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The Sphinx’s nose? Obelix did that.

Earlier this year I was transiting through Schipol Airport in Amsterdam. I wandered into a bookstore and found an entire carousel devoted to the adventures of Asterix the Gaul. There went my trip budget.

Asterix and Obelix occupy a small corner of Gaul in the time of Julius Caesar. Thanks to the magic potion of the resident druid, Getafix (the names are almost the best part), the duo triumphantly defends the borders of their village against Caesar’s legions, to the legions’ great dismay (“I hate those Gauls.”).

My personal favorite is Asterix and Cleopatra where they travel to Egypt to help Getafix’s buddy Edifis win an architectural contest between Caesar and Cleopatra. Oh, and the Sphinx’s nose? Obelix did that. And the Egyptian characters speak in hieroglyphics. Don’t worry, translation provided.

I also love Asterix in Spain, a sort of “Ransom of Red Chief” homage where Asterix and Obelix come to the assistance of a young Iberian man who says, proudly and repeatedly, “I am the son of Huevos y Bacon.” Who wouldn’t want to help him out?

But they’re all great, especially the first ones with Goscinny writing and Uderzo illustrating. In this graphic novel series there is great storytelling, superb drawing, awful puns, wonderful sound effects (yes, really), and sneakily, insidiously, while you’re laughing, you’re learning. Go get some.

9 thoughts on “The Sphinx’s nose? Obelix did that.

  1. Asterix is wonderful! – and it’s in something like 23 different languages – I used it as treats in both French and Latin classes – My family has worn out the entire set in English! The kids didn’t always get the political stuff – but it so funny!!!! There are a couple of films, too.

    PS – Have almost forgiven you for killing off Jack but Mutt and Kate better be OK!!!! Love your work!

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  2. Jean-Daniel Brèque says:

    A true masterpiece, at least the books written by René Goscinny. Albert Uderzo is a wonderful artist but a mediocre writer at best. Haven’t seen sampled the new team’s offering.
    Though born in France, Goscinny spent part of his childhood in Argentina and his formative years in New York, where he worked with the future Mad team–Harvey Kurtzman, John Severin, Will Elder and co. The first work of note he did with Uderzo is “Oumpah-Pah le Peau-Rouge”, a five-book run about an Indian warrior and his French nobleman friend in the 18th century. Don’t know if it was translated into English, but it’s recommended, too. (Of course, the first draft of this series was translated in English by Harvey Kurtzman, but didn’t sell in the States. Goscinny and Uderzo reworked the strip for French-speaking audiences.)

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  3. Anne Cressey says:

    Ahhhh, so happy to see you mention Asterix and Obelix here! These were some of my favorite books when I was growing up and have continued to be favorites as I had my own kids and introduced the books to them. Asterix and Cleopatra was my favorite, with Asterix the Legionary running a close second. In the latter, the scenes where Asterix and Getafix are prisoners of the Romans and play all sorts of tricks on them still make me laugh out loud. The humor is sort of like Bugs Bunny: There’s plenty of visual stuff to amuse kids, and also lots of humor that appeals to adults.

    Looking forward to February and the release of the first book of your new series! (Although I’m missing Kate and Mutt and Jim, I can understand your need to be away from them for awhile, and am hoping that the break will leave you kindly disposed towards them! 🙂 )

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