Albert Uderzo, the French comic book artist and scriptwriter best known for his work on Astérix, has died. He was 92.
French news agency AFP on Tuesday quoted his son-in-law as 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 son of Italian immigrants had retired from drawing in late 2011.
Astérix, which has a cult following, particularly in Europe, has also become a major film franchise, both in animated and live-action form. The 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.
Parc Astérix, a French theme park based on the property, has brought in 50 million visitors since opening outside Paris in 1989.
The comic book series centers around the titular Asterix, the bravest warrior in a small town in the middle of Roman-occupied Gaul in the year 50 BC — the one burg that has not surrendered to the occupation. Instead, 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, and as such is permanently superhumanly strong), he spends each installment fighting and defeating the Roman army and keeping his village safe from harm.
Astérix last year celebrated its 60th anniversary, with U.S. Independent publisher Papercutz announcing it would this year take over the American license for the property, with an ambitious publishing plan to bring the scrappy Gaul to American shores in a big way.
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 Lagardère-owned publisher Hachette to continue producing the series. The most recent book, Astérix and the Chieftain’s Daughter, was released in October.