Growing up, I was exposed, whether by design or accident – I suspect a mix of both – to a wide range of reading material from right across the globe.
The inclination to read this widely came from both my parents but particuarly my dad, borne of a belief that cut across from travel to food and beyond that you should explore fully and widely and take in everything life had to offer.
So it was that I ended up reading Tintin, Agaton Sax, the Moomins and of course, Asterix, along with the usual English-centric books like Enid Blyton, Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and so on.
My favourite, I think because it was so clever and just plain silly in equal measure was Asterix, originally written by René Goscinny and illustrated by Albert Uderzo, which told the story of an rebellious village in Gaul (now France) that refused to bow down and be nice pliable Roman citizens.
Emboldened by a fighting spirit and a potion that gave them superhuman strength, Asterix, best pal Obelix and co. fought their way out and back into their indomitable village more times than I can count, always successfully, always hilariously and with a witty eye on history, geopolitics and a damn good pun.
Unlike many other properties which finish when their creators pass away (or retire, Uderzo is still alive at age 90), Asterix has continued on, with its new team since 2013, writer Jean-Yves Ferri and illustrator Didier Conrad, working under the watchful eye of co-creator Uderzo and Gosciny’s daughter Anne, which is how, to my great delight, there is a new title due for release, Asterix and the Chariot Race, due for release on 19 October.
As the synopsis gleefully details, it appears that the heartland of the Roman Empire may have its own recalcitrant citizens, people right up the same alley as our eponymous hero:
“The year is 50 BC. Italy is entirely under Rome’s control, well, not entirely… Though Caesar dreams of a united Italy, the peninsula is made up of various fiercely independent regions.
“Yes – it turns out the inhabitants of Ancient Italy are not all Romans, much to Obelix’s dismay. The Italians want to keep their independence and take a dim view of Julius Caesar and his legions’ plans for total domination – and life isn’t easy for the garrisons of Roman legionaries charged with keeping an eye on them all!”
It’s book #37 in the long-running series – the first book, Asterix the Gaul, was published in 1961 – and the third by the new team and as Bleeding Cool, it’s set to be a smash hit, proof that Asterix is still as popular as ever.
“Welcome to the best-selling comic book of 2017, and it’s not out for months yet. The upcoming new Asterix comic book, Asterix And The Chariot Race, has just set its first print run of five million. That’s two million for the French, two million for the Germans, and one million for everybody else.
“With just its first printing, which sells out fast and goes to a second, lickety split, it is expected to be the biggest selling book of all in France and Germany and the UK in 2017, and certainly the best-selling comic in the world. And is likely to double that, if not more, with subsequent printings.”
Which is good because my inner Asterix-loving child is just as much in love with the mischievious Gaul and his friends as ever and can’t wait to read the new book!
Bring on October and please let there be enough copies left for Australia …