The despicable, but highly amusing, Grand Vizier of Baghdad who will go to any length to rid himself of his Caliph so that he can take his place may be going rather further than before in his latest book, Izogoud Rockets To Stardom.
The book consists as usual of a collection of short stories – in the title story Iznogoud purchases Baghdad’s first space rocket to send the Caliph on a one way mission to the stars; in Iznogoud’s Pupil he becomes the teacher to a neighbouring Sultan’s son in an attempt to force that Sultan to attack Baghdad and depose the Caliph; in The Tartar’s Talisman a necklace makes the wearer’s dreams come true but not their daydreams only their uncontrollable sleeping dreams; in My Hat a straw boater turns its wearers mad; and finally in Dark Designs Iznogoud takes drawing lessons since if he rips up a drawing made with his magic pencil, the subject of that drawing disappears.
As ever Iznogoud’s motives are always the same, remove the Caliph from power by any means possible to take his place which, unsurprisingly, he consistently fails to do. As each story begins with the status quo of the Caliph being in power and oblivious to Iznogoud’s machinations, this is a book that could get boring very quickly. However, since it is written by Asterix’s Rene Goscinny and illustrated by Jean Tabary, it does not and indeed remains surprisingly funny as Goscinny is able to come up with more outlandish and outrageous ways for Izongoud to attempt to depose his Caliph.
Of the five stories in the book two stand out for me – the title story of Iznogoud Rockets To Stardom and Dark Designs. The first shows how Goscinny took the world around him and incorporated it into the strip since this book was originally published in French in 1969 at the height of NASA’s Apollo moon programme. The second is a long in-joke with Iznogoud being taught how to draw by the slow artist Tahbari Al Tardi who of course bears more than a passing resemblance to Tabary himself.
While it is the eighth Iznogoud title from Cinebook, this is a translation of the fifth French album Des Astres Pour Iznogoud which was originally published in English in the UK in 1980. Rene Goscinny passed away in 1977 and Tabary continued on with the books himself until 2004 when the 27th title was published after which a 28th album was created by his children in 2008. Jean Tabary himself passed away earlier this year.
Iznogoud Rockets To Stardom continues the short, sharp, funny tales of the perennially frustrated Grand Vizier and are a good starting point for children for whom an Asterix book would be too long.
• There are more details of the current British Iznogoud books on the Cinebook website.
• There are more details of the French Iznogoud books at the Tabary Editions website (in French).
• There are more details of Iznogoud around the world at the Iznogoud World website.