News

    France's Cartoon Hero Astérix Celebrates 50th Anniversary

    France's Cartoon Hero Astérix Celebrates 50th Anniversary
    France's Cartoon Hero Astérix Celebrates 50th Anniversary

    Multimedia

    Audio

    <!-- IMAGE -->

    France is celebrating the 50th anniversary of Astérix, the comic book character whose adventures find him battling the armies of Julius Caesar with his Gallic buddies in Brittany more than 2,000 years ago.  Since Astérix made his debut in 1959, he has starred in three movies and 34 books, and has fans worldwide.  From Paris, Lisa Bryant takes a look at what makes France's cartoon mascot so beloved.

    Astérix is not your typical hero.  He is not tall or handsome, and he is certainly not a prince.  But along with his sidekicks, enormous, goofy Obelix and dog Idéfix, Astérix wages battle against the ancient Romans to defend the Gaullish way of life.

    Astérix comic books and cartoon strips have been published in 107 languages and dialects.  Three Astérix movies have drawn millions of viewers.  The French version of the latest Astérix book, The Birthday of Astérix and Obelix, was launched Thursday.

    Nobody could be more surprised about Astérix's stunning success than the original illustrator of Astérix, Albert Uderzo, who has also authored the series since the death of the original writer, Rene Goscinny.

    Uderzo told French radio that Astérix was born when the owner of a French magazine called Pilote wanted a comic strip his kids could read that represented French culture.  The creators settled on Gaulles as their characters, because he said, nothing is more French than the Gaulles.

    Astérix' half-century birthday is being celebrated around France with special exhibits and other commemorations.  

    In the Paris suburb of Bobigny, a plaque was unveiled honoring his 1959 birth there.  Several villages in Brittany, the part of ancient Gaulle never conquered by the Romans, are also claiming to have inspired the Astérix series.

    Many see Astérix as the ultimate symbol of France and the battle of many French to preserve their culture and way of life.

    But Astérix has fans worldwide, including Brian Spence, the Canadian owner of The Abbey Bookshop in Paris.  

    Spence has a copy of every Astérix book in his English language book store.  He says they remain in demand.  Spence started reading Astérix when he was young.

    "I am still a fan.  I have not kept up with the latest ones, to tell you the truth," he said.  "But sure, I went to see the premiere of Astérix and Cleopatra when it was at the Grand Rex [movie theatre], almost 30,000 people there just to laugh along.  There is a very special place in my heart for Astérix."

    So what is Astérix' appeal, 50 years later?

    "Maybe we identify with the imperial pretensions," he explained.  "Manifest destiny, and so forth.  And I think most of the world probably feels it is in the same situation as Astérix and his village Gaullois in that we can identify with that sense of wanting to hold out and resist against the encroaching powers.  That sense of using your wits and a little bit of brawn to get out of peril, danger or any kind of threat."

    And besides, Spence says, there is always a bit of exoticism, because Astérix is French.  That makes fans want to keep on reading, to get a better understanding of what Astérix, and France, is all about.
     

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora