The French comic book artist and scriptwriter, Albert Uderzo, known for his work on the popular Asterix title, has died at the age of 92, his family told the French news agency AFP this week.
The news outlet quoted Uderzo’s son-in-law, saying: “He 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.”
The artist, the son of Italian immigrants living in France had retired from drawing in late 2011. He will be fondly remembered for his work on Asterix, the comic book hero that has amassed a cult following across Europe and has become a major film franchise, both in animation and live action.
The Asterix property has spawned a number of cinematic adaptations, most notably 1999’s Asterix & Obelix Take on Caesar, starring Gerard Depardieu and Roberto Benigni.
Asterix debuted in October 1959 in the French magazine PIlote, created by René Goscinny and Uderzo. Two years later, the first stand-alone effort, Astérix the Gaul, was released. Since then, the series has gone on to sell more than 380 million copies, translated into more than 100 languages internationally.
The duo collaborated on the comic until the death of Goscinny in 1977. Uderzo then took over the writing until 2009.
The comic book series centres around the titular Asterix, the bravest warrior in a small town in the middle of Roman-occupied Gaul in the year 50 B.C. With the help of a magic potion that gives him super-strength (and his best friend Obelix, who fell into a cauldron of the potion as a child), he spends each instalment fighting and defeating the Roman army and keeping his village safe from harm.
Last year, Astérix celebrated its 60th anniversary with US independent publisher Papercutz taking on the American licensed for the property this year. It does so with an ambitious publishing plan in place to bring Asterix to the US audience.
The Papercutz run will feature all-new English language translations, with a publishing schedule that features both a series of collected editions of historical material and hardcover editions of contemporary releases moving forward.
Since Uderzo’s retirement, the work on Astérix has been handled by writer Jean-Yves Ferri and artist Didier Conrad under a deal that allows Lagardere-owned publisher Hachette to continue producing the series. The most recent book, Astérix and the Chieftain’s Daughter, was released in October.