When it comes to French-Belgian comic adventures, most of the English-speaking world is divided into two camps: Team Tintin and Team Asterix. Air Mail Pilot is a staunch member of Team Tintin, but we are nevertheless happy to report that notes for a new Asterix book by the character’s long-dead co-creator have recently been discovered. For fans, this will be exciting news, like finding old candy in your winter jacket pocket, but even better. Non-fans can stop reading now and scroll back to Air Mail Pilot’s weekly picture of a cute animal.
To appreciate Asterix, it helps to know a little French history. The comics take place in 50 B.C.E., when the country was known as Gaul and was part of the Roman Empire. The title character is a scrappy little Gaulish warrior with a blond mustache whose village is one of few holdouts against Roman rule.
So basically: the Gauls are the good guys and the Romans are the bad guys, along with Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Vikings, and various other European hordes, bands, and multitudes. Brave Gauls fending off foreign invaders may have had special appeal for French readers in 1959 when Asterix was first published and the country was still recovering from having been occupied by Germany during World War II.
The creators were writer René Goscinny and artist Albert Uderzo. Together they produced about 25 Asterix books—what we’d now call graphic novels. After Goscinny died of a heart attack in 1977, at the age of 51, Uderzo took over the writing as well as the drawing, until 2013, when he ceded the series to a new writer and artist. Here’s something interesting: Uderzo was born with six fingers on each hand and could only grasp a pencil awkwardly after his extra digits were amputated. He died last year at the age of 92, also of a heart attack.
Many fans say the series was at its best when Goscinny was at the helm. His daughter, Anne, found what The Times of London described as “fragmentary drafts” for a new book that was to be called Asterix in the Circus—presumably the Roman kind of circus, with chariot races, and not the modern kind with clowns and sad elephants, but further details have yet to be released. All Anne Goscinny is saying is that it will be a “wonderful adventure” but that extrapolating it from her father’s notes will be “very complicated.”
If and when Asterix in the Circus emerges, it will surely feature the usual supporting cast, including Asterix’s sidekick Obelix, whose job, when he isn’t fighting alongside Asterix, is hauling around big, tall stones called menhirs. Ancient people used to erect menhirs all over Europe for … well, no one really knows why. But now you’ve heard of menhirs and can use the word in casual conversation. Look, over there: Is that a menhir or a plinth?
Never say that reading comics—or reading about comics in Air Mail Pilot—isn’t educational. —Bruce Handy
People who say kids can’t make a difference clearly haven’t seen Cop26: In Your Hands. The documentary features six teenagers—each from a different continent—who tell the leaders attending next month’s United Nations Cop26 Climate Change Conference to “listen up.”
Queen, a 17-year-old from Cameroon, walks through a deforested area while discussing greenhouse gases. Fifteen-year-old Darielen, from Brazil—where President Jair Bolsonaro allows large-scale logging—discusses fires that raged in the Amazon and ultimately destroyed an area the size of the U.K. Sixteen-year-old Kynan, from Indonesia, explains that rising sea levels have submerged a once-bustling street in his hometown, turning it into a fishing destination.
“A mosque [is] now submerged under the rising waters,” says Kynan. “A place where people used to pray is now abandoned.”
The documentary includes a brief cameo from Prince Charles, who introduces the young activists and takes a moment to reflect on his grandson, the eight-year-old Prince George. “Like you,” Charles says, “he’s learning how climate change is causing the big storms and floods, the droughts and fires, and food shortages we’re seeing around the world.”
The kids’ warnings are meant to challenge the politicians attending the U.N. climate conference, which will take place in Glasgow, Scotland from October 31 to November 12. “My country needs to stop burning coal,” urges Hannah, a 17-year-old from the U.K. “Are you listening? This is our last chance.”
The good news is people are listening. Even people like British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The politician responded to the documentary with his own video clip. “Messages like yours leave me more determined than ever to bring about the change our planet needs,” says Johnson.
It’s about time politicians listened. As Sophia, a 15-year-old from Canada, warns in the film: “Our future is in your hands.” —Elena Clavarino
Cop26: In Your Hands will be available to stream on the Sky Web site on October 23
Kids, the next time you take a swim in the Atlit Cove on the northern coast of Israel, watch your feet—there may be Crusader swords hidden in the sand.
Last week, Shlomi Katzin was scuba diving in the Mediterranean Sea, about 650 feet off the Israeli coast, when he happened upon a Crusader sword with a blade that was more than three feet long. The weapon is estimated to be up to 900 years old.
Katzin was enjoying his time underwater when he noticed a number of shimmering objects on the sea bed. Swimming in for a closer look, he saw the unmistakable cross shape of a broadsword. The weapon was encrusted with shells from pommel to point.
Katzin swam the artifact to shore and gave it to the Israel Antiquities Authority so a team of archeologists could verify the object.
“The shape and, of course, the location leave no doubt that it is of Crusader provenance,” Kobi Sharvit, the head of the Antiquities Authority’s unit dedicated to marine archeology, told The Times of London.
The Crusades were a series of wars in the Middle Ages during which Christian European armies attempted to take control of religiously significant regions throughout the Middle East. For over 200 years, thousands of European soldiers traveled by land and sea to wage war in the region that is now Israel.
Based on the location Katzin found the sword, archeologists believe the blade belonged to an invading ship. “We have only started now to carefully work on clearing away the sediment and then we’ll X-ray it,” said Sharvit. “Hopefully we’ll be able to work out whether it was manufactured locally or brought over by one of the Crusaders.”
The sword was able to stay preserved for so long in the sea thanks to the temperature of the water off the northern coast of Israel, which stays the same all year round. The Antiquities Authority believes that the sword went undetected for centuries because it was covered by sand. Archeologists think a recent storm churned it loose from its hiding place.
Good news for those looking for Bronze age and Roman era artifacts: in the same region, the antiquities team have recently found objects from those periods, too. Get your bathing suit ready. —Alex Oliveira