The cast of the Asterix comics is as iconic as the likes of Mickey Mouse and Tintin.
Gauls Asterix, who is small but brave, and his unlikely sidekick, Obelix, big and dim-witted, but strong and loyal, have been fighting Julius Caesar and his all-powerful Romans for over 60 years, though their fight may now be coming to an end.
Albert Uderzo, the illustrator, writer, and creator of the Asterix comics, passed away at the age of 92 from a heart attack on Tuesday, March 24th at his home in a suburb of Paris.
Who was Albert Uderzo?
Albert Uderzo was born on April 25, 1927, to an Italian immigrant family in France. He had red-green color blindness, and a sixth finger on each hand which was removed shortly after his birth.
As a child, Uderzo could always be found drawing, eventually turning his focus to painting when he was 12. His mother and brother, Bruno, always encouraged his artistic talents. However, when he was a teenager, he changed his path to become an aircraft mechanic and passed the French engineering entrance exam just before World War II broke out in 1939.
After the war ended, Albert tried his hand at animation studios, numerous art competitions, and magazine and news drawings, developing his realistic style and crafting various characters.
It was at one of these jobs that Albert met his partner in crime, writer Rene Goscinny. Albert began to illustrate two of Goscinny’s columns for a women’s magazine, Qui a Raison? (Who’s Right?) and Sa Majesté Mon Mari (His Majesty My Husband).
Together, they created many series for different magazines: Luc Junior, an investigator solving crimes with his trusty dog; Poussin et Poussif, about a boy and his dog; Oumpah-pah, a Native American and his French officer friend.
One day, a new magazine, Pilote, demanded an original, French-themed comic strip within three months. They racked their brains for an idea, flipped through history books, and decided there was nothing more definingly French than the Gauls, who had fought fiercely against the aggressive Roman Empire expansion.
That set off the creation of Asterix and Obelix, whose names end with “ix”, in honor of the historical figure, Vercingetorix, who brought the Gauls together in revolt against the Romans. Asterix and Obelix’s journey together eventually launched them into comic book stardom.
A Majestic Impact
As of now, the Asterix series has 37 books in 111 languages, 373 million copies, a theme park, more than 100 licensed products, and 14 films.
Adults and children alike continue to relish in Asterix and Obelix’s adventures, finding fun in the gags, hilarious drawings, cliche-poking jokes, puns, and cultural references like the Beatles and James Bond that Albert Uderzo brought to life in his work.
At a time when American comics dominated and countries were dealing with post-war identities, Asterix’s uniquely French nature and humor appealed to many readers. Since its start, fans have watched the underdog Asterix fight the towering Romans, often seeing themselves in him: small, yet undeniably mighty.
Have any of you read or heard of Asterix? If so, what is one of your favorite plot lines?
Sources: The Guardian, Seattle Times, New York Times, Asterix