Review by Andrew Littlefield
This volume, chronologically the fifth in The Adventures of the Grand Vizier Iznogoud series, was previously issued by Dargaud/Methuen in 1980. It was to be the last English language Iznogoud translation for nearly 30 years, until Cinebook began bringing the series back into print (including titles previously untranslated) from 2008 on.
The cover to Iznogoud Rockets to Stardom is actually something of a cheat. It shows the ‘vile’ Izngoud – forever scheming to depose old Baghdad’s ruling Caliph – orbiting planet Earth. Yet in the actual eight-page title story, Iznogoud’s crackpot scheme to send the Caliph off into space aboard inventor Astroh Nautikhal’s spaceship remains strictly earthbound. Even so, this set-up still allows writer René Goscinny to supply plenty of satirical jabs about the space race, something of a public and media obsession at the time this album was first released in France in 1969.
As always, Goscinny’s finely engineered Iznogoud scripts are really brought to life by artist Jean Tabary’s ornate, energetic panel drawings. Tabary even makes an appearance in this collection’s best eight-pager, ‘Dark Designs’, a clever parable about artistic creation and destruction. The magician In’Shahntid gifts Iznogoud a magical pencil, telling the Grand Vizier: “If you draw a picture of someone with this pencil and then tear up the picture, your model will be transported instantly to a faraway desert island”. Stymied by his inability to accurately render the caliph’s face, Iznogoud goes for drawing lessons with Tahbari Al Tardi, an artist whose undoubted talents are undermined by his constant difficulty with deadlines.
Rounding out this typically enjoyable collection are three more eight-page stories. ‘The Tartar’s Talisman’ is a magical silver pendant that can make dreams come true, allowing Goscinny and Tabary to shift between ‘reality’ and ‘fantasy’ in the blink of a panel; ‘Izngoud’s Pupil’, the weakest yarn, has our anti-hero giving school lessons to the spoilt son of a bloodthirsty sultan; and in ‘My Hat’, there’s a magical titfer that instantly sends the wearer stark raving mad. How could Iznogoud resist?