By Toutatis, they are back!
The reprints of the first Asterix comics have hit city stores much to the delight of the fans of the indomitable Gauls as MINI ANTHIKAD-CHHIBBER finds out
THERE IS a ripple of excitement in the little Gaulish village we know so well. It is not the sky that is threatening to fall on our heroes' heads. Nor has Unhygenix got fresh fish or Cacophonix composed a new song. The ripple is being caused by the welcome appearance of the reprints of the earlier comics.
"From a couple of months ago, starting from the first Asterix, Asterix the Gaul, we have been getting the reprints at the rate of two every month," says Arif Arastu of A.A. Husain & Co. "Now we have editions from one to 12 and 25 to 31. Despite the rather steep price Rs. 335 (ouch!!), they are literally flying off the shelves. We knew that the books were being reprinted and everyday we would have enquiries about when the books would be coming out."
All time favourites
Arif comments that while the books are popular with every demographic, it is "the NRIs who buy the complete set." "The humour is more European and the Indian editions are better priced," Purnima, a graphic designer from Cambridge, Boston, said as she browsed the spanking new Asterix stand at Walden.
"I am here for vacation and am actually looking for something for my sons. They are huge fans of Asterix. My younger son, Kunal, was four-and-a-half years old when he read his first Asterix book. My elder boy, Karan (12 ˝) is learning Latin now and has a great deal of fun with the books as a lot of the jokes are derived from there." Purnima enjoys the books for their "phenomenal sense of humour."
V Ram Prasad, Chief Executive, Walden, commenting on the popularity of the comics among NRIs said, "America is closed to a lot of cultures. So while Calvin and Hobbes are very popular, you find Asterix is not very well known there."
Priya Rao, a linguistics scholar in Minneapolis, says, "I have asked a friend to buy Asterix comics as they are not readily available in the States and are frightfully expensive on Amazon.com.
When we have fellow Indians visiting, we have a great time swapping Asterix jokes. I love the comics for the linguistic puns on the names - who can forget Ptenisnet and Squareonthehypotinuse in hieroglyphics? And when you realise that these are translations, you are struck by the genius of the whole endeavour." Each person has his or her favourite Asterix character. Delilah adores Obelix's little dog Dogmatix because "his thoughts are so much in tune with our own," as does Chitambar Sana who finds "the way Dogmatix bites the Romans hilarious." Kailash Thakur working with an MNC likes Obelix because he is "fat and funny," and Kalpana Reddy, a freelance photographer roots for "Cacophonix the bard and Chief Vitalstatistix."
"I like Cacophonix because he is emblematic of all artistes. It is sad but true that artistes are trying to be heard and are always dismissed. I like Chief Vitalstatistix for his name and the way they have created this huge character because he is the chief of the village."
Love over gold
Though Asif says the price is "rather exorbitant," Kalpana insists, "No amount of money is too much for an Asterix comic." For the purist, the comics written and illustrated by Uderzo after Goscinny's death do not quite match up to earlier books. "The newer ones are not as subtle," Kalpana comments. Delilah did not find "Asterix and Son so funny. I guess together Goscinny and Uderzo were unbeatable - it is a magic that Uderzo cannot recreate alone." While Hyderabad is known for its wealth of second-hand books, Asterix is not something you could pick up in the second hand market as Ahmed Ali from Best Book Centre in Lakdi-ka-pool would confirm, "The few books we have are picked up faster than you can blink an eye. We sell them for Rs. 150, which is still a better deal than Rs. 300!"
Whether you are a collector, with just that one title missing or you are just starting out, the news of the first albums in "new, brighter colours," - the work of the Druid Quadrichromix according to the web site - will surely gladden your hearts, eyes and minds. Ave!
How it all began
RENE GOSCINNY was born in Paris in 1926. His family moved to Argentina soon after. Goscinny studied fine arts and worked for a time in an advertising agency. He also worked with the publishers of MAD magazine in the US. In 1951, he returned to Paris where he met Albert Uderzo.
Albert Uderzo receives a hug from Asterix and Obelix
In the official Asterix site, Uderzo describes the birth of Asterix in characteristic style, "Francois Clauteaux's project for starting the magazine Pilote was the trigger for the Asterix idea. With the task of creating a series for the French public (meaning a series unlike the American ones that were invading the French illustrated periodicals market at the time), René and I had to find the magical idea. On a hot afternoon in summer of 1959 - it must have been August - during the cocktail hour over a glass of Pastis, René asked me to recite the history of humanity, from the very beginning. Like a good schoolboy, I began with prehistoric man, but Neanderthal and company didn't inspire René. Then I moved on to cite the Gauls, Vercingetorix... "It's a deal," said René. And he began to invent an exhaustive dictionary of our communal culture and I started to envisage the battles, a Druid and his magic potion. So with this and that and by Toutatis, Asterix and his friends were born in a matter of minutes on a balcony in the suburbs of Paris!"
On October 29, 1959, Asterix the Gaul debuted in the first issue of Pilote and was a smash hit. By 1968, Uderzo decided to devote himself completely to the indomitable Gauls. Tragedy struck on November 5, 1977 when Goscinny died during a stress test - Uderzo was devastated. Asterix in Belgium was up to Plate 37. From 1979, Uderzo took over the job of bringing out the comic books alone and now as Asterix gets ready to celebrate his 45th birthday, there are 31 adventures, translated into 107 languages including Hindi and Bengali, eight films (the live action feature has Gerard Depardieu as Obelix) and a leisure park. By Belanos there is no sign of the sky falling on the little Gaulish village we know so well!
Pay an online visit
FOR THE devotee as well as the new recruit, the official Asterix site is a must visit. With an option to translate the page, (it is alright if you do not know French!) the site is a wonderful evocation of the spirit of the comic. The newsletter, called Missives, has Doubleclix (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) as the editor and apart from the latest happenings in everyone's favourite Gaulish village, has creator Albert Uderzo answer fans' questions like which of the characters does he (Uderzo) resemble and the genealogy of the unfortunate pirates.
The virtual village is a delightful exploratory trip. All the characters' huts are there and when you click on them, you get stuff like the authors' bios, a shopping arcade for Mrs Geriatrix, Obelix has Encycloblelix with character sketches, Druid Getafix has a museum, Druid review and interviews while Justforkix has details of the Asterix movies, cartoons and e-cards and finally there is Dogmatix described as the "first ecologist dog" where you could get gardening tips for children as well as pictures and sketches.
This visually arresting site is an answer to every Oliver Twist who would like to have a little more of Cacophonix and company.
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