Sunday, October 26, 2008

Half a Smurfy Century

The little blue creatures are fifty years old.

The Smurfs were the creation of cartoonist Pierre Culliford, known as Peyo, and made their first appearance in a 1958 edition of Belgian comics magazine Le Journal de Spirou.

They have devoted fans.

"They exist in their own little universe without any of the trapping of the modern day," says Alan Mechem from the British Smurf Collectors Club.

"I have up to 5,000 Smurfs in my collection," says Mr Mechem. "But I don't keep them in my house because they are too valuable. They're in a safe place where I can go and look at them."

They're not going away soon.

With a movie and new television series in the pipeline, Smurfs are being brought into the 21st Century by the company which owns their licensing rights.

This has aroused some controversy.

Ardent fans say the late Smurf creator's wishes are not being honoured. "Peyo was against making them modern and I believe he's right," says Mr Mechem. Others, though, say even elves must to move with the times.

One of the commenters is priceless.

The Smurfs a platform for anti-racism and bigotry? I always assumed they were crypto-Nazi - they're a group of ethnically pure (all blue) men living in a utopian agrarian community with a solid work ethic. The only woman in the village is introduced as an evil plot to subvert the Smurfs, but she (as a pure Aryan with blonde hair etc.) turns out to be chaste and pure, and a "good guy". Gargamel, the evil sorcerer who attempts to destroy the Smurfs, bears an uncanny likeness to Nazi depictions of Jews, and the "only gay in the village" (that's the camp one, I think he's called Vanity Smurf) is forced to wear a pink flower to mark him out from the others. Have I read too much into this?

Offhand, I would say yes.

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