Magical illustrator of Astérix dies

Magical illustrator of Astérix dies

Tributes are paid to French comic book artist Albert Uderzo whose iconic images of Astérix the Gaul are loved by both adults and children around the world.

Albert Uderzo the French illustrator famous for Astérix and Obelix has died at the age of 92. The French comic book artist created the beloved comic books in 1959 with the writer René Goscinny.

According to a statement from his family Uderzo, “died in his sleep at his home in Neuilly from a heart attack unrelated to the coronavirus. He had been very tired for several weeks,” his son-in-law Bernard de Choisy told AFP.

Astérix the Gaul became one of the best-loved characters in French popular culture, with more than 370 million books sold worldwide and 11 films which quickly spawned an Astérix theme park just on the outskirts of Paris in 1989. Born to Italian immigrants, Uderzo retired from drawing in 2011.

He created the Astérix series with the late Goscinny, who debuted their characters in October 1959 in French magazine Pilote, – they quickly developed a cult following from both children and adults alike. They were asked to feature a “typically French hero” and came up with the idea of their story set in ancient Gaul. The first issue published in October featuring The Adventures of Asterix the Gaul sold more than 300,000 copies.

Leading the tributes to Uderzo was writer Oliver Kamm, whose mother, Anthea Bell, translated the Astérix books into English, said Uderzo was “a cartoonist of genius, whose skills perfectly combined with those of the brilliant René Goscinny”. Kamm said he was deeply sad and added: “Though not an English speaker like Goscinny, Uderzo had gracious appreciation of the Astérix translations of my mother.”

Taking to Twitter Mark Millar, the creator of comics including Kingsman called Uderzo “the Master” and “my gateway drug to beautiful European comics”, while Rafael Albuquerque, illustrator and co-creator of American Vampire, said Uderzo was “one of my biggest influences in comics”. “Astérix was the first comic I read, from my aunt’s bookshelf. With him I learnt about expression more than anyone. Merci maître!” he wrote on Twitter.

The adventures of Astérix and his sidekick Obelix have been translated into more than 100 languages. Astérix’s adventures have been turned into several live action and animation films, including a series starring Gerard Depardieu as Obelix the character who fell into a cauldron of magic potion as a child, making him invincibly strong.

Uderzo and Goscinny collaborated until the latter’s death in 1977, when Uderzo took over the writing until 2009. The Great Divide, the 25th Astérix album, was published in 1980 and was the first to be written and drawn by Uderzo alone.

They will be remembered as a creative partnership that left their mark on French culture.

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