Today, comic book characters pretty much dominate popular culture, and most of these are of course the all-American superheroes of Marvel and DC. However, there was another super-powered comic book franchise that we couldn’t get enough of as kids: Asterix, the French comic book series following the bold Gaulish warrior fighting the Romans in the last decades of the BC era.
So let’s have a swig of Getafix’s magic potion and check out some fun facts about Asterix which you might not have known.
10. New Asterix comic books are still being published after six decades
Created by writer René Goscinny and artist Albert Uderzo, Asterix the Gaul made his debut as a comic strip in the French-Belgian magazine Pilote all the way back in 1959. His first collected volume was published in 1961, and to date the official Asterix comic book collection now comprises of an impressive 39 volumes.
Goscinny wrote every story until his death in 1977, midway through 24th story Asterix in Belgium. Uderzo went on to both write and illustrate every Asterix book until 2009’s Asterix and Obelix’s Birthday: The Golden Book. Uderzo then retired, and the subsequent books were the work of writer and artist team Jean-Yves Ferri and Didier Conrad.
9. Ten animated Asterix films have been made
As much as we loved the books growing up, the Asterix animated movies were always great fun. The first of these, Asterix the Gaul, was made all the way back in 1967, followed by 1968’s Asterix and Cleopatra, 1976’s The Twelve Tasks of Asterix, 1985’s Asterix versus Caesar, 1986’s Asterix in Britain and 1989’s Asterix and the Big Fight.
Later came 1994’s Asterix Conquers America, 2006’s Asterix and the Vikings, 2014’s Asterix: The Mansions of the Gods and 2018’s Asterix: The Secret of the Magic Potion. (This last entry, along with The Twelve Tasks of Asterix, are the only animated films not based on pre-existing comic book stories.)
8. The series has also been adapted into five live-action films
Such is the enduring popularity of Asterix, his adventures have also been the subject of several live action movies. First came the international hits Asterix and Obelix Take On Caesar (1999) and Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra (2002). Next came the less-successful Asterix at the Olympic Games (2008) and Asterix and Obelix: God Save Britannia (2012).
The fifth live-action movie, Asterix & Obelix: The Middle Kingdom, opened in French cinemas in February 2023. After all the previous films featured Gerard Depardieu as Obelix, this entry saw Gilles Lellouche take over the role.
7. The comics have been translated into 111 different languages
To date, the Asterix books are reported to have sold upward of 385 million copies around the world. Because of this, the books have been translated into an amazing 111 different languages and dialects.
The sales of the newer books in the series demonstrate the franchise’s continued popularity. One French bookstore reportedly sold more than 200,000 copies of 2013’s Asterix and the Picts in a single day.
6. An Asterix theme park attracts more than two million visitors each year
1989 saw the opening of Parc Astérix in Plailly, France. This theme park dedicated to the iconic French comic book character has become one of the hottest tourist destinations in the country.
To this day, Parc Astérix attracts more than two million visitors annually, making it France’s second most popular theme park after Disneyland Paris (which opened three years later in 1992).
5. The French named their first ever satellite after him
Many popular cartoon characters might be content with having their own theme park, but Asterix went one step further when he was launched into space during the 1960s.
The French named their very first satellite, launched in 1965, after their popular comic strip countryman.
4. His creator came out of retirement to honour the memory of seven murdered cartoonists
In 2015, the people of France and the world at large were horrified when twelve people – including seven cartoonists – from the Paris-based satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo were tragically murdered.
The co-creator of Asterix, Albert Uderzo, came out of retirement to honour the victims of the shooting with two specially created pictures featuring his characters. He later passed away in 2020, aged 92.
3. He helps teach students Latin and Ancient Greek
As well as being available in local French, German and Finnish dialects, most volumes of the Asterix comic books have also been translated into Latin and Ancient Greek. These particular versions of the books were also published with an accompanying teacher’s guides, so they could be used to help teach students these ancient languages.
While the comics obviously take a lot of historical liberties, plenty of the detail and designs are accurate, making the series popular among historical scholars.
2. Asterix and Obelix appeared on the cover of Time magazine
In 1991 Asterix and Obelix even appeared on the cover of Time magazine, as part of a special edition about their native France.
In the issue, which was given the heading ‘the new France,’ Asterisk is described as being a symbol of “France’s independence and defiance of globalisation.”
1. The first ever Asterix TV series will debut on Netflix in 2023
Given the long-standing popularity of Asterix’s adventures, it may come as a surprise that he’s never been the subject of a television series – but this is set to change.
A CG-animated Asterix TV series is poised to hit Netflix in 2023. It is directed by Alain Chabat, who also wrote and directed the 2002 live-action film Asterix & Obelix: Mission Cleopatra.