From Academic Kids

Iznogoud (pronounced "He's no good" with a French accent hence the loss of the H) is a French comic strip character invented by René Goscinny - who also created Asterix - and drawn by Jean Tabary. The stories have been translated into many languages, including English.

Set in Baghdad, Iznogoud is second in command (Grand Vizier) after the Caliph, Haroun El Poussah (Haroun El Plassid in English - a pun on the historical Caliph, Harun al-Rashid) but his sole aim in life is to eliminate/destroy the Caliph and take his place, expressed in his famous catchphrase, "I want to be Caliph instead of the Caliph" ("je veux devenir calife à la place du calife"), which has passed into everyday French. Iznogoud is always assisted in his plans by his faithful and slightly dumb (but not so dumb) henchman, Wa'at Alaaf (Dilat Larat in original French).

Goscinny's taste for sharp satirical writing keeps the rather repetitive nature of the stories constantly fresh, making Iznogoud one of the most popular anti-heroes (although he is the villain!) in the French comic strip world.

A classic example is when the Grand Vizier discovers the "Road To Nowhere"--a road that only leads back to itself--and devises a plot to lure the Caliph there so he will be trapped forever. Of course, Iznogoud forgets that he needs to be able to exit the road himself first...! Another plan involves freezing the Caliph, which has to constantly be shelved because there always seems to be some source of heat around (never mind if it's only heartburn!). Iznogoud even attempts to enlist the services of a primitive computer (described as a very clever djinni) in order to find out the answer to his perennial ambition. The temperamental computer ends up sulking when Wa'at Alaaf answers a complex mathematical equation before it can. In the end, the only answer Iznogoud gets is the solution to the equation.

Goscinny's furious talent for punning, made famous in the Asterix books, also appears in Iznogoud. Of course, most of the puns in the original French would make no sense when translated into English, so great credit must be given to translators Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge, whose challenging job was to come up with equivalent English-language puns while still keeping within the spirit of the original text.

As a nod to Asterix, the famous Pirates of Asterix (led by a redbearded captain) make a cameo appearance in Iznogoud. While sailing, Iznogoud's party encounters the pirates - complete with their Nubian lookout. The captain's only question is "lookout, do you see G-G-G-G-Gauls with them?" After the inevitable destruction of the ship, the first mate proclaims that the Gauls are the least of their worries. Another nod to Asterix: When Iznogoud and Wa'at Alaaf makes a wax statue of Brutus come to life, the Roman assassin asks "Are you Asterix and Obelix?".

Goscinny and Tabary also make cameo appearances themselves. In one episode, Tabary uses a magical time-travelling closet to go help Iznogoud in his fight for Caliph title. In another episode, Iznogoud gets a magical calendar that makes him travel in time if he rips off its pages. He rips some too much and he ends in the 20th century, right inside the working room of Tabary himself! And in yet another episode, Iznogoud gets a magical drawing paper set that makes anybody or anything drawn on it disappear if the paper is torn apart. Problem is, the drawing has to be realistic, and Iznogoud is a lousy artist. He then goes see a local artist to teach him, and this artist is Tabary himself, renamed "Tabary El-Retard". We also get some "behind-the-scenes" moments, like when Iznogoud travels in a country in a mirror, and everything is in reversal, including text in balloons. Tabary is shown complaining to Goscinny about going through this frustrating "reversal" work, and even threatens him with a gun, to convince him into making a non-reversed "translated" version.

When Goscinny died in 1977, artist Tabary eventually decided to carry on the work himself, just as artist Uderzo did with the Asterix franchise. The Iznogoud series is now up to book #26 (released in April 2004) and shows no signs of stopping. The character was immortalized in animated form in 1995 with a series of cartoons, and a live-action Iznogoud film starring Michaël Youn and Jacques Villeret (Iznogoud: Calife A La Place Du Calife) was released in France in February 2005.

Interestingly, the character has also made his mark on French politics: when the extreme-right wing politician Bruno Mégret, number two in the Front National, tried to take over the party from Jean-Marie Le Pen, he was immediately described by the latter as Iznogoud—Mégret's diminutive stature and disagreeable persona making the comparison even more realistic.

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