Asterix, the beloved Gaul, recently celebrated his 50th birthday. Appearing first in a French magazine in 1959, 33 Asterix comic books have been published as of 2008. The story line is that of a village of ancient Gauls in Brittany resisting Roman occupation. They have a magic potion to help with the resistance but they are also brave and industrious. France celebrated Asterix by naming its first satellite, launched in 1965, Asterix-1.
The cast of characters in these comics are a sight to behold. Asterix, warrior nonpareil especially when he has had a go at the magic potion. The huge Obelix, strong as an ox and Asterix's side-kick. The bard, Cacophonix, whose lack of singing talent is the bane of the whole village. I have a dog which bears an uncanny resemblance to Dogmatix, always scratching fleas off himself. The village chief is carried around on a shield. Many other colourful characters abound.
The Romans, with their empire, just can't seem to vanquish this little band of Gauls. Wave after wave of legionnaires are sent against Asterix and company, to no avail. To those of us who fancy David against Goliath, this is the ultimate turn-on.
The creators of this marvel, writer Rene Goscinny and illustrator Albert Uderzo, have provided a commentary on history and politics. Uderzo's parents had fled Mussolini's Italy so he had no qualms about making the Romans laughing stock of the Brittany country-side. His illustrations are superb and make Archie comics, or even the old Classic comics, look like rags. Goscinny died in 1977 but Uderzo has carried on as best he can. At 82, he has not stopped.
I am going to go now look for the latest Asterix comic. Au revoir et vive les Gauls!