Tuesday, July 22, 2008

George Rears - 1976

sg George Rears - This is a weird one.

In my family, collecting comics was a solitary activity. My brother was with me the first two years, but dropped off as he hit high school.

My other and brothers and sisters were even older, and had no interest whatsoever. My parents? Don't even get me started. My mother couldn't tell Spider-Man from the Spider, as I found out one fateful Halloween when I had to explain who the Spider was to everyone during the 4th grade Halloween party.

My dad, also was not a comic guy. Not that he disapproved of it. Just no interest. Except for one character.


Asterix is a French comic book (graphic novel) featuring a town of hold outs from the Roman invaders of Gaul (France) in the early years AD. The only thing separating them from Roman domination was a secret formula that gave an individual super strength for 24 hours. Asterix drinks the potion, beats up Romans, strength runs out, Asterix gets caught, Asterix takes more potion, and beats up more Romans. Hilarity ensues.

So why would this strip appeal to someone who has no affinity toward comics at all? Quite simply. The books were in French. At least the ones in our house were. Every word. French.

You see, my Dad was (is?) a Francophile. He loves the French. He speaks the language fluently, studied in Paris, and even taught French at the College level. I guess you could say that Asterix spoke to him.

Well needless to say, since my Dad liked Asterix, I was going to like Asterix too. One problem. I couldn't speak French. Now the good thing is, Asterixwas translated into many languages, so finding a copy of one of his books in other languages was not hard, in fact, I found a copy in the local books store. Except for one problem. In 1976, the local book store for me was German, so that didn't do me good either!

Luckily, we were near a British base that stocked them English, and I was able to pick up a few English books there. I got to be fond of this little Asterix guy, and although I never picked up all his books in English, I made it a habit while I was living in Europe to try and pick up his books in whatever language I could. Even today, I have a copy of Asterix in Belgian.

I hadn't though much about Asterix lately until a few weeks ago when I found out that Orion books was publishing the entire Asterix series in a collection of 11 omnibuses (omnibi? omniboo?).

So here I am, 32 years later, reading these stories again, many for the first time in English. It's good stuff, too. European history mixed in with humor, and strong characters, including sympathetic villains (The Romans) abound. So far I'm three stories in, and I'm loving it. Luckily they are spacing these collections out in books of 3 stories. Otherwise, I'm afraid the stories might be a bit too repetitive.

So there you go. Asterix. The one comic that allowed me to bond with my Dad. In French. Go figure.


Anonymous said...

So...do you speak French now? Or German? Or Japanese? ;-)

Grears said...

I ended up taking 4 years of French in high school. So the short answer I Can't speak a lick of French:)

German I can do a decent job reading. I used to read German comics, so I Can handle that kind of stuff.

Japanese... don't get me started. I'm off to Japan next month, and I'm basicall at the "Kanighi-Wah" level. Which is slcightly better than the "Domo Origoto Mr. Roboto" level.


Luis said...

I started taking French classes about 2 years ago with the sole intention of diving into the world of French comics. Since then I've bought some french comics and I'm on my way to having a collection. France really has a different concept of what a comic book is. The stories are really good and the artwork is just incredible! I'm really not that interested in Asterix, even though I know he's the most famous French character, because of the cartoony artwork that instantly turns me off.

Swinebread said...

Hey I got that issue when I was a kid and I still have it!

I was more of a Tintin kinda guy but Asterix was also really great.

Thanks for the reminder, I have to read these when my kid gets old enough

now if they only had published the Smurfs

Arkonbey said...

I love Asterix, but always wondered about the puns. The books are full of plays on words, how the heck are puns that are both linguistic AND visual translated from their native language?

I'd like to find a bi-lingual Asterix fan and ask them.