Mr. Uderzo, who was born colorblind and with six fingers on each hand, became one of the world’s most acclaimed cartoonists, known for drawing characters that ranged from the sword-wielding Asterix — with his winged helmet, bulbous nose and horseshoe mustache — to the roly-poly Obelix, a stonemason who joins Asterix in defending their village from Roman legionaries.
Created in 1959 by Mr. Uderzo and writer René Goscinny, Asterix served as a Gallic alternative to American cartoons like Superman and Batman, mixing sly wordplay with sight gags, Latin jokes and caricatures of French politicians such as Jacques Chirac, who made his way into the comic series disguised as a Roman economist.
After debuting in the satirical magazine Pilote, Asterix became a mainstay of French culture for more than six decades, spawning dozens of books as well as animated movies, radio and television shows, live-action films starring Gérard Depardieu and a theme park not far from Disneyland Paris — a coup for Mr. Uderzo, who modeled his cartooning style in part on the early works of Walt Disney.
The series became so popular in France that the country’s first satellite was named Asterix. And when Goscinny died, in 1977, one French obituary likened his passing to the collapse of the Eiffel Tower. Mr. Uderzo, who continued the series on his own, went on to outsell Voltaire, Flaubert, Hugo and every other French author before him, with more than 380 million Asterix books sold in more than 100 languages worldwide, according to his publisher. In terms of raw sales figures, his hero was more popular than Tintin.
It was an outsize legacy for a character that Mr. Uderzo said was “as imperceptible as a punctuation mark.” (According to Le Monde, he much preferred Obelix, a character he created on his own.)
The series’ other regulars included villagers whose names constituted elaborate puns: Chief Vitalstatistix (in the original French, he was known as Abraracourcix), the elderly Geriatrix (Agecanonix), the bard Cacofonix (Assurancetourix) and the druid Getafix (Panoramix), whose potions endow superhuman strength. Together they lived in huts on the coast of present-day France, in a region Mr. Uderzo was said to have modeled after Brittany, where he waited out the Nazi occupation of Paris.
He and Goscinny later transported their characters to such exotic destinations as Britain (the Gauls were forced to dine on boiled boar covered in mint sauce), Belgium (playing to stereotypes, there were plenty of Brussels sprouts) and Egypt, leading to an extended riff on the Hollywood epic “Cleopatra.”
As the series took off, critics and scholars took turns tracing the appeal of a comics series set in 50 B.C. Perhaps it was the fact that France had recently battled foreign occupiers, or that the country was pushing back against a flood of American popular culture. Asterix was distinctively, undeniably French — and, at a time when Algeria’s independence war was spurring a wave of migration into the country, seemed to speak to a more narrow definition of national identity.
Goscinny offered a more straightforward explanation, once declaring that Asterix made people laugh “because he does funny things, and that’s all.” In 1996, one French woman told the New York Times that the comics’ Gauls were “like us, exasperating but endearing. Asterix is our ego.”
“It’s a puzzle to me why Asterix happened the way it did,” Mr. Uderzo told the Times. “René and I had previously created other characters with as much passion and enthusiasm, but only Asterix was a hit. I think it’s perhaps because everyone recognizes himself in the characters. The idea of the weak who defeat the strong appeals. After all, we all have someone stronger lording it over us: the government, the police, the tax collector.”
“It’s David against Goliath,” he later told Time magazine. “Everyone can identify with the image of retribution against things that are bigger than us.”
Alberto Aleandro Uderzo was born in Fismes, France, on April 25, 1927, and raised outside Paris. His father was a luthier, and both parents immigrated from Italy. He had surgery as a child to remove the extra digit on each hand.
By age 14, Albert — he dropped the o from his first name — was publishing his first illustrations, churning out cartoons for French and Belgian publications. A decade later he began working with Goscinny at a publishing house in Paris. They soon developed characters such as Oumpah-pah, a Native American scout, and helped launch the magazine Pilote, where Asterix made his debut.
“They wanted a comic strip with ‘French’ themes, and we toyed with ideas from different periods of history,” Mr. Uderzo told the Toronto Globe and Mail. Getting the right look for Asterix took a little more time. In an interview with Britain’s Independent newspaper, Mr. Uderzo explained, “I drew him bigger and more handsome. It was Goscinny who suggested changes until we got him just right.”
The duo published two dozen Asterix books, beginning with “Astérix le Gaulois” (1961), before Goscinny died at age 51 after a heart attack. Mr. Uderzo said he considered killing off Asterix before deciding to carry on his work alone, and spent about three months crafting each book’s story and twice as long on the drawings.
In his spare time, he collected cars and, serving as president of the French Ferrari Club, raced across the countryside. He married Ada Milani in 1953 and had a daughter, Sylvie Uderzo. Complete information on survivors was not immediately available.
While Asterix volumes continued to sell well in almost every country but the United States, some critics said the later books lacked the wit of those written by Goscinny. Mr. Uderzo handed the reins to a new creative team, writer Jean-Yves Ferri and illustrator Didier Conrad, beginning with the 2013 book “Asterix and the Picts.”
By then, Mr. Uderzo had sold a majority stake of his publishing company, Éditions Albert-René, to the French conglomerate Hachette Livre, kicking off a bitter dispute with his daughter, Sylvie, a former executive at Albert-René. In a 2009 letter published in Le Monde, she accused him of turning his comics over to “perhaps the worst enemies of Asterix, the men of finance and industry.”
A long legal battle ensued, with Mr. Uderzo suing his daughter and son-in-law for “psychological violence” before the family publicly reconciled in 2014.
The episode marked a rare moment in the spotlight for Mr. Uderzo, who generally remained behind the scenes — a name on a book cover, with Asterix front and center.
“I’m the puppeteer who hides behind the puppet,” he told the Times. “I don’t sell myself. I’m not the star. Nobody knows my face. I could hold up a bank and no one would recognize me.”
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