Every French person has heard these words at least once: “The year is 50 BC. Gaul is entirely occupied by the Romans. Well, not entirely… One small village of indomitable Gauls still holds out against the invaders.”
Written at the beginning of every volume of the adventures of Asterix, these are some of the most well-known words in French comics — and French pop culture in general. They sum up an idea at the core of Asterix: the irrepressible resistance against oppression, something fundamental to a series that started publication barely 15 years after the end of World War II.
First published in 1959 in the French comics magazine, Pilote #1 , Asterix was created by writer René Goscinny and artist Albert Uderzo. Highly reliant on humor and wordplay, Asterix also lives and dies by Uderzo’s art style, which pushes the medium forward with its dynamism and expressiveness, taking the “big nose” style of the Marcinelle School and expanding upon it, strongly influencing the next generations of French and Belgian comic book artists.
So if you want to know more about the adventures of Asterix and Obelix, let’s talk about some Gaulish comics!
The Village is where most volumes begin and end. Unnamed to this day, it’s the last place free of Roman occupation in all of Gaul thanks to the local druid’s magic potion, which gives every villager incredible strength. Which these indomitable inhabitants sorely need, surrounded as they are by four Roman camps: Totorum, Aquarium, Laudanum, and Compendium.
Asterix is the village’s best warrior and the (anti)hero of the series. Far from the perfect warrior archetype, he is short and physically unimpressive, particularly next to his magically advantaged neighbors. Instead, Asterix usually comes out on top thanks to his wit and cunning.
Obelix fell into the druid’s magic cauldron when he was a baby, granting him a permanent boon from the potion. Despite his impressive size and strength, he is very sensitive (particularly about his weight.) He is also the Village’s menhir sculptor and Asterix’s best friend,
Intended as a one-time gag, this pup now frequently joins Asterix and Obelix their adventures as a semi-permanent companion.
Creator of the Roman-stopping strength potion Getafix is often the voice of reason among the villagers. However, he isn’t above using his druidic powers and knowledge to teach them a lesson.
Chief Vitalstatistix is just like his people: short-tempered, epicurean, and a proud Gaulish warrior. He fought against the Roman legions in the battles of Gergovia and Alesia and is always happy to defy Caesar’s authority.
The bard of the Village, whose singing is so bad he can make it rain. He is the subject of several of the series’s long-running jokes, including his being beaten up by Fulliautomatix for attempting to sing or how the bard spends most bankuets tied up.
The blacksmith and the fishmonger of the village, respectively. Their quarrels — often about the doubtful quality of Unhygienix’s fish — set off most fights among the villagers.
Mockingly called “The Emperor” over his rightful title, Caesar is both the Gauls’ greatest enemy and, at times, an unexpected ally who recognizes the strength and worth of his Gaulish opponents.
Asterix and Obelix often come across a pirate ship during their adventures, a parody of the Belgian comic Redbeard by Charlier and Hubinon. The Pirates unfailingly sink, leaving the book to make another long-running joke in finding increasingly comical reasons why from fated accidents to the pirates scuttling their own ship in order to escape the Gauls.
Similarly, every volume of Asterix ends with a banquet in which our heroes, any guest stars, and the entire village attending. Of course, no banquet would be complete without Cacofonix dangling from his seat of honor.
As much as the Gauls love fighting Romans, there is nothing they love more than fighting each other. Whether it’s about Unhygienix’s fish or Cacofonix’s voice, group fights are common in the Village. Even Asterix and Obelix often bicker before inevitably hugging it out.
Asterix’s adventures are filled with caricatures of famous personalities like the Beatles, Kirk Douglas, and even Goscinny and Uderzo themselves.
Puns and wordplay, in general, are the main sources of comedy in Asterix. Every character is named after a descriptive word or expression ending with a suffix signifying the character’s nationality (-ix for the Gauls, -us for the Romans, -is for the Egyptians, etc.) Unfortunately, these naming conventions aren’t the end of the stereotypes, which can be regional clichés and nods (EG. Belgians or Corsicans) but are all too often straight-up racist caricature (notably with Black or Middle Eastern characters.)
Collects: Asterix the Gaul; Asterix and the Golden Sickle; Asterix and the Goths
Asterix the Gaul (Astérix le Gaulois), 1961
The series establishes most of its ideas from the very first page: the introduction of Asterix and Obelix, the Gauls’ resistance against Roman occupation, and the exaggerated and irreverent version of history that will serve as the series’ background (Vercingetorix literally throwing his weapons at Caesar’s feet, causing him to shriek in surprise).
In this first volume, Getafix holds the role of “secondary protagonist.” The druid is captured by the centurion of Compendium, Crismus Bonus, who has discovered that the Gauls’ strength comes from the Getafix’s magic potion. A potion Bonus wants to use it for his own ambitions. Asterix rescues the druid, and together, they spend a third of the book messing with the Romans before finally escaping. During that escape, the two Gauls run across Julius Caesar and his legions. Thinking fast, our heroes tell the Emperor of Crismus Bonus’ plans to use the potion to become Emperor. In exchange, Caesar lets our protagonists go for the service they rendered him.
Asterix and the Golden Sickle (La Serpe d’or), 1962
Getafix breaks his golden sickle, leaving him unable to continue making his magic potion. Thus, Asterix and Obelix are off to Lutetia (Paris) for a new one. This volume marks Obelix becoming the secondary protagonist and foil to Asterix, both of which help establish both characters’ appearances and their interpersonal dynamics for much of the series as Uderzo’s style becomes better defined. Goscinny and Uderzo’s depiction of Lutetia parodies modern Paris: busy, polluted, and full of rude people.
Asterix and the Goths (Astérix et les Goths), 1963
Asterix and Obelix accompany Getafix to a druid conference in the Forest of the Carnutes, but the magician is captured once again. This time by some Goths whom our duo must follow them to Germania to free their friend. There, the two end up inciting a conflict between the Goths, setting off a series of civil wars across Germania (which are described in an almost-data page, a convention that will be used throughout the series, especially to show big battles quickly and in a humorous way).
Goscinny and Uderzo published this book only 18 years after the end of World War II and used the in-fighting between Goths as a caricature of Germany’s political state during the Cold War well as a strong anti-German sentiment.
Collects: Asterix the Gladiator; Asterix and the Banquet; Asterix and Cleopatra
Asterix the Gladiator (Astérix gladiateur), 1964
When Cacofonix the Bard is captured by the Prefect of Gaul as a gift for Caesar, Asterix and Obelix have to go to Rome to rescue their tone-deaf countryman. To get there, our fearless duo must sail on a Phoenician merchant galley, leading to their first fight with the Pirates.
Once in Rome, our twin heroes find Cacofonix slated to be thrown to the lions. Asterix and Obelix must become gladiators to save him, leading to the two infuriating their gladiator trainers by playing word games instead of fighting. In the end, the two Gauls fight off Caesar’s best legionaries in the arena, becoming so popular with the audience that Caesar gives them their freedom.
Sadly, this volume also marks the start of the series’ use of racist caricatures, seen here in the insulting portrayal of the palanquin bearers for the Prefect of Gaul, a masseuse in the Baths, one of the gladiators, and other Black characters.
Asterix and the Banquet (Le Tour de Gaule d’Astérix), 1965
On a special mission from Caesar, Inspector General Overanxius establishes a blockade around the Village, cutting the villagers from the outside world. To end the blockade, Asterix challenges Overanxius to a bet. If the Gauls can get out despite the siege and go on a tour of Gaul to bring back various regional specialties, the Inspector will go back to Rome and tell Caesar he failed. On their journey (inspired by the Tour de France, a bicycle race that gives the volume its original name), they keep meeting people who help them and are willing to resist against the Romans, in a setup meant to evoke the resistance against Nazi occupation during World War II. As the word of the bet starts spreading throughout Gaul, they are even celebrated as heroes by locals, which causes a riot against the Romans in Burdigala (Bordeaux).
This is the volume in which Dogmatix is first introduced, following Asterix and Obelix from Lutetia to the Village, until Obelix pets him at the very end.
Asterix and Cleopatra (Asterix et Cléopâtre), 1965
Cleopatra bets Caesar that in three months, she can build a magnificent palace for him in Alexandria. One that will prove him worthy to the Egyptian people. Edifis, the architect in charge of the construction, comes to Getafix for help, causing all three Gauls to leave for Egypt. And despite the machinations of rival architect Artifis and of Caesar himself, the trio manages to help Edifis and Cleopatra win the bet.
The volume, especially its cover, is a parody of Mankiewicz’s film Cleopatra starring Elizabeth Taylor, which had come out only two years earlier.
Collects: Asterix and the Big Fight; Asterix in Britain; Asterix and the Normans
Asterix and the Big Fight (Le combat des chefs), 1966
Chief Vitalstatistix must fight four formidable adversaries in a Big Fight for control of the Village. His opponents are: Centurion Nebulus Nimbus of Totorum; his right-hand man, Felonius Caucus; and their ace-in-the-hole, Cassius Ceramix, a Gaulish chief and Roman sympathizer and would do anything for his beloved invaders (if the analogy to French collaboration under Nazi occupation wasn’t clear enough, don’t worry, it gets even more heavy-handed.)
To make matters worse, Asterix has to deal with an amnesiac Getafix (caused when Obelix accidentally throws a menhir at the poor druid.)
Asterix in Britain (Astérix chez les Bretons), 1966
Cantium is the British equivalent to The Village, making it the last English stand against Roman occupation. There lives Asterix’s cousin, Anticlimax, who comes asking the Gauls for help as his village can’t stand up to their invaders much longer. He comes back to Britain with a barrel of magic potion — as well as Asterix and Obelix, who ensure safe travels. And after various adventures in Londinium (London), Obelix, Asterix, and his family arrive in Cantium… sans barrel. Asterix uses some mysterious herbs given by Getafix to give the Britons courage, thus introducing tea to Britain.
Asterix and the Normans (Astérix et les Normands), 1966
Vitalstatistix tasks Asterix and Obelix with watching over his nephew Justforkix, who was sent to him from Lutetia to become a man. Meanwhile, a group of Normans comes to learn about fear, as they do not know the meaning of the word. They end up capturing Justforkix, a self-proclaimed expert on fear but has a hard time scaring a group of Norse warriors. To save him, Asterix realizes the only thing that can scare the fearless Normans is Cacofonix’s singing.
Collects: Asterix the Legionary, Asterix and the Chieftain’s Shield, Asterix at the Olympic Games
Asterix the Legionary (Astérix légionnaire), 1967
Panacea, a beautiful young woman who left the village as a child, has returned. And Obelix has a big crush on her. This is a slight problem, seeing as she’s engaged to someone called Tragicomix. This becomes only a smidge more of a problem when this improbably and aptly named fiancé is forced to join the army, as it puts Obelix in the awkward position of rescuing him.
Asterix, never one to leave his friend, joins the love-sick giant as he joins the diverse ranks of the Legion, causing a repeat of Gladiator school as the two quickly drive their instructors into a nervous breakdown. The fearsome frères find Tragicomix in Egypt and free him, along with accidentally giving Caesar a victory against his rival, Scipio; to thank them, the Emperor again grants them their freedom.
Asterix and the Chieftain’s Shield (Le bouclier Arverne), 1968
Vitalstatistix gets sick, forcing him to get treatment in Aquae Calidae (Vichy). Asterix and Obelix escort him, partially as a pretense to visit the Arvernian region, the site of the battle of Gergovia. This was the last Gaulish victory and their final high-point before being crushed by Caesar at Alesia and all Gaulish territories’ resulting occupation.
On their journey, the two begin looking for the lost shield of Vercingetorix, which Caesar wants as a show of power over the Gauls.
Asterix at the Olympic Games (Astérix aux Jeux Olympiques), 1968
Gluteus Maximus, a legionary from Aquarium, has been selected to represent Rome at the Olympic Games. The Gauls decide to participate too, with Asterix and Obelix are chosen to represent the Village. Once in Greece, however, they realize that the magic potion counts as an artificial stimulant and is forbidden on penalty of disqualification. Asterix has to count on his wit and cunning if he wants to bring home a medal.
Collects: Asterix and the Cauldron, Asterix in Spain, Asterix and the Roman Agent
Asterix and the Cauldron (Astérix et le chaudron), 1969
Asterix is tasked with looking after a cauldron full of sestertii (Roman currency) belonging to Whosemoralsarelastix, the corrupt chief of a nearby village, who asked Vitalstatistix to help him shield the money from Roman taxes. The money disappears during the night, causing Asterix to be banished until he can fill the cauldron with sestertii once again and bring it back to its owner. He’s joined by Obelix, and they try their luck at various jobs, but nothing really pays off. Until they realize Whosemoralsarelastix has tricked them.
Asterix in Spain (Astérix en Hispanie), 1969
In Hispania, only a small village still resists Caesar’s conquest. The Emperor captures Pepe, the young son of that village’s chief, and has him sent to Totorum as a hostage. The capricious boy is found there by Asterix and Obelix, and the three travel to Hispania to bring the boy back home.
Asterix and the Roman Agent (La Zizanie), 1970
Under pressure from the Senate to defeat the indomitable Gauls, Caesar sends an agent named Tortuous Convolvulus, an expert at causing disputes. Convolvulus manages to turn the Gauls against Asterix. With Vitalstatistix’s birthday approaching, Caesar’s agent presents a Roman vase, a gift to “the most important man in the Village.” Asterix. Discord rages as rumors about Asterix gift being a sign the mini-avenger must have given the Romans the secret of the magic potion. To teach the villagers a lesson, Asterix, Obelix, and Getafix leave, only to return and save them from the attacking legions.
Collects: Asterix in Switzerland, The Mansions of the Gods, Asterix and the Laurel Wreath
Asterix in Switzerland (Astérix chez les Helvètes), 1970
In Condatum (Rennes), Quaestor Vexatius Sinusitus is poisoned by the corrupt governor Varius Flavus. Sinusitus sends a guard to ask Getafix for help, and he accepts, sending Asterix and Obelix to Helvetia on a quest to find a silver star (edelweiss), which he needs to heal him. This is the first time the Gauls help a Roman and consider him a friend, even inviting him to the end banquet.
The Mansions of the Gods (Le Domaine des dieux), 1971
Caesar plans to surround the Village with blocks of flats full of Roman tenants, to force the Gauls to adopt the Roman ways. He charges architect Squaronthehypothenus to make the project, but when he tries to start uprooting trees, Getafix uses magic acorns to instantly grow new ones. The Gauls help the slaves working on the construction to revolt, but in the end, construction on one building is still achieved. The arrival of the Roman tenants creates dissensions in the Village, and Asterix schemes to scare them off.
Asterix and the Laurel Wreath (Les Lauriers de César), 1972
After Vitalstatistix bets his brother-in-law Homeopatix that he could make him a stew using Caesar’s laurel wreath, Asterix and Obelix have to go to Rome and steal the wreath themselves. They become slaves, are sentenced to being devoured by lions, and finally become brigands before finding a way to get hold of the wreath, which they bring back home for the banquet.
Collects: Asterix and the Soothsayer, Asterix in Corsica, Asterix and Caesar’s Gift
Asterix and the Soothsayer (Le Devin), 1972
While Getafix is at the annual druid conference in the forest of the Carnutes, a storm hits the Village, during which a soothsayer named Prolix arrives to take advantage of the villagers. Only Asterix doubts him, and the soothsayer starts turning the village against him until Getafix comes back and uses his power to teach them all a lesson.
Asterix in Corsica (Astérix en Corse), 1973
On the anniversary banquet of the battle of Gergovia, all the friends of the Village who appeared in previous adventures are invited, and they all go to attack Totorum together. There, they free Boneywasawarriorwayayix, a Corsican exile who invites Asterix and Obelix to come with him and see how Romans are handled in Corsica. After visiting Boneywasawarriorwayayix’s village, they help the Corsicans launch an attack on Aleria and force them to settle their feuds between clans by showing them the most important thing to fight the Romans together.
Asterix and Caesar’s Gift (Le Cadeau de César), 1974
Caesar gives the Village as a retirement gift to a drunk legionary named Tremensdelirious to punish him. He sells it for wine, and soon an innkeeper named Orthopedix comes to the Village with his wife and daughter, thinking they own the place. Vitalstatistix and the villagers laugh at the idea that Caesar would think the Village is his to give, but taking pity on Orthopedix, the chief offers to let him move into the empty inn. After the inn’s opening night ends in a big fight, Orthopedix’s wife decides that he will become chief, which divides the Village. Everyone starts acting childishly as the elections approach, and Getafix refuses to make more potions until they band together again to fight the Romans.
Collects: Asterix and the Great Crossing, Obelix and Co., Asterix in Belgium
Asterix and the Great Crossing (La Grande traversée), 1975
Unhygienix hasn’t gotten a delivery of fresh fish in a while, and as Getafix needs some for his potion, Asterix and Obelix volunteer to go fishing. After getting caught up in a storm, they find themselves in America, where they meet some Natives before going back to Europe on a ship full of Scandinavians who think they are Natives themselves.
Obelix and Co. (Obélix et Compagnie), 1976
Caesar sends his adviser Preposterus (a caricature of French politician and former president Jacques Chirac), to corrupt the villagers via capitalism. Preposterus convinces Obelix that he can make him the richest and most influential man in the Village, and starts buying his menhirs at progressively higher prices. Slowly planting the seeds of capitalism in the Village, Preposterus causes a rift between Asterix and Obelix. However, Preposterus’ plan falls apart when he tries to flood the market with Obelix’s menhirs and ruins the Empire’s economy.
Asterix in Belgium (Astérix chez les Belges), 1979
When he learns that Caesar said the Belgians were the bravest of all the Gaulish people, Vitalstatistix leaves with Asterix and Obelix to show everyone who the bravest people really are. In Belgium, the Armoricans start a contest with the Belgians, and they want Caesar to judge it; in the end, Caesar tells them he doesn’t care who the bravest are and that they’re all equally crazy.
This is the last volume written by René Goscinny, who died in 1977, before its publication.
Collects: Asterix and the Great Divide, Asterix and the Black Gold, Asterix, and Son
Asterix and the Great Divide (Le Grand fossé), 1980
Asterix, Obelix, and Getafix come to help a village divided between two chiefs, as one of them, manipulated by his advisor Codfix, considers allying himself with the Romans. They help unite the divided village, and leave it in the hands of both chiefs’ children.
Asterix and the Black Gold (L’Odyssée d’Astérix), 1981
Asterix and Obelix leave for Mesopotamia to get some rock oil, which Getafix needs to make the magic potion. They are accompanied by Dubblosix, a druid spying on Caesar’s behalf to get the secret of the potion. They travel throughout Judea and Mesopotamia and finally find a source of rock oil in the desert after coming across various people all at war with each other (in a lazy metaphor for the Middle East’s geopolitical state).
Asterix and Son (Le Fils d’Astérix), 1983
Asterix and Obelix find a baby at their door and have to care for him while people start to think it might actually be Asterix’s child. As it turns out, the baby is Caesar and Cleopatra’s child, and the Emperor’s adoptive son Brutus is after him.
This volume marks the only time in the series where the Village is actually destroyed by the Romans, and Caesar promises to help rebuild it to thank them for looking after his son.
How Obelix Fell into the Magic Potion When he was a Little Boy (Comment Obélix est tombé dans la marmite du druide quand il était petit), 1989
Originally written by Goscinny in 1965, this illustrated story shows Asterix and Obelix’s childhood and how Obelix fell into a cauldron of magic potion as a child.
Collects: Asterix and the Magic Carpet, Asterix and the Secret Weapon, Asterix and Obelix All at Sea
Asterix and the Magic Carpet (Astérix chez Rahazade), 1987
While the Gauls are celebrating the Village being rebuilt, a fakir named Watziznehm falls from the sky. He is here for Cacofonix, as the bard sings so badly he can make it rain, and that is just what he needs to save his people from famine. Asterix, Obelix, and Cacofonix leave with him to the Valley of the Ganges, but once there, Cacofonix loses his voice.
Asterix and the Secret Weapon (La Rose et le glaive), 1991
The village’s mothers hire a new female bard named Bravura, who starts organizing feminist meetings (how terrifying). Asterix and Getafix are afraid that Bravura is sowing discord, and Asterix is chosen to tell her she needs to leave… except she starts flirting with him for some reason. We learn that feminism is bad, apparently, and the story ends with Asterix and Bravura allying against an all-female legion, defeating them through the power of shopping because of course, women can’t resist shopping. 1960s Stan Lee would be proud.
Asterix and Obelix All at Sea (La Galère d’Obélix), 1996
Obelix is turned into granite after drinking a cauldron of magic potion, and when he comes back to life, it is as a child. Helped by a crew of escaped slaves led by Spartakis (a caricature of Kirk Douglas), they sail to Atlantis to bring Obelix back to adulthood.
Collects: Asterix and the Actress, Asterix and the Class Act, Asterix, and the Falling Sky
Asterix and the Actress (Astérix et Latraviata), 2001
For their birthday, Asterix and Obelix get a visit from their mothers while their fathers are still back in Condatum. Their birthday gifts are a golden sword and helmet, which actually belong to Caesar’s rival, Pompey. Pompey sends an actress named Latraviata to get them back, and she arrives disguised as Panacea (from Asterix the Legionary) and starts driving Asterix and Obelix apart. Meanwhile, their fathers are taken prisoners by the Romans, and the real Panacea and Tragicomix come to the village to warn the Gauls. Once Pompey’s plot is uncovered, Caesar once again has to thank them for accidentally helping him, and he even gives Asterix a Golden Caesar, which he, in turn, gives to Latraviata for her acting capability.
Asterix and the Class Act (Astérix et la rentrée gauloise), 2003
This volume is a collection of various short stories, some written by Goscinny. One of them tells the story of Asterix and Obelix’s birth and shows some of the villagers as children.
Asterix and the Falling Sky (Le ciel lui tombe sur la tête), 2005
Uderzo’s attempt at caricaturing American comics and Japanese manga, this volume (the last full story written and drawn by the series’ original creator) shows the Village visited by alien parodies of Mickey Mouse and Superman as well as a racist caricature of an Asian alien. The general message? Manga bad, superheroes bad, but Walt Disney good. When the aliens leave, they erase everyone’s memory of the events, and I kind of wish they could erase mine too.
Collects: Asterix and Obelix’s Birthday, Asterix and the Picts, Asterix and the Missing Scroll
Asterix and Obelix’s Birthday: The Golden Book (L’Anniversaire d’Astérix and Obélix – le Livre d’Or), 2009
Published to celebrate the 50 years of the series, this volume begins with the main characters having aged 50 years and Uderzo inserting himself in the story. The rest of the book is about Asterix and Obelix’s birthday celebration, across various meta short stories.
Asterix and the Picts (Astérix chez les Pictes), 2013
Asterix and Obelix find a frozen Pict named Macaroon on the beach, and they help him go back home to Northern Caledonia (Scotland). There, they meet his clan, along with a sea monster named Nessie, and they end up uniting the Pict clans against the Romans.
Asterix and the Missing Scroll (Le Papyrus de César), 2015
Caesar is writing Commentaries on the War with the Gauls and decides to cut out the chapter about his defeats in Armorica. However, the chapter ends up in the hands of a journalist named Confoundtheirpolitix, who comes to the village to hide from the Romans looking for him. Vitalstatistix, pushed by his wife Impedimenta, decides to use the scroll against Caesar. After a fight, the Gauls come out on top, and Caesar promises to stop persecuting Gaulish newsmongers.
Asterix and the Chariot Race (Astérix et la Transitalique), 2017
Asterix and Obelix participate in a chariot race across Italy against champions from all nationalities, especially the Roman one… named Coronavirus (yes, 2017 was another world). As the race progresses, they discover that the Romans are cheating, and Caesar once again has to admit defeat and recognize the Gauls’ strength.
Asterix and the Chieftain’s Daughter (La Fille De Vercingétorix), 2019
Two former lieutenants of Vercingetorix bring thdaughter their village their former leader’s daughter Adrenalin, whom the Romans are looking for. She wears her father’s torc, which could be used as a symbol for a revolt against Rome. The lieutenants ask Vitalstatistix to watch over her while they get a ship for her to leave for Londinium. Asterix and Obelix are chosen to take care of her, but she runs away on the Pirates’ ship with help from the other teenagers of the Village. Adrenalin doesn’t want anything to do with her dads’ fight, and in the end, she leaves to travel with Peacenix, a young peace-loving shipmaster.