Thursday, 12 October 2017

Asterix and the Big Fight by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo - volume 7

There's a pattern emerging of the Asterix series alternating between volumes set in Gaul and those set in other countries. And the Gaul based adventures are starting to say a few things about occupation. This comes to the fore in the seventh volume, Asterix and the Big Fight, which parodies various aspects of colonialism.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Asterix and Cleopatra by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo - volume 6

It's not hard to spot the influence for this album, with the original serialisation having come in the same year as the film Cleopatra, with the title character even drawn to resemble Elizabeth Taylor. This album used to have a non-traditional cover that resembled a movie poster, calling it "The Greatest Story Ever Drawn" and even listing what had gone into it in terms of writing & drawing materials and beer. However, the modern editions have dropped this in favour of the overall standardisation of the series and perhaps also because the passage of time has diminished the parody. Still it's a sign of the series riding the cultural zeitgeist of the day and presenting its own take on the relationship between the Queen of Egypt (who has a very pretty nose) and the Roman Dictator.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

Asterix and the Banquet by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo - volume 5

Even before opening the fifth Asterix album this loses some of the joke in both translation and colouring. The original French title is Le Tour de Gaule d'Astérix and the German translation makes the joke even more specific "Tour de France". However, the English translation shifts the emphasis away from the journey to the end goal. Also undermining the joke is the colour of the shopping bag. Originally this was yellow with a patch, to mimic the lead cyclist's jersey, but the cover and now the modern interior colour have instead rendered it green. Although the colouring may be an error that was "corrected" in the wrong direction, the overall result is that the title and cover of this album now downplays somewhat fact that this is an exploration of France in all its glory. Perhaps this is also why it was one of the last of the original twenty-four Asterix albums to be translated into English. This placing, along with some of the cover croppings used over the years, has also disguised the introduction of one of the most beloved of all the characters in the series.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Asterix the Gladiator by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo - volume 4

The fourth Asterix album shows the series still developing and adding concepts, whilst also upping the humour levels. For the first time in the run so far a story's plot does not revolve around a threat to the village's supply of magic potion. Instead the victim this time is the bard Cacofonix, captured to be presented to Julius Caesar as a mere gift. This results in Asterix and Obelix heading off to Rome to rescue him.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Asterix and the Goths by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo - volume 3

With the third album, the Asterix adventures now step outside of Gaul for the first time, taking our heroes into neighbouring Germania. Goths have appeared in both the previous adventures but now we get to see a full depiction of the neighbouring country. It's another sign that this is a series determined to show the full range of its scope fairly early on and not confine itself merely to the relations between the Gauls and the occupying Romans.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Asterix and the Golden Sickle by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo - volume 2

The second Asterix album shows a boldness to the series in rapidly taking the main character away from the village and thus demonstrating early on that this is a series with a much broader scope than merely events in the village itself and the besieging camps. Instead much of the story is set in and around Lutetia, the ancient incarnation of the city of Paris.

In the current English translation, at least, the city isn't so obviously flagged as Paris. No footnotes identify it as such and many non-French readers may not immediately recognise the city on the river when it first appears. References to stereotypes of Parisians are also not so obviously on display to a non-French audience, whilst the city's iconic architecture is obviously too anachronistic to appear here. Only a reference to going down an underground tunnel as "take the subway" and a comment by a fisherman that all he catches are amphoras discarded by wine drinkers really reference the modern-day city. As a result, this could really be any city under Roman occupation

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Asterix the Gaul by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo - volume 1

One of the best known of all the French bandes dessinées is the Asterix series which first began in 1959 and is still going to this day. In recent years the series appears to have had a small makeover with updated translations, new & more consistent colouring, modified covers and the original publication order being used for listings & numberings, with the result that the albums currently on sale (which will be looked at in this and subsequent posts) differ somewhat from the editions I remember from childhood. However, Asterix the Gaul was the introductory album even then and shows a strip that was in development even when it began to be serialised. Significantly there doesn't appear to have been any major latter day rewriting or redrawing of the album in order to make it more closely match the rest of the series.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Combat Colin #1 by Lew Stringer

Lew Stringer has created many strips over the years for a huge variety of titles and publishers, but he's probably best known for his work for Marvel UK for various titles in the 1980s and early 1990s. Week in, week out he would produce a wonderful comedy strip appropriate to the themes of the comic in question. Many such as Robo-Capers, Captain Wally, Snail-Man or Macho Man are fondly remembered by readers to this day, but above all the top stand-out strip is Combat Colin. Created for Action Force weekly, the strip could have ended when that title died after just fifty issues but it instead made a transfer to Transformers (into which Action Force weekly was nominally merged) and lasted until the end of that title, even when the Action Force/G.I. Joe strip wasn't running in it. Recently Lew Stringer has produced the first of a series of collected editions of the strip, with issue #1 reproducing all of the strips from the Action Force days and today I'll be looking at that.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Tintin and Alph-Art - The Adventures of Tintin 24 by Hergé

Whenever a popular creator dies there's inevitable speculation about works that might have been, either stories that were planned but never made or unpublished material sitting in an archive somewhere. Perhaps the most frustrating is when there's an incomplete tale that has a start and a middle but no clear indication of how it was meant to end.

Hergé had stated that he wished The Adventures of Tintin to die with him and it's a request that his heirs have upheld, to the point that Tintin and Alph-Art was never officially completed by the Studios Hergé (although they did carry on with a few more volumes of Quick & Flupke before closing). Although there have been some fan produced completions, the official version remains the unfinished sketches which have been released in a couple of formats with the current version being a 62-page album that appears to only be available in hardback from Egmont. (The American publishers, Little Brown, have, however, published it in paperback.) The bulk of the album is taken up with forty plus pages of thumbnail sketches on which Hergé had drafted the first two-thirds of the story, with the text and some directions transcribed, plus some additional pages of notes at the end that show some of his ideas during the development of the story, some of which were abandoned on the way and others may also have fallen aside.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Tintin and the Picaros - The Adventures of Tintin 23 by Hergé

As the final complete album in the Adventures, Tintin and the Picaros inevitably has a lot riding on it, more so when one considers that this was the only completed story produced by Hergé in the last fifteen years of this life. There are some signs that the series is aware that things are winding down and thus it tries to tidy up some matters. But at the same time this story also sees some changes to the regular characters, as though the intention was to take them into the last quarter of the twentieth century in a far more modernised pattern.