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Asterix now features a hefty dose of satire. Oh, and Julian Assange

Ranjan Crasta | Updated on: 13 February 2017, 6:00 IST

On October 22, a battle that has been waged for over half a century will once again resume. One village of indomitable Gauls continues to hold out against the Roman invaders. Yes, the world's best-selling comic, Asterix, is back. But this time things will be remarkably different.

Or rather, some things.

Life will still not be easy for Roman legionaries who garrison the fortified camps of Totorum, Aquarium, Laudanum and Compendium. Yes, there will still be magic potion and feasts with wildboar.

But this will be the first edition of Asterix completely devoid of any contribution from the franchise's original creators. The new album, Astrix and the Missing Scroll, will not feature Rene Goscinny (who passed away in 1977) and Albert Uderzo who has managed eleven editions since Goscinny's death on his own.

Instead, the new album is written by Jean-Yves Ferri and illustrated by Dider Conrad, both of whom were handpicked by the now-88 year-old Uderzo.

In fact, Uderzo's last contribution came in the last edition of the comic, illustrating Obelix on the cover even as the rest of the illustration was done by Conrad. But it isn't just the change of guard that differentiates The Missing Scroll from its predecessors, it's the direction the new creators seem to be taking the franchise in.

The new Asterix character was meant to be called Wikilix but was later changed to Confoundtheirpolitix

The album bridges the gap between the Gaulish world of 50 BC and actual current events. After TV shows like Homeland, The Newsroom and Mr Robot, it's Asterix turn to dive into data espionage and the Assange/Snowden story.

In The Missing Scroll, Asterix and Obelix will team up with a new character - a journalist based on Julian Assange. The new character was originally meant to be called Wikilix, a tip of the hat to Assange, but was changed to the longer Confoundtheirpolitix.

"The central theme is really information and the control of information and the dramatic notion that surrounds this," cartoonist Conrad said. This marks a rather dramatic change from the usual frivolity of the Asterix universe. The plot will be based around Caesar's efforts to use propaganda in his endless war on Chief Vitalstatistix's tribe of Gauls.

Confoundtheirpolitix, who works for the Condatum Echo, will be one of the key characters in the Gaulish struggle to defeat Caesar.

In addition to Confoundtheirpolitix, there are a host of new characters including a new postman Postaldistrix; Wifix, the only man in the clan who actually reads the paper; and Libellus Blockbustus, the quintessential villain assisting Caesar in his quest for domination. In fact, in keeping with a new-found penchant for satire, the character of Libellus Blockbustus is based on a series of advisors to the last few French presidents.

After the disappointment of Asterix and The Falling Sky, the last offering in 2013, Asterix and the Picts was a huge success, selling over 5 million copies.

Clearly the franchise isn't dead, and with Uderzo already giving the new book a thumbs-up, the series looks set to survive - and if their contemporary direction finds favour, thrive.

Alea jacta est. Ave atque vale. (The die is cast. Hail and farewell.)

First published: 16 October 2015, 1:29 IST
 
Ranjan Crasta @jah_crastafari

The Ranjan (Beardus Horribilis) is a largely land-dwelling herbivorous mammal. Originally from a far more tropical habitat, the Ranjan can now be found wandering the streets of Delhi complaining about the weather, looking for watering holes and foraging for affordable snacks. Mostly human, mostly happy and mostly harmless, the Ranjan is prone to mood swings when deprived of his morning coffee. Having recently migrated to the Catch offices, he now inhabits a shadowy corner and spends his time distracting people and producing video content to distract them further.

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