It all began in 1959 on the balcony of Albert Uderzo’s council flat in Bobigny. There were only three months to go before the trial edition of Pilote was due out, and the two authors René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo were really under pressure: they had to come up with a completely original comic strip series based on French culture. They browsed through the history of France in search of inspiration on which to base their heroes. And suddenly, in between bouts of laughter, there was a Eureka moment: they would use the period of the Gauls … which is how Asterix made his first appearance in Pilote magazine on 29th October 1959. The comic strip soon became a cult: The Adventures of Asterix the Gaul.
René Goscinny remembers:
“We were at Uderzo’s flat one afternoon looking for an idea, we wanted something funny and unusual.
It didn’t take long for us to agree on a choice of theme: the history of the Gauls, a period which had been strangely overlooked in France but seemed to be full of possibilities! Taking our inspiration from the name Vercingetorix, which we both remembered from our first history lessons at school, we named our characters Asterix, Obelix, Getafix and other names ending with ‘ix’. Our Romans would have names ending in ‘us’, such as ‘Poisonus Fungus’. Their towns would have names ending in ‘um’, such as Totorum, Aquarium and Compendium.”
More than 58 years after the birth of Asterix, the success story marches on: “I haven’t a clue why it works so well, it’s beyond us, but I will never be able to thank our loyal Asterix readers enough. I’m full of gratitude and I owe them so much!” says Albert Uderzo.
René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo’s magic formula includes: a good dose of humour, a dash of humility, exceptional characters, intelligent narration, a sprinkling of genius, plenty of friendship, strong drive, a sense of camaraderie and the enormous combined talent of these two creators with their acute gift for observation … and their sense of mockery…
On 5th November 1977 came the shocking news that René Goscinny had died during a cardiac stress test performed as part of a health check. He was 51. It was a terrible blow for his friend Albert Uderzo.
At that point, Albert Uderzo continued with the Gaulish hero’s adventures alone, and set up the company Éditions Albert René. Bolstered by 26 years of collaboration with René Goscinny, he wrote and illustrated further albums that were given a resounding thumbs-up by ever growing numbers of Asterix readers.
In 2011, Albert Uderzo decided to lay down his pencils but carried on working enthusiastically on characterization and collaborating closely with the new authors, Jean-Yves Ferri and Didier Conrad.