Acceptable Targets: Asterix encounters people of many different nationalities, their idiosyncracies all good-naturedly spoofed. Except in Asterix and the Goths, in which the Goths are depicted as even more villainous than the Romans, not a single one of them possessing any redeeming qualities. Throwing their entire nation into centuries of civil war so they can't invade others is seen as a heroic act. note Throwing the Goths into war with each other can also be seen as a "funny" explanation as for why Germany wasn't a united country until 1871: they had been too busy fighting each other and creating several tiny principalities. This is somewhat understandable though, when you remember that the Goths are early Germans and the comic was written not too long after World War II (and Goscinny was Jewish, he lost family members in The Holocaust). Later appearances by Goths (for example in Asterix the Legionary) rectified this.
Accidental Aesop: The narrative generally lionizes the simple country life lived by the Gauls as honest and fulfilling while denouncing the metropole-dwelling Romans as greedy, ambitious and decadent and depicting their striving for power, wealth or glory as nerve-wrecking, superficial and in the end meaningless. However, in Asterix and the Cauldron, Asterix's and Obelix's ignorance about monetary and economic matters proves almost fatal when they, in spite of their supernatural abilities, continuously fail to earn money when they suddenly have to. While it could be argued that they never would have slipped into that situation to begin with if not for the deceit of a greedy rival chieftain, the message the average reader most likely takes from the story is, especially on rereads, that at least some skill with money and trade is indeed useful, even if you live outside the economic hotspots.
Asterix in Corsica was ridiculously successful upon its release in France, and for a while it was the best-selling title in the entire history of the series (a title that has since been taken by Asterix at the Olympic Games worldwide, although Asterix in Corsica is still the most successful in the French language). In other countries, it wasn't exactly hated per se, but it was definitely one of the less well-received comics, since most non-French readers don't know enough about Corsica to fully understand the jokes.
Also the reason why Asterix and the Banquet took some time to be translated into English despite being one of the earliest stories in the series (and featuring the origin of Dogmatix), as the publishers felt that non-Francophones would not be able to get all the French regional jokes.
This is played straight with the Japanese translations of the books, as only two of them were translated into Japanese and they stopped translating the rest afterwards, possibly due to how difficult is to translate French humor to Japanese.
Awesome Art: Even when the plots are lacking, Uderzo's drawings make for good reads. The Art Shift in Asterix and the Class Act even shows his versatility. Following Uderzo's departure from the series, Didier Conrad has faithfully stuck to that style so far.
A straight example in the animated Asterix and Cleopatrawith the singing bath scene which serves no real purpose (except maybe animated Fanservice).. "When you're eating well, you're well..." The Dutch version of this film even cut this entire sequence. And you know what? You don't miss it all, nor do you ever have the feeling a part of the story is missing.
The live-action film Asterix and Obelix Meet Cleopatra has one where the Relax-o-Vision provides an educational film on crawdads instead of the fight.
A curious two-panel scene in Asterix in Spain. It depicts Julius Caesar publicly pardoning a captured barbarian chief he has just been parading before the Roman public, after receiving much applause from everyone (including the prisoner!). While fairly amusing in providing the excuse for a few puns about having a "captive audience", it has no relevance at all to the story, and seems to serve no other purpose than being a page filler (it served as the last two panels on the page it appeared on).
the French version, while still somewhat random, has a far more Caesar-relevant pun: when asked what Caesar is doing, one of the bystanders explains "il affranchit le rubicond" ("he is freeing the red(head)"). Which is almost the same, in French, as "il a franchi le Rubicon" ("he has crossed the Rubicon"). Which is, of course, one of Caesar's most famous historical deeds, and the one that started the civil war that Caesar is now returning victorious from. Still a bit of a random scene, but far more relevant.
Quite a few scenes in the animated film The Twelve Tasks of Asterix are far more absurd and surreal than the comic strip (a man throwing a spear around the world, a man running faster than the wind, skull tennis, the subway scene while Asterix and Obelix are in the Cave of the Beast, the circus scene...)
In Asterix and the Magic Carpet, the characters have arrows shot at them while flying over the city of Tyre, and nobody ever explains why.note Tyre, in French, is pronounced the same as "tire", meaning "shoot", i.e., shoot arrows. It's something of a Brick Joke from Asterix and the Black Gold, in which Asterix and Obelix run into various tribes (Assyrians, Medes etc.) who invariably greet them with a hail of arrows before apologizing and explaining that they took them for members of another tribe.
Critical Dissonance: The live action movie adaptations' critical reception ranged from well received to trashed. All of the movies were box-office successes but the second movie (Mission Cleopatra) is the only one well received (and none of the others reached its massive success in France), due to its particular brand of humor. The third (The Olympic Games) is considered as the worst.
In Asterix and the Goths, the Romans are worried because the Goths have invaded Galia. Both Goths and Gauls pass the frontier and roam in the forest, and the Romans are completely incapable of doing anything about it.
In Asterix at the Olympic Games, the Romans simply want to send a champion to the games and get the glory. When the Gauls find out about the games, they send their own champion, under the pretense that they are allowed to go as Romans because Gaul is part of the Roman World (despite the village obviously resisting the occupation). Asterix even give his reward to the Roman champion of a nearby camp as a Pet the Dog moment
In Asterix and the Normans, they saw a fight in the beach between Gauls and Normans, and just tried to return to the fort and avoid any problem. The new "by the rules" legionary however was more zealously antagonistic and had them return there and try to stop the fight... with the expected results.
In fact, the roles are reversed in Asterix and the Laurel Wreath, where Asterix and Obelix go to Rome and carry out a complex plan to steal Caesar's laurel wreath. The Romans did not do anything, and the Gauls wanted to steal from them. And not for an honorable reason: just for Vitalstatistix to give a Take That! to his brother-in-law. The death sentence on Asterix and Obelix does not count either: Asterix himself pled to be sent immediately to the Circus for punishment of their crime (dishonoring a slaver and a slave owner)... thinking that Caesar would be there, with his laurel wreath.
Numerusclausus in Asterix and the Picts. The poor guy was just a civilian Roman trying to make a census of the village and the Gauls kept beating him up. They were no signs that the census would have been used for military purposes. That being said, they finallygive him lenience at the end of the book, by suggesting the one surefire method to have a headcount: the traditional banquet.
Ensemble Dark Horse: Dogmatix was introduced as a visual gag in Asterix and the Banquet, and it was intended that he would not appear again after that book. He proved far more popular than Goscinny and Uderzo anticipated, however, and rapidly ascended to being one of the most important characters in the series.
Asterix and the Black Gold has the Romans burning all the petroleum in Palestine so the Gauls can't bring it back home. The book was written in 1981, ten years before an actual military-induced oil fire in the Middle East (the Iraqi troops setting fire on Kuwait's reserves as they left following The Gulf War). There's also a scene where oil is thrown off a boat and hits a bird. While it's a reference to a spill on the French coast in 1978, the seagull covered in oil ends up evoking the Exxon Valdez in 1989 (and the Deepwater Horizon 19 years later).
Asterix and the Chariot Race features a masked chariot racer named "Coronavirus", who competes in a race across Italy. Roughly two years after its publication, the COVID-19 pandemic occured, with Italy being one of the first countries outside Asia to be affected (and one of the hardest hit by it), and Uderzo himself died during the pandemic (albeit from unrelated cause).
Growing the Beard: The first three books are decent enough, but Goscinny and Uderzo were still clearly trying to find their feet. The fourth, Asterix the Gladiator saw a major improvement in both artwork and writing, along with Julius Caesar becoming a much more fleshed-out and interesting villain. A slight slip-back then happened with Asterix and the Banquet, a solid enough story but one that ultimately didn't do much to advance the story or characters, and had little appeal to non-French readers due to it being a cross-country tour of France with the heroes collecting local delicacies. And then came Asterix and Cleopatra, which saw the artwork and writing both taken to the next level (along with properly introducing Dogmatix), and is still widely considered the best book in the whole series.
Jean-Yves Ferri and Didier Conrad got this with their first Asterix stories.
Asterix, an Atari game released in 1983, wich was actually nothing more than just a slightly modified version of the game Taz (featuring the Looney Tunes character Tazmanian Devil). As such, it has practically nothing to do with the actual comics.
The albums Albert Uderzo wrote alone after the death of René Goscinny are often considered inferior. Asterix and the Great Divide, Asterix and the Black Gold and Asterix and Son are generally seen as decent, but after that the quality of the books went gradually downhill, and hit rock-bottom with Asterix and the Falling Sky.
Surprisingly Improved Sequel: The second live-action film Asterix and Obelix Meet Cleopatra, though still has mixed reception among critics and fans of the comic, is usually seen as better, funnier and closer to the comic than Asterix and Obelix Take on Caesar.
The caricatures of black people that appear in the early albums are wildly racist and offensive and would NOT be allowed today, but in the 1960s they were, sadly, not treated as an issue.
Asterix and the Secret Weapon, which was originally released in 1991, was a parody of the feminist movement. The handling of this seems incredibly inappropriate and sexist to most modern readers. However, it's worth noting that the majority of the book actually portrays the Gaulish women advocating for their rights in a fairly positive light. What's more problematic is the appearance of the female Roman legion, and the fact that the Gauls defeat this legion by opening an ersatz shopping mall, which instantly makes the Roman women forget all about their militaristic duties.
Viewer Gender Confusion: Flaturtha from The Mansions of the Gods can give of the impression of being female because all other characters whose names end in -a are female. (His name is actually based on the historical, and male, Numidian leader Jugurtha).
On the other hand, the Gaul village resisting the Roman Empire and Asterix helping local populations against the Romans can be seen as a form of anti-imperialism.
Additionally, there are several socialist undertones, as the Gaul village doesn't have any currency and instead has a sort of community-based functioning, and the series regularly takes jabs at people who are motivated by wealth, power and influence, most blatantly in "Obelix & Co.", which was deliberately written as a criticism of consumerism.
"Weird Al" Effect: The pirates are a parody of another French-Belgian comic book series, Barbe-Rouge, with the same characters reused. This series has become quite obscure nowadays, even in France and Belgium, and owes recognition mainly due to Asterix.
Win Back the Crowd: While arguably not among the best albums, Asterix and the Picts by the new writing team has been praised as a fortunate return to form after Uderzo's late work, especially Falling Sky. Asterix and the Missing Scroll has been received even better as it returns to political satire.
Woolseyism: Essentially, the editors know they have to get top-notch translators for Asterix: it's a famous series, known for its puns and other such gags that need good translators. Plus, Uderzo and Goscinny lent full creative freedom to the translators to make all the changes that were necessary, as long as the comedic intent was maintained.
The much-loved English adaptation of the original French dialogue added new jokes whenever they wouldn't translate well — e.g. the characters' names. Due to the extreme levels of wordplay in the French originals, Woolseyism is essentially the only option. The English translators have said that because they could not translate the puns, they compromised by making sure that every page has the same number of jokes as the French original. The English adaptation even changed some drawings if a reference was too difficult for English readers to understand.
It wasn't just the English translation. Nearly all of the translations were extremely well done. In Italian, Obelix's famous catchphrase "these Romans are crazy!" was translated as "Sono pazzi, questi Romani" (lit. "They're crazy, these Romans."). What makes it doubly funny is that this spells out the acronym SPQR, better known as the identifier of the Roman Senate.
In the Spanish versions of the stories, not only are the names mostly unchanged (since Spanish is a Romance language just like French), but the translation is absolutely hilarious and does use many Spanish expressions in place of the French ones. It says something that there are quite a lot of quotes from the books that reached full Memetic Mutation in Spain.
Even more so in the case of the Catalan version: since Catalan sounds like a mix between Spanish and French, it's probably the most faithful translation, since lots of puns can be translated more or less directly.
And let it be known that the European Portuguese version is also excellent!
The Italian dub of the movies has the Romans speaking in Rome's dialect.
However, there was also the terribly Macekre'd German "translation" Siggi und Babarras, where the translator replaced the light-hearted humor with heavy-handed politicalAuthor Tracts. Goscinny and Uderzo quickly withdrew his publication rights. Later, a new (and real) German translation was started, with the same high quality of other translations.
The original Dutch translation wasn't very good either. The translators missed a lot of puns and allusions and translated many lines straight. Even the names of the cast were kept identical, instead of inventing new names. Since the late 2000s the entire series has been retranslated in a much better way.
Hungarian translations zig-zag this. On the whole they're brilliant, but character names (outside of Asterix, Obelix and of course actual historical figures) often change between albums, cartoons or movies, and some are less creative than others. Probably the best example of a Woolseyism is the entire dub of the live-action Asterix and Obelix Meet Cleopatra, where everyone speaks in rhymes and the puns are ramped up to ridiculous levels.