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Since 1st March, 1999
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Asterix and the Class Act By René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo, Orion, £ 5.50

By Toutatis, another book of the two great heroes, Asterix, and the menhir delivery man, Obelix. What is even better is that this is not a solo effort by Uderzo, the survivor of the original duo, René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo. The ones produced by Uderzo alone, after his partner died, never quite touched the heights of the joint ventures. This, however, is the work of both the masters and with both at the peak of their creative powers.

This brings together 14 new stories which Goscinny and Uderzo had written and drawn at different times and for different occasions. Most of these little masterpieces originally appeared in the French magazine, Pilote, in which all the longer Asterix adventures first appeared. The few that did not appear on the pages of the Pilote, appeared in some US newspapers, a woman’s magazine and as part of a bid to get the Olympic Games to Paris.

Some of the familiar features are missing in these sketches. There is no mention of Obelix’s falling into the magic potion as a baby and Obelix does not ask for the magic potion even once. Most importantly, there is no major confrontation with the Romans.

There are other delights though. Which reader would like to miss the birth of the two friends, born at the same time on the same day while their fathers, Astronomix and Obeliscoidix, are involved in a very familiar fish fight in the village' Or the sight of Obelix being made to sit in school by the druid Getafix because he doesn’t know the date of the battle of Gergovia'

The piece de resistance here is Goscinny and Uderzo’s take on the franglais controversy of the Sixties in France when some people objected to the use of too many English words in French. The two of them did a one-page strip showing the druid objecting to the entry of Latin words into “the purity of our beautiful language”. According to the druid, the Gauls should say “hall for public performances” instead of auditorium etcetera, etcetera.

Lovers of Obelix will also enjoy the Obelix family tree which includes eminent persons like Obelisque the Hammer. This person fought under Charles Martel at Poitiers, flattened every enemy in sight and was famous for his cry “Let’s get them”. This became the family motto and a roast boar recumbent on a background gules, the family coat of arms.

Goscinny and Uderzo make a brief appearance when they discovered Obelisc’h, the present descendent of the distinguished line, in a little harbour town in Brittany. The authors take their find and his bits and bobs (read menhir) to Paris. The visit has it own hazards.

Are there any more Asterix manuscripts' Stored away perhaps in a secret vault in the bibliotheque in Paris' Or has Obelix eaten his last boar and Getafix brewed his last cauldron of magic potion' If that is indeed the case then the sky, as Vitalstatistix always feared, has fallen on our heads.

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