I grew up with The Smurfs as a child, tho in all honesty, I was one of those children who barely absorbed the “mythology” of the overarching story vs enjoying the gags of each standalone episode. And while I certainly gobbled up my fair share of Asterix and Tintin comics, I never got into the Smurfs books, or the Johan And Peewit comics from which our little blue heroes originally came.
So I leapt at the opportunity to remedy that oversight in my childhood reading with the repackaging of several of Peyo’s tales, translated by the Papercutz team, here in this inaugural volume published to coincide with the relaunch of the cartoon on Nickelodeon. Comprising a long story about the Smurfs; another long tale starring the Smurfs, Johan and Peewit; a shorter tale about just the humans, and several pages of Smurf gag panels, this was very much a volume out of the Belgian cartooning tradition, with clever, accessible art and a surprisingly wordy narrative that feels geared towards a slightly older audience than the popular TV adaptations.
The first story, the titular The Smurfs And The Bratty Kid, was my favorite of the bunch. Papa Smurf gets lost traveling back to Smurf Village because his stork has no sense of direction, but encounters a kindly old man looking forward to a visit from his nephew Awsum. Unfortunately, Awsum is a holy terror who not only wreaks havoc on Smurf Village but also teams up with Gargamel to capture his would-be benefactors! Papa Smurf will have to use every ounce of his patience, kindness and know-how in order to help guide Awsum to becoming a better person.
The second story finds the Smurfs playing a pivotal role as court jester Peewit uncovers treachery while traveling the countryside in a sulk after Johan confiscates his rain-inducing musical instrument. The final short story has Johan and Peewit outfoxing brigands, in large part due to Peewit’s appetite for a midnight feast. Perhaps surprisingly, all these stories translate well to modern sensibilities. Some of the gag panels however do not, particularly those involving Smurfette, tho the humor never crosses the border into outright offensive territory.
Overall, this is a great way to show off the source material behind the popular show, while also imparting, through the lead story, an important lesson in empathy and belief. The art is terrific throughout, with expressiveness, motion and charm. I’d highly recommend this for Smurf fans, and for anyone wanting a non-TV-show introduction to the beloved icons.
The Smurfs Tales #1: The Smurfs And The Bratty Kid by Peyo was published today July 27 2021 by Papercutz and is available from all good booksellers, including