Unlike most American comics, in which creative teams frequently change out every few years (or even months), the norm in other countries is for creators to stay with their creations long-term. That’s the way it’s handled in American comic strips, in manga and in manhwa, and also in Europe. So news coming out this month that Asterix co-creator Albert Uderzo has named his replacements is a big deal — especially because just a few years ago he planned for the strip to be discontinued when he passed. Next year will see the release of the first major Asterix graphic novel created without Uderzo; it’s instead by writer Jean-Yves Ferri and artist Didier Conrad.
The story behind the passing of the torch of the Asterix legacy is almost as intriguing as the 34-book series itself. Uderzo created Asterix in 1959 with writer René Goscinny, and together they produced 26 graphic novels from 1961 to Goscinny’s death in 1977. After that, Uderzo took on both the writing and illustrating, releasing another eight graphic novels. Until 2008 he was adamant in wanting the Asterix series to end when he was no longer able to complete it (akin to Charles Schulz and the Peanuts comic strip), but after he sold his portion of the Asterix rights to the book publisher Hachette, he ceded to someone else continuing the story, albeit only with his blessing. This proved to be controversial for some, including Uderzo’s own daughter Sylvia, owner of a 20-percent stake in the property, who accused her father of selling out to big business (she even sought to have her parents declared mentally incapable of running their affairs). The elder Uderzo continued on, however, acting as an adviser to Hachette in the continuation of the series. In 2009 he appointed three of his former assistants to take on the strip, but the artists later backed out due to the pressure of following their mentor. This recent announcement of Ferri and Conrad is positive news for people wanting to see more Asterix, however.
But it remains a divisive issue; the closest analogy I can find goes back to Charles Schulz’s Peanuts. During his life, Schulz was adamant about no one taking over the strip following his death. Although numerous comic strips have seen artists come and go to continue the series on, but not Peanuts. The trumpeting of a new creative team on Asterix is as if Schulz changed his mind late in life, sold the rights to Peanuts, and begin casting for replacements. For Asterix fans, it’s a positive and a negative: On one hand, they look forward to seeing more Asterix, but they are now resigned to the fact that neither of the original creators will be doing them.
Although still relatively unknown in America (or at best, considered a foreign-import delicacy), Asterix is monumental in Europe. In addition to the 34 graphic novels, the series has spawned 10 animated films and four live-action features and a successful theme park. It was even the inspiration for the naming of France’s first satellite. Beat that, Superman.