Producing Popularity: The Success in France of the Comics Series "Astérix le Gaulois"
Dandridge, Eliza Bourque
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This study examines the rise in popularity of the French comics series "Astérix le Gaulois" through a production-of-culture lens in an effort to uncover how industry evolution and organization, protectionist legislation, marketing, advertising, branding, and consecration by the media worked interdependently to catapult Astérix, the series' protagonist, into stardom by the middle of the 1960s. In so doing, this study forcefully argues that elements external to the text itself greatly facilitated, and in some ways determined, the series' quick and dramatic rise in popularity in France by 1966. The predominance of American and Belgian comics into the 1950s and the moral turn towards all things "100 % français" enabled the success of Pilote, the French-language, French-themed magazine launched in 1959 and in which "Astérix" first appeared. By the early 1960s, Pilote's faithful readership helped make the publication of "Astérix" in album format a resounding success. Simultaneous radio exposure and extensive product merchandising further promoted "Astérix" to a new, vast, and diverse comics market comprised of children and adults alike. Media consecration marked the final step in Astérix's meteoric rise in popularity in France. Institutionalization of the comics series by the national press during the 1960s transformed Astérix into an emblem of national importance, created celebrities out of the series' co-creators, and even helped legitimize bande dessinée, or comics, as a French cultural form worthy of "serious" consideration.
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