Erotic strip challenges Asterix's comic-book crown

Thu Jan 28, 2010 12:12pm EST
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By Lionel Laurent

PARIS (Reuters Life!) - The exploits of doughty French-language comic hero Asterix have captivated readers worldwide for decades as he beats back legions of Roman soldiers from his small village in Gaul with just a swig of magic potion.

But in October the Asterix series met a surprise challenger in the form of a cheeky erotic comic called "Happy Sex."

Drawn in loving watercolor across 60 pages by the illustrator "Zep," the humorous bedroom vignettes of "Happy Sex" feature couples spicing up their sex life with bondage gear, role play and menages-a-trois.

The bedroom adventures often have unintended consequences, such as when dirty talk provokes fits of anger or when a vibrator is mistaken for a toothbrush.

The comic has been an unexpected hit since it appeared in October and was ranked the third-biggest seller in France in 2009 by research firm GfK, just below the latest edition of Asterix -- which took the top spot -- and another established French-language series called "Blake & Mortimer."

According to publisher Delcourt, 300,000 copies of Happy Sex were sold last year, still some way behind Asterix' "Livre D'Or," which according to its Lagardere-owned publisher sold around 1.2 million copies in France.

Explaining the success of "Happy Sex" is not hard, argue industry analysts, when you consider illustrator Zep is also behind the hugely popular and long-running series "Titeuf," which features a blonde-quiffed boy as its eponymous hero.

"It's the name. It's that simple. It's Zep," said Gilles Ratier, secretary-general of the comic critics' association ACBD.   Continued...