French iconic comic series Asterix has turned 50. Kunal Majumder tracks the journey.
Some call it France’s most lucrative literary export. Fifty years on, Asterix is not only the most recognisable French comic character; Asterix books have sold 325 million copies in over 100 languages. When René Goscinny and illustrator Albert Uderzo created The Adventures of Asterix for comic magazine Pilote in 1959, their objective was simple. “What we wanted with Pilote was to create our own, home-grown comic strip heroes, because at the time youth magazines were full of comic strips from America,” Uderzo recalled at a recent press conference in Paris.
Goscinny set the adventures in 85 BC, in a Gaulish village that was resisting Julius Caesar’s Roman occupation. The eponymous hero of these adventures is the diminutive but fearless Gaul, Asterix, who is ever eager to rescue other Gauls in distress – as long as several Romans are knocked out in the process.
The smartest member of the village, he is chosen for many dangerous missions to far-off places like America, Egypt and even India. Yes, Asterix travels to India in the 28th book, Asterix and the Magic Carpet. His mission might well be one that needs just such a hero today: bring rain to a parched land and rescue the daughter of Rajah Wotzit, Princess Orinjade, who is to be executed as a sacrifice to appease the gods. As in all his previous adventures, he uses his legendary wit and the strength given to him by his magic potion (druid Getafix obligingly makes a batch each time) to rescue the princess and, yes, bring rain as well.
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