Death of Uderzo, father of Asterix
A designer with a stroke of genius, Albert Uderzo, died on Tuesday with the certainty that Asterix and his turbulent Gallic friends, whom he invented in 1959 with René Goscinny, an emblem of French culture internationally known, will survive him for a long time.
“They don’t recognize me on the street. I could go behind a poster without taking it off. Characters can become myths, but not us, their fathers, “said the co-inventor of world rival Tintin and Mickey.
Carrying the weight of the years with poise and an amused detachment, Albert Uderzo will ultimately remain a little-known man, of reserved character and calm demeanor, preferring to talk about his work than about him.
A great Ferrari enthusiast (around twenty have passed through his garage), this son of an Italian immigrant couple lived in a private mansion in Neuilly-sur-Seine. It was rich, thanks to some 370 million albums sold worldwide (translated into 111 languages or dialects), fifteen films (animation and cinema), a leisure park, video games, derivatives by the hundreds.
The death in 1977, at the age of 51, of the great screenwriter René Goscinny, during a stress test carried out for a health check, affected him a lot. They have released 24 albums together. Thanks to them, comics have won over the general public.
Uderzo then left Dargaud, his historic editor, to found his own house, the Albert-René editions, and take up the torch for eight solo Asterix (not counting the birthday and short story albums).
“No gifts were given to me. Yes, of course, I suffer from a “Goscinny” complex, but they also create it for me “, he said in reference to the press deeming his albums less good than those of the tandem. However, they made a splash with the public.
Like Hergé for Tintin, Uderzo did not want new Asterix after his death. He finally changed his mind. In 2011, suffering from rheumatoid arthritis in the right hand, he passed the baton (in agreement with Anne Goscinny, sole rights holder of his father) to younger authors, while closely monitoring their work, again crowned of success.
“My hand was not made for this job,” he said. Look at the “patasses” I have! They are the hands of a pork butcher, I have big bones, like my father. I inked all my drawings with a brush, which requires a lot of skill. I had to undermine my hand while working like this. ”
Conflict with daughter
Born April 25, 1927 in Fismes (North-East), Albert is born with twelve fingers. The anomaly will be corrected by an operation. His father was a luthier. Childhood in Paris is modest, but happy.
The young man, who is color-blind, discovers the drawing at the Parisian publishing company which publishes “Les pieds nickelés”. After the war, he launched heroes like “Belloy the invulnerable”, “Flamberge”, “Clopinard” or “Arys Buck”, a hercule accompanied (already) by a small helmeted companion. He works, among others, for France-Dimanche and France-Soir.
It was a rabid cow period: “living in comics was very hard at the time, he said, and I drew an astronomical quantity of boards to settle the end of the month”.
In 1951, he met Goscinny, the start of a 26-year fraternal collaboration. They create “Jehan pistol” the corsair, then “Oumpah Pah” the red skin.
In 1959, in an HLM in Bobigny in the Paris suburbs, where Uderzo lives, between cigarettes and pastis, they invent a new universe all in “ix”, with a band of diehard Armoricans. The idea would come from stays in Brittany during the war of Albert’s older brother, Bruno, eager to escape the STO (Service du Travail Compulsif).
Anti-archetype of the virile Gaul, Asterix made its appearance in the first issue of the magazine “Pilote” in October 1959, on page 20. The issue tore up. That same year, Uderzo created, with the scriptwriter Jean-Michel Charlier, “The adventures of Tanguy and Laverdure”, a success (it was Albert’s younger brother, Marcel, who took care in part of the colors).
In 1961, “Astérix le Gaulois” was released, the first album in a long series. Quickly, the designer with such expressive features will devote himself only to the adventures of the Gaul with a big nose and his friends, archetypes of the French.
In 2008, “La zizanie”, title of the 15th album, sadly sums up the hard conflict between Albert Uderzo and his only daughter, Sylvie. They tear themselves apart around the takeover by Hachette Livre of 60% of Albert-René editions, of which Sylvie owns the remaining 40%. After seven years of open war and legal proceedings, they reconciled in 2014, but, he said, this affair “undermined me”.
Asterix in numbers
With 380 million albums sold worldwide, Asterix is not only the most famous of the irreducible Gauls, but also an unrivaled publishing phenomenon.
Published in Pilote magazine between October 1959 and July 1960, Asterix’s first album was released in October 1961.
Released last year, the 38th installment in the series imagined by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo, who disappeared Tuesday at the age of 92, finished at the top of book sales in France with more than 1.57 million albums passed in 2019.
The figures for Asterix are astronomical.
Since its creation, 380 million albums of Asterix adventures have been sold around the world. By comparison, Tintin’s sales are estimated at 240 million.
The albums have been translated into 111 languages and dialects.
Each new album has a total circulation of 5 million copies, including 2 million for the French-speaking market.
In January 2017, a board signed Uderzo from the album “The soothsayer” sold for more than 319,000 euros (about $ 500,000 CAD) during an auction conducted by Sotheby’s.