As Asterix fans you already know the extraordinary tale behind the creation of Gaul's most famous hero. On the balcony of an apartment in the Parisian suburbs during the heatwave of 1959, two inseparable friends, René and Albert, racked their brains as they struggled with their doodlings… until the moment when they were suddenly inspired! A new series, full of humour, set in the time of the ancient Gauls was born, and the Asterix myth was set in motion.

  Photo: Donatien Clauteaux
But on this occasion we will go back a little further in time, to the very beginnings of what was to become Pilote magazine. Since childhood, one man, François Clauteaux, had harboured a very innovative project: a unique, revolutionary magazine for the younger generation. Quite simply, he wanted to create the magazine that he had always wanted to read first as a child and later as a teenager: this magazine would address all sorts of topics, just like "grown-up" publications did, and would pique the curiosity and creativity of younger people. It would offer them material that would open their minds to new horizons and would allow young readers to become actors in their own lives, lives which they would be able to make extraordinary.

Let us go back then to the Liberation of France after World War II. The country was coming back to life, and François, having already gained solid experience as a journalist, despite his tender age, started to lay the groundwork for his project: "I could picture the magazine of my dreams, inspired by the substantial experience I had already gained. The content would include surveys, reports, and interviews, whilst the format would be a bit like Paris-Match. I imagined an educative double-page made up of cartoons or photographs: cutaway views of machines, portrayals of historic events, or unique landscapes. All the usual school subjects would be presented in a fun way, which, if possible, would encourage interaction from readers. And finally, the magazine would focus heavily on activities for them."

This yet-to-exist magazine already had a title: Pilote, and the way in which the young François Clauteaux (25 years old!) described the content of this magazine is impressive. Almost 15 years before the creation of one of the most famous magazines amongst the French Press in the 20th century, the Pilotorama and most of the ideas that gave Pilote his unique spirit were already there.

Although it was initially unrealised, the project would be reborn at the end of the 1950s, when François Clauteaux's career as an Advertising Head for the French brands Monsavon and Dop was drawing to a close. On this occasion, luck was on François's side: through his friend Jean Hébrard, he got to know three young talented men who, unbeknown to all at the time, would become three legendary figures in the comic strip world: Jean-Michel Charlier, René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo.

The magazine launch was skilfully orchestrated by François Clauteaux no less, who had become a key figure in what was just starting to be called "marketing". It quickly led to fame and recognition for the wonderful creations of his crack trio, who were delighted to have been given total freedom to display their talent exactly as they saw fit. Asterix, in particular, would quickly prove to be such a unique phenomenon in comic strip history that it was not long before Pilote became known as "the Asterix and Obelix magazine". At that point, François Clauteaux's attention had already been drawn to new projects, and Pilote would enjoy its greatest years with our three comrades at the helm, whose never-ending creativity and inimitable humour would continue to make so many generations of children and teenagers happy, just as they still do today.

An intimate moment between Albert Uderzo, Commandeur of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres,
and his friend François Clauteaux, to whom he had just bestowed his decoration of
Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

For all those who were lucky enough to know any of the men responsible for this extraordinary magazine, the ingredients of the magic potion are easy to spot: none of the four - Jean-Michel Charlier, François Clauteaux, René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo - ever abandoned their childhood dreams and put heart and soul into their hard work and talent, creating and sharing them for the greater happiness of all those who are still a child at heart. Their shared work is truly timeless and instructs us to be unfailingly faithful to the values and aspirations of our childhood.

All of which leads me to share this story with you today and to pass on the sad news about a man who, throughout his life, proved incapable of sadness, and made all those who rubbed shoulders with him happy: François Clauteaux passed away on Sunday 25 March 2007 to rejoin Toutatis in the sky, which felt to us, on that sad day, as if it had fallen on our heads.

The unceasing faithfulness and loyalty of Albert Uderzo towards François Clauteaux never failed to draw admiration from the latter. It is thanks to these very admirable qualities of the Asterix co-creator that I am able to tell you this small event in history today. Because, alongside the great story of François Clauteaux and Pilote is a story that, in all modesty, is just as beautiful: if Jean-Michel Charlier, François Clauteaux, René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo became ideal father figures for generations of their readers, François Clauteaux was, for me in particular, Denis Clauteaux, an extraordinary father.

François Clauteaux, the child: already a real "pilot"!

May Toutatis take good care of him, and grant him a special place in the Gaulish skies!