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Asterix and Obelix (Astérix et Obélix)
The Adventures of Asterix is a series of French comic books by René Goscinny (stories) and Albert Uderzo (illustrations). Uderzo has continued the series since the death of Goscinny in 1977. The series follows the exploits of a village of ancient Gauls as they resist Roman occupation. They do so by means of a magic potion, brewed by their druid, which gives the recipient superhuman strength. This is often used for comic effect, as in a recurring sequence where the villagers sally forth from their village to rout the attacking Romans so easily as to consider it great sport. In many cases, this resistance leads the main characters to travel to various European countries (but also Egypt, America, India and other non-European locations) in every other book, while the remaining are set in and around their village.
The 33 main books or albums (one of which is a compendium of short stories) have been translated into more than 100 languages and dialects. The Asterix series is one of the most popular French comics in the world, and familiar to people of all ages in most European countries, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and parts of South America, Africa and Asia. Asterix is less well known in the United States and Japan. In its early years the Disney Channel aired the British-produced English translations of the Asterix films; it received modest success in establishing a foothold with American audiences.
The names of the characters contain puns, and vary with translation into other languages. Apart from the 33 main comics, other Asterix books and film books have been made.
Several books have been made into films, eight animated, and three with live actors. There have also been a number of games.
Goscinny and Uderzo previously had success with their series Oumpah-pah, which was published in the Tintin magazine. Astérix was originally serialised in the magazine Pilote, in the very first issue published on October 29, 1959. In 1961 the first book was put together entitled Asterix the Gaul. From then on, books were released generally on a yearly basis. When Goscinny died, Uderzo continued the series alone, though on a less frequent basis. Uderzo's stories have not been as critically well received as the ones co-authored with Goscinny.
The humour encountered in the Asterix comics is typically French, often centering on puns, caricatures, and tongue-in-cheek stereotypes of contemporary European nations and French regions. Much of the humour in the initial Asterix books was French-specific, which delayed the translation of the books into other languages for fear of losing the jokes and the spirit of the story. Some translations have actually added local humour: in the Italian translation, the Roman legionnaires are made to speak in 20th century Roman dialect. The newer albums share a more universal humour, both written and visual.
In spite of (or perhaps because of) this stereotyping and notwithstanding some alleged streaks of French chauvinism, it has been very well received by European and Francophone cultures around the world.
The text also makes relatively regular use of original Latin phrases, and allusions to Julius Caesar's De Bello Gallico, a book about the conquest of Gaul, often used as an introductory text to Latin. Some jokes are made about Caesar's use of the third person to write about himself. Other Latin phrases used by the legionaries are quotations from the Vulgate which have passed into proverbs. Such allusions were likely to be well-received by the better-educated sections of the French and Belgian public in the 1960s, when the teaching of Latin was still widespread in high schools.
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