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Asterix vs President Moron
November 25, 2005 11:53 PM   Subscribe

Asterix gets political. After over four decades of defending his lone holdout village from Roman attack, French children's book icon Asterix is taking on America in the latest novel. The village is besieged by an alien army whose leader is named Hubs, (a thinly veiled anagram of the U.S. President). The aliens invade seeking non-existent weapons of mass destruction.
posted by jonson (35 comments total)

 
As a kid I used to *love* "Asterix et Obelix", but recently, in fact just yesterday, I tried reading one where they give the Romans a potion that ends up growing their hair instead of making them strong, and it was really not that fun to read anymore. I guess I grew up, or maybe my tastes have gone for a six.
posted by riffola at 12:03 AM on November 26, 2005


The year is 50 B.C. Gaul is entirely occupied by the Romans. Well not entirely!
One small village of indomitable Gauls still holds out against the invaders.

Asterix: american domination of popular culture of the world is still not complete.
posted by jouke at 12:09 AM on November 26, 2005


Asterix did, in fact, end in 1979. Everything since has been complete garbage, no matter the subject matter. The series is now like Simon and Garfunkel, minus the Simon.
posted by loquax at 12:18 AM on November 26, 2005


Asterix: american domination of popular culture of the world is still not complete

That was an interesting link, jouke.

It appears that the USA is the only country in the world in which the town of Laudanum gets renamed (in this instance to to Nohappymedium.)

A backhanded comment by the US translators on how the tentacles of the War on Drugs now reach everywhere -- including into the translation of French satirical children's cartoon books?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:28 AM on November 26, 2005


The reference to the villages was removed from the dutch version apparently as untranslatable: it's impossible to make a punning quasi latin word in germanic languages.
In German the villagenames where untranslated so the gag got lost.
At least the US got new punning villagenames since english is quasi-latin anyway.
I like the village Opprobrium by the way.
Maybe you're right Peter: apparently a reference to alcohol-induced high is more acceptable than the name of an opium tincture that fell out of use since approx. 80 years.
posted by jouke at 12:49 AM on November 26, 2005


WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

I've read the book (in English translation) and the anti-US theme is something of an exaggeration.

The Gaulish village we know so well is actually besieged by two sets of aliens. One race seems to be based on American comics: their name is an anagram of "Walt Disney", they look like Disney characters, eat foul-tasting hot dogs, and have an army of superclones who look like Superman (though there are also Bat and Spider clones apparently). Their leader's name is Hubs, but he never appears in the comic so you don't get to see whether he's a moron or otherwise.

The other group seems to be based on Japanese comics: their name is an anagram of "manga" and they're drawn in a vaguely manga style.

However, it's the American Tadsilwenyans who act as the good guys, and help defend the village against the malicious Nagmas.

The secret weapon is of course the magic potion, which does actually exist (in the comic). There is a tribute to Walt Disney at the end of the book:

"In this book I would like to pay tribute to the great creations of Tadsilweny... sorry, I meant the great creations of Walt Disney who, famous and amazing druid that he was, allowed some of his colleagues, myself included, to fall into the cauldron of a potion to which he alone knew the magical secret."

If anything, it seems a fairly pro-American comic, which you might expect from someone of Uderzo's generation.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 1:04 AM on November 26, 2005


Ah, that's a relief, TheophileEscargot. (appropriate username!)
posted by kosher_jenny at 1:09 AM on November 26, 2005


Asterix used to be a two-man-show: René Goscinny wrote and Albert Uderzo drawed. Sadly, Goscinny passed away in 1977, and the last Goscinny-written Asterix was "Asterix in Belgium" which appeared posthumously in 1979. Since then Uderzo took over the writing, which, unfortunately, is a gift he most definitely lacks. All Asterix books since 1979 have been, indeed, crap, and it has gone worse as Uderzo has aged. But he keeps churning them out, as he needs to provide for a notoriously expensive lifestyle (the man likes his Ferraris).

The original Asterix, BTW, was drenched in irony. It was a piss-take on old French school history manuals, which started with the phrase "Nos ancêtres les Gaulois..." ("Our ancestors the Gauls..."). Goscinny being the son of Polish Jews, and Uderzo of Italian descent, they both had a definite lack of Gaulish ancestors...
posted by Skeptic at 1:33 AM on November 26, 2005


These neocons are crazy. *Tap* *tap* *tap* *tap*.

Score:5, Insightful
posted by nthdegx at 1:33 AM on November 26, 2005


Hubs is not a thinly veiled anagram of Bush, it actually is an anagram. Me clever.
posted by Joeforking at 3:36 AM on November 26, 2005


Asterix has truly been crap since the death of Goscinny. But I still wouldn't describe Asterix as a "children's book icon" - most of the jokes in the older albums were intended for more mature audiences.
posted by hoskala at 3:48 AM on November 26, 2005


I liked the book's title.
posted by brautigan at 3:54 AM on November 26, 2005


Wait, wasn't there already another Asterix & Obelix adventure involving America?
posted by funambulist at 4:58 AM on November 26, 2005


There was! La Grande Traversée, published in English as Astérix and the Great Crossing. It's a good, funny one, but he only Americans in the book are a tribe of Native Americans, which are given the usual cartoon-Red-Indian treatment. Tintin did slightly better in that area, I think.

And what Skeptic and hoskala said: Asterix after the death of Goscinny suxbigdix.
posted by Pallas Athena at 7:03 AM on November 26, 2005


Invasion literature.
posted by stbalbach at 8:44 AM on November 26, 2005


Maybe you're right Peter

Perhaps not though.

Is the village dope dealer still called Getafix in the American translations?
posted by PeterMcDermott at 8:53 AM on November 26, 2005


Reading the Spoilers I'd have to say that Asterix books have gone down hill a bit.
posted by Artw at 9:23 AM on November 26, 2005


Yes, the American version still calls them Getafix and Dogmatix.

I still have a beat up VHS of Asterix the Gaul, Asterix in Britain, and The 12 Tasks of Asterix. My favorite of the three is Asterix in Britain.

My collection of English translations (no idea if British or American) are in my uncle's storeroom in the Philippines, where humidity and heat have probably turned them into a sparkling mold culture about to discover the wheel.
posted by linux at 9:44 AM on November 26, 2005


After folowing jouke's link, I see I had the UK versions.
posted by linux at 9:48 AM on November 26, 2005


#include <std_disclaimer_abt_link_to_self.h>

The Asterix Annotations are also a good resource for getting the hidden and not so hidden humour of the books.
posted by thaths at 10:02 AM on November 26, 2005


Me, I'm waiting for Tintin In Iraq.


posted by fandango_matt at 10:18 AM on November 26, 2005


Heh. The Arab is saying Ya ibn kalb! 'You son of a dog,' which is a deadly insult in Arabic... except that here it's addressed to a dog.
posted by languagehat at 12:21 PM on November 26, 2005


That's funny. I always loved Tinitin.
posted by nthdegx at 12:37 PM on November 26, 2005


Vercingetorix wept.
posted by homunculus at 1:05 PM on November 26, 2005


Having read Astérix in the original French (useful if you're trying to learn the language), let me say that it definitely loses something in the translation.
posted by mcwetboy at 1:09 PM on November 26, 2005


I actually kept thinking about Asterix during the execution of Vercingetorix on Rome a couple of weeks ago.
posted by homunculus at 1:10 PM on November 26, 2005


The village is besieged by an alien army whose leader is named Hubs

At least Obelix won't become a suicide bomber. But I can see him kicking some alien ass by swinging around a few wild boars.

I grew up with Tintin and Asterix. A few years ago I raided the children's section of my local library and checked out their entire collection of Tintin and Asterix books. It was nice revisiting my childhood.
posted by Devils Slide at 1:21 PM on November 26, 2005


Anyone else have parents who bought them the Latin translations?
That really pissed me off.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 1:38 PM on November 26, 2005


homunculus - so did I.
posted by jonson at 3:10 PM on November 26, 2005


Heh. The Arab is saying Ya ibn kalb! 'You son of a dog,' which is a deadly insult in Arabic... except that here it's addressed to a dog.

The insult isn't addressed at Milou, languagehat--it's addressed toward the government, which is pamphlet-bombing the Arab's little desert village with propaganda. The scene takes place in "The Land of Black Gold", if you'd like to read it.
posted by interrobang at 7:39 PM on November 26, 2005


Damn it.
posted by nthdegx at 12:12 AM on November 27, 2005


Asterix in Corsica is, to me, the best ever.
posted by NewBornHippy at 12:34 AM on November 27, 2005


posted by interrobang The insult isn't addressed at Milou [Tintin's dog, called "Milou" in French books, "Snowy" in English books"], languagehat--it's addressed toward the government, which is pamphlet-bombing the Arab's little desert village with propaganda. The scene takes place in "The Land of Black Gold", if you'd like to read it.

Here's the page from which I linked that picture--it's a study of updates and changes Tintin has undergone over the years, some of which are, uh, not quite politically correct.
posted by fandango_matt at 1:54 AM on November 27, 2005


It's been a while, but I can still recall them giving a slave some magic potion and, as he broke free, Asterix and Obelix falling over themselves laughing over the line "He's got a free hand now".

It wasn't until I was much older that I realised what the hell they were talking about. Manumission. A pun so terrible I can only barely conceive it.
posted by Sparx at 1:13 PM on November 27, 2005


The insult isn't addressed at Milou, languagehat--it's addressed toward the government

Rats. I think it's funnier my way. Ah well, the perils of trying to interpret a comic from one panel...
posted by languagehat at 8:51 AM on November 28, 2005


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