The Black Smurfs
|This article relies on references to primary sources. (August 2009)|
The Black Smurfs (English title The Purple Smurfs, original French title Les Schtroumpfs noirs) is the first album of the original French-language Smurfs comic series created by Belgian artist Peyo. It was first published as an album in 1963, but the stories it contained had already been published in the magazine Le Journal de Spirou.
The main story Les Schtroumpfs noirs was first published in number 1107 (July 2, 1959).
Apart from the titular one, it contains two other stories: The Flying Smurf (Le Schtroumpf Volant) and The Smurfnapper (Le Voleur de Schtroumpfs).
The Black Smurfs
In a little mushroom village live the Smurfs, diminutive blue-skinned humanoid creatures. One day, one of them gets stung by a black fly that turns his skin jet black, reduces his vocabulary to the single word "gnap!", and causes him to go berserk. He bounces around and bites other Smurfs on their tail, which turns them into black Smurfs as well. Soon, almost everyone in the village has become a black Smurf, and Papa Smurf, the leader, tries to find a cure and cease the tail-biting epidemic. The cure is found in magnolia pollen, which is gathered in great quantity and loaded in fireplace bellows to be used as impromptu ranged weapons against contaminated Smurfs. The black Smurf has to inhale the pollen, which, after a loud and powerful sneeze, causes him to revert to his usual blue-skinned bonhomie. A great battle is fought outside the village, as the black, tail-biting horde closes in, threatening to destroy Smurf civilization for good.
The first black Smurf to have been transformed, meanwhile, recovers some semblance of ingenuity and paints himself blue to avoid being sprayed by the pollen-powered antidote. This allows him to ambush several normal Smurfs and reverse the outcome of the clash. In the end, only Papa Smurf still stands. He rushes to the lab to reload his bellow but is bitten while doing so. As he turns, he lets the large pollen jar fall into the fire, which causes the whole lab to explode. The resulting pollen cloud descends on the raving black Smurfs, reverting them to normality once and for all.
This is the only Smurfs comic book where a Smurf is seen without a hat. Papa Smurf has his blown away by an explosion, revealing a bald head. In a later adventure, "The Egg and the Smurfs", it is revealed that Grouchy Smurf's moody and unsociable personality is because of the lasting effects of the fly that stung him. In the Hanna-Barbera cartoon, Lazy Smurf is stung by the fly.
This story was later used as the basis for an episode of the Smurfs cartoon, though their skin color was changed from black to purple, due to racial connotations.
Followers of zombie fiction have remarked the similarities between the plot of The Black Smurfs and that of George A. Romero's 1968 film Night of the Living Dead, which introduced a new archetype of zombies that would be later used in other fiction works: Plagues of zombies that infect the living people, turning them violent, irrational and uncontrolled, as the black Smurfs.   However, there had been other fictional works that could also be considered precedents of this zombie archetype.
The Flying Smurf
A Smurf desperately wishes to be able to fly in the air, and tries various means to defy gravity and accomplish his dream, such as sticking feathers to his arms, building a hot-air balloon and eating yeast.
A reclusive sorcerer, Gargamel, wants to create the philosopher's stone. In his magic recipe book, he finds out that one of the ingredients for making it is a Smurf. He succeeds in catching a Smurf and locks him up in a cage. Papa Smurf and the others quickly go to rescue the imprisoned Smurf, but opening the cage proves a case of easier said than done.
This is Gargamel's first appearance in the Smurfs canon, and his motive for stealing Smurfs is made clear here, although it was slightly inconsistent in the animated series.
The comic was re-released in 2010 for the US market as "The Purple Smurfs" by Papercutz in September 2010. Translated by Joe Johnson, this contains a different third story, called The Smurf and His Neighbors. The Smurfnapper was instead issued in a special preview comic published by Papercutz in July 2010.