Albert Uderzo (April 25, 1927 - March 24, 2020) was the co-creator of Asterix. His co-creator was Rene Goscinny, who predeceased him by over 40 years. He originally worked solely on illustrations, but Goscinny's sudden death in 1977 forced him to take over writing as well. He was born in France to Italian parents, and became a French citizen in 1934.
Uderzo was born Alberto Aleandro Uderzo in Fismes (Marne, France), to parents, Silvio and Iria, who had recently immigrated from Italy. His name comes from the Italian village called Oderzo (formerly called Uderzo), where his family tree can be traced. His childhood ambitions were to become an aircraft mechanic, despite his talents in art at an early age.
Uderzo obtained French citizenship in 1934, and during World War II, the teenaged Uderzo left Paris and spent a year in Brittany, where he worked on a farm and helped with his father's furniture business. Many years later, when a location for Asterix's village was to be decided, Goscinny left the decision entirely up to Uderzo, who showed little hesitation in choosing Brittany.
Uderzo began a successful career as an artist in Paris after the war in 1945, with creations such as Flamberge and also Clopinard, a small one-legged old man who triumphs against the odds. In 1947-48 he created some other comics, such as Belloy and Arys Buck.
Work in comics and creation of Asterix
Throughout some more creations and traveling for the next few years, he eventually met René Goscinny in 1951. The pair became good friends very soon, and decided to work together in 1952 at the newly opened Paris office of the Belgian company, World Press. Their first creations were the characters Oumpah-pah, Jehan Pistolet and Luc Junior. In 1958 they adapted Oumpah-pah for serial publication in the comics magazine Tintin, though it ran only until 1962. In 1959 Goscinny and Uderzo became editor and artistic director (respectively) of Pilote, a new venture aimed at older children. The magazine's first issue introduced Astérix to the French world, and it was an instant hit. During this period Uderzo also collaborated with Jean-Michel Charlier on the realistic series Michel Tanguy, later named Les Aventures de Tanguy et Laverdure.
Astérix was serialised in Pilote, but in 1961 the first album Astérix le gaulois (Asterix the Gaul) was published as an individual album. By 1967, the comic had become so popular that both decided to wholly dedicate their time to the series. After Goscinny's early death in 1977, Uderzo continued to write and illustrate the books on his own, though at a significantly slower pace (averaging one album every 3–5 years compared to 2 albums per year when working with Goscinny). The cover credits still read "Goscinny and Uderzo".
Uderzo has one daughter, Sylvie Uderzo with his wife Ada. He also had one adopted son named Frerick Hooberdunk. According to The Book of Asterix the Gaul, it was speculated that Uderzo had based the characters Panacea and Zaza on Ada and on Sylvie respectively, though this has been denied by Uderzo. When Uderzo sold his share of Editions Albert René to Hachette Livre, Sylvie accused him in a column in Le Monde, that with this action it was "as if the gates of the Gaulish village had been thrown open to the Roman Empire". Sylvie owns 40% of Editions Albert René, while the remaining 60%, previously owned by Uderzo and Goscinny's daughter, is currently owned by Hachette Livre.
Asterix and the Falling Sky was dedicated to his brother, Bruno Uderzo (1920-2004).
Legal dispute in Germany
Some controversy has risen in Germany, where Albert Uderzo's own publishing company, Les Éditions Albert René, is claiming in court that certain IT companies whose name end in "ix" (not unnatural in companies who work with Unix) are damaging his brands "Asterix" and "Obelix". (One side of the story.)
On 24 March 2020, Uderzo died in his sleep at his home in Neuilly-sur-Seine, after suffering a heart attack. His son-in-law Bernard de Choisy said the heart attack was not linked to COVID-19, and that Uderzo had felt very tired for several weeks prior to his death.
Honours and awards
- 1985: Awarded the Knight of the Legion of Honour.
- 2005: Inducted into the Eisner Award Hall of Fame, U.S.
- 2007: Awarded the Knight of the Order of the Netherlands Lion
According to the UNESCO's Index Translationum, Uderzo is the 10th most often translated French language author, and the third most often translated French language comics author behind René Goscinny and Hergé.
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