Everyone’s Favorite Fighting Frenchman: A Tribute To Asterix
Today marks the anniversary of one the most beloved European comics characters of all time, the great Asterix The Gaul, who made his first appearance on this day in 1959, created by René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo. Asterix --- and his dimwitted but kindhearted companion Obelix --- is undoubtedly one of the most popular comics characters throughout the world, and he's brought joy to people of all ages for the better part of a century.
Asterix first debuted in a special #0 issue of the French magazine Pilote, and all anyone saw of him for nearly four months was the first page of what would be the first volume, titled Asterix The Gaul. The serialization began in October 1959, and Asterix’s popularity grew and grew. By the twenty-first issue of Pilote, he was starring on the cover.
Initially, Asterix was supposed to be a strong, fearsome warrior who defended his village from the rampaging Romans, but Goscinny saw him instead as a shrewd planner and schemer who would outwit the Romans with intellect, and Uderzo agreed. This led to the creation of Obelix as Asterix’s muscle, and so one of the greatest double-acts in comics was formed.
Asterix stories were always published serially first in Pilote and then collected into volumes upon completion, and the popularity of these volumes continued to grow, resulting in the ninth volume --- Asterix and the Normans --- selling 1.2 million copies in its first two days. Asterix’s tales of brave adventure, cunning plots, and heroic, if silly, derring do delighted people across Europe, and volumes from the series have been translated into more than 100 languages and dialects.
Sadly, René Goscinny passed away during production of the twenty-fourth volume, Asterix In Belgium, and it was completed by Uderzo, who took over the sole production of Asterix stories. This created a divide in ownership, as Uderzo created his own publishing company that owned rights to everything created following his partner's death, while the publisher that took over Pilote retained publishing to the first twenty-four volumes.
Uderzo carried on without Goscinny right up until 2009, with the publication of Asterix and Obelix’s Birthday, a collection of short stories. Uderzo won back the rights for the original volumes in the late '90s, and sold them on to the publishing company Hachette. Shortly before the publication of his final volume, he changed his mind about not wanting Asterix to continue, and also sold his shares of the new volumes, as did Goscinny’s daughter Anne.
Asterix and Obelix stories continued after Uderzo's retirement, under the careful watch of Jean-Yves Ferri & Didier Conrad, handpicked by Albert Uderzo to carry on the series beyond his vision. Asterix as a franchise has now grown way beyond what two French cartoonists could have ever dreamed back in 1959; with video games, toys, animated films, live action films, and even a theme park. Asterix’s legacy is assured, and along with trusty Obelix, he is likely to charm, thrill and captivate audiences for decades to come.