Albert Uderzo: A Lifetime in Bande Dessinée

by lucstclair on March 26, 2020

The bande dessinée (comics) world lost an icon this week. Albert Uderzo, co-creator and illustrator of Asterix & Obelix, has died. He was 92.
I remember when I was kid, getting interested in books and literature, I’ve read a few books, whether it was for school or just for fun. But my first love was comics, but before Spider-Man and Batman, there was Asterix & Obelix. It’s the story of two best friends who live in an ancient Gaulish village in 50 BC who resists the oppressing Romans with a magic potion created by their druid which gives them super human strength. It’s part historical, part fantasy, part satirical and filled with adventure. I learned about history, culture, society and a few words of Latin.
The first volume of Asterix & Obelix was published in 1961 with Uderzo’s friend René Goscinny who scripted the stories. The series was translated in many languages and has sold 370 million copies worldwide. It became a phenomenon, spawning action figures, toys, posters, animated & live action films and a theme park in France. After the death of Goscinny in 1977, Uderzo took over as writer. In 2011, Uderzo handed over the reins to a new creative team while still keeping the illustration style readers have come to love. The series is still published today under new ownership, the latest volume was published recently in February 2020.
When I was a kid, my mother worked in a library and borrowed the first volume of Asterix & Obelix, Asterix le Gaulois. I was hooked instantly and wanted more. After a while she stopped borrowing them and started buying them at the used book store for $0.50 each and soon enough I owned the entire collection. Although I was happy to own them, they weren’t in the greatest condition, so when I started to make a little bit of my own money, I’d buy them new and proceeded to do so with new volumes published every couple of years or so. My collection is now complete. 

The animation movies are great as well, my favourite is The Twelve Tasks of Asterix, which was published into a comic, but in picture book format. The live action movies are ok, but rely way too much on CGI. I also remember Obelix in animation form in a French-Canadian commercial for Diet Coke.
Asterix & Obelix characters are drawn through caricatures with exaggerated features and some racial stereotypes and as a kid, went completely over my head. Characters from other countries like Egypt, have word balloons with Egyptian symbols instead of words, black slaves have exaggerated facial features and accents. This happens whenever Asterix & Obelix venture into a foreign land. These days, this might upset some readers, just like the controversy Tintin had, but I’m not here to debate that.
Asterix & Obelix was first created during the Cold War, so the Roman Empire was a metaphor for the Soviet Union. The village is David and the Romans are Goliath. I was bullied at school, so the idea of the little guy standing up to the bully gave me some hope. Another concept I liked was the insertion of celebrities into the stories like The Beatles, Sean Connery and Kirk Douglas just to name a few. Uderzo & Goscinny even drew themselves as background characters.
I’ve tasted cervoise (ale without hops) & wild boar, but now I’ve added a planned trip to the Asterix Theme Park in Plailly, France to my bucket list. Thank you for reading this, with this isolation from the Covid-19 I’m off to re-read the entire Asterix & Obelix collection. RIP Albert Uderzo, thanks for the memories, for enriching my childhood & my adulthood and may the god Toutatis watch over you, I'm sure you're surrounded by Goscinny and loved ones sitting at a huge banquet table like the final panel of every volume. 

Papercutz has taken over the North American rights of Asterix and will be re-releasing all the originals in newly translated omnibus form. Each omnibus will contain 3 seperate stories. This first volume is set to be released in July 2020. You can pre-order now, Asterix Omnibus #1.

"Ils sont fous ces Romains!" -Obelix