Albert Uderzo, who drew the Asterix comic books, has died at the age of 92.
He created the famous stories – about the adventures of Gaulish warriors fighting the Roman Empire – with his friend René Goscinny in 1959.
As well as illustrating the series, Urderzo took over the writing following Goscinny’s death in 1977.
The books have sold 370 million copies worldwide, in dozens of languages, and several stories have been turned into cartoons and feature films.
The series continues to this day under new ownership, with the most recent book, Asterix and the Chieftain’s Daughter, released last October.
“Albert Uderzo died in his sleep at his home in Neuilly, after a heart attack that was not linked to the coronavirus,” his son-in-law Bernard de Choisy told the AFP news agency.
In an interview with The Connexion in 2008, the Frenchman joked that Asterix was born “at the best time of the day – aperitif time!”
He and Goscinny were sitting on the balcony of his apartment trying to dream up a character for the new magazine aimed at children.
“The brief was very precise – François Clauteaux, one of the magazine’s founders, wanted a character taken from French culture,” Uderzo recalled.
“At the time it was important to try to set yourself apart from the American superheroes, or certain reporters one could mention [Tintin].
“So I looked back through history with René and reviewed all the different periods of French history. We needed something original which no-one else had worked on.
“When we got to the Gauls – eureka!”
In 2011, the illustrator handed over the reins to a younger artist after 52 years drawing the famous comic book hero.
A few years later, Uderzo ended a seven-year legal battle with his daughter Sylvie – amicably – about the family estate.
A signed original illustration for an early Asterix comic book cover sold for more than 1.4m Euros (£1.25m) at a Paris auction in 2017.
On a recent edition of BBC Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs, screenwriter Russell T Davies chose to take “the finest book ever made”, Asterix and the Roman Agent, to the fictional island.