Albert Uderzo, who co-created and illustrated one of the most beloved French comic series of all time, Astérix le Gaulois, with René Goscinny, has passed away at the age of 92.
An icon of the French comics industry, Uderzo was best known for his creative partnership with Goscinny, a friendship and business endeavor that began in 1951 while working at Belgium’s World Press. When Goscinny and Uderzo became the editor and artistic directors of the then-new Franco-Belgian comics magazine Pilote, aimed at younger audiences, together they crafted Astérix, the story of a small village of Gauls at the height of Julius Caesar’s invasion of the country, who fight back Roman occupation with their smarts, the occasional slapstick bit of brute strength, and a magical druidic potion that imbues the titular Astérix with temporary superstrength.
Although Uderzo originally planned to design Astérix as a typical, muscle-bound warrior, Goscinny, who scripted the comic, wanted a protagonist who could rely on his ingenuity and wit rather than brute strength, leading to the pair creating Astérix’s partner in Roman-bashing crimes, the big-hearted but loveably dim Obelix. Debuting in Pilote’s first issue, Astérix was an immediate success, and by the end of the ‘60s, Goscinny and Uderzo dedicated their full-time jobs to continuing to write and draw Astérix bandes dessinées.
Uderzo took on writing duties as well as art for the franchise after Goscinny’s passing in 1977, and would continue to release new albums of stories about the duo until he retired in 2011, handing the reigns of the franchise over to Jean-Yves Ferri and Didier Conrad. The series has continued to this day, releasing 38 volumes so far, most recently in October last year. Although it has been translated worldwide, it’s only been recently that the charmingly fun series has begun to make its way over to the U.S. in a big way, with independent publisher Papercutz announcing plans to retranslate the series for American kids as part of a new licensing deal last November.
The BBC reports that Uderzo died in his sleep after a heart attack, and is survived by his wife, daughter, and son-in-law.
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