Back when the first wave of Smurfs popularity hit in the 80s, I had several album-sized translations of Peyo’s original comics. They were my first introduction to Euro-comics, and I adored them. Those books have been lost through multiple moves, so I was heartened to hear that NBM, through their Papercutz imprint of children’s comics, was bringing new editions to the U.S.

The first two volumes, The Purple Smurfs and The Smurfs and the Magic Flute, are out now in hard-cover and soft-cover editions. I sprung for the hard-cover editions, and I’m glad I did. They’re nice, sturdy books that look good on my shelf, next to my Asterix books. Which leads to my only major complaint with these editions: they’re small. I prefer my European comics in album format, but Papercutz has gone for a size that’s close to the trade paperback size for novels. It’s the same approximate size that many of the graphic novels aimed at children and teens are published in, and I’m sure it’s preferable to the book trade, so I can see the logic in going with this size. At the small size, some of the lettering becomes absolutely tiny and hard to read, however, and details of some of the art feels lost.

Apart from that, the production quality is very good. The design uses a blue spine with white backgrounds on the covers, giving them a nicely uniform appearance that also matches the blue and white color scheme of the Smurfs themselves. Despite the tiny text that pops up from time to time, the font used for the lettering closely approximates the lettering style in the original comics, which is a nice detail. The computer lettering is occasionally distracting when it is used to label objects that were clearly meant to be hand-lettered, but that’s a minor nuisance I can live with. The coloring is also faithful to the original colors, with bold, matte colors used throughout and very little of the gradient-heavy, obviously computer-assisted coloring that most contemporary comics use.

The Purple Smurfs is actually a collection of three short Smurfs stories. The lead story, “The Purple Smurfs” is an action tale about a contagion that spreads through the Smurf village, transforming the normally agreeable blue imps into vicious, tail-biting purple monsters. It’s largely a comedic spin on the sort of structure that would come to dominate zombie stories, and is a pretty good adventure story akin to an Asterix tale or a Barks duck story. “The Flying Smurf” is a more typical Smurf story, about a Smurf who suddenly develops a mania for flight, and whose attempts to achieve his goal result in chronic, humorous misfires and the ire of the other Smurfs. The final story, “The Smurf and his Neighbors” is in the same vein, a brief morality tale about being careful what you ask for, focused on a Smurf who moves out into the woods to escape his annoying neighbors and learns to regret it. All three stories are funny, with snappy dialogue and gorgeous, expressive cartoon art from Peyo, and a lead story that’s fun and adventurous.

The second volume, The Smurfs and the Magic Flute is actually The Flute with Six Holes, a Johan and Peewit story by Yvan Delporte and Peyo that introduces the Smurfs. It’s fairly typical of European children’s adventure comics, with typically engaging art by Peyo, but the story is overly long and highly repetitive. The plot involves Peewit stumbling upon a flute that compels people to dance before collapsing in exhaustion, which is quickly stolen from him by a conman, prompting Peewit and the young knight Johan to attempt to recover it before too much havoc can be wreaked across the country. The Smurfs don’t even appear until the midway point of the story, as the creators of the flute, and are mostly recognizable, though still very visibly an early, rough design in comparison to their later, more refined appearance. In the end it’s a slight story, fairly unremarkable, and primarily notable for being the first appearance of the Smurfs.

4 Responses to “The Smurfs Vols. 1 and 2”
  1. mister terrific says:

    Interestingly enough, I was talking to my boss just now about books for younger readers. He’d mentioned Asterix and Tintin, and thanks to your post I was able to give him links to the two Smurf books. Many thanks.

  2. as says:

    Other than this, have other Johan & Peewit stories been published in English?
    And I am curious to see how some of the later volumes like King Smurf and Smurfette will go through, when we saw the change of black smurfs to purple…

  3. Dorian says:

    “The Black Arrow” was published by Fantasy Flight in the mid-90s, but no other English versions of Johan & Peewit stories that I’m aware of.

    I don’t imagine that too many other changes will be made to Smurfs stories. If Tintin and Asterix can be published in English without outcry, the rest of the Smurf stories shouldn’t be a problem. I suppose some of the semi-misogynistic aspects of Smurfette’s portrayal could be softened.

  4. DeBT says:

    I just got the Smurfs volumes this Wednesday, and was dismayed to see that the last story in the first volume WASN’T “The Smurfnapper”, but a lesser story written and drawn in a later period. Maybe the definitive Gargamel story will be reprinted in a future Smurf volume (maybe one with multiple one-panel jokes and a larger story), but as far as first impressions go, I’m a little disappointed.

    Also, when you compare the original Black Smurfs with the Purple Smurfs, they were a little overzealous in their recolouring job. When the polen descended over the majority of the Black Smurfs, one of them was still coloured in blue camoflage, which diluted the effect when in the Purple Smurfs, ALL the Smurfs were purple.

    Not to mention the new covers which are simplisitc to the point of minimalism, compared to the European versions. I’ll probably do a post about the differences, once I find a copy of the French version of the first Smurf book.

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