New to the World Cup of Asterix? Read this introduction to find out what it's all about.
Today's guest reviewer is Fred McNamara:
After being refused any magic potion due to his overly-British nature, Fred took to adventuring in the depths of pop culture. He writes about comics, films, TV shows and more for a multitude of websites and magazines. His Asterix column for Shelf Abuse 'That Guy's Got Gauls' proved exceedingly popular (in his own mind), and you can find out more about his work on his website here.
Asterix and Cleopatra versus Asterix and the Normans
The cover says it all, or at least my cover says it all: “14 litres of India ink, 30 brushes, 62 soft pencils, 1 hard pencil, 27 erasers, 1984 sheets of paper, 16 typewriter ribbons, 2 typewriters, 366 pints of beer went into its creation!” You don’t get that on the cover of Asterix and the Normans. Normans took the comedy of Asterix to new levels, and that’s not putting it in a nice way. Normans sees Asterix and the gang having to babysit both stereotypical teen Justforkix and a villainous band of Norman warriors intent on learning the meaning of fear. Cue “allllrighty then” meme from Ace Ventura.
Cleopatra has a far more engrossing set-up, but it’s not without its faults – Getafix receives a visit from his old Egyptian friend Edifis, who is tasked with constructing a grand palace for Julius Caesar by Cleopatra herself. Trouble is, Edifis is awful at his job as an architect, which Cleo helpfully states for the reader mere panels after introducing Edifis to us. If he’s so awful, why isn't it Cleo or Julius who arranges some outside help? Nevertheless, it is Edifis who gets the help from Asterix and Obelix, who travel to Egypt to help build the palace.
Arguably, both titles have some set-ups that are as bizarre as they are weak, but still Cleo outs Normans greatly. Normans is hampered by its uninteresting introductory plot of Justforkix being looked after by Asterix and Obelix for no apparent reason, but the real kick in the knackers here is the story’s bad guys. The Normans aren’t so much an enemy, they’re more like clowns. Really stupid clowns.
The comedy in Asterix was always its crowning glory, and here the comedy is both rammed down the reader’s throat and manages to save all the odd dullness of the plot, a testament to how the comedy here both works and masks the comic’s faults. The juxtaposition of Justforkix’s youthful exuberance clashes with the Gaul’s gentle way of life, and makes for some amusing reading, but Justforkix and the Normans don’t gel. The Normans themselves offer almost no menace whatsoever, due to their stupidity when it comes to fear. That itself makes for more comedy, but it precludes any genuine sense of threat.
Plus, why would the Normans ACTUALLY think they could fly?!
Cleo wins over Normans because of its scale and its exoticness. With a plot far stronger than the flimsy Normans and a genuine sense of adventure, it’s no wonder there’s been two attempts to make the comic work on the big screen (see trailer below), but it’s the comic that constantly wins. My tattered old copy declares itself to be “The Greatest Story Ever Drawn” – you’ll have to stick around till the end of the Asterix World Cup to find out if that’s true, but for now, it’s certainly greater than Normans.