back to article Asterix co-creator Albert Uderzo dies aged 92

Asterix comics co-creator Albert Uderzo has died of a heart attack. He was 92. Uderzo and writer Renee Goscinny created Asterix in 1959, with the character first appearing in a children's magazine. Two years later the first standalone Asterix album – Asterix the Gaul – appeared. The pair went on to produce another 25 volumes …

  1. hitmouse

    O tempora, o mores!

    I remember as a teen wanting to learn French "to read Asterix in the original".

    I've been enjoying the recent efforts from Didier and Conrad much more than Uderzo's solo outings. As much as he was a genius visually, his own stories kinda jumped the shark in a manner I can only compare to late-stage Heinlein.

    I shudder to think what the new American-translations of the back-catalogue will be like. Previous American reworkings found their way into Australian Sunday newspaper comics back in the day, and were completely devoid of all the cultural references and subtle humour found in the superb translations of Anthea Bell (d.2018) and Derek Hockridge (d. 2013) who sometimes made the translated versions funnier than the original. That these translators' names roll out of my memory and no others do is testament to their virtuoso efforts.

    1. Kevin Johnston

      Re: O tempora, o mores!

      As with you, this was a spur for me to try to learn French and I even considered learning Latin to understand the throw-away quips which clearly had relevance. Sadly my desire far outstripped my abilities and I had to rely on better able people to translate for me.

      1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

        Re: O tempora, o mores!

        I bought Asterix in the Latin to encourage my children to learn - and it worked.

        1. PerlyKing Silver badge

          Re: O tempora, o mores!

          It didn't really work for me. I "studied" latin at school until I had the chance to drop it. But I still have a vivid memory of my Latin teacher asking each of us in turn whether we knew any Latin expressions and I trotted out "timeo danaos et dona ferentes" (Asterix the Legionary). Then he made me translate it, or at least tried to.

          Thank you, Goscinny, Uderzo, Bell and Hockridge!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: O tempora, o mores!

      "I shudder to think what the new American-translations of the back-catalogue will be like."

      My french teacher in the UK was always adament that the english translations were funnier than the french originals, because the puns were better. Unfortunately, whilst I can struggle through the french versions, I've never been fluent enough to spot the puns in french, so I'll never know if he was right.

      Incidentally, in Paris, there is a "Rue Goscinny" complete with speech bubbles from a book or two on a handful of lamp posts. I'm not aware of a Rue Uderzo though...

      1. hitmouse

        Re: O tempora, o mores!

        I certainly contend that Asterix in Britain is funnier in the English version. Goscinny credited Anthea Bell with some better jokes according to her obituary: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/oct/18/anthea-bell-obituary

        For me the translation of Idéfix to Dogmatix is exquisite.

        There's a great very translator-geeky appreciation of the English translations here: https://auntymuriel.com/2012/12/23/asterix-in-translation-the-genius-of-anthea-bell-and-derek-hockridge/

        I started collecting the books when I was about 11. My father used to pinch them and my Tintin books on a regular basis. He probably read them all far more times than me.

      2. Jedit Silver badge

        "I'm not aware of a Rue Uderzo though..."

        That's because it's extremely unusual for a street to be named after a living person. I'm sure there will be a Rue Uderzo soon.

        1. Muscleguy Silver badge

          Re: "I'm not aware of a Rue Uderzo though..."

          Used to be that rule over figures on money too. Then New Zealand put Sir Edmund Hillary on a Reserve Bank of New Zealand banknote. After getting his, grudging, permission. He was not an ego. To the end he never revealed which of them set foot on the top first to ensure Tensing Norgay would never be erased from the record as happened and happens still, sadly.

      3. Blake St. Claire

        Re: O tempora, o mores!

        "I shudder to think what the new American-translations of the back-catalogue will be like."

        They'll be fine. We'll send all the extra 'u's back for a refund. I'm sure you lot can put them to good use somewhere.

        I got my first A&O fix when my family spent two years in South Africa in early 70s. I made sure we had them when my children were young. In a few years the grandkids will be ready for them.

      4. SW10

        Re: O tempora, o mores!

        My kids are 100% bilingual and I have a pretty good command of French. They prefer the English versions and so do I. The depth and richness of the humour goes beyond simple translation

    3. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      Re: O tempora, o mores!

      When I was learning French years ago, I remember one of the most satisfying moments was when I "got" a pun in an Asterix book. Even the jokes based on national stereotypes were well done, like the Britons drinking their hot water with a splash of milk (tea hadn't been 'discovered' in Europe in Roman times).

      I really must get round to completing my collection.

      1. JClouseau

        Re: O tempora, o mores!

        As a native French I didn't get all the puns when I was a kid, not to mention when latin is involved. Asterix is very funny when you're young and only gets better as you grow old.

        Recently one of my kids was reading Asterix in Britain (in English) for her... English classes. I haven't yet, but from what I could read elsewhere the English translations are indeed brilliant ("Dogmatix" or "Cacofonix" for instance, excellent).

        If I have to re-read the whole collection in English, so be it, that is a sacrifice I'm willing to make.

        I hope I'll get the puns.

        1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: O tempora, o mores!

          I bought my nephews Asterix In Britain ... in Chinese. :) From their giggles the translation must have stood well.

    4. Stork Silver badge

      Re: O tempora, o mores!

      I can only add that the Danish translations were very good too

      1. onemark03

        I can only add that the Danish translations were very good too

        So are the German ones.

        (I like the Low German ones but that's just me.)

  2. SecretSonOfHG

    I still have my collection from 40 years ago

    And its memories still bring back a smile to my face. Thanks, Uderzo

  3. 9Rune5 Silver badge

    The heroes from my childhood

    My dad introduced me to Asterix when I was about eight. The gauls followed me through my childhood and stayed with me. One of the very first things I unpacked after moving to a new house three years ago was my Asterix collection (along with the Discworld and HHGTTG books obviously). And then I reread the whole collection of course.

    Obelix' words often echo through my mind whenever I visit a country for the first time; "These Norwegians are crazy!".

    Venit Vidit Vicit

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The heroes from my childhood

      The discworld books are also a good example of stellar translation, in the other direction (English -> French)

    2. Down not across Silver badge

      Re: The heroes from my childhood

      Obelix' words often echo through my mind whenever I visit a country for the first time; "These Norwegians are crazy!".

      Or visit to Switzerland..

      What did you think of it?

      Obelix: It was flat.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    English

    Growing up a country with English as a second language, my introduction to the "English" language was somewhat ironically through Tintin and Asterix. Not that I understood every word at the start, and it was not until later that I began to understand the humour. We were introduced to Asterix by an uncle who used lend them to us.

  5. Blofeld's Cat

    Getafix

    If you are travelling in France* don't forget to visit Parc Astérix in Plailly. They have some wonderful roller-coasters and IMHO the theming really captures the spirit of the books.

    * When such possibilities resume.

    1. BebopWeBop Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Getafix

      We took the children on a long trip when they were younger (they quickly gre into Interrail), and when give the choice, Parc Astérix was a clear favourite over the faitly near Disneyworld.

  6. Big_Boomer Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Adieu Albert, et merci pour le rire. :-(

  7. Hockney

    That's the lockdown comfort reading sorted.

    When I was first working in London I picked up a few of them and read them on the tube, much to the chagrin of the guy I commuted with. He asked if I wouldn't mind buying a pr0n mag to hide them in as it would be less embarrassing. He was a Tintin reader, poor lad.

    1. Efer Brick

      Re: That's the lockdown comfort reading sorted.

      I can see it now - Asterix does Debbie, does Dallas

  8. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    I have the whole collection

    Book by book, I collected them over about two decades. There are a few I had to buy again, because they were worn out.

    I will now read them again, with him in mind.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I have the whole collection

      I have almost all in Portuguese, and started an English version. My kids are all grown-up, but I am not.

      1. JClouseau
        Pint

        Re: I have the whole collection

        My kids are all grown-up, but I am not.

        Citação do mês. Have a milk-shake.

    2. diego

      Re: I have the whole collection

      Same here: some of the books I own are badly worn. I'll buy them again when my daughter learns to read :D

  9. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Joke

    resistance

    The village was the only part of Gaul to mount a successful resistance to Roman occupation

    Sound familiar?

    Also some of the characters...

    ??? - Moderatrix

    Getafix - Lester

    Cacofonix - amanfrommars

    1. thosrtanner

      Re: resistance

      I'd suggest impedimenta or Bacteria for the 1st option

  10. Chris Leeson

    Asterix and Tintin...

    The two major memories from my childhood were Asterix and Tintin, and now that's all the great authors gone.

    Asterix was my introduction to comics when they became the only interesting thing in the children's section of our local library. I didn't get on to other comics 'till my late teens, and I still hold a place for the old Asterix stories. Bell did an awesome job of translating them into English, but for the comics to be translated (and survive translation) into so many other languages (including latin, I believe) they must have had something special to start with.

  11. Roger Kynaston
    Go

    Always there are millions like me

    When I was at school my friends and I used to compare notes on HHTTH knowing that we were a select few who understood these gems where no one else did at all. In a more private way I always felt the same about Asterix. Now, in later age it turns out every other bugger who was the tiniest bit geeky had the same interests.

    When a student, the Asterix books in Spanish provided a new perspective on them.

    I think that in time, Rene Goscinni, Albert Uderzo, Anthea Bell, Herge and Douglas Adams will come to be seen as the giants of mid and late twentieth century literature that they deserve to be.

    1. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

      Re: Always there are millions like me

      The only English book I can think of with a similar sense of humour to the Asterix books is "1066 and all that" by W.C Sellar and R.J. Yeatman - first published in 1930 and AFAIK never out of print since then.

    2. Stork Silver badge

      Re: Always there are millions like me

      Goscinni did several series, including an irreverent western with Morris, Lucky Luke. At least that was the name in Denmark. In the 70ies early 80es there were a lot of French and Belgian series translated and published there

      1. FrogsAndChips Silver badge

        Re: Lucky Luke

        Same name in the original series. Couldn't give a French name to an American cowboy!

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Salut et merci, Albert

    And I have no idea if Asterix is a big thing in the UK, but in France, you're a completely lost person if you haven't read all of them !

    As for the puns, and characters, my favs. are Ordralfabetix and Agecanonix.

    Cracks me up every time.

    1. baud Bronze badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Salut et merci, Albert

      Personally, as a French, I had no idea that Astérix was also big outside France, until a Polish re-used a joke from "Asterix and the Goths". I was like "what, you know about Astérix?" and the other was "duh, of course"

  13. sandman

    Just behind me in my "home office" is a shelf with every Asterix book, plus a couple of duplicates in French and Latin. Still read one at random on a regular basis and still find them funny. I got a bit sniffly when I heard the news, which is very unusual for me :-(

  14. baud Bronze badge

    > Historical figures

    Also a certain number of characters (mostly romans) are caricatures of French and international public figures

  15. Denarius Silver badge

    Farewell and RIP

    First read Asterix when courting the woman who became my wife in a small outback town. Immensely popular with tribal aboriginal children also. Both writers, artist and translators were brilliant to create humour accessible across time and cultures. Oz SBS occasionally run Asterix movies. One of the few things I watch these days. Ironically I found and read a copy of Caesars Gallic Wars in my favourite bookshop which survived the bushfires.

    Albert and Renee, thanks for the laughs.

    1. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Re: Farewell and RIP

      I imagine if you are a young Aboriginal child, the idea of a village resisting foreign invaders would seem very relevant to you. I expect plenty of Maori people back in NZ feel the same way. The village wooden wall even resembles a Maori Pa.

      The Romans didn’t invent imperialism and colonialism of course, they just did it better than anyone else until Genghis and then Imperial Britain.

      Growing up in the Antipodes with friends who were indigenous tends to give one a different attitude to the British Empire than perhaps a lot of British people have. It could have been so much better. Robert Fitzroy late of the Bounty was a Lieutenant Governor of NZ. Given no funds, spurned by the almighty NZ Company he tried to live up to the Terms of the Treaty of Waitangi and even rolled back unfair purchases of Maori land and didn’t let them get away with taking all of it when the Maori understood just this little bit.

      Then while he was under fire on a wharf in the Bay of islands he was removed from his post and replaced with Governor George Gray with ships of the line, troops, marines and FUNDS proceeded to ensure colonisation happened despite the Maori and created much worse conflict than that misunderstanding afflicting Fitzroy.

      Captain of the Bounty, Governor of New Zealand and creator and inventor of Meteorology and the Met Office. Who remember, their mainframe is called Fitzroy.

      1. rmv

        Re: Farewell and RIP

        s/Bounty/Beagle/g

    2. Precordial thump

      Re: Farewell and RIP

      Is that the one in Mogo?

  16. John G Imrie

    Asterix co-creator Albert Uderzo dies aged 92, Oh @#$$%!

  17. Pete 2

    !

    > Asterix is an obvious pun on "Asterisk".

    Sadly now brought to a full stop

    1. Muscleguy Silver badge

      Re: !

      Apparently Uderzo handed over to two younger collaborators some time ago. So the franchise will continue.

  18. Robert Helpmann?? Silver badge
    Childcatcher

    Movie & Comic Marathon

    I will be re-watching the movies and re-reading the books over the next few days. I especially love Depardieu as Obelix. Perfect casting.

  19. Claverhouse Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Regrette...

  20. Steve Todd

    Loved by folk of all ages

    When I was a child I'd get an Asterix book for Christmas. I'd read it, then my father would read it, then my grandfather.

    The publishers may try to continue the series, but I doubt that it will be the same.

  21. Charlie van Becelaere

    Sadly

    I've never seen any of the movies (but Depardieu as Obelix does strike me as inspired casting), and I've not read any of the books in years, probably not since school days in French class.

    I think my library needs a bit of expansion.

    RIP, M. Uderzo.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And the latin quotes

    "Beati pauperes spiritu", aka "happy the poor of spirit (imbeciles)".

    They always get me ...

  23. Rombizio

    RIP

    The sky is falling on our heads and his drawings are like a shield of happiness. Reading Asterix and Obelix were a cornerstone event in my childhood. I will read one of those stories today to my kid.

    A toast to you master. In vino veritas.

  24. Blackjack

    Can a work survive the death of their creators?

    Is a real shame that Uderzo is no longer with us.

    Not only because the world lost a great man but because I fear the Asterix comics quality is gonna take a dive in this world that only cares about profits.

    1. FrogsAndChips Silver badge

      Re: Can a work survive the death of their creators?

      The series could well stop, as Uderzo didn't wish it continued after his death.

      1. Muscleguy Silver badge

        Re: Can a work survive the death of their creators?

        He handed it over to two younger collaborators a while ago. So it has been and will continue without him. Goscinny died in 1977 and left it to Uderzo so why not new people?

        Walt Disney is dead but Mickey Mouse rolls on.

        Some things die with their creators, others get taken further by new people or overlap folk. Uderzo saw the danger as he aged and so broke in two new people who have been producing them for a while now.

        1. FrogsAndChips Silver badge

          Re: Can a work survive the death of their creators?

          Yes there have been several albums since he stopped drawing, but always under his supervision. He said 2 years ago that was concerned about what would happen after he left and preferred that the series stop with him: https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Astérix#L'apres_Uderzo

          No one has been allowed to take over Tintin albums after Hergé's death. If that's what Uderzo wanted too, his successors will see to it.

    2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
      Trollface

      Re: Can a work survive the death of their creators?

      As long as Disney don't get their grubby hands on the rights.

      Asterix and the GothsSiths

  25. Ian Johnston

    I taught myself A-level German at school by reading Asterix (I still expect the wizard to be Miraculix, the bard to be Troubadix and the chieftain to be Majestix.The humour in the German versions is far less subtle and allusive than the divine Bell/Hockridge translation, but they are still very funny.

  26. Pat Att

    Well done Simon Sharwood

    This is a great obituary.

  27. WanderingHaggis

    Best puchase I ever made

    When I was in France my French teacher (a Montanan cowboy living in Marseille -- long story) would say that if you could understand Asterix you'd arrived. The stories are great for children but if you got the puns and cultural references ça y est. It is a child's book for adults or an adult's book for children I never could figure out which but I love them. When I travel in France I always check out the book stores for any new ones I don't have. ad times "Je doit maintenir mon lèvre supérieur rigide"

  28. Efer Brick

    Check out this linky, sursum-ut-balanus

    https://www.google.com/search?q=asterix+coronavirus&sxsrf=ALeKk00hz5gLhUgfBu-R5VVA4nebfktjZg:1585230741720&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwje7vzZpLjoAhU2QEEAHVasBzQQ_AUoAXoECAsQAw&biw=1933&bih=1694

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