New ′Asterix′ comic features Julian Assange lookalike | Books | DW | 21.10.2015
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New 'Asterix' comic features Julian Assange lookalike

"Asterix and the Missing Scroll" is the 36th album of the successful comic series. Not many details about the new adventures were leaked - even though a famous whistleblower infiltrates the story.

Before the release of the album on October 22, the secrets surrounding the latest adventures of Asterix and Obelix are just as well kept as the newest versions of the iPhone or the next Star Wars film.

Still, a few details were leaked: The story will be set in Gaul, more specifically in that one small village the Romans exceptionally didn't manage to occupy.

The famous village of Asterix and his friend Obelix is renowned for its druid who mixes a magic potion that makes the villagers invincible, its fishmonger, who gets into fights with the blacksmith every time he complains about the stale fish, and its bard, whose singing is so unbearable it actually frightens some of the village's fiercest enemies.

Current issues set in the Roman Empire

The newest Asterix adventures include espionage, secrets and betrayal - with one of the new characters bearing the features of whistleblower Julian Assange.

Integrating current events in a historical setting is a trademark of Asterix comic books. Many important public figures were caricatured, adding different layers of humor to the stories. Asterix creators René Goscinny (who died in 1977) and Albert Uderzo made sure their books would be funny for both children and adults. And they were successful at it.

When Uderzo retired, he picked writer Jean-Yves Ferri and illustrator Didier Conrad to carry on the tradition under his watch. Their first album - the 35th in the Asterix series - was released in October 2013. "Asterix and the Picts" sold over five million times - a success in the entire world. Well, not quite.

Asterix conquers America?

Just like the Romans never quite occupied Gaul in its entirety, despite their huge international popularity, Asterix and Obelix never quite made it into one non-negligible market: the US.

Cartoonist Didier Conrad, who has lived in the US for over 20 years, suspects this has to do with the fact that you need to root for the underdogs to enjoy Asterix and Obelix - an attitude which is not typically American, he said in an interview with the German daily "Die Welt."

Nevertheless, "Asterix is a global phenomenon," the German translator Klaus Jöken told DW. Why are the adventures of the indomitable Gauls so appealing to people from different cultural backgrounds? "We know so little about the Gauls," Jöken says, "Yet everyone can relate to the fictive Gaulish village created by Goscinny and Uderzo."

Culture through caricature

Asterix comic books typically caricature different nations: The Belgians eat fries, the British drink hot water (before they discover tea), and the Swiss integrate strange rituals from sinking people in lakes to their cheese fondue parties. Criticizing the country's Nazi past, the Germans are portrayed as the stupid Goths marching in goose step.

Despite this portrayal, the books are very popular in Germany. Marco Mütz, who runs the largest German fan portal, "Comedix," says: "Asterix thrives in European culture, by the fact that these different people were always somehow in conflict. The series attacks these stereotypes."

Asterix creators Albert Uderzo, Anne Goscinny, Jean-Yves Ferri and Didier Conrad, Copyright: Vincent Isore/IP3

From left to right: Albert Uderzo, Anne Goscinny, Jean-Yves Ferri and Didier Conrad

Asterix is everywhere

Asterix is a national hero in France. The marketing surrounding the series has also contributed to his success. There are eight feature-length animated films and four live action films, starring famous actors such as Gérard Depardieu, Roberto Begnini, Catherine Deneuve and Alain Delon.

Merchandising also contributes to financial success of the publishers and the creators of the series. There is even a huge Asterix theme park near Paris.

The success story is bound to continue. The two new Asterix creators have already demonstrated that Uderzo and Goscinny's legacy was in good hands with the previous album. The world will get to see the results of their second effort on October 22, when the album officially hits bookstores worldwide - even in the US.

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