Albert Uderzo was born in Fismes (France) to Italian immigrant parents. In 1934 he obtained French citizenship and in 1940 he was employed by the Société Parisienne d’Édition, where he learned the fundamentals of text design and edition. After spending a period in Brittany during the war helping his father in his furniture business, he started to work as an artist after the end of the war in 1945. During the next five years he created several stories and comics: Flamberge (1946); Clopinard (1947); and, for the OK magazine: Belloy (1948), Le Prince Rollin and Arys Buck (1946-1947).

After meeting René Goscinny in 1951, they embarked in a long and very productive collaboration, starting with a project on the American Indian character Oumpah-pah, and the more successful Sylvie (1951), for the magazine Bonnes Soirées; Jehan Pistolet (for La Libre Belgique) and Luc Junior (1952, for La Libre Junior).  They founded the news and advertising agencies Edipresse and Edifrance in 1955, and the magazine Pilote in 1959.  Uderzo had two series in the magazine: the aviation comic Michel Tanguy (later known as Les Aventures de Tanguy et Laverdure), with Jean-Michel Charlier, and Astérix le Gaulois with Goscinny. From 1958-1962 the Oumpah-pah series ran in the Belgian magazine Tintin. This magazine also published Uderzo’s Clairette, written by Charlier.

Astérix appeared as a separate album for the first time in 1961. The comic, whose locations draw inspiration from Uderzo’s memories of Brittany, became so popular that Uderzo decided to dedicate almost all of his efforts to the series, averaging two albums per year. With Goscinny, he undertook film development in 1974 under the production house Studios Idéfix, focused on launching animated features based on their famous characters, most prominently Astérix and Lucky Luke. After Goscinny’s death in 1977, he continued to work on the Astérix series as a writer an illustrator. The publication pace slowed down to an album every three to five years. Goscinny and Uderzo were still jointly credited as authors, although readers surely missed the unique genius of Goscinny’s stories and dialogues. Uderzo continued working on the series until 2011, when he retired as an illustrator. The latest volume (2013) features Jean-Yves Ferri as writer and Didier Conrad as illustrator. Nevertheless, Uderzo still controls production and publishing aspects under his own publishing house, Les Éditions Albert-René.

Although Goscinny’s multifaceted and exuberant talent has somewhat overshadowed the critical appreciation of Uderzo’s role in their successes, it would be very difficult to imagine Astérix without Uderzo’s unique talent for composition and brilliant palette.  In 2013, he was awarded the Legion of Honor, France’s most prestigious decoration.

–Javier Gutiérrez-Rexach

Further Reading

  • Duchêne, Alain. Albert Uderzo. Paris: Chêne, 2002. Print.
  • Grove, Laurence. Comics in French. New York: Berghahn Books, 2012. Print.
  • Uderzo, Albert. Uderzo se raconte. Paris: Stock, 2008.