Asterix and the Actress (2001)
Asterix et Latraviata
The Birthday Boys play Happy Families...
Presenting a pretentious thematic undercurrent...
The pitfalls of bachelorhood laid bare.
- Astronomix: Asterix's father
- Obeliscoidix: Obelix's father
- Sarsaparilla: Asterix's mother
- Vanilla: Obelix's mother
- Soporifix: Panacea's father
- Fastandfurious: Latraviata's Escort
- Gymnasticapparatus: Centurion
- Coughlinctus: Decurion
Continuity; lack-thereof and other gaffes...
- Asterix and Obelix apparently born on the same day. Either (unlikely) Asterix was very self effacing in Obelix and Co. to the extent that he passed over his own birthday celebrations in order to give the full festive focus to the fat guy, or else (unlikely) Asterix habitually forgets his birthday - as happens here - but did remember Obelix's in the earlier book, or else (likely) this is a straightforward continuity gaffe (p2).
- (Thanks to 'George' who e-mailed this response the above statement:
I agree that
the idea of a shared birthday doesn't fit in with what we know about the
two from the main books, but I recently purchased a book by the name of
'Asterix - La Ricetta Della Pozione Magica. Omaggio a Uderzo e Goscinny"
(a 100 page glossy catalogue that seemingly accompanied an exhibition in
Milan last year), which reprints, in French, a short four page tale that
backs this up.
The strip is signed Uderzo 94 and is titled "en 35 avant J.C* *Jules
Cesar" and concerns itself with the day of their birth, featuring both
sets of parents plus junior versions of most of the other villagers
(save Geriatrix who is as old as ever...)
I've no idea where this story first appeared, though I'd guess from the
timeline at the back that it was part of a special 35th anniversary
magazine released by Editions Albert-Rene in 1994.
Anyway, just to say that the story's premise isn't totally unfounded!)
- The mothers of Asterix and Obelix are introduced and in fine comic-strip tradition they exhibit the same girth and facial features as their offspring. Obelix's mother also seems to be the source of his taste in blue-striped leg-wear.
- The fathers of Asterix and Obelix are introduced and in fine comic-strip tradition they exhibit the same girth and facial features as their offspring. Obelix's father seems decidely more quick-witted than his son (p4).
- Asterix and Obelix Seniors live in Rennes where they spend their autumn years alternately selling souvenirs and going out on the booze (pp 4-6).
- Tremensdelerius returns from from Asterix and Caesar's Gift (p7).
- Tremensdelerius favourite joke is the hiccup 'hic haec hoc' joke from Asterix and the Chieftain's Shield. He repeats this countless times (by which I mean I can't be bothered to count them). The irritated-diaphragm-hilarity begins on page 5.
- Pompey returns from Asterix the Legionary. Which he isn't in. Though his African campaign is. Though that hasn't happened yet. Because he's sent there at the end of this book. Which takes place after Asterix the Legionary. Because Panacea and Tragicomix are already married. Oh yeah, and if the books are sequential then Pompey's dead by now in any case. Confused? You will be... (p9 etc).
- Panacea and Tragicomix back from Asterix the Legionary and (in the case of the voluptuous Obelix-baiter) Asterix and Obelix All at Sea. (p. 30 on).
- A&O fight with their ample noses pressed together as is their wont (p18).
- Soporifix's name has been mentioned before but this is first appearance. His eyes suggest that the name is no misnomer (p21).
- The latest in a sequence of feeble 'hitherto undiscovered potion side-effect' jokes sees Asterix exhibiting behavoiur that would give Zebedee a bounce for his money (p22 on).
- Life has become a bitch for Dogmatix (p22).
- Asterix in Britain's 'Shake me by the hand' joke makes a guest appearance (pp23 and 28).
- Pirates remain unscuppered (p25).
- Dolphin ex Machina (p27).
- Potted history of Pompey in a speech bubble exhibits basic storywriting flaw of letting superflous research show through the storyline. With the possible exception of George McDonald Fraser's Flashman books, where the research is restricted to copious scholarly endnotes, historical adventures are not meant to be bloody history lessons (p38).
- 'Politeness as euphemism for bashing Roman faces in' joke pays a flying visit from the Asterix the Legionary storyline (pp 39-41).
Cleverness and contemporaneity...
- Cacofonix can't even join in the 'Happy Birthday' chorus (p2).
- The mothers have travelled in a HGV - a Heavy Gaulish Vehicle (p3).
- Lovely picture of ancient Rennes (p4).
- Astronimix and Obeliscoidix likened to characters from that Antique absurdist masterpiece 'Waiting for Godotrix' (p7).
- Could be my warped mind, this one, but the parade of unattractive woman that Sarsparilla invites round as possible brides for Asterix seem to include caricatures of Goscinny, Uderzo and possibly the 'Chubby Cheeked Bloke' of earlier stories (p8).
- Cacofonix seems a moderately effective musician when he is passed the baton. I presume these are all historically authentic instruments (p12).
- An ironic joke that crops up in several books: Obelix is a veritable Fred Astaire on the dance floor (p12).
- A Getafix aside expounds the perennial theme of 'big-city = bad'/'country life = good' (p21).
- Possible reference to Monty Pythons Life of Brian: 'Romans go Home' is graffitied on a pillar (p29).
- 'La Donna e Mobile' is, like the book's French title, an allusion to Verdi. It's a song of the philandering Duke in Rigoletto and translates as 'women are fickle'.
- Bell and Hockeridge have done well in translating the 'Golden Caesar' joke of the original French (one suspects that Uderzo built the entire storyline around this one joke). In English Julius describes the award as the 'Golden ME' - i.e. the American Emmy television awards (p42).
- Cacofonix is put in a clearance sale with other cast-outs (p44).
- Dogmatix has been busy (p44).
Those motherly humiliations in full...
- Obelix's pet name name is Obelixikins (p3 on).
- Both Asterix and Obelix encouraged to sow their wild oats (p5 etc.).
- Asterix is made to clean out his hut (p 5).
- Obelix is made to eat a balanced diet (p5).
- Asterix has his hair washed (p8).
- Obelix is made to hang out washing (p14).
- Asterix is berated for drinking (p20)
- The presumably thirty-something Asterix is undressed and bathed by his mother (p21).
Not much. A couple of stereotype Egyptians customising the souvenir shop, and that's it.
Obelix has a tender side...
- Given a birthday kiss my Mrs. Geriatrix. Geriatrix expresses his anger over the course of two frames. He is perhaps aware that his missus and Obelix have 'a history' (see Obelix and the Soothsayer). (p2.)
- 'Obelix infatuated with Panacea' storyline - albeit with a fake Panacea - repeated pretty much verbatim from Asterix the Legionary. This extends to Dogmatix's jealousy pangs (p15 etc).
- Upset that for the first time ever he has intentionally punched Asterix (p19).
- Even more upset that (the fake) Panacea has dumped him (p19).
- Defends (the fake) Panacea's honour to the extent that he will intentionally deck Asterix a second time if need be (p25).
Ceterarum rerum prurens. If anyone would let me know if that's a quotation, I'd be grateful.
Good or what?
Well it's better than Asterix and Obelix all at Sea.
That, however, could be the very definition of 'not saying much'. It's beautifully drawn - in fact all the comedy is there in the pictures, by which I mean the subtle touches - not horrendous jokes like the 'Asterix bounces, shouts Yippee and is rescued by a Dolphin' sequence.
The narrative suggests that Uderzo's source of ideas has run dry as a mummy's tit. There's no story to speak of - just some inconsequential silliness about a golden sword and helmet - and certainly no satirical clout. Instead it contains forced narrative devices - eg A&O suddenly sharing a birthday - and moreover it is heaving with continuity references. The already large list I have drawn up above is only from two readings of the book. Given time I could probably double that. At best this becomes tedious as one checks off references from a mental list; at worst it leads to glaring gaffes such as the historical inaccuracies concerning Pompey.
I still want to see new Asterix books because I like the artwork, I like the characters and I like the atmosphere. Uderzo, however, is neither storywriter nor wordsmith. I therefore have a question to pose to anyone reading this. This is quite possibly a heresy. Should Uderzo - even in his advanced years - create any future Asterix books in collaboration with someone who knows how to write? Should he find himself a new partner?