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Asterix: The cricket connection

René Goscinny and  Albert Uderzo with a life-size cutout of Asterix and Obelix. Photo Courtesy - MeltyCampus.fr
René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo with a life-size cutout of Asterix and Obelix.
Photo Courtesy – MeltyCampus.fr

Asterix had first appeared on the Pilote’ on October 29, 1959. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the two cricket references in the series.

 

René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo had worked with some success on Oumpah-pah — an extremely popular series published in a magazine called, of all things, Tintin. When the pair started working on the Asterix series, they went on to compete with Tintin (the comics) to a serious extent.

Though Goscinny passed away in 1977, Uderzo continued to work on (the fans usually rate the collaborated efforts superior to the later creations). Despite the immense popularity of the series in French, the worldwide appeal grew with the English translations by the Suffolk-born Anthea Bell and the Welshman Derek Hockridge.

This also meant that cricket could not be far away.

The word “cricket” was uttered in the series for the first time in Asterix in Britain (1966). Pages 43 and 44 show the boat (carrying Asterix, Obelix, and Anticlimax) being sunk by the Romans, resulting in the much-coveted magic potion being gone for good. All three men were severely disappointed as Anticlimax — the only Englishman on the boat — uttering “I say, that’s not cricket!” in Page 44, Panel Three.

asterix 1
A scanned image of Panel 3, Page 44, Asterix in Britain (1966)

Of course, it was one of those anachronisms (given that the events took place in the first century BC) that have been made the series different from almost any other.

The second (and possibly only other) occasion can be found in Asterix and the Magic Carpet (1987) — a decade after Goscinny’s death. It had started by naming one the antagonist fakir as Owzat (wordplay on “How’s That?”). Uderzo took it a level further in Page 38, Panel One when Watziznehm (the “good” fakir) met Owzat mid-air (on a carpet, no less, with Obelix stationed behind him), and yelled “By Vayu!! Owzat!!!”

Obelix, sitting nonchalantly behind Watziznehm (thus assuming the position of the umpire) added in a matter-of-fact tone: “Not out, I’m afraid.”

asterix 2
A scanned image of Panel 1, Page 38,Asterix and the Magic Carpet (1987)

The world smiled at the anachronism, even laughed — more so the ones that have got a taste of both the great sport and arguably the greatest comic series in history. Blessed are those who have been introduced to both, and thanks to Goscinny, Uderzo, Bell, and Hockridge, they got a taste of both at the same time.

After all, starry skies or not, cricket matches are banquets as well. Just like Asterix comics.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in and can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)

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