very odd set-up, it pits Asterix against a tough enemy who aren’t the Romans or working alongside the Romans, something we only really see in terms of a whole plotline in Asterix and the Goths.  I quite liked pirates as a kid (still do obviously) and whilst the actual recurring pirates are pretty ineffective, I like the danger and fear of these massive dangerous Viking-eseque Normans.

Asterix and Son

A fairly unique story with the introduction of a key player.  Up until now, Brutus has only makes the odd appearance, making a briefly as a running gag in Gladiator, Roman Agent & Soothsayer.  But in Son, Brutus comes into his own as a ruthless and tyrannical enemy.  He bellows at the reader “BUT I’LL HAVE THAT BABY EVEN IF I HAVE TO PUT ALL GAUL TO FIRE AND SWORD!”  The final epic battle involves the village being mercilessly burned to ash.   The art is very special, to the orange glow backdrop Brutus stands against the women of the village, normally reduced to background characters, who here make a stand against him.  Brutus trumps Ceaser as a villain, leaving us with the final banquet aboard Cleopatra’s “sumptuous” galley.

Asterix and Obelix All At Sea

A late additional to the series, I remember this coming out in 1996 and being really excited by the prospect of a new book after completing my collection.  I quite liked the naval tones, introducing the Roman navy who haven’t had a key role before.  It’s an attempt at playing with the running gag of Obelix not being allowed to drink the magic potion, adding a vaguely serious tone that Obelix could be stuck as stone forever, even dead.  Indeed it remains the only Asterix book where a character could be dead, as in theory Admiral Crustacius is trapped as stone forever with Getafix to help out, though Ceaser’s final line hints this might not be the case.  Overall I like it for an attempt at making a likable German character, as the Goths tend to get a bad rep through the series.

Asterix and the Laurel Wreath

I wrote a piece a couple of years ago for York Theatre Royal’s Young Actor’s Company.  It was about the Romans in York and Britain, and was meant to be a little silly and daft, Monty Python/Horrible Histories style.  Naturally I returned to Asterix comics!  Asterix visits Rome in Gladiator, but I love this version because of the more adult tone, with drunkenness & slavery.  Asterix & Obelix are forced to rely on their wit, meet all manner of Rome’s upper-class and bandits with some fantastic locations, such as the moss-covered cell, the court, the slave market and the sewers beneath the streets.

What’s your favourite Asterix comic?  Maybe Picts will join the line-up!  We’ll see on Thursday!