With a major exhibition dedicated to Peyo‘s The Smurfs part of this year’s Lakes International Comic Art Festival, running into November in Kendal, what better time to step back to the 1990s, when Maida Vale-based DeVere Entertainment published a British Smurfs comic?
The Smurfs story began in October 1958, in the pages of the Belgian magazine Spirou. “Johan and Pirlouit“, a comic strip set in the Middle Ages created by Pierre Culliford (known as Peyo) featured the first, modest appearance by characters that have gone on to become international stars in comics, books, film and other media.
No one could have had the slightest inkling that their initial, fairly low-key appearance would mark the beginning of a veritable legend. As secondary characters in the “The Smurfs and the Magic Flute”, they could have simply disappeared along with the word “end” on the final page.
The Smurfs had a very positive public reception and Peyo went on to give the Smurfs their very own adventures, firstly in small short stories, then in a series of comic books, and their success would steadily grow.
Maida Vale-based publisher DeVere Entertainment, founded in 1995, published a The Smurfs comics between 1996 and 1997, alongside Earthworm Jim, the latter perhaps one of the first fully originated UK news stand comic titles to be based on a computer game, illustrated by Tim Perkins who is now a pulisher in his own right.
“Newsstand Publishing packaged The Smurfs for DeVere (actually two companies called DeVere – don’t ask!),” recalls comics writer and former Managing Editor James Hill. “I edited it, with Robert Sharp on design.
“We were supplied with French film for each issue and then had to translate (and rewrite into English vernacular) and create a new ‘matching’ black film. Plus, of course, all the usual cover copy, letters pages and intros.
“We tried to turn an issue around from start to sending to the printers in three days (including getting the film originated at the repro house). It was tons of fun – and I was madly proud to have worked on it!”
Launching in November 1996, the first 32 page issue, priced £1.85, reprinted three Smurfs strips by Peyou: “”The Smurfosaurus”, “The Baby Owl” and a one-page strip, “Lazy Smurf sets to work”, presumably all reprint.
Running for six issues in this format until March 1997, The Smurfs comic was then rebooted with a lower cover price of £1.25 in 1997 and a reduced page extent of 24 pages on cheaper paper, but ran for just two issues in this revamped style.
The Smurfs British comic is something of a curiosity and seems to have become quite a collectable among European Smurfs fans.
DeVere Entertainment was dissolved in mid July 2000 but one of its directors, Maurice Fine, a lifelong fan of comics, has continued to work in publishing, and is now the editor of Nonbeige, a web site offering a look at lifestyle, culture and delivering articles created especially for the baby boomer generation, described as “vibrant, relevant and edgy without an elasticated waistband in sight.”
Today, The Smurfs are published in album format in English by US publisher Papercutz, with Smurf Salad, the 26th album, published just this week.
Presented in the form of games, photos and informative texts, The Smurfs at 60 exhibition at Kendal’s Brewery Arts Centre at LICAF this weekend, in Kendal, Cumbria, tells the story of the Smurfs from their origins to the present day. It’s the first time the story has been presented in this format in English.
The Smurfs at 60 at the 2019 Lakes International Comic Art Festival – Exhibition Information
When: 4th October – 2nd November 2019 (Monday & Wednesday – 10.00am – 5.30pm | Wednesday – Saturday 10.00am – 10.00pm | Sunday 12 noon – 5.30pm
Where: The Sugar Store Gallery, the Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal
In partnership with WBI | The Smurfs online: www.smurf.com
Celebrate one of the world’s most enduring comic creations, The Smurfs, as they reach 60.
Created as incidental characters in a comic set in the Middle Ages by Belgian creator Pierre Culliford, aka Peyo, for the magazine Spirou, these endearing blue imps are now known across the globe
This amazing exhibition, supported by Wallonie-Bruxelles International charts the rise of the Smurfs to worldwide popularity and includes games, puzzles and activities that will keep children and their grown-ups very happy!
COME AND IMMERSE YOURSELF IN THE LAND OF THE SMURFS!
• The Smurfs books from Amazon UK (Affiliate Link)
With much thanks to James Hill and Richard Sheaf