Asterix may still be fighting Roman invaders in comic strip adventures that have sold millions of copies around the world, but the plucky Gaul's author stands accused of surrender – to commercial interests.
And the accuser is none other than Albert Uderzo's daughter, Sylvie. She spoke out after her 81-year-old father sold his stake in Editions Albert René, which publishes Asterix, and the new owners said he had authorised them to continue the series after his death.
Sylvie Uderzo said the decision betrayed the spirit of the diminutive warrior who holds off hordes of hapless Romans from his besieged village with help of Getafix's magic potion. "I am entering resistance against perhaps the worst enemies of Asterix, the men of finance and industry," she wrote in a column published by Le Monde newspaper. "It's as if the gates of the Gaulish village had been thrown open to the Roman Empire," she said.
Albert Uderzo, an illustrator, created Asterix in 1959 with the late writer René Goscinny. The series is one of the biggest success stories in French publishing history, with 33 comic strip albums that have sold 325 million copies around the world in 107 languages and dialects, according to Editions Albert René. There is also a franchise for merchandise, a theme park outside Paris and eight movies.
Millions of French children have grown up with Asterix and his friend Obelix for the past five decades and millions more have continued to enjoy the books well into adulthood. With each new generation introduced to Asterix, the market continues to grow.
Sylvie Uderzo now claims Editions Albert René, of which she owns 40 per cent, is besieged by the publishing empire Hachette Livre, which has bought the other 60 per cent from her father and from Goscinny's daughter.
Albert Uderzo, who rarely speaks in public, could not be reached for comment. Spokeswomen for both Editions Albert René and for Hachette Livre, a unit of publishing-to-aerospace group Lagardere, also made no comment.
Sylvie Uderzo said her concern was that any Asterix stories written without input from her father would be of poor quality. But the stakes for her are also commercial. Editions Albert René was created in 1979, two years after the co-author Goscinny died suddenly. Albert Uderzo has continued the series on his own ever since, selling millions more books. Some Asterix fans refuse to accept the post-Goscinny books, claiming the stories are of inferior quality.
At the time of the sale of his stake to Hachette Livre, Uderzo was quoted as saying that he believed the new owners were "respectful of the moral and patrimonial rights of the authors", according to the literary newsletter La Republique des Lettres.