Asterix and the Black Gold (1981)

L’Odyssée d’Astérix


Notable Nomenclature…

  • M Devius Surreptitius: head of M.I.VI.
  • Dubblosix: druidical double agent. (Uderzo is clearly a Connery fan when it comes to matters Bondian.)
  • Joshua Ben Zedrin: Jewish traveller.
  • Saul Ben Ephishul: Jewish guide.

Presenting a pretentious thematic undercurrent…

Commentary on the modern-day dependency on oil and fuel.

Continuity; lack-thereof and other gaffes…

  • Dubbing joke repeated from Asterix and Cleopatra (p1).
  • J. Caesar mentions first triumvirate, though that should have been disolved around the time of Asterix the legionary. By this time he’s outright dictator.
  • Return of Ekonomikrisis from Asterix the Gladiator. This time his galley slaves are holidaymakers on a package tour (as were the gauls on their olympic excursion). (p8 and on on.)
  • Get-a-druid-to-cure-a-druid-plot-device re-used from Asterix and the Big Fight (p9 on).
  • Hitherto-unknown-component-of-magic-potion-is-unavailable plot re-used from Asterix and the Great Crossing (p14).

Cleverness and contemporaneity…

  • Note the family of birds forced out of their home by the combined efforts of a beaver and woodpecker (p1).
  • M Devius Surreptitius is indeed a caricature of actor Bernard Lee (p3).
  • Dubblosix’s title is an indication of druidical failure, not spying prowess (p4).
  • Surreptitious and Dubblosix offer variant of gladiator’s greeting:
    Ave Caesar Lucratori te salutant = Hail Caesar we who are about to get rich quick salute you (p4).
  • Dubblosix receives a message on self-destructing papyrus (p5).
  • Itinerent family of birds seeks an end to its accommodation worries at the Gaulish village (p5).
  • Dubblosix’s particular restorative potion is Scotch Whisky, Causing Getafix to put on an air before suffering the inevitable hangover (p12).
  • Dubblosix’s carrier fly has fatalistic predilection to fall into bowls of soup (p16 and on).
  • Economikrisis presents fighting the pirates as a holiday entertainment (p17).
  • There is a Frankenstein-monster pirate with a sword instead of bolts (p17).
  • Good vista of Tyre (p22) and a quite fabulous one of Jerusalem (p26).
  • The heroes stop over in Judea’s most famous inn-adjacent stable (p27).
  • Jewish merchant has to adopt a Roman-sounding name (p 30).
  • Saul Ben Ephishul is an affectionate caricature of the late Goscinny – who was Jewish (p30). (Kessler)
  • Pontius Pilate washes his hands literally as well as symbolically (p31).
  • Obelix enjoys some flotation therapy (p31).
  • More Biblical allusion: A&O; are to spend 30 days and nights in the desert (p32 on).
  • A&O; caught in the crossfire between countless (well actually five) warring tribes (p32).
  • Asterix quotes Byron (p34).
  • Dogmatix’s curiosity saves the day again (pp 35-36).
  • Role-reversal: A camel is borne by Obelix (pp 36-37).
  • Obelix brings about world’s first oil-slick (p41).
  • Asterix repeats the book’s opening frame caption, now in narrative form (p44).
  • The family of birds finally moves into its new home: Cacofonix’s tree by invitation of its owl (p44).

That Aston Martin chariot in full…

  • Collapsible structure.
  • Retracting blades.
  • Smoke-screen propellant.
  • (faulty) Wings.
  • Optional ‘trunk’ setting.

That army recruitment drive…

“Join the light cavalry they said…” (p 11).

Non-PC World

Jews handled sympathetically as thematic comrade-in-arms, understandably considering the underlying theme of wartime collaboration versus resistance in Asterix books, most explicitly Asterix and the Big Fight.

Obelix has a tender side…

  • Treats with utter contempt the idea that he may be frightened of Romans (pp 10-12).
  • The hypersensitive heavyweight breaks free from the written page to vent his anger at the word “fat” in a frame caption (p19).

Classic Pegleg…

  • Non omnia possumus omnes = we can’t all do everything (Virgil, Eclogue vii.63 attrib to Macrobius Lucilius, Saturnalia vi.1.35)(p18).
  • ave atque vale = hail, and farewell evermore( Catullus 87-54 BC, Carmina ci) (p41).

Redbeard’s Retort…

‘Well I saved the ship didn’t I?’

The African lookout’s wittier retort…

‘Whatever he means, I vote we play possum next time!’

Good or what?


‘Asterix in the Holy Land’: Best solo-Uderzo ‘Asterix in…’ book by virtue of it’s original setting and on-target James Bond and Biblical humour. Relative lack of continuity jokes that tend to mar Uderzo’s other books; and the ones that are there (e.g. return of Ekonomikrisis) are handled very well. Almost as good as a Goscinny/Uderzo book.