Asterix creator accuses daughter of judicial harassment

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French illustrator Albert Uderzo, co-creator of Gallic hero Asterix, accused his daughter of judicial harassment on Tuesday after she launched a bid to have him declared mentally unfit.

The chapter is the latest in a long-running legal spat between the illustrator and his daughter, who in 2009 accused him of selling out by ceding control of his iconic comic series to a big publishing house.

"The truth is that my daughter and her husband have never accepted that I should distance them, in 2007, from the management of the Albert-Rene publishing house," Uderzo, 83, said in a statement.

"Ever since, they've been harassing me in the courts with an increasing number of futile procedures aimed at my wife and myself," said the statement released by Uderzo's lawyers, Pierre Cornut-Gentille and Jean-Alain Michel.

"It saddens us greatly that our only daughter shows her ingratitude towards us publicly," Uderzo said.

A judicial source said that a judge in Nanterre outside Paris had launched a preliminary investigation into alleged abuse of Sylvie Uderzo's allegedly mentally unfit parents following a suit she brought.

She said in Le Parisien newspaper that she had taken the "painful" decision so "that justice can establish that (her) parents were victims of swindlers who pillaged and destroyed the family."

"When this proof has been established, I hope that my father will once more look at me," she said.

The conflict began after French publisher Hachette Livre bought a 60 percent share in the Asterix books' parent company, Editions Albert-Rene, in 2009. Sylvie Uderzo's 40 percent stake in the best-selling series was later also sold.

That same year, a court ordered Albert-Rene to pay almost 200,000 euros (280,000 dollars) in unpaid bills to the company of her husband, Bernard Boyer de Choisy, who was a communication consultant for the publisher.

The court rejected other suits, including wrongful contract termination, saying De Choisy's behaviour justified his sacking.

In 2008, Albert-Rene was ordered to pay compensation to Uderzo after she was sacked as the company's boss in 2007.

Uderzo, 54, has said that her father had always wanted to keep the rights to Asterix within his small company, and had intended -- like Tintin's creator Herge -- that no more adventures be written after his death.

Albert Uderzo has overseen the Asterix books on his own since 1977, when the moustachioed hero's co-creator Rene Goscinny died. Goscinny's daughter Anne gave her consent to the Hachette deal.

Uderzo and Goscinny met in Brussels in the 1950s, releasing their first full album -- Asterix the Gaul -- in 1961.

Today his adventures, in which he and his constant companion Obelix defend their Gallic village against Caesar's Roman legions, have been translated into 107 languages, with more than 300 million books sold.

The Asterix stories have also been turned into several successful films, and an Asterix theme park was opened in 1989 north of Paris.

© 2011 AFP

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