Mathias, by Marcel Uderzo
Mathias - Les Dieux du Lac

Marcel Uderzo is the younger brother of 'Asterix' co-creator Albert Uderzo. He assisted his brother on his series from 1964 to 1979, and then started 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.

He was born in 1933 in Clichy-sous-Bois into a family of Italian immigrants. The family moved to Paris in 1938. His father was a luthier, and Marcel was at first destined to follow in his footsteps. He worked in his father's guitar craft atelier until the latter's retirement in 1964, and then switched to comics. He learned the trade from his older brother Albert, whom he helped with the inking of the aviation comic 'Tanguy et Laverdure', which ran in Pilote magazine from scripts by Jean-Michel Charlier. When this comic was continued by Jijé, he started contributing to the comic series about the famous Gaul 'Astérix'. He provided the inking, lettering and coloring of the albums 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' (1979).


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

By 1966 he was asked by the publishing house Dargaud to provide art for 'Astérix' merchandise. This varied from wallpapers to drawings for mustard glasses. In 1976 the 'Astérix' animated feature 'Les 12 Travaux d'Astérix' ('The Twelve Tasks of Astérix', 1976) came out in theaters. Marcel Uderzo made the entire film into a faithful comic book adaptation, which was prepublished in the magazine Sud Ouest. This extremely rare album has been made available in comic book format, but was never included within the regular 'Astérix' comics series, since Albert Uderzo had no involvement with it. In the 1970s this comic book saw various foreign translations in Dutch (in an Eppo supplement), German (published in Comixene), Italian, Spanish and Serbo-Croatian. Some of these translations were also made available in comic book format, but usually as part of a one-shot commercial action. None of them have ever been reprinted and are still not part of the regular series. Another book adaptation of this film exists as well, also outside the regular series, but this is a written novel with illustrations based on the film, no screenshots. This particular book did receive an English translation by Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge and is part of the official 'Astérix' album series in the United Kingdom, despite being unavailable elsewhere. In 2016, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the film, a special book came out, 'Les XII Travaux d' Astérix' (2016), which is part of the official franchise and contains all original storyboards, preliminary sketches and even new artwork by Albert Uderzo. The book has also received official translations in Dutch, German, English, Italian and Portuguese.

By 1980, Marcel Uderzo decided to focus on a solo career, much to the dismay of his brother. Marcel Uderzo's role in most of the 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 any royalties from album sales, which has resulted in a more frictioned relationship between the two brothers.


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

Marcel Uderzo's first credited artwork was the second album about fighter pilot 'Yves Sainclair' ('À l'Est du Yangzi', 1976), which he drew in cooperation with Patrice Serres from a script by Claude Moliterni for Dargaud. His best-known solo work is 'Les Mémoires de Mathias' (1981-1985), of which he made three albums with writer Moloch (Michel Clatigny) for 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 in his adventures with Native Americans, trappers and lumberjacks against the setting of the French and Indian War. He is always accompanied by a bear called 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, which Uderzo signed with Cristini. They also produced the humorous advertising album 'L'A.B.D. de l'Épargne' (1982) for a savings bank.


Les Mémoires de Mathias

By the mid 1980s he assumed a more realistic drawing style, and made his first comic stories about military history for the collection 'Les Grandes Batailles de l'Histoire en BD' for Larousse (1984-1985). In 1987 he drew the adventure comic 'La Mort Rouge', the sole album in the series 'Marie l'Aventure' at Dargaud, written by François Migeat and Jean-Louis Ughetto. It tells the story of a young female doctor who is a prisoner of slave traders and then becomes a pirate. Marcel Uderzo has since then worked on mostly historical one-shot albums, often in commission and with various writers. For instance, he made 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 are comics 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), as well as a graphic novel about the Tour de France ('Des Pays et des Hommes', with Alexandre Luczkiewicz, 2005).

Histoires et L├ęgendes Normandes
From: Histoires et Légendes Normandes #2

For Éditions Fleurus, he 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 deals with the commune of Charenton-Le-Pont (with Jean-Pierre Lefèvre-Garros, 1994), and subjects like morals ('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 the collective series 'Histoires et Légendes Normandes' and 'Mont Saint Michel - Histoires et légendes' about the Normandy region (Eure du Terroir, since 2009). Uderzo has furthermore illustrated comic adaptations of Jules Verne stories for the publisher Connivence in 1995, and made adapations 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). He also drew the installment about Albert Spaggiari (1932-1989) in the true crime collection 'Les Grandes Affaires Criminelles et Mystérieuses' with Jean-François Miniac (De Borée, 2012).


Commando Kieffer

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 album 'Commando Kiefer' (Éditions du Triomphe, 2012) about Lieutenant Philippe Kieffer's Fusiliers Marins commando during the Normandy landings with Philippe Zytka. With Marc Bourgne, he made a comic book about emperor Charles I of Austria ('Charles Ier, L'Empereur de la paix', Fleurus, 2007). His main body of work deals with the history of aviation. He made comic albums about the famous aviators Roland Garros (Mémoire d'Europe, 1993) and the Wright brothers (Claude Lefrancq Éditeur, 2005) with writer Jean-Pierre Lefèvre-Garros, and then about Louis Blériot with Éric Stoffel and Franck Coste (Idées+, 2009) and Charles Lindbergh with Francis Bergèse (Idées+, 2015).


L'Histoire de l'Aéronautique

He has remained a regular artist for several of Stoffel and Coste's aviation books at the publishing house Idées+ from 2009 onwards. These include the first two installments of the series 'L'Histoire de l'Aéronautique' (2009-2010, the second one in cooperation with Frédéric Allali), and contributions to the collective series 'Histoires de Pilotes' and 'Patrouilles Aériennes Acrobatiques'. Idées+ has also published reprints of the earlier 'Mathias' stories and an artbook called 'Les Pin-Up de Marcel Uderzo' (2012).

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

Series en boeken door Marcel Uderzo op voorraad in de Lambiek Webshop:

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