Whoah… it’s been sooooooooooo long since I’ve read this book. Perhaps as long as 30 years, even. I’m surprised by how well it holds up. After the Johan et Pirlouit books (which feature the Smurfs episodes #1 and 2) and the detestable Smurfs film, I was starting to think that maybe the Smurfs were mostly enjoyed by kids – that I had outgrown them.
The early books are composed of short stories that were once published in Spirou magazine quite a few years prior. What is strange is that these anthologies don’t offer the shorts sequentially; for reasons unknown (to me, at least, despite researching it) they were released out of order.
I only realized this as I was reading the second story, Le Schtroumpf volant’, which referred to the third story, ‘Le voleur de Schrtroumpfs’. I immediately wondered what that was about and went scouring online, finding out that the first half-dozen books are a real mish-mash of shorts.
Thus, if one were to read the stories as the books published them, characters develop in erratic ways and the village dynamics change substantially. It’s strange that the publisher and/or author would make this decision, but it’s good to know from the onset.
I decided to try to read the stories in the order in which they were published. Thus, I have read the first 5 volumes – starting with this one. I will comment on each story individually, while rating the books as a whole:
1. Les Schtroumpfs noirs (Smurfs episode #3)
A classic story, and the first solo one by the Smurfs. In this one, the Smurfs are transformed one-by-one into demented, aggressive black Smurfs – only Papa Smurf can save the day. Amazingly, this wasn’t published until recently in the United States because of the whole racial concern of having black characters as the bad guy (in fact, for this reason, they were made purple for the US version).
2. Le Schtroumpf volant (Smurfs episode #10)
A fluff piece, but it’s amusing enough. Basically, what we’re seeing are one-page gags about a Smurf who tries every trick in the book in order to fulfill his dream of flying – much to the dismay of his fellow Smurfs.
3. Le voleur de Schtroumpfs (Smurfs episode #4)
This one features the first appearance of Gargamel and Azrael, wherein he captures a Smurf because he needs one to complete a magic spell. The story revolves around the Smurfs trying to rescue this poor kidnappee. Amusing.
In interesting to note that, due to the fact that the stories were originally published over the years, and not at all at the same time, the art varies from one story to the next. It’s all quite good, actually, but the Smurfs become more defined with time – and soon look more like the way that we know them now.