Albert Uderzo, the playful French illustrator behind the magic potion-swigging comic book hero Asterix the Gaul, whose adventures fighting the Roman legions have enthralled readers of all ages around the world, died overnight aged 92, his family said on Tuesday.
“Albert Uderzo died in his sleep at his home in Neuilly, after a heart attack that was not linked to the coronavirus. He had been extremely tired for the past several weeks,” his son-in-law Bernard de Choisy said.
News of his death prompted an emotional outpouring from the generations of fans who have followed the adventures of Asterix and his robust sidekick Obelix in books translated into more than 100 languages as well as films, toys and even a theme park.
“A true legend, the little Gaul is now part of the world’s literary and artistic heritage, and will long continue to embody the values of tolerance and resistance in his adventures,” said Arnaud Nourry, head of Uderzo’s publishing house Hachette Livre.
Uderzo created Asterix in 1959 with fellow Frenchman and writer Rene Goscinny, bringing them to life in the French-Belgian comics magazine Pilote.
With his winged helmet and formidable blond moustache, Asterix and Obelix — who famously fell into the druid’s strength-giving potion as a baby — became a symbol of a France defying outside forces to forge its own path. The series has extended into 38 books.
Goscinny and Underzo had a monumental effect on comics, elevating them from three-panel strips in newspapers to a witty and insightful art form able to sustain stories that could fill a book.
Uderzo was born April 25, 1927, in Fismes, a village in northeast France near Reims, to Italian immigrants.
At birth he had six fingers on each hand, an anomaly corrected by surgery, and was color blind.
Yet he was able to develop his love of drawing by joining a Parisian publishing house after World War II, while also providing comic strips for newspapers.
He met Goscinny in 1951, beginning a friendship that would lead to their dreaming up Asterix and his village in Amorican Brittany, fueled by cigarettes and pastis liquor, in a social housing apartment outside Paris eight years later.
The first Asterix book, Asterix the Gaul, appeared in 1961 and became an overnight sensation.
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