A woman with the potential to make it big. It is not that she cannot: she simply will not.
The closest anyone has come to being an adopted daughter.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Tribute to Uderzo – Part 3

I have tried to demonstrate examples of Uderzo’s brilliance in Parts 1 and 2. I will now resume, from Obelix and Co., in what I expect to be the last installment of the series.
Obelix and Co. boasts of satire of the highest order, though that has more to do with the theme than the art. Not sure what Laurel and Hardy were doing here, though.
Tablets, paper, PPT, you, me, Julius Caesar – presentations are the same. They have always been. The glassy-eyed look is too familiar.

Caius Preposterus is Jacques Chirac, by the way. At that point Chirac was Prime Minister. He later became President of France (the state head).
Menhir merchandise. Enough said.
Obelix was named after obelisks, so an obelisk-shaped menhir is payback of sorts.
This one is quite famous.
Manneken Pis, Brussels. Google him/it.
This unusual posture always intrigued me. I assumed this was a famous runner, but I kept hitting dead ends. That was because he is Eddy Merckx, a legendary Belgian cyclist – a sport I have never followed. The posture should have been a giveaway, though.
This is Ernest Meissonier’s Napoleon in the Campaign of France.

Peasant Wedding Feast by Pieter Bruegel the Elder.
Goscinny passed away after writing Belgium, though before Uderzo finished the drawings. Uderzo changed the weather in the comic at this point, and we see only rain and/or gloomy sky thereafter. I think (but am not sure) that this is the specific point.
This tribute in the last panel makes me as sad as the rabbit.


Uderzo took over as writer at this stage. While the characters and mood remained the same, he stepped outside Goscinny’s world to add supernatural aspects.

Till now we had only seen Getafix’s potions and inventions (the acorn from Mansions of the Gods, for example), but Uderzo gave us creatures: flies, dragons, aliens, and everything in Atlantis.

Some of Uderzo’s puns make you groan, so I suppose they fit the bill. However, tempted as I am to reproduce the text jokes and references, once again shall I restrict myself to the visuals.
Romeo and Juliet is obviously a source of inspiration in Great Divide. This is my favourite panel.
One of my most favourite concepts in the entire series. Cleverdix and Majestix, the two rival chieftains at loggerheads with each other, wore trousers with horizontal and vertical stripes respectively. Once they made up, they started wearing chequered trousers to mark the truce.
The Israel government had requested Goscinny and Uderzo many times to visit the country and base an Asterix adventure there, but Goscinny’s Jewish origin made him uncomfortable.

Uderzo finally sent Asterix to Israel, in Black Gold (“it is the one adventure that was easier for me to write than for him”). He also paid a double tribute to Goscinny. Not only did he dedicate the book to his friend and colleague, he also conjured a significant character – Saul Ben Ephishul – based on him.

By the way, Magic Carpet features a character called Iznogoud, a tribute to an earlier strip by Goscinny (with Jean Tabary, not Uderzo).
Dubbleosix. Sean Connery. Get it? Get it? Get it?
Forget what he says, the sheer look on Obelix’s face is worth the price of the comic.
This refers to (I think) the 1978 Amoco Cadiz oil spill, five kilometres from the coast of Brittany (remember, that is where our Gaulish village is supposed to be).

The book came out in 1981, and there were three major spills between 1978 and 1979, but the other two were in Mexico and Trinidad. The scene was even more relevant to people like us who read it in the early 1990s.
This panel, from Son, still gives me goosebumps. A calm, confident Impedimenta taking charge as the village is being reduced to ashes in the background.
One of the best jokes of the series, from Magic Carpet – not because of the art but the concept. I know everyone has got this one, but I shall still explain it.

Ancient Rome did not know the use of zero, so how is Asterix aware of it?  Because this was in India!
Whether Secret Weapon worked as a take on feminism is debatable, but this frame has stood the test of time.
This is the controversial scene for Uderzo copped some flak. A Montreal journalist alerted that the punch might lead to an increase in domestic violence. The journalist’s daughter, on the other hand, thought that she had been overreacting.

In the story, Asterix pleaded guilty and was sentenced to temporary exile to the forest (there was no prison in the village).
Kirk Douglas features in All at Sea, in case anyone has not figured it out.
The expressions, on all seven, are priceless. Asterix and Getafix sink into despair as Obelix turns into granite, but look at the other four – and I am not even getting into the puns!
Our favourite household is back to two bachelors, then.
Uderzo responds to a few readers’ complaints in Asterix As You Have Never Seen Before, one of several pieces in Class Act. The styles imitate other comic strips, but I am too lazy to reproduce all of them. I have the energy for just one: Peanuts.
This is why there were speculations that Falling Sky might be the last of the series.
Given that Toon is based on Mickey Mouse, Tadsilweny is too obvious an anagram (Uderzo even explains it in the end). He also uses Hubs for Bush, Nagma and Gmana for Manga, etc.)
Superclone is an Arnold Schwarzenegger doppelganger Superman.

It is the year 1 AD (The Golden Book). Uderzo decides to show up and reveal his identity to a grumpy, ageing Obelix. The response is not quite peaceful.

Uderzo signed off with The Golden Book, so I shall not deal with subsequent Asterix books. Twelve Tasks was illustrated by Marcel, a brother of Albert Uderzo. Marcel had collaborated with Albert for some of the earlier Asterix books.


Tribute to Uderzo – Part 2

I have already discussed some examples of Uderzos brilliance in Part 1. I had covered till Asterix and the Normans. I shall now begin with Asterix the Legionary. 
The Roman alphabet does not have a U.
PS: Legionary is among my favourites. Underrated, if you ask me.
Asterix fans usually fall in love with Ptenisnet right from the moment he announces his name. His hieroglyphics and expressions have both contributed towards his cult following.
With people of so many nationalities, translation jokes are rampant in Legionary. Uderzo has a blast depicting the expressions.
I think Uderzo loved illustrating translations.
One of my favourite panels. The hair of the Belgian (third from left) is a homage to the most famous Belgian in the world of comics. For some reason this is not as well-known as Thomson and Thompson in Belgium.
I do not know what I would have done without the internet. This is a parody of The Raft of the Medusa (Google it) by Jean-Louis Andre Theodore Gericault. In fact, I failed to get it despite Uderzo leaving a hint on Gericault’s surname (Jericho) in this panel.
Moving on to Olympic Games now, which came out the same year as the Tokyo Olympics (yes, yes, I know). The font is apt, but we have seen that before in Legionary.
One of my favourites. Uderzo has drawn Goscinny and himself (the carved figures, not the humans below them), written the names, and made them call each other despotes and tyrannos. You can guess the English translations.

Not for the first time does a non-human speak a local human language.
Your friendly neighbourhood income tax officer, from Cauldron.

Pepe! Despite the aurochs in the climax, despite the inverted ?s and !s, Pepe and his expressions (and colours) played the most important role in making Spain what it is.

Even if one ignores the green speech bubbles of Roman Agent, this scene definitely deserves a mention.


A word on Switzerland now, the first Asterix comic I read. Goscinny and Uderzo managed to depict Roman orgies very subtly. It took me years to figure that out. Also to be noted is the supreme disdain shown by the Swiss, hired as cleaners, towards orgies. The fondues look delicious, though.
Here is one for the trivia buffs: what, indeed, is the black stain that is mentioned in this panel but is never discussed again?

Uderzo was initially vague on this when confronted by Kessler: “No, it’s a stain, a deliberate stain…”

Kessler, however, theorised that Uderzo probably drew it around previously spilled ink. When he kept pressing, Uderzo responded with “well, if you prefer that version you can put it in the book”.
Lovely little homage. You are changing wheels, after all.
Yet another one the internet told me about. This is a Romanised version of the UN Headquarters, Geneva (the other Headquarters are in New York City).
Roman chemists need to make a comeback for the sheer variety of their inventory.
This brochure offset the page count in Mansions of the Gods, so they could not accommodate that “A Few of the Gauls” page.
Page 16. Check the male slave in panels 1, 3, and 5. These are reproductions of The Thinker (by Auguste Rodin), The Laocoon (by Polydoros and Athanadoros), and The Discus Thrower (by Myron). Another outcome of spending countless hours researching Asterix on the internet.

Asterix buffs will tell you about Page 14, Panel 3 of Laurel Wreath – the first instance of topless women featuring in an Asterix comics (I will not be providing that here). This is hardly surprising. Laurel Wreath deals with adult themes (slavery, for example). Definitely not a children’s book.

I am getting repetitive, but had there been no internet, I would not have been able to appreciate the greatness of Uderzo. This scene from Soothsayer is Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicholaes Tulip.
The contents of an entire page within parentheses. Enough said.
You can almost hear this frosty conversation from Caesar’s Gift.
Goscinny sets this up with Three Hamlet quotes and a pun. Uderzo draws the Z. The Mask of Zorro (the movie) was obviously not yet made, but Johnston McCulley’s character and his Z were quite famous.
The love story that deserves more recognition. The bird was confused when the helmet had dropped nearby the first time. Now it is in love.
A personal favourite for no reason. A “comfort panel”, I suppose.
Probably the most Uderzo thing ever. We have seen this some panels in Britain and Switzerland (all-black panels with only speech bubbles), but to dedicate an entire page – that too the opening page – is something else.
They cross the Atlantic in Great Crossing, so there are more American jokes here than anywhere else. Unfortunately, Asterix never took off in the USA the way it did in Europe. The fact that Roman history does not form part of the curriculum might have had to do with that.

Remember that the Vikings reached America centuries before Columbus, a fact unearthed as late as in 1960, so they have got it right.
One of many American panels: the aftereffect of being thrashed by Obelix.
Not only stars, they also see the US Air Force insignia.
I like this one for no specific reason.
I am not explaining this.
Some pages belong to Goscinny. This one is entirely Uderzo’s.

To be continued...