The Smurfs Anthology volume 1


By Yvan Delporte & Peyo, smurflated by Joe Johnson (Papercutz/NBM)
ISBN: 978-1-59707-417-9

Pierre Culliford was born in Belgium in 1928 to a family of British origin living in the Schaerbeek district of Brussels. An admirer of the works of Hergé and American comics in Mickey, Robinson and Hurrah!, he developed his own artistic skills but the war and family bereavement forced him to forgo further education and find work.

After toiling as a cinema projectionist, in 1945 the eager teen joined C.B.A. animation studios, where he met André Franquin, Morris and Eddy Paape. When the studio closed, Pierre briefly studied at the Brussels Academy of Fine Arts before moving full-time into graphic advertising.

In his off hours he began submitting comic strips to the burgeoning post-war comics publishers. His first sale was in April 1946: Pied-Tendre, a tale of American Indians in Riquet, the comics supplement to the daily L’Occident newspaper. Further sales to other venues followed and in 1952 his bold young knight Johan found a permanent spot in Le Journal de Spirou. Retitled Johan et Pirlouit – after the inclusion of a scene-stealing comedy foil – the strip prospered and, in 1958 introduced a strange bunch of blue woodland gnomes called Les Schtroumpfs.

Culliford – now using the childhood nom de plume Peyo – would gradually succumb to popular demand and turn those adorable little mites (known to us and most of the world as The Smurfs) into an all-encompassing global empire, but before being sucked onto that relentless treadmill, he still found time to create a few other noteworthy strips such as titanic tyke Benoît Brisefer (translated recently as Benny Breakiron), and also stuck with Johan until 1977 (13 albums-full) when the pressure of creating more Smurf stuff grew too much. Even then his son Thierry with artist Alain Maury revived the series, bring the count to 17 albums

Yvan Delporte (24th June 1928-5th March 2007) was a Belgian comics writer whose greatest gift was an invisible one. He was editor of Le Journal de Spirou between 1955 and 1968: shaping strips and creator’s during Europe’s golden age of excellence. One feature he did script was Peyo’s spin-off fantasy Les Schtroumpfs, and he also found a bit of time to write René Follet’s Steve Severin and co-create Franquin’s Gaston Lagaffe and Idées noires.

We English-speakers mostly have visions of the Smurfs fostered and shaped by the animated shows, films and toys, but the comics – although aimed at an all-ages audience – were packed with social commentary and sly satire that can still take the breath away if you’re a parent reared on anodyne censored US cartoon fodder.

Thanks to the efforts of US publisher Papercutz, those gloriously outrageous medieval masterworks are available to discerning fans, both as individual albums and in superb, anthologically robust, full-colour hardback (and eBook) compilations, kitted out and filled with little extras such historical essays and all presented in the original publication order Peyo dictated. A huge bonus as far as I’m concerned is the inclusion of original artwork and (French) covers of the period…

First album ‘The Purple Smurfs’ comes with a comprehensive Introduction by Smurfologist Matt. Murray explaining the tone of those distant times and how we post-PC patrons got here from original 1959 solo saga ‘Les Schtroumpfs noirs’…

Full of fun, action, slapstick and frenetic thrills, the eponymous lead tale – by Delporte & Peyo; as are all the entries here – reveals how the idyllic hidden mushroom-styled village of the little blue folk falls to a rapidly-spreading plague. The horrific ailment is transmitted by irresistible biting and characterised by a radical shift in colouration and behaviour. Soon, only wise wizardly patriarch Papa Smurf is left to combat the Smurfie Apocalypse, and he’s running out of options…

Two shorter yarns follow as ‘The Flying Smurf’ finds one little slacker absconding from walnut-gathering duties to pursue ever more complex and obsessive ways to soar like a bird in the sky after which ‘The Smurfnapper’ finds archenemy sorcerer Gargamel and his cat Azrael hunting for the last crucial ingredient to create a Philosopher’s stone. It’s a Smurf, of course, but catching and keeping one of the little blue perishers are two entirely different things…

The second album is quite infamous in certain circles and very much a product of its era: one generation since WWII ended and right in the midst of escalating Cold War tensions. Following another Matt. Murray Introduction, discussing the heavy political and social implications of Le Schtroumpfissime, ‘The Smurf King’ details how, when Papa Smurf goes on an extended provisions hunt, his decision not to leave anyone in charge leads to rapid and radical political unrest. A half-assed and wholly inept attempt to elect a new boss goes typically awry until one bright spark realizes he can get others to vote for him by lying, making promises he can’t keep and applying heavy doses of flattery.

Soon, he’s living in a palace built by the suckers and indulging in all the perks of totalitarianism, but some Smurfs are muttering discontent and forming a rebel army…

Social satire gives way to surreal whimsy ‘The Smurfony’ then details the formation of an orchestra. One poor Smurf though has plenty of enthusiasm but no talent and his efforts make him extremely unwelcome… until Gargamel returns with soporific sound sorcery and only a bit of discord can save the day…

As previously stated, the Smurfs debuted in La Flûte à six trous, a 1958 tale of feudal comedy-adventurers Johan and Peewit. The little guys were phenomenally popular and reappeared many times before winning their own series, and when that finally happened the origin tale was rushed into album form as the third Schtroumpfs book release, suitably reimagined as La Flûte à six Schtroumpfs.

In ‘The Smurfs and the Magic Flute’ court jester Peewit – another would-be musician whose melodies induce pain and hysteria – gets hold of a flute with six holes that forces all who hear it to dance uncontrollably until they pass out. His pranks are disruptive enough but the instrument is then stolen by vile villain Matthew Oilycreep, who goes on a plundering spree, amassing stolen wealth to buy an army of mercenaries to take over the kingdom.

Young knight Johan and Peewit re at a loss to stop the usurper until they are approached by little blue men who tell them an incredible tale and invite them back to their mystical home.

They have all the answers and a plan but there’s no time to waste if disaster is to be avoided…

Wrapping up with ‘The Aftersmurf’ from Papercutz Smurf-in-Chief Jim Salicrup, this stunning collection of fun and fantasy is a magnificent example of all-ages comics wonderment no serious aficionado could do without.

Go on, You Smurf you want to…
© Peyo™ 2013 – licensed through Lafig Belgium. English translation © 2013 by Papercutz. All rights reserved.