The creation of Oumpah-Pah by Goscinny and Uderzo
It is 1951 and the entire French press has been invaded by American comic strips. All? Yes! And Albert Uderzo, an avid reader since childhood of Le Journal de Mickey (a magazine featuring Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters) and other now mythical comic strip series such as Terry and the Pirates, created by cartoonist Milton Caniff, sees nothing wrong with the situation! Since the end of the war, everything American has become the trend. Do you need proof? Just take a look at the Anglo-Saxon names of the Belgian companies for which the young illustrator works, namely International Press and World Press.
One winter's day in 1951, Albert Uderzo is urgently finishing a plate for his comic strip series Belloy. A young man is sent to his home to collect the fruits of his labours. Albert's boss had already spoken of this new kid, a certain René Goscinny. "Ah! Is he Italian?" asked Albert. "Not at all, his surname ends with a Y!" was the reply. And that is how it all started, 60 years ago: a very special 26-year friendship and partnership that would fundamentally revolutionise comic book history.
Very quickly, the two associates create their first comic strip series as a duo, with René Goscinny writing the scripts and Albert Uderzo concentrating on the illustrations. Oumpah-Pah is born - the adventures of the eponymous Native American of the Flatfeet tribe, living on the edge of 1950s American society. René Goscinny, whilst working in New York for a few months, has the texts translated by his friend Harvey Kurtzmann, the future founder of the famous Mad magazine. The lettering is carried out by Milton Caniff's own letterer - the man whom Albert Uderzo so admires! Unfortunately however, the two authors shelve the strip and do not have it published.
Some years later, in 1958, Tintin magazine commissions a new comic strip series from the two friends. Oumpah-Pah, whom they hold particularly dear, is brought back in a new guise. A member of the Shavashavah tribe now, he lives in the 18th century, during the colonial period, and befriends the aristocrat Hubert de la Pâte Feuilletée, a regular at the Court of the King. This formula, rich in all the comic ingredients that will later make Asterix so successful, works wonderfully. In four years, five 30-plate adventures are created, to be followed avidly by a large and loyal readership. Unfortunately, overwhelmed by the work that he has to do on Asterix and Tanguy et Laverdure (The Flying Furies), Albert Uderzo is forced to bring the series to a premature end.
To mark the 60th anniversary René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo's meeting, all the Oumpah-Pah adventures are to be republished in a single volume next October by the publishing house Les Éditions Albert René. As the Shavashavah say…YAK YAK YAK YAK!!!
One small village of Indomitable… Indians!
As the first character ever created by the authors of Asterix, Oumpah-Pah is a bit like the older brother of the most famous of Gauls. The five adventures in which he features alongside his friend Hubert de la Pâte Feuilletée already featured all the comic ingredients that make Asterix so magically hilarious.
Comic repetition, word and language play, parodies of famous songs, invocations of exotically named gods, anachronistic cultural references (such as the notable invention of chewing gum!), the comic rewriting of history… It's all there! "The comical situations, for example in the Indian village, the forest, the battles and the slanging matches, is very similar to that in Asterix" explains Albert Uderzo. "In just this name alone: 'N'a-qu'une-dent-mais-elle-est-tombée-alors-maintenant-n'en-a-plus'(Only-had-one-tooth-but-it-fell-out-so-now-has-none), previously known as 'N'a-qu'une-dent' (Only-has-one-tooth), you can see the spirit of Goscinny1 !"