Book Reviews, The Briefest Reviews
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The Briefest Book Review (11)

In Memoriam: Albert Uderzo (1927-2020)

These are grave times that affect us globally. Despite everything that is going on, I would like to take this brief moment to pay tribute to Albert Uderzo, who died earlier this week. This is my respectful nod to the creator of the beloved comic books of my youth. The odd facts of life and history, even the anachronisms I learned from them, well… they stay with you for the rest of your life.

Asterix is about the little guy with golden hair and winged helmet and his red-haired friend Obelix. One needs a magic potion for incredible strength before each fight, the other fell in a cauldron of that magic potion as a baby. They use their strength to fight off the Romans who continuously threaten their tiny village in Gaul.

Uderzo was responsible for the drawings and René Goscinny for the stories. After Goscinny died in 1977, Uderzo decided to continue the series on his own. In an interview with a Dutch newspaper in 2000, he explained their approach to history and those anachronisms:

“In Asterix, it is all about humour, not reality. That does not mean we do not do our research. Goscinny used two books on daily life in Rome and Gaul by the Corsican historian Jérôme Carcopino. Very helpful to me is the History of Gaul by the nineteenth-century Camille Jullian. Of course, we know our Caesar – who was instilled in us in secondary school. To properly learn how to draw Roman buildings, I travelled to Rome to study reconstructions and maquettes. But I did cut corners: my Rome is that of the second age after Christ because it did not have that much appeal in Caesar’s days.”

NRC newspaper, translation mine

Asterix and the Normans

(Source: The Viking Age Archive).

René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo, Asterix en de Noormannen. (Amsterdam: De Geïllustreerde Pers, 1971). Soft cover. Dutch language.

It is only appropriate here to review Asterix and the Normans. Wait. What? Normans? What did you mean anachronisms? Let me explain…

Like all volumes, this one starts with Romans and Gauls in 50 BC. It includes the Northmen, you know, the ones who roamed Francia from the ninth century onwards. Not the Normans who invaded England in 1066.

In Asterix, the Normans are Vikings with all their stereotypical features. Blond hair. Blue eyes. Very tall. And not afraid of ANYTHING. They have come to Gaul to find someone to teach them about fear. At the same time, the chieftain’s nephew arrives in the village. He is the epitome of a hipster, and full of fearful behaviour. The story then unfolds in the typical Asterix-style. I won’t give you all the spoilers and will only say there’s a lot of hilarious fighting (everyone against everyone) until the Normans finally learn what fear is from a very unexpected angle.

If you decide to read the book, don’t forget to keep a close eye on the antics of Dogmatix who cries when Obelix pulls a tree from the ground. Apparently, this is the first Asterix volume in which this occurs.

What I also love about Uderzo’s drawings is the way I would be able to recognize among many other comic book series. It is in the use of his colours, the charicatures of faces, and the use of perspectives is simply brilliant. Look out for that scene where Justforkix wakes up to see the Normans towering over him!

Verdict: Fun. Wonderful. Must read (not just this one, all of them).

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