Title Obelix and Co. (1976)
Category Asterix Comics
Mangaka Goscinny and Uderzo
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Obelix and Co. is the twenty-third volume of the Asterix comic book series, by René Goscinny (stories) and Albert Uderzo (illustrations). The book’s main focus is on the attempts by the Gaul-occupying Romans to corrupt the one remaining village that still holds out against them by instilling capitalism.

Plot summary

After Obelix single-handedly defeats the newly-arrived Romans from the camp of Totorum (as a birthday present), Caesar once again ponders with any possibility to take down the rebellious Gaulish village. A young Roman know-it-all called Preposterus, who has been studying economics, proposes to integrate the Gauls into the stream of capitalism, pointing out that Caesar’s once-brilliant officers are now corrupt, venal politicians in Rome. For that purpose, he moves into the camp of Totorum and proceeds to make the acquaintance of Obelix, who is carrying a menhir through the forest. Preposterus claims to be a menhir buyer, and buys every menhir Obelix can make, on the pretext that a rich man is a powerful man.

Obelix begins by making and delivering a single menhir a day, but when Preposterus demands more menhirs in exchange for more money, Obelix hires other villagers to help him make menhirs, and an equal number to hunt boar for him and his sculptors. Although he tries to include Asterix in this, Asterix will have no part of Obelix’s growing corporation. This corporation later includes a cart-and-oxen from a travelling salesman with which to deliver half-a-dozen menhirs to the camp in one go. Obelix’s workload also means that he neglects Dogmatix.

Obelix’s increasing wealth causes problems for the village men, whose wives reproach them for not matching his success. Obelix himself shows off this wealth by wearing ostentatious clothes, hiring Mrs Geriatrix to be his tailor.

Deciding that the time has come to teach Obelix a lesson, Asterix encourages the other villagers to start building menhirs, selling them to the Romans and putting their subsequent wealth on display. Getafix agrees to dole out magic potion for anyone who makes menhirs, in spite of nobody knowing what menhirs are for. Because the menhir makers can no longer spend time hunting wild boar, they hire the other half of the male village populace to do it for them. Only Asterix, Getafix, Cacofonix and Vitalstatistix are not engaged in the new economic system. Asterix estimates that it is only a matter of time before things come to a head, explode and get back to normal.

With Preposterus buying up every menhir at ever-increasing prices, it is not long before the camp of Totorum is filled with menhirs, and Caesar’s finances heavily in debt.

This abundance of rock reaches Rome where Preposterus sells them to the patricians. He does this by making out that a menhir is a symbol of great wealth and high rank, therefore prompting insecure people to buy them. But before he can go further, a Roman businessman jumps onto the bandwagon and sells Roman menhirs at a cheaper rate.

Anxious to sell off his stock of Gaulish menhirs and recover the money that was paid to the Gauls for them, Caesar imposes a ban on the sale of Roman menhirs. In protest the unemployed Roman menhir makers (actually slaves) block the Roman roads with menhirs.

The ban is lifted in the face of a possible civil conflict and Preposterus suggests a price war to deal with the competition. But then menhirs from other countries such as Egypt and Greece start pouring in. Even the pirates are faced with the growing Menhir Crisis since (as revealed in the French version) every ship they attack contains nothing but menhirs and taking these stones away as loot causes their own ship to sink. Soon, even free menhirs are unwanted.

Facing financial ruin, an angry Caesar then orders Preposterus back to Gaul to stop the menhir trade before it goes one stone further. Preposterus fears that the Gauls will not take this news lightly, but, if he does not, he will find himself thrown to the lions in the arena.

The Gaulish village meanwhile is unaffected by the Menhir Crisis since the centurion at the local camp has continued buying their menhirs in order to keep the peace. Obelix however is quite miserable: he has had too much of this tomfoolery with menhirs, markets, money, meat and mayhem, which he never understood at all. All the other menhir makers are now wearing garish clothes and he is demoralised. He wants to go back to the easy days of having fun with Asterix and Dogmatix and eating (an obvious comment on the dullness of corporate life). Asterix agrees to go hunting boar with him if he changes back into his old clothes, rather than the fancy ones he has been wearing. Asterix and Getafix then exchange winks: the next stage of the plan is approaching.

Preposterus returns to Gaul and announces that he is not buying another menhir if his life depends on it (as it does). He thus turns down Unhygienix’s delivery of menhirs. Although Fulliautomatix is apt to blame this on the fact that Unhygenix’s menhirs have an odour of rotten fish, it becomes clear that even menhirs made by a cynical blacksmith do not suffice.

When the men of the village notice that Obelix has himself called a halt, they criticize him on the wrongful grounds that he knew that the Romans were no longer buying menhirs and did not tell them. Annoyed by these accusations, Obelix starts a fight between the villagers. Asterix and Getafix are glad to see their friends back to their old ways. Asterix then ends the fight with the suggestion that they turn their anger on the Romans, since they started the whole thing. In gratitude for their earlier present, Obelix for once takes no part in the fight, allowing the other villagers to attack the Romans on their own. The Roman camp is wrecked, and so is Preposterus.

Asterix wants to know what his neighbours will do with all their money. Getafix tells him that due to certain events in Rome the sestertius has devalued; in other words, the villagers are now stone-broke. But they hold a traditional banquet to celebrate the return to normality and a menhir proves useful in literally holding Cacofonix down.

Economic issues

  • The book is a parody of capitalism as, while Obelix could hunt boar before, he begins to overwork for the purpose of buying them (and ridiculous clothing). This pointless circle of money is something Obelix never understands in the first place, when all this stress could be prevented by simply hunting and living the simple life like before.
  • Capitalism is also looked at as pointless through the fact that the only thing being bought serves no practical purpose, as a menhir is simply a large stone.
  • When the makers of Roman menhirs are banned from selling their stock, they block the Roman roads in protest at the loss of their jobs. This is a common tactic by French strikers.
  • The London School of Economics is referred to as the Latin School of Economics, where Preposterus is trained.

Other notes

  • The character of Preposterus is a parody of French politician Jacques Chirac, who was, at that time, Prime Minister under President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, and was himself President of the Republic from 1995 to 2007.
  • Laurel and Hardy make an appearance as Roman legionaries when they are ordered to unload the menhirs from Obelix’s cart.
  • When, on page 2, the Romans leave the camp, two of the legionaries are carrying a drunk on a shield. The bearers are Goscinny and Uderzo themselves and the drunk is their friend Pierre Tchernia.
  • In this story, camp life for the Roman legionaries is shown as very undisciplined. In other Asterix adventures they are usually clean-shaven and well-organised, but here the men’s faces are covered in stubble and life is easy-going to the point of anarchy. This laxity is reflected in the watchtower guard who becomes increasingly dishevelled with every appearance.
  • Page 36 of this book was the 1000th page of Asterix. It is the page in which Preposterus uses a number of stone tablets in order to explain his strategy of selling menhirs to an increasingly bemused Caesar. This panel had been hailed as a remarkable explanation of modern commerce and advertising.
  • Moreover, there is a small panel with the Roman numeral M and below a tiny Latin text saying ‘Albo notamba lapillo’. It should read ‘Albo notanda lapillo’ (which means “To be noted on a white stone”, appropriate given the subject of the story), but it is purposely misspelled: “notamba” is a pun in the French for footnote, une “note en bas” (i.e. a “note at the bottom”), which is what the panel is…
  • In later stories (more specifically Asterix and the Actress) it is revealed that Asterix was actually born on the same day as Obelix, however Asterix’s birthday is not mentioned in this volume, which leads some to consider the other book as a continuity error.
  • Getafix’s comment “And the funny thing is, we still don’t know what menhirs are for!” refers to the fact that modern archeologists and historians are uncertain what purpose they served.
  • The “Egyptian menhir” advertised in Rome is an obelisk, similar to Cleopatra’s Needle.
  • This is one of only three Asterix stories (the others being “Mansions of the Gods” and “How Obelix fell into the Magic potion when he was a baby”) which do not have Asterix’s name somewhere in the title.

In other languages

  • Catalan: Obèlix i companyia
  • Czech: Obelix & spol.
  • Danish: Asterix & Co
  • Dutch: Obelix & co.
  • Finnish: Obelix ja kumpp.
  • German: Obelix GmbH & Co. KG
  • Greek: Οβελίξ και Σία
  • Hebrew: אובליקס וחבורתו
  • Indonesian: Obèlix dan Kawan-kawan
  • Italian: Asterix e la Obelix SpA
  • Norwegian: Obelix & Co. A/S
  • Polish: Obeliks i spółka
  • Portuguese: Obélix e Companhia
  • Turkish: Oburiks ve Şirketi
  • Serbian: Предузеће Обеликс
  • Spanish: Obélix y compañía
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