As a fan of the Asterix books for last 20 years there are countless numbers of times when I was greatly amused and had laughs of different degrees caused by the humor, wit, word play, pun and spoof created by the Great Goscinny and Uderzo in those books.
Obviously I have read the English and Bengali version of the Asterix books and not the original French version. Hence some of the humor and word play are lost in translation and also some of the English word play should be credited to Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge who did a tremendous job of translating these books in English.
But one aspect where Ms. Bell and Mr. Hockridge could not have much impact is the visual spoof in Asterix stories. Time and time again various contemporary events and personalities have made their appearance in Asterix books through the drawing of Albert Uderzo.
Let me discuss some of those spoofs which occurred in various Asterix books. Some of them are quite clear but some of them very subtle and nicely wrapped in the story. For example, Goscinny and Uderzo showed their respect to their great competitor Harge when in ‘Asterix the Legionary’, the person from Belgium in Asterix’s ranks have a small tuft of hair a-la Tintin who hailed from Belgium (More details is in this awesome blog ). It was a subtle one. Another rather simpler tribute to Tintin stories were seen later, in ‘Asterix in Belgium’ where the great detectives Thomson and Thompson made a cameo to announce the arrival of Julius Caesar, the great Roman Emperor to be precise.
(To be precise...)
In 60’s, The Beatles was a rage in Great Britain as well as the entire globe with their brand of music. They had huge fan following specially among girls and there are many stories about the love and frenzy showed by their fans in wherever they go. When Asterix and Obelix made a visit to Britain in their 1966 book ‘Asterix in Britain’ obviously they found the hysteria around an all-male 4 member music group topping the chart.
(Notice the hair...)
During those days except The Beatles, another most famous British personality, although fictional, was the secret service agent James Bond (with code name 007), portrayed by Shaun Connery in 7 official Bond movies during 1960-70. Hence in the 1981 book ‘Asterix and the Black Gold’ the Roman spy was aptly named Dubbelosix who had an uncanny resemblance with a slightly older Shaun Connery.
(006 ... 007)
Let me take another example, this is from my most favourite Asterix adventure ‘Asterix and the Great Crossing’. The story is rather simple one, while trying to catch fresh fish from the sea, the super duo of Asterix and Obelix would meet with a great thunder and as a result end up being in the new continent of America. And after various events there including a marriage proposal for Obleix by the leader of red Indians they would try to run away from there. And while escaping they would get into another rather small island and then Asterix would do this:
(Not to forget this statue is a gift to the United States from the people of France)
It’s a simple one but with Oblix’s dialogue in the previous frame, this one is one of my all-time favourite spoofs in Asterix books.
Then I read ‘Asterix and the Great Divide’. It’s not a great story, obviously not a classic, it was also written by Uderzo only after the death of Goscinny. But one particular page of this book actually fascinated me a lot.
You can click on the above pic to expand it. The entire idea of Histrionix meeting Melodrama in her balcony reminds you of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and then Uderzo uses a parody of “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” spoken by Melodrama.
But that’s not it, in the same page, if you look at the last frame; this was clearly very much inspired by the movie posters and comics of Tarzan, especially with the knife hanging from the waist.
And then it struck me. It’s not only the spoof but also the huge range captured by these two geniuses through their books is what makes these books so memorable and lifelong treasure.
These are just a few instances; I know there are many more such spoofs spread around these 30-odd books and I do not count out the chance of a 2nd part of this in near future, especially after buying two more Asterix books this evening.