Mathias, by Marcel Uderzo
Mathias - 'Les Dieux du Lac'.

Marcel Uderzo was the younger brother of 'Asterix' co-creator Albert Uderzo. He assisted his brother on his comic series 'Tanguy & Laverdure' and 'Astérix & Obelix' between 1964 and 1979, and then began working on his own projects. These include the adventure comic 'Les Mémoires de Mathias' and several one-shot comic books about military subjects, aviation history and sports.

Early life
He was born in 1933 in Clichy-sous-Bois into a family of Italian immigrants. In 1938, the family moved to Paris, where his father worked as a luthier. Marcel was destined to follow in his father's footsteps, and worked in the family guitar craft atelier until the latter's retirement in 1964. He then switched to comics, learning the trade while assisting his older brother Albert,

Assistant of Albert Uderzo
At first, Marcel Uderzo helped his brother inking of the aviation comic 'Tanguy et Laverdure', which ran in Pilote magazine from scripts by Jean-Michel Charlier. When Jijé took over this comic's art duties, Marcel began contributing to Albert's other comic series, about the famous Gaul 'Astérix'. He provided the inking, lettering and coloring of the books that appeared in the periods 1965-1972 and 1974-1979: from 'Astérix et Cléopatre' until 'Les Lauriers de César', and then from 'La Grande Traversée' until 'Astérix Chez les Belges'. Marcel Uderzo was solely responsible for the parody of the famous painting 'The Peasant Wedding' by Pieter Bruegel The Elder, which appeared at the end of 'Astérix chez les Belges' ('Asterix in Belgium', "1979). By 1966, the publishing house Dargaud also asked him to provide artwork for 'Astérix' merchandise. This included drawings for products varying from wallpapers to drawings for mustard glasses.


Parody of Pieter Bruegel's 'The Peasant Wedding', from 'Astérix chez les Belges'.

The 12 Tasks of Asterix
In 1976, the 'Astérix' animated feature 'Les 12 Travaux d'Astérix' ('The Twelve Tasks of Astérix') came out in theaters. For a serialization in Sud Ouest magazine, Marcel Uderzo faithfully adapted the entire film into a comic story. This extremely rare story was never included in the regular 'Astérix' book series, since Albert Uderzo had no involvement with it. In the 1970s, this comic book saw various foreign translations in Dutch (as a supplement to the comic magazine Eppo), German (published in Comixene), Italian, Spanish and Serbo-Croatian. Some of these translations were published in comic book format, but then as part of a stand-alone commercial action. None of them were ever reprinted. Another adaptation of 'The Twelve Tasks of Astérix' exists in a novel format, with illustrations based on the film. Only in the UK, did this particular book become part of the official 'Astérix' series, in a translation by Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge. In 2016, to celebrate the film's 40th anniversary, a special book came out, 'Les XII Travaux d'Astérix' (2016), containing original storyboards, preliminary sketches and even new artwork by Albert Uderzo. This book has received official translations in Dutch, German, English, Italian and Portuguese. Meanwhile, the original comic strip version by Marcel Uderzo has faded into obscurity.


'Les 12 Travaux d'Astérix', from a Dutch newspaper publication.

Solo career
Around 1980, Marcel Uderzo decided to focus on a solo career, much to the dismay of his brother. His important role in the production of many classic 'Astérix' albums by Albert Uderzo and René Goscinny only came to light in later years. He was never credited for his work, nor did he receive royalties from album sales. As a result, the relationship between the two brothers remained frictioned. Marcel Uderzo's first credited artwork was the second album about fighter pilot 'Yves Sainclair' ('À l'Est du Yangzi', 1976), which he drew for publisher Dargaud in cooperation with Patrice Serres from a script by Claude Moliterni.

Collaborations with Moloch
His best-known solo work are the three books of 'Les Mémoires de Mathias' (1981-1985), which he made with writer Moloch (Michel Clatigny) for the publishing house Delachaux & Niestlé. Mathias is an elderly Norman, who tells the local children about his adventures in the French-Canadian plains in the 1750s. The stories follow the younger Mathias during his adventures with Native Americans, trappers and lumberjacks against the setting of the French and Indian War. He is always accompanied by his bear Titan, whom he had adopted as a cub after his mother was shot. In 1982 and 1983, Uderzo and Moloch also made two adaptations of Gérard de Villiers erotic crime novel series 'Brigade Mondaine' for Livre Essor. For this erotic excursion, Uderzo used the pen name Cristini. The Uderzo-Moloch team also produced the humorous advertising book 'L'A.B.D. de l'Épargne' (1982) in commission of a savings bank.


'Les Mémoires de Mathias'.

History/educational comics
By the mid-1980s, he assumed a realistic drawing style when making comic stories about military history for the collection 'Les Grandes Batailles de l'Histoire en BD' by Larousse (1984-1985). In 1987, he drew the adventure comic 'La Mort Rouge', the sole album in the series 'Marie l'Aventure', written by François Migeat and Jean-Louis Ughetto for publisher Dargaud. It tells the story of a young female doctor who is a imprisoned by slave traders and then becomes a pirate.

Since then, Marcel Uderzo worked on mostly historical stand-alone comics, often in commission of third parties and in collaboration with various writers. These included comic books for the Paris Saint-Germain soccer team ('L'Épopée du Paris Saint-Germain' with Jérôme Le Fauconnier, 1996), the French Pétanque federation ('Passion... pétanque' with Claude Azéma and Henri Salvador, 1996) and the French Pony Club ('Premiers Galops' with Pascal Marry, 1996). Other sports-related works were comic biographies of soccer player Youri Djorkaeff for Nutella (with Daniel Pecqueur, 1999) and judo champions Marie Claire Restoux and David Douillet ('Champions! Judo' with Moloch, 2000), followed in 2005 by a graphic novel about the Tour de France ('Des Pays et des Hommes', with Alexandre Luczkiewicz).

Histoires et Légendes Normandes
'Histoires et Légendes Normandes' #2

For Éditions Fleurus, Uderzo drew educational albums about hunting ('L'Affût' with Monique Amiel, 1987) and the French Defence Health Service ('Opération Esculape' with Albéric De Palmaert, 1988). Other promotional work dealt with the commune of Charenton-Le-Pont (with Jean-Pierre Lefèvre-Garros, 1994), and subjects like moral behavior ('Éducation Civique et Morale' with Erone, 1997), healthy nourishment ('Les Excès du Sénateur Angorus' with Antoine Piwnik, 1998) and the European Union ('Vivre l'Euro', with Antoine Piwnik for GPA Assurances, 2001). Uderzo also contributed to 'L'Alsace' (Éditions du Signe, 2001-2010), a comic book series by Marie-Thérèse Fischer about the history of the Alsace region, and to collective series about the Normandy region for Eure du Terroir: 'Histoires et Légendes Normandes' (2009-2016) and 'Mont Saint Michel - Histoires et légendes' (2017).

In 1995, Uderzo illustrated comic adaptations of Jules Verne stories for the publisher Connivence. Years later, he made comic versions of Robert Louis Stevenson's 'The Sinking Ship' with Didier Ray (Filapomb, 2009) and James Fenimore Cooper's 'The Last of the Mohicans' with Marc Bourgne (Glénat, 2010). With Jean-François Miniac, he also drew the installment about Albert Spaggiari (1932-1989) in the true crime collection 'Les Grandes Affaires Criminelles et Mystérieuses'(De Borée, 2012). With Bourgne, he also made a comic book about emperor Charles I of Austria ('Charles Ier, L'Empereur de la paix', Fleurus, 2007).


'Commando Kieffer'

Military and aviation comics
Uderzo has provided artwork to several comic books about France's military history. He provided the volume about the village of Ascq during World War II with Olivier Gilleron in the collection 'Villes en Guerre' (Le Téméraire, 1994), and made the comic book 'Commando Kieffer' (Éditions du Triomphe, 2012) with Philippe Zytka, about Lieutenant Philippe Kieffer's Fusiliers Marins commando during the Normandy landings. His main body of work deals with the history of aviation. With writer Jean-Pierre Lefèvre-Garros, Uderzo made comics about the famous aviators Roland Garros (Mémoire d'Europe, 1993) and the Wright brothers (Claude Lefrancq Éditeur, 2005) in the collection 'Biggles Raconte'. In that same collection, he shared the art duties with Daniel Chauvin for the installment about the Falklands War by Joël Rideau and Bernard Asso ('La Bataille des Malouines', 1997).


'L'Histoire de l'Aéronautique'.

Idées +
From 2009 on, he was a regular artist for several aviation books by Éric Stoffel and Franck Coste at the publishing house Idées+. These included the first installments of the educational series 'L'Histoire de l'Aéronautique' ("The History of Aeronautics"), dealing with aviator Louis Blériot ('Des origines à Blériot', 2009) and the pioneer years of French aviation ('1909, l'Année de Tous les Défis', 2010). The latter was drawn in collaboration with Frédéric Allali. Uderzo also made contributions to the publisher's collective series 'Histoires de Pilotes' (2010-2015) and 'Patrouilles Aériennes Acrobatiques' (2011-2014). One of them was a comic biography of Charles Lindbergh, made with scriptwriter Francis Bergèse (Idées+, 2015). Between 2018 and 2020, he was also among the illustrators of the publisher's landscape-format books about classic cars and motorcycles. Idées+ additionally reprinted Uderzo's old 'Mathias' stories and released the artbook 'Les Pin-Up de Marcel Uderzo' (2012).

Final years and death
Marcel Uderzo remained active until old age. Among his final work were contributions to Normandy-related anthology comics for publisher Petit à Petit, including a book about the city of Dieppe (Petit à Petit, 2018) and two collections with adaptations of short stories by Normandy writer Guy De Maupassant (2018-2019). The veteran artist regularly visited comic festivals, and remained available for commissions, including the occasional 'Astérix' drawing. On 24 January 2021, ten months after his brother Albert, Marcel Uderzo passed away in Évreux from COVID-19. He was 87 years old.

Pin-up by Marcel Uderzo
Pin-up by Marcel Uderzo.

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