Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Asterix forever | Uderzo hangs up his quill, but the series will continue

Asterix and Obelix are dead. Long live Asterix and Obelix.

Albert Uderzo, the longstanding illustrator of the books starring the Gaulish heroes, is hanging up his quill after a long illustrious career. He is 84 and has outlived his partner, Rene Goscinny, by more than two decades.

Goscinny's death in 1977 might have been it for Asterix, but Italian born Uderzo is clearly the pragmatic sort and remains against killing off either of the indomitable duo. He pressed on by himself, bringing to the series a quality that hadn't been there before His stories were often blunter, less subtle, and frankly whacky. Suddenly a series which played fast and loose with history was mixing it up with aliens while characters suddenly changed, not always for the better. I still remember, as a youngish kid, reading Obelix and Co and thinking to myself, hold on, that isn't quite right... Not even Anthea Bell, the translator who is also responsible for WG Sebald's Austerlitz in English, who injected Asterix with a playful intelligence that may or may not have been there in the beginning, could raise those later books up to the heights of Goscinny at his best.

That said, I am delighted to hear that Uderzo is going to make sure that the series continues without him. Asterix could indeed go on forever. the prospect of more writers having a go at bringing Asterix, Obelix, Getafix and the others to life is an appetising one. Think of what the likes of Neil Gaiman were able to do with clapped out old superhero franchises. Perhaps Asterix will not simply carry on, but be reimagined.

"I've decided that there should be some continuity, and I want it to carry on for generations and generations," Uderzo told RTL radio.

Herge famously decreed that no one should be allowed to draw Tintin after he died. His will didn't cover Hollywood turning the world's most famous two dimensional Belgian into a highly profitable computer game platform, but we will leave that to one side for the moment. There have been no more books since Herge died and the one he was working on when he passed away was left unfinished.

Uderzo has gone the other way. His reasoning is that Asterix is his legacy and that other writers and artists should be trusted with the task of drawing him in the future. With 350 million books sold so far,a theme park and multi-million euro sponsorship deals, you can see why he might want this. It is quite a family business.


  1. I have a very geeky Tintin obsession and have all of the books :-) Am slightly devastated that they're apparently making it into a movie.

    Thanks for reminding me about Asterix. You've given me a good bout of nostagia for the evening. I adored Cacofonix.

  2. Tintin will always be a personal number one, but Asterix makes me laugh out loud, even now.

    Cacofonix was an inspired creation. In Asterix and the Normans he believes he is 'the next big thing'. If only they'd had the X Factor in 50BC