Review: Iznogoud The Grand Vizier

Published On October 4, 2012 | By Richard Bruton | Comics, Reviews

Iznogoud – Volume 9: The Grand Vizier Iznogoud

By Rene Goscinny and Jean Tabary


Back again with the denizens of old Baghdad, as we take part once more in the comical tales of Iznogoud, the Grand Vizier of the Caliph’s court, whose one wish is to topple his master and assume his role. Or, in his words:

“I want to be the Caliph instead of the Caliph”

There are 27 volumes of Iznogoud, and each sticks (as far as I can see) to a simple structure; this is Road Runner in old Baghdad  with Iznogoud firmly cast as the Coyote  and the Caliph a very rotund Roadrunner. And just as with previous reviews of Volume 7 and 8, there’s a lot to be enjoyed simply watching the calamitous Vizier mess up each dodgy plot.

The whole thing is full of invention with regard to Iznogoud’s devious and ridiculously desperate schemes. This time we have a genie from a magic pair of slippers, a fractious neighbouring sultan, a pair of dumb stand-in strong-arm men, a Mongol horde complete with Yurts and yoghurts  a Caliph look-a-like, and a fabled island of the giants. And each is used, by devious, deceitful, and frankly doomed Iznogoud, in his Caliph toppling attempts. And every time it goes wonderfully, ridiculously, disastrously wrong for Iznogoud.

But there’s a lot more fun and enjoyment to be had from Iznogoud once you start talking about Goscinny’s delightful and devilish sense of humour that extends way beyond the basic simplicity of the short plots. As good as the plotting here, as lovely as Tabary’s art is to behold, I found myself chuckling most over the many, many wonderful off-hand bits of clever comedy, as the slapstick insanity builds and builds and builds, and suddenly were not looking at a classic WB cartoon, we’re looking at something more British, more post-Python, and the spectre of Basil Fawlty comes into view.

Every few pages you catch Goscinny throwing something wonderful into the story, starting right here on page 1;

It’s Wa’at Alahf’s perfect timing, the innocence of his memory – the silliness that there just happens to actually be a magic item merchant in town, in fact the very concept of a “magic item merchant” is funny enough. And then Goscinny cant help but throw in the merchant’s name as well, presumably sympathetically translated here to capture the punning essence of the man.

Or this…

Again, it’s all in Goscinny’s wonderful dialogue; “wife, bring me the 47 dirhem and 12 fals bottle!” – it just smacks of the sort of things I read in Asterix when I was younger, and it’s such a pleasure to read it anew.

Oh, I could go on. But that would take away all your fun. Go find out for yourself. It’s so simple, yet so well structured, a master at play. Great fun for all ages, each age range getting something good out of the laughs on offer. I shall leave you with this…..

The very last panel of the first story concerning Iznogoud’s complex plot to use a Genie to overthrow the Caliph. And the wonder of it, the great gag in it isn’t the final panel, it’s the wonderfully tortuous route that Goscinny takes to get to this one line. It’s frankly worthy of Fawlty Towers, the comic equivalent of the moose head clocking Fawlty on the head. Wonderful.

Now, having seen that, you really, really, really want to know how it all falls into place, don’t you?

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About The Author

Richard Bruton

– Started in comics retail aged 16 at Nostalgia & Comics, Birmingham. Now located in Yorkshire, he’s written for the Forbidden Planet International Blog since 2007. Specialising in UK Comics and All-Ages comics, Richard’s day job in a primary school allowed him to build the best children’s graphic novel library in the country.

2 Responses to Review: Iznogoud The Grand Vizier

  1. AndyB says:

    Anthea Bell has translated Iznogoud – you’d have to check inside to see if this is her work too. In a book I possess concerning Asterix, it is remarked that the technique she and Derek Hockridge use is that where they cannot use one of Goscinny’s puns, they find another one to use somewhere else instead (thus Hic! Haec! Hoc! replaced a pun in dialogue elsewhere because French only has “Hips!” for a hiccup!

    The famous one was in Asterix in Britain, and impressed Goscinny. Once again replacing a pun they couldn’t pull off elsewhere, they replaced an entire side joke about a watermelon being too dear (the response being “Il est!”) with “So you think this melon is off?” “It is rather, old fruit!” in the same speech balloons… brilliant.

  2. Grumpy Frenchman says:

    This is actually the first Iznogoud we publish that isn’t the original translation by Anthea Bell, but that of a rather terrified yours truly. I can honestly tell you, for all that it’s fun to tackle the puns, it’s also nerve-wracking when you know the end result is going to be compared to the work of a legend like Bell… >.<

    The thing is, the method you describe here is precisely what I (and my counterpart/mistake-catcher Erica) use as well: if you just can't make a pun work, then keep an eye out for a line somewhere else that'll take a pun. It's like keeping the pun load balanced… I'll admit it's more instinctual than anything.

    Anyway. I hope that we did good work – that's up to you to judge, of course!

    J. Saincantin

    Oh, and Richard: the "Mede Indjapahn" joke didn't actually need translating at all. "Mede" is the same word, and we're very familiar with the "Made in Japan" label here as well. 🙂