Although Asterix and Obelix is known worldwide, the creator of these beloved cartoons may not be as commonly known outside of France. The multitalented cartoonist René Goscinny, born 14th August 1926, was known as the French Walt Disney, but also had a career as a writer, a director, a comic and even a journalist.
Goscinny was the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of Pilote for many years, France’s main cartoon-based magazine of its day. During his time there, he would see many other famous French cartoonists like Jean-Marc Reiser have their moment in the spotlight thanks to the magazine.
Among the world’s most widely read French authors
Before his success, René Goscinny had one ambition: to make people laugh. And now, with around half a billion books sold around the world today, it is safe to say his goal was met. The author was not only very successful in the realm of comic books but also more broadly in writing.
Although we know Goscinny as the co-creator of the Asterix comics alongside Albert Urdezo, his repertoire in general was very broad. Regarding comics, some of his most famous include his creation Iznogoud with Jean Tabary and the script development of Lucky Luke with the American cartoonist Morris. His legacy within the comic book world is clearly not limited to France’s borders.
Nowadays, and although the success has continued even after his death, Asterix remains the most widely translated comic book in the world, with more than 107 dialects and languages knowing the characters.
Tales of the man himself
Some expressions which are now common in the French language were born from Goscinny’s pen. Without the author, there would be no “calife à la place du calife” or “tirer plus vite que son ombre” (respectively meaning to be overly ambitious and to be quick to act).
The success of Asterix was almost to never have existed. In the beginning, collaborating Uderzo, co-founder of Pilote, the project was to be a modernisation of a French classic Reynard the Fox (“Le Roman de Renart”). Quickly learning that other authors were working on a similar project, he threw himself into something new. And so, Asterix was born.
Creating the characters was no easy feat. The first models drawn by Uderzo detailed Asterix as much bigger and stronger. Under Goscinny’s influence, the cartoonist revised the image and created a character the exact opposite of the original, giving birth to the Asterix we know today. The famous Obelix came from the basis of the first Asterix models.
Fighting against own lack over creativity
Furthermore, in the documentary devoted to Goscinny “Profession : humoriste” (Profession: comic), the director Pierre Tchernia show us his battles with writers’ block, as a writer who could brood over his lack over creativity for days before being able to relentlessly scribble for hours on a new storyline for Asterix or Lucky Luke. His wife, Gilberte, paints the image of a deeply depressed and suicidal man in these times where his inspiration was lacking.
Nice: his beloved city
Goscinny was deeply attached to Nice, the city of his wife. Gilberte often took her husband to Nice, which had become the René’s beloved city. On November 5, 1977, this Parisian from a Jewish migrant family from Poland and Ukraine died age 51, having a fairly short but full life. He was first buried in the Caucade cemetery, where his wife Gilberte joined him in 1994. In 2000, at the request of his daughter, the writer was transferred to la Cimitière du Château, the Jewish cemetery of Nice.
Nowadays, in Drap, near Nice, the Lycée René Goscinny stands on the land where the author’s house used to be. The architects have kept the original house naturally integrating it into the newly built school.