Tuesday, March 24th. The whole team at Éditions Albert René is deeply saddened to hear that Albert Uderzo has died. It is as if the sky really has fallen in.
He has gone to join his friend René Goscinny in the pantheon of French artistic geniuses, leaving behind Asterix, a major achievement and an international legend – one that provokes wonderment and laughter in millions of readers, and will continue to do so for a long time to come.
The success of Asterix is down to the pairing of two talents: René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo. Uderzo’s illustrations are absolutely unique in their genre, existing at the crossroads where the influences of humorous but realistic Franco-Belgian comic books meet Disney. And yet he had no training in draughtsmanship and there was no obvious reason for him to pick up a pencil, given that he was born colour blind and with six fingers on each hand. Nonetheless, so many artists have tried and continue to try to emulate his work!
His draughtsmanship is fascinating… his pencil strokes are, quite simply, unique!
The results may be two-dimensional but they are full of relief and depth, flitting with disconcerting ease from realism to caricature, from Tanguy et Laverdure to Oumpah-Pah; and, in the exhilarating style of the Asterix albums, combining big-nosed caricatures with a remarkable eye for detail, coining an entirely unique graphic synthesis which is incredibly uplifting and accessible.
His illustrations are incomparably generous, transporting us to the most magnificent settings in Rome, to Dantean storms at sea and to lavish end-of-album banquets where we can smell the delicious roasted boar as if we were among the guests.
The inkwork in his drawings plays masterfully on bold downstrokes and slender upstrokes, on shading and solid black where they are needed, and more than anything else – perhaps because of his Italian origins – it bursts with emotion: his characters are right there in front of us, fully alive. Who could improve on his depiction of roaring laughter, towering rage, Obelix in love, Vitalstatistix succumbing to a lack of moderation, the tears shed by a little dog contemplating a felled oak tree, or the sheer terror of a Roman confronted with the Indomitables?
He was too humble to acknowledge it, but he was our very own French Walt Disney.
He and René Goscinny did not stop at creating an immortal hero.
Together they set up Idéfix cartoon studios at a time when the cartoon industry was virtually non-existent in France.
When his partner René Goscinny died, Uderzo picked up the torch single-handed and set up Éditions Albert René publishing new albums. The collective Asterix works have achieved record sales in France as well as in over 80 countries and more than 110 languages.
With a visionary eye for his character, he took Asterix beyond the frontiers of paper into cartoons, live-action films, a theme park …
Thanks to his work with René Goscinny and beyond, he succeeded in improving the status of comic book authors.
We have lost a Great Man, liked by everyone who was lucky enough to meet him. He had a true vision for his character, great ambition and consistently exacting standards in every project he undertook.
We also salute a loyal and genuine friend to those who worked with him, from Franquin to Charlier via Peyo, Dany and Tibet, and most of all to his long-time partner René Goscinny, to whose memory he was always completely faithful.
Ever the enthusiast and with a twinkle in his eye, he was always happy to discuss new ideas with us. He honoured us with the faith he showed in all our developments. We owe it to ourselves to keep working in order to warrant that faith, and for the sake of readers who have been his ardent followers for decades.
Our warmest thoughts go to his wife Ada, his daughter Sylvie and the rest of his family at this painful time.
A final farewell to the artist and thank you for the work which will delight us for evermore!
Photos : Philippe Cauvin