ambitious people


Iznogoud (pronounced "is no good" with a French accent) is a French comics series featuring an eponymous character, created by the comics writer René Goscinny and comics artist Jean Tabary. The stories have been translated into several languages, including English, and the title has been adapted to animated and live-action film.

Publication history

The series made its debut in the comics magazine Record on January 15, 1962, under the title Les aventures du Calife Haroun el Poussah. It was eventually recognised that the wicked supporting character ought to be the focus of the strip. and it was renamed Iznogoud. In 1968, it resumed serial publication in Goscinny's magazine Pilote.

Goscinny's taste for sharp satirical writing keeps the repetitive format of the stories constantly fresh, making Iznogoud one of the most popular anti-heroes in the French comic strip world. Goscinny's skills with puns, made famous in Astérix, is also evident in Iznogoud. Most of the puns in the original French make little sense if translated directly into English, requiring of translators (Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge in the case of the English translations) to find creative solutions for equivalent puns while still keeping within the spirit of the original text.

When Goscinny died in 1977, Tabary eventually decided to carry on the work himself, just as Albert Uderzo did with Asterix. While the Goscinny period was characterized by "albums" comprised of several short-length tales each, Tabary turned the series in a new direction, by dedicating every new album entirely to a single story, larger and much more detailed, usually revolving around a new unique concept.

The series was adapted to animated film in 1995 with a cartoon TV series. 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.

The publisher Cinebook Ltd is currently publishing English language translations of the books in the Iznogoud series. The first book in the series, "The Wicked Wiles of Iznogoud", was published in March 2008 with the second, "The Caliph's Vacation", following in August 2008. A third volume, "Iznogoud and the Day of Misrule" is scheduled for March 2009.


Iznogoud is the second in command (Grand Vizier) to the Caliph of Baghdad 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 overthrow the Caliph and take his place. This is frequently 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 for qualifying over-ambitious people who want to become chief. Iznogoud is always assisted in his plans by his faithful henchman, Dilat Larath (Wa'at Alahf in English).

A typical 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 become eternally trapped. In his excitement over the prospect to accomplish his life's mission, Iznogoud forgets that he needs an exit for himself. Another plan involves freezing the Caliph, which has to be shelved because there always seems to be some source of heat nearby. Iznogoud also 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 Alahf answers a complex mathematical equation before it can. In the end, the only answer Iznogoud gets is the solution to the equation. As in every Iznogoud story, Iznogoud is ultimately unsuccessful, and the Caliph continues his reign.

Supporting characters

Goscinny and Tabary occasionally make cameo appearances themselves. In one episode, Tabary uses a magical time-travelling closet to help Iznogoud seize the Caliph title. In another episode, Iznogoud gets a magical calendar that lets him travel in time when he rips off its pages. He rips too many and he is transported to the 20th century, inside the studio of Tabary. In another episode, Iznogoud gets a magical drawing paper set that makes anybody or anything drawn on it disappear once the paper is torn apart. Unfortunately, the drawing needs to be realistic, and Iznogoud is a poor artist. In search of an art teacher, he meets Tabary, renamed "Tabary El-Retard".

There are occasionally "behind-the-scenes" moments, as when Iznogoud travels in a country in a mirror, and all is reversed, 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. They also appear debating after a contemporary crowd demands them to make Iznogoud caliph.

Other recurring characters include Sultan Pullmankar, the Caliph's neighbour who is described as a touchy man with a powerful army. Iznogoud often tries provoke Pullmankar to become angry at the Caliph, so that he feels insulted and wages a war. However, Pullmankar never gets angry with the caliph, only with Iznogoud.

The memorable pirates of Asterix (led by a redbearded captain) make a cameo appearance in Iznogoud.


  1. Le Grand Vizir Iznogoud (1966, Dargaud)
  2. Les complots du grand vizir Iznogoud (1967, Dargaud)
  3. Les vacances du calife (1968, Dargaud)
  4. Iznogoud l'infâme (1969, Dargaud)
  5. Des astres pour Iznogoud (1969, Dargaud)
  6. L'ordinateur magique (1970, Dargaud)
  7. Une carotte pour Iznogoud (1971, Dargaud)
  8. Le jour des fous (1972, Dargaud)
  9. Le tapis magique (1973, Dargaud)
  10. Iznogoud l'acharné (1974, Dargaud)
  11. La tête de Turc d'Iznogoud (1975, Dargaud)
  12. Le conte de fées d'Iznogoud (1976, Dargaud)
  13. Je veux être Calife à la place du Calife (1978, BD Star)
  14. Les cauchemars d'Iznogoud (1979, Editions de la Séguinière)
  15. L'enfance d'Iznogoud (1981, Glénat)
  16. Iznogoud et les femmes /1983, Editions de la Séguinière)
  17. Les cauchemars d'Iznogoud (1984, Editions de la Séguinière)
  18. Le complice d'Iznogoud (1985, Editions de la Séguinière)
  19. L'anniversaire d'Iznogoud (1987, Editions de la Séguinière)
  20. Enfin calife! (1989, Éditions Tabary)
  21. Le piège de la sirène (1992, Éditions Tabary)
  22. Les cauchemars d'Iznogoud, Tome 2 (1994, Éditions Tabary)
  23. Les cauchemars d'Iznogoud, Tome 3 (1994, Éditions Tabary)
  24. Les retours d'Iznogoud (1994, Éditions Tabary)
  25. Qui a tué le calife? (1998, Éditions Tabary)
  26. Un monstre sympathique (2000, Éditions Tabary)
  27. La faute de l'ancêtre (2004, Éditions Tabary)

English translations

  • Iznogoud on Holiday / The Caliph's Vacation
    • Original French publication date: 1967
    • English publication dates: 1977 (Egmont/Methuen), 1982 (Dargaud International) (US version)
  • Iznogoud the Infamous
    • Original French publication date: 1969
    • English publication dates: 1977 (Egmont/Methuen)
  • The Wicked Wiles of Iznogoud
    • Original French publication date: 1967
    • English publication dates: 1978 (Egmont/Methuen); Mar 1996 (Iznogoud Monthly Comic 1, Phoenix Press Ltd. Includes Kismet, Mesmer-eyesed, The Occidental Philtre, and The Time Machine. Excludes The Picnic and Chop and Change); May 1996 (Iznogoud Monthly Comic 3, Phoenix Press Ltd. Includes The Picnic and Chop and Change); March 2008 (Cinebook)
  • Iznogoud and the Magic Computer
    • Original French publication date: 1970
    • English publication dates: 1978 (Egmont/Methuen)
  • Iznogoud and the Day of Misrule
    • Original French publication date: 1972
    • English publication dates: 1979 (Egmont)
  • A Carrot for Iznogoud
    • Original French publication date: 1971
    • English publication dates: 1979 (Egmont)
  • Iznogoud Rockets to Stardom
    • Original French publication date: 1969
    • English publication dates: 1980 (Egmont)
  • Iznogoud and the Magic Carpet
    • Original French publication date: 1973
    • English publication dates: 1980 (Egmont); Apr 1996 (Iznogoud Monthly Comic 2, Phoenix Press Ltd. Includes The Magic Carpet, The Tiger Hunt, and The Box of Souvenirs. Excludes Incogneto); May 1996 (Iznogoud Monthly Comic 3, Phoenix Press Ltd. Includes Incogneto)

References in society

Notably, the character has also made his mark on French politics: when the extreme-right wing politician Bruno Mégret, number two in the Front National, attempted to seize party control from Jean-Marie Le Pen, he was immediately described by Le Pen as Iznogoud—Mégret's diminutive stature and disagreeable persona – not to mention his wish of being caliph instead of the caliph – making the comparison even more realistic. "Iznogoud" was also later applied to Nicolas Sarkozy, a man of considerable ambition but short physical stature.



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