In a country where the comic-book genre is taken as an art-form, the release of the first new Asterix adventure in eight years will be one of the literary events of the year
Since the sky fell on their head back in 2005, no other new Asterix adventure has been published, apart from a special short by the original artist Uderzo where he imagined the 50th birthdays of the beloved Gaulish warriors. Nobody is really sure why it is only the Adventures of Asterix the Gaul that have achieved huge international success out of all the cartoons that continually come out of the country through their rich tradition of comic art.
In Ireland, the adventures of Asterix are seen as more of a child’s thing, whereas in France, people in their late teens and into adulthood have proud collections of bandes dessinées adventures on their bedroom bookshelves.
The series started in the late 1950s. The original team of friends René Goscinny (writing) and Albert Uderzo (illustrating) wrote the bulk of the Asterix canon of work together until Goscinny’s untimely death in 1977. Since then, Uderzo took over the writing duties. At the age of 86, he has taken well-earned retirement and this new hotly-anticipated book will be the first Asterix not drawn by the maestro who created him.
The 35th Asterix book will have an initial print run of two million copies in France (which, according to French daily Le Figaro, will make it just “one of” the biggest comic-book print runs or runs of any published material this year).
Despite the fact that there will be no Uderzo, the illustrator has been supervising procedures from a very close distance. For a long time, he had repeatedly insisted that he didn’t want his Gaulish warrior “living on” after his death, as he confirmed in an interview with Le Figaro at the last annual comic-book festival in Angoulême:“Twenty years ago, like Hergé, I didn’t imagine seeing my characters living on after me.” However, as the years went by and after another famous bande dessinée “Blake and Mortimer” was successfully revived in 1996, Uderzo began to rethink his : “I changed my mind. I ended up thinking, in fact, the the idea was preposterous. I told myself that I didn’t have the right to allow it to die, considering the manner in which the public have taken these characters to their heart.”
After the success of Asterix and the Falling Sky in 2005 (which sold some 8 million copies in 27 countries), Asterix and Obelix will be setting off on a new adventure – this time written by the experienced scenarist and artist Jean-Yves Ferri (famous in France as a contributor for over 20 years to monthly magazine Fluide Glaciale and author of the best-selling “De Gaulle à la plage”). The drawing will be done by Didier Conrad. According to the old maestro Uderzo, this duo form a winning team.
The publishing house Éditions Albert René (a subsidiary of publishing giant Hachette) nominated Ferri in 2011 and Conrad late last year to take on the mantle of Goscinny and Uderzo. Conrad lives in America, where he works for the Dreamworks studio. He will be taking over from animator Frédéric Mébarki, who has for some time been doing all the visuals for the Asterix spin-off products, but who had decided to “throw in the sponge, because of the pressure involved.”
This new adventure takes place in Scotland, where Asterix and Obelix go to meet the Picts (painted men) – a confederation of British tribes. The story begins in the middle of winter when the village of the indomitable Gauls is covered in snow. A huge ice chunk washes up on the Breton coastline and there follows an adventure containing all the principal time-honoured elements (a journey, Romans to bash, magic potion and plenty of puns). During a visit to Scotland himself at the end of June this year, Jean-Yves Ferri indicated that the Gauls would discover whisky, bagpipes, the origins of Hadrian’s Wall and the location of the Loch Ness Monster.
Asterix fans will have to wait until October 24th, when the new edition comes out in several languages, including English.