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Artist behind beloved French comics 'Asterix and Obelix' dies aged 92

FILE PHOTO: Albert Uderzo, the artist of all thirty-three Asterix adventures and story writer of the last nine books, sits next to a model of Asterix during a news conference in Brussels September 22, 2005.
FILE PHOTO: Albert Uderzo, the artist of all thirty-three Asterix adventures and story writer of the last nine books, sits next to a model of Asterix during a news conference in Brussels September 22, 2005. REUTERS - Yves Herman

Albert Uderzo, who drew the "Asterix and Obelix" comics that delighted legions of children and adults over the past six decades, has died aged 92, his family said Tuesday.  

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"Albert Uderzo died in his sleep at his home in Neuilly, after a heart attack that was not linked to the coronavirus. He had been extremely tired for the past several weeks," his son-in-law Bernard de Choisy told AFP.

Uderzo and author René Goscinny are known as the "fathers" of the French comic series about a small village of Gauls who stand up to Roman occupiers.

Asterix’s 38th adventure has been printed in 5 million copies
Asterix’s 38th adventure has been printed in 5 million copies Handout, Didier CONRAD / Asterix ® - Obelix ® / LES EDITIONS ALBERT RENE / AFP

Uderzo was initially the illustrator of the "Asterix and Obelix" comic strip written by Goscinny, who died in 1977.

After Goscinny’s death, Uderzo left Dargaud, his original publisher, to set up his own company, Les éditions Albert-René, and took up the torch for eight solo Asterixes (not counting the anniversary and short story albums). He wrote and illustrated the series until he retired in 2009.

Uderzo, who was the son of Italian immigrants, rose to fame thanks to the mustachioed hero, Asterix, who has entertained readers with his magic-potion exploits alongside Obelix since 1959. Uderzo's success brought fortune thanks to the 370 million albums sold worldwide (translated into 111 languages or dialects), about fifteen films (animation and cinema), a leisure park, and hundreds of merchandising products. 

But despite his role in creating a global phenomenon Uderzo managed to maintain his anonymity. Those who knew him described the artist as reserved and someone who preferred to talk about his work rather than himself. 

"My hand was not made for this job," he said reflecting on his work."They're butcher's hands, I've got big bones, like my father. I inked all my drawings with a brush, which requires a lot of skill."

Aside from drawing, he was also a great Ferrari enthusiast who reportedly collected about twenty cars.

Like Hergé for Tintin, Uderzo didn't want any new Asterixes after his death. He finally changed his mind. In 2011, suffering from rheumatoid arthritis in his right hand, he passed the baton (in agreement with Anne Goscinny, her father's sole beneficiary) to younger authors, while closely following their work. 

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

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