Asterix or The Adventures of Asterix (French: Astérix or Astérix le Gaulois) is a humorous French comic book series. It was created in 1959 by writer René Goscinny and illustrator Albert Uderzo. Together, Goscinny and Uderzo created twenty-four Asterix comic book stories. Following Goscinny's death in 1977, Uderzo wrote and illustrated another ten Asterix books on his own. A further two books in the series have been created by other artists and illustrators since Uderzo's retirement in 2009. The series has spawned nine animated films, four live-action films, numerous video games and table-top games and a theme park located near to Disneyland Paris.
The series' title character is a very short warrior from Gaul (the ancient name for France). The action takes place in the year 50 BCE. Almost all of Gaul has been conquered by the Roman army under the leadership of Julius Caesar. Only the village where Asterix lives remains unconquered. This is because the village druid knows how to make a magic potion which temporarily gives anyone who drinks it superhuman strength. This allows the people of the village to fight off the Romans easily. The only person in the village who is not allowed to drink the magic potion is Asterix's overweight friend Obelix. Obelix gained permanent superhuman strength after he fell into the cauldron of magic potion when he was a little boy. In addition to the superhuman strength that he gets from drinking the magic potion, Asterix also uses his intelligence and cunning to defeat his enemies and help his friends. Many of the Asterix stories involve Asterix and Obelix traveling to other countries and helping the people there to get the better of the Romans too.
A lot of the humor in the series is based on deliberate anachronisms. For example, characters are seen reading newspapers which look almost identical to modern ones, except that they are carved on stone tablets or partially written in Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs.
Asterix books have been translated into more than a hundred languages. Some of the titles exist in different British and American English translations. 325 million Asterix books have been sold, making Goscinny and Uderzo the best-selling French authors in the world.
References to Peanuts
In a panel from the British edition of Asterix and Cleopatra, translated by Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge in 1969, the villain can be seen reading a newspaper called the Daily Nile (a reference to the British newspaper the Daily Mail). On the front page of the newspaper are comic strips called Ptarzan (Tarzan) and Pnuts (Peanuts). The heads of Charlie Brown and Snoopy can be seen in the Pnuts comic strip.
The reference to Peanuts only appears in the British translation of Asterix and Cleopatra and the artwork had to be redrawn in order to allow it. Different comic strips are referenced in the original French version of the story, originally serialized in the magazine Pilote between 1963 and 1964 and first published as a book in 1965. In the original French version of the story, the villain reads a newspaper called Pharaon-Soir (a reference to the French newspaper France-Soir). The two comic strips on its front page are called Chéri-Bibis and Isis de mon cœur. Chéri-Bibis is a reference to the 1925 novel Chéri-Bibi by Gaston Leroux that was adapted as a comic strip in 1951. Isis de mon cœur is a reference to Juliette de mon cœur, the French name for the American comic strip The Heart of Juliet Jones.
In Robert Steven Caron's American English translation of Asterix and Cleopatra, first published in 1995, the newspaper is called the Pharaonic Times. Instead of comic strips, the images on the front page are interpreted as news stories headlined, "Aswan doesn't give a dam!' and, "Child annihilates his mummy".