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CSBG Archive

Comic Book Legends Revealed #264

Welcome to the two-hundred and sixty-fourth in a series of examinations of comic book legends and whether they are true or false. Click here for an archive of the previous two hundred and sixty-three

Comic Book Legends Revealed is part of the larger Legends Revealed series, where I look into legends about the worlds of entertainment and sports, which you can check out here, at legendsrevealed.com. I’d especially recommend you check out this installment of TV Legends Revealed where you can find out what TV series came out on the same station the same year as Gilligan’s Island just to prove to Gilligan creator Sherwood Scwhartz that the President of the network was correct and that Gilligan’s Island would work better if they were NOT shipwrecked on an island!

Follow Comics Should Be Good on Twitter. I promised the other day that I would do another Greatest Stories Ever Told month if we ever hit 3,000 followers, and I’ll add today that at 2,000 followers I’ll do a BONUS edition of Comic Book Legends Revealed during the week we hit 2,000. So go follow us (here‘s the link to our Twitter page again)! Not only will you get updates when new blog posts show up, but you’ll get original content from me, as well!

Comic Book Legends Revealed is now FIVE YEARS OLD. Crazy, huh?

Let’s begin!

COMIC LEGEND: DC Comics was originally going to kill off Jason Todd by him having AIDS.

STATUS: False

Reader Mike wrote in to ask about something he read in a recent (and quite interesting) Judd Winick interview by Mary Borsellino over at Sequential Tart.

In the interview, Mary notes:

Deciding to put my disturbingly encyclopedic knowledge of all things Jason Todd to good use, I ask Winick if he’s ever heard about a storyline that was planned but never done, wherein Jason’s death would have been from AIDS.

“I think it was a stunning, unbelievable thing. In the time of fears and epidemic, to have had a superhero have it, I was stunned and proud to hear about that. But they were not able to do it. I always forget to ask Denny [O’Neil] about that, about what happened.

Now, obviously, the use of the term “was planned” can be pretty nebulous, so I suppose you can argue about the true or the false of the story, but the whole thing comes from a great interview Daniel Best (who has been so useful over the years that I gave him special thanks in my book!) did with Jim Starlin awhile back at Adelaide Comics and Books.

In it, Daniel asks about Robin and Starlin replies:

Well, I always thought that the whole idea of a kid side-kick was sheer insanity. So when I started writing Batman, I immediately started lobbying to kill off Robin. At one point DC had this AIDS book they wanted to do. They sent around memos to everybody saying “What character do you think we should, you know, have him get AIDS and do this dramatic thing” and they never ended up doing this project. I kept sending them things saying “Oh, do Robin! Do Robin!” And Denny O’Neill said “We can’t kill Robin off”. Then Denny one night got this flash that “Hey, if we get this number where people call in and they can vote on it, they can decide whether Robin lives or dies.” So that’s how it started. I wrote up two endings and the readers came in and voted and I think it was 93 or something, it was this negliable amount, the difference for him to be put to death. And the death won out of course.

So, you tell me – does that sound like they ever really planned on giving Robin AIDS?

It more sounds like Starlin just wanted to kill off Robin any way he could, and it eventually got O’Neill to thinking, “Hey, maybe we COULD kill off Robin!” not “Let’s give Robin AIDS.”

So I’m going with a false here.

Thanks to Mike for the suggestion, Mary Borsellino and Judd Winick for the inspiring interview and Daniel Best and Jim Starlin for the lowdown on the story!

Next, a couple of more zombie-related legends inspired by last week’s column!

COMIC LEGEND: A Marvel comic character managed to not appear in a Comics Code-approved comic for FORTY years!

STATUS: True

Reader David wrote to me after last week’s column to ask about Simon Garth, Marvel’s “Living Zombie,” and asking what the deal was with him – if zombies were banned by the Comics Code, what was his deal? I’ve had similar questions asked about Garth over the years asking whether the fact that he was a LIVING Zombie was a way for Marvel to get around the Comics Code.

In a way, Garth WAS a way to get around the Comics Code, but merely by not even submitting his comics TO the Comics Code!

In fact, Simon Garth was around for FORTY YEARS before he ever appeared in a Comics Code approved comic book!

Garth made his debut in Menace #5 in 1953 in a story titled, appropriately enough, “Zombie!”

Stan Lee and Bill Everett were the creative team behind Garth’s first appearance.

Twenty years later, Marvel decided to follow in the footsteps of Warren Publishing and put out black and white horror MAGAZINES so as to avoid having to submit them for Comic Code approval, and therefore allow them to do zombies and more graphic horror stories (well, more graphic than what was allowed at the time in standard comics).

Roy Thomas, being a smart fellow, tended to try to revive older characters if he could, so as to avoid creating new characters that he just knew that Marvel would own anyways, so he went to the pages of Menace and made Simon Garth the new lead character of Tales of the Zombie!

Steve Gerber wrote the first issue, with art by John Buscema. A slightly altered reprint of the Menace #5 story also ran in the issue (altered to make Garth’s appearance match his appearance in Gerber/Buscema’s tale).

After his run in Tales of the Zombie ended in 1975, he ended up making one more magazine appearance in Bizarre Adventures in 1981.

Then, besides an appearance in the Official Marvel Handbook in 1984, Garth was not to be seen until 1993, FOUR years after the Comics Code was altered to allow zombies to be depicted and FORTY YEARS after he first debuted.

Finally, he was appearing in a Comics Code-approved comic! The comic he first showed up in is a bit of an odd choice, though, 1993’s Daredevil Annual #9, in a tale by Glenn Herdling and Scott McDaniel!

The story was almost entirely double-page spreads, so click on each spread to enlarge…

zombiegarth3

zombiegarth4

zombiegarth5

Thanks to David for writing me about this!

COMIC LEGEND: The first Smurfs album was basically about zombie Smurfs!

STATUS: True

Reader Jonathan A. wrote in to mention this one, and he’s right, it’s a godo one!

The Smurfs (or, as they were known in the Franco-Belgium comics where they debuted, Les Schtroumpfs) first appeared in comic writer/artist Peyo’s light-hearted sword and sorcery series, Johan et Pirlouit (Johan and Peewit) in 1958. They were quite popular and by 1959 they were starring in their own back-up stories.

Their first album came out in 1963, titled Les Schtroumpfs Noirs – the Black Smurfs.

And the Black Smurfs, their first solo comic title, was basically about zombie smurfs!!!

You see, a Smurf in the comic is stung by a rare fly who effectively turns him into a zombie (his skin turns black). He then bites other Smurfs, who ALSO turn into zombies!

The comic was never reprinted in the United States (I don’t know why – likely the “Black” thing, but perhaps the zombie aspect of it, also?), so I’ll have to share with you the French pages (Smurf comics aren’t exactly hard to follow, luckily)…

And after Papa Smurf comes up with an antidote, the remaining unaffected Smurfs face off against their “turned” brethren…

In the end, though, Papa Smurf is the only Smurf left standing (through a clever ruse when one of the Black Smurfs paints himself blue to avoid being doused with the antidote). As he is being turned, as well, luckily, an explosion releases the antidote to all the Smurfs…

The story was later adapted into the Hanna Barbera cartoon, but in the cartoon, they turned PURPLE, not black.

Pretty funny, huh?

Commenter Gerald wrote in to note:

In the latest Previews, NBM/Papercutz has announced that they were going to publish “Le Schtroumpf Noir” (as well as the first appearance of the Smurfs, “The Magic Flute”). But they are going to publish it under the title “The Purple Smurf”, and color the offending black Smurfs purple.

Thanks, Gerald!

And thanks to Jonathan A. for the suggestion for this bit!

Okay, that’s it for this week!

Thanks to the Grand Comics Database for this week’s covers! And thanks to Brandon Hanvey for the Comic Book Legends Revealed logo!

Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is cronb01@aol.com. And my Twitter feed is http://twitter.com/brian_cronin, so you can ask me legends there, as well!

As you likely know by now, in April of last year my book came out!

Here is the cover by artist Mickey Duzyj. I think he did a very nice job (click to enlarge)…

If you’d like to order it, you can use the following code if you’d like to send me a bit of a referral fee…

Was Superman a Spy?: And Other Comic Book Legends Revealed

See you all next week!

87 Comments

All zombies forever more should say “GNAP!” instead of “brains!”

What’s interesting is that it is not even “gnap” sounding like “gnat,” but rather “guh-nap.”

I don’t think the idea that “zombieism” is a disease that spreads by biting was yet around in 1963, was it? As far as I know, before “Night of the Living Dead” fictional zombies followed the classic formula, i.e. they were human beings who had already died previously, and were risen from the grave via magic. So it would make more sense to call “The Black Smurfs” a Smurf vampire story rather than a zombie story, given how those two creatures were treated in fiction back then.

Zombie…vampire…it’s all gnap to me

In the latest Previews, NBM/Papercutz has announced that they were going to publish “Le Schtroumpf Noir” (as well as the first appearance of the Smurfs, “The Magic Flute”). But they are going to publish it under the title “The Purple Smurf”, and color the offending black Smurfs purple. Political correctness run amok, if you ask me. Next, we’ll read the adventures of Purplehawk, Purple Canary, Purple Lightning and the Purple Panther ;-)

Thanks, Gerald, I’ll put that in there.

And yeah, I agree – it’s an odd decision.

@ Tuomas: I think the story tips into zombie territory because the infected smurfs become mindless, obsessed only w/ biting others. Vampires, historically, are preoccupied w/ drinking blood, but still retain their memories and don’t tend to go on mass biting sprees.
-Aside: I remember the animated version a bit. Looking back, it really does have a “28 Days Later” vibe.

Pedantry aside, I have to think that Smurfpires are a whole other thing than zombie Smurfs, and hopefullly had their own story that combines adorability with seemingly casual racism. (By the way,I can’t wait for the Arthur Sudyam variant cover homage for Smurf Noir! Which sounds even more like a Marvel comic when I write it like that. Smurf Noir! Get Brubaker and Phillips on that!)

I do think Papa Smurf’s last stand looks pretty awesome, by the way, and am interested in picking the album up if I remember it exists.

Yeah, Peyo was a really good storyteller.

I saw the Purple Smurf cartoon when it first aired, and it scared the living crap out of me.

Not sure when the above Starlin interview took place, but I do clearly recall him admitting he didn’t write any kind of ending to DitF where Robin lived.

He said words to the affect of, I figured no-one would want to save him and would relish killing off a comic book character.

This admission was what got him fired from the Batman book.

I remember that purple smurf episode from when I was a kid. I still remember Papa Smurf being the last one left. Interesting to see how close it was to to the original comic.

I too remember the Purple Smurf cartoon – and yeah, it did a Dawn of the Dead vibe. Papa Smurf’s last stand was awesome, and the way he “bought” it was genius.

*have after “did”

You can youtube the purple smurf ep and get a very low quality version of it (but it’s watchable…barely). It is close to the comic (and in the cartoon, it is guh-nap).

I’m in the zombie Smurf camp. Part of why zombies terrify is the loss of individualism and identity (whereas vampires retain individuality, date, go to high school, and hang at Hot Topic); purple smurfs are all the same, so I’m leaning zombie here.

Though why they had to bite each other on the tail to infect is a mystery.

Man, an AIDS story back then would have been horrible considering what people thought they knew about it. I suppose Moore or Morrison could have pulled it off.

Man, I don’t get how the black smurfs are supposed to be offensive or racist, they’re BLUE! If you think about it in people terms, the evil purple smurfs are more racist, since the concept then becomes the darker the surfs are, the more evil they are? Or dark smurfs are evil? It makes my head hurt. And the thing is, the black smurfs looked cool. Purple, not so much.

Does anybody know for sure that the NBM changes were done because they’re nervous about the connotations of black smurfs? Or are people just assuming that because it makes a nice “I’m so above being PC” talking point? Seems like it might be just as easily because American audiences are more accustomed to the animated purple ones.

That Daredevil Annual spread hurts my eyes!

I think you might be right Edward. Brian was just speculating as to the reason and the phrase ‘offending color’ was just a posters term, so it may have just been an issue with the animation and it was necessary to use an actual color in those days. The real issue would then just be the title, since you can’t call the book ‘the black smurf’ and not expect people to read that as a race issue…I think it would have been easier to just come up with a better name than re-color a bunch of smurfs, but whatever.

> “Robin has AIDS: Vote whether he lives or dies” would have been quite interesting if people voted for him to live/be cured.

> And, hey, don’t leave us hanging! What was that final off-panel “GNAP” the Smurfs heard? (I’m betting it was “Hungry Smurf” taking a bite of cake or something.)

Yeah, that Daredevil page is a ugly piece of work.

And God, Glenn Herdling was a horrible writer too. I wonder what happened to him?

Ah, the 1990s! When the awful stuff was unbelievable in its awfulness. That is why I’m philosophical about comics today. Whatever crap we have today, in the 1990s we already had worse.

I remember watching that episode of Smurfs (here known as “Pitufos”) when I was a kid, and I felt… I don’t think scared would be the word, more like incredibly amazed since it seemed like a serious threat for once (instead of smurfs doing smurf silly things or Gargamel being ineffective). The ending was epic.

Hey Brian:

Found a typo in this sentence:

“Reader Jonathan A. wrote in to mention this one, and he’s right, it’s a godo one!”

Should be ‘good’ no?

Feel free to delete this after you read it. Thanks for the great column! [you can keep that last part!]

Didn’t Simon Garth show up earlier than 1993, as part of the Shroud’s Night Shift? I seem to remember him being in an issue of West Coast Avengers, around #40 or so… though I fully admit that I could be wrong.

Brian, i think that i have a legend for you.
i have seen/heard people claim that the creator of the Smurfs created them to communicate his intollerant beliefs. Here are a few things i have found:

1] The Smurfs – created by a “Belgian” named Peyo – are really a vehicle to indoctrinate extreme leftist propaganda in our children.

2] The Smurfs creator was anti-semtic and it can be seen in the charecters and how they behave. Example:
Gargamel makes FAR more sense if you view him as a sterotypical Jew.” The obsession with gold, the appearance, the demeanor, it just screams “Jew”.

The underlying idea is that through a kid friendly vehicle, Pyeo’s ideas were executed with enough care as to not arouse suspicion.

i’m sure that if you use this you will put it togheter in a more coherent form than i have. i would be really interested it this! Thanks again!
DFTBA

And, hey, don’t leave us hanging! What was that final off-panel “GNAP” the Smurfs heard?

It’s Jokey Smurf being as unfunny as ever.

Tom Fitzpatrick

June 11, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Wasn’t there a female character in Green Arrow (post-Kevin Smith) series that contracted HIV?

Whatever happened to her? I stopped reading G.A. before that storyline occurred.

I too remember the Purple Smurf from when I was, like, 2 or 3, and it gave me nightmares for years. I thought recently that maybe I had imagined or embellished it, but clips on Youtube and this feature here confirms that I remember it quite well.

*shudders* Freaks the hell out of me still.

Though I didn’t remember it until now, I’ll add my list to the people who found that Smurf cartoon episode kind of scary. It seemed out of place for Smurfs, and the dark Smurfs seemed angry and violent. The ridiculous word they were yelling lightened it a bit, but that serious stuff.

Though, I would be willing to bet that the old European comic version of the Smurfs had more darker stories than the Saturday morning cartoon version. At least they didn’t actually show the infected Smurf biting the other one’s ass!

] The Smurfs creator was anti-semtic and it can be seen in the charecters and how they behave. Example:
Gargamel makes FAR more sense if you view him as a sterotypical Jew.” The obsession with gold, the appearance, the demeanor, it just screams “Jew”.”

I don’t see that at all. It would make just as much sense to argue Scrooge was a Jewish stereotype (doesn’t celebrate Christmas, grumbles about people taking it off, greedy, filled with hate).

“Not sure when the above Starlin interview took place, but I do clearly recall him admitting he didn’t write any kind of ending to DitF where Robin lived.”

Then how do you explain the existence of the page where Robin lived? It was written, drawn, and inked.

They made a Smurf figurine and it was black. I never had it but my brother did. I remember that episode. Great stuff, never knew it had it’s origins in a comic. Never knew about Johann and Peewit (Peewee in the cartoon right?) having their origins that way as well.

2] The Smurfs creator was anti-semtic and it can be seen in the charecters and how they behave. Example:
Gargamel makes FAR more sense if you view him as a sterotypical Jew.” The obsession with gold, the appearance, the demeanor, it just screams “Jew”.

I think it only screams jew if you’re inherently racist to begin with. ;) At times he also wants to eat the smurfs, which I doubt is very kosher.

I never saw a purple Smurf, I never hope to see one- but I can tell you one thing true, I’d rather see than be one!

I read the Black Smurfs comic in Spanish as a kid. I thought it was creepy as shit.

French artist Boulet once thought up a modern “remake” of the Black Smurfs story. He drew a compressed version for his blog:
http://www.bouletcorp.com/blog/index.php?date=20090330

Sadly it’s in french only. Boulet is slowly translating his blog to english, but it will take over a year to reach that particular note. Here is the english language blog (nothing to so with Smurfs, but a cool read regardless):
http://www.bouletcorp.com/blogen/

Here is a bonus Zombie Smurfette pin-up he drew:
http://bouletcorp.free.fr/Images/bonusgnap.jpg

Cool, huh?

Best,
Hunter (Pedro Bouça)

Smurfs are scary.

Danjack, I doubt Peyo exposed the intollerant values you mentioned. Many other stories he did were messages of tolerance and goodwill.

You COULD make an argument about sexism on the original Smurfette story, though, but there is a strong criticism of sexual politics on that one as well (for example, no Smurf would give Smurfette the time of the day while she was “ugly”, but they started doing all she wanted when she became “beautiful”).

Also, do note that the writer of the most famous Smurfs stories was Yvan Delporte, not Peyo! Reportedly Deporte was an anarchist who abhorred authority (that is QUITE visible on the classic “King Smurf”!). Make of that what you will.

Best,
Hunter (Pedro Bouça)

Some editions of the albums were actually released here in the US via random House, basically reprints of the British albums, translated by the same duo who did the ASTERIX series. One of the strips was sort of follow-up to that story, in which Jokey paints himself to scare all the other smurfs, but finds out afterwards, the paint is indelible! PC was very much in force here, as Jokey paints himself GREEN, and the green color over the figure looks like a bad trace job. Smurfs are also shouting “A GREEN SMURF!” “HE’LL BITE US AND WE”LL ALL TURN GREEN!’ also that panel in which Papa smurf is seen after the explosion in the article- I think that’s the first time i’ve seen a smurf WITHOUT his cap!

Thanks for clearing up all the Zombie/Comic Code stuff. I doubt that Zombies would have corrupted the minds of America’s youth, it’s amusing to look back at it all.

@ everyone who is commenting on my inquiry:

i should have made it more clear that i was copying/pasting what others have said, hence my typing, “Here are a few things i have found:”

i don’t have any of those views [acutally partially Jewish myself!] and i was only interested in getting to the bottom of this rumor.

i hope that i didn’t offend anyone, or leave the impression that those were my thoughts. Thanks to all who responded.
DFTBA

I’m going to back up danjack — I’ve heard that the guy that created the smurfs did so to promote a racist, anti-Semitic agenda. In fact, when I was a kid, I think this explanation was used to steer me away from the Smurfs. I’d be curious to hear the truth behind this urban legend.

Wow, I think I’ll have to pick up those Smurfs books from Papercutz! My wife love the Magic Flute film (though I always thought it was weird that the Smurfs didn’t show up until it was like halfway over), and the black/purple Smurf story sounds interesting. Thanks as always for the info, Brian!

Why was a Smurf turning black due to being infected offensive? Isn’t that getting WAY too politically correct?

This is the first time I am disappointed by the verdict of a COMIC BOOK LEGENDS REVEALED.

The SCHTROUMPFS NOIRS story has NOTHING, NOTHING!! to do with Zombis and should have been a FALSE verdict.
You are stretching the truth a whole lot here in categorizing the black smurf disease as a Zombie plague.

A few years ago, I had the pleasure to interview one of PEYO’s assistant (he had a whole studios of collaborators) for a french canadian fanzine. His name is Gos and he is the author of the SCRAMEUSTACHE series. And I remember talking with him about a few of Peyo’s themes in the Schtroumpfs series.

By the way, Gos never let any hints about Peyo being anti-semite and I don’t believe he was. Gargamel has no jewish sterotypes whatsover. Jews were more often than not showed with that big curved nose in european comics. Also, “Gargamel” is a french sounding name, not jewish at all. Being obsessed with gold was not limited to jews. The are a lot of legends and stories set in medieval times where evil people (not always jews) were given that trait. After all, a good christian was not suppose to be attached to material things, so evil persons were shown to be.

The fly in the story is a disease carrier, not a zombie fly. It has more to do with the tse-tse fly and the disease (remember Belgium has african colonies, like Congo, until the 60’s, and the tse-tse fly disease was a real scary thing back then) .

Zombies are undeads by nature. They were not shown as energetic but more lethargic, at least back in the 60’s. The black smurf disease DOESN’T KILL the smurfs. Furthermore, the disease that can be cured with a remedy. The classic zombie cannot be cured, HE IS DEAD!

I can’t believe your verdict was a “True”.

And the reason why the “Schtroumpfs Noirs” was not translated in the USA is because the “black” thing was seen as a very sensitive subject for the USA. There was a fear that the smurfs being turned black (and thus agressive) by the sickness might not be perceived well. But the “black” disease has nothing to do with race. Again, it has to do with medieval themes of black being the color of bad and evil, a bit like in the old westerns, good guys wore white hats and bad guys wore black hats.

You can watch a re-cut version of the Purple Smurfs episode on YouTube entitled “28 Smurfs Later”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6oYAju4WI90

I do know that there have been hundreds of college thesis papers written in the last 30 years (at least) on the subject of Smurfs as leftist propaganda or as an idealized Communist society.

Whether that was Peyo’s intent is another matter, as I’ve not actually read more than the title pages of a couple of those papers.

I remember the Purple Smurf episode too. And, one really also needs to look at how Smurfette was introduced, too, when considering potential metaphorical meanings of subplots.

Lastly, if it’s still there, one of the flash movie sites (can’t remember if it was newgrounds or albinoblacksheep) had a “Smurfs: The lost episode” clip that was just wrong – funny, but really, really wrong. (Papa Smurf can I lick your *$$?”)

Then how do you explain the existence of the page where Robin lived? It was written, drawn, and inked.

True, although it doesn’t take a Starlin to write “He’s ALIVE!”

“Hey, let’s do a phone number where we give somebody AIDS and they can decide if he lives or not.”

That would be even worse. When you think about it, the whole ‘kill Robin by vote’ thing seems kind of twisted.

Also, I read the Marvel Handbook of the dead #20 once and Simon Garth’s ‘death’ was him basically becoming alive again if I remember that correctly.

I don’t trust those Smurfs… Blue or Purple.:)

Hey, I’m only kidding!

I don’t think it’s offensive if you actually bother to read the story, but publishers have long since learned that it’s the people who don’t actually read books who object the loudest. They’re not really worried that kid’ll get racist ideas from the book, they’re worried parents will glance at the cover and see “Black Smurf = bad” then rally the PTA shrieking “Won’t someone think of the children!?”

I never really bought racist or political subtext theoris in Smurfs, but from what I’ve heard Peyo was pretty misogynist. Allegedly, when describing the character of Smurfette to the network execs producing the cartoon, he said things like “She’s a typical woman – not a thought in her head but she won’t stop talking, gets the men to do everything for her and contributes nothing…” etc. But he didn’t speak English and the execs didn’t speak French and the mortified translator just said things like “She’s a typical woman – speaks her mind, likes to cooperate with the group…”

I have no idea if that’s true, but it amused and shocked me when I read it.

So… Starlin wanted Robin dead *because he made no sense?* He seems to forget that the whole point of the Bronze Age was to take all that Silver Age stuff and somehow have it *make sense*. And why kill him? Couldn’t they just find him a living relative and “ship him out?” I seem to recall some editor (not sure whom) who after the whole “phone in to kill Robin” thing stated “let’s NEVER do this again”. So not everybody thought it was a good idea. Using AIDS would’ve been even worse! But, at least we now know that the idea of giving somebody in DC AIDS at the time is true. So that was informative. Thanks Brian!

Similarly, I knew about the original “Marvel Zombie” but not that he was such an old character. Again, thanks.

And no, I didn’t know the “Smurf Zombies” were supposed to be black- but even then, I cannot see it as racist. MAYBE if they’d turned brown instead. Seriously, is EVERY character who happens to be colored black a racist symbol? Is Mickey Mouse racist?? How about bleach-white characters like Casper, should they be considered offensive to “White” people? It’s just ridiculous.

BTW, the Smurfs had more serious -even scary- episodes than people imagine. Probably because they were set, as mentioned, in a more typical Fantasy Adventure universe to begin with. Though for me the scariest Smurf episode was that Christmas story where they had to go against a character who was all but stated to have been The Devil! O_O

Zombie Smurfs. Awesome.

Also loving that sound effect.

GNAP!

@Kirbydotter: In our modern culture, zombie is a term not only associated with the dead but with the living who are infected with a virus and act in a “zombie” manner. For example, “28 Days Later” is a “zombie” film, but the zombies are still alive and suffering from the effects of a virus. Other “zombie” style films of this nature or in other avenues of pop culture (“Quarantine”, the Croatoan virus in “Supernatural”, and even stuff like
“Invasion of the Body Snatchers”) play on this kind of zombie theme where there’s a “possible” cure. The Smurf story fits into this category, so I have no issue with a true verdict. I would no doubt believe that it plays off of very real virus fears, though.

BTW, true zombies aren’t dead anyway. They’re really drugged peasant workers who are forced into enslavement. The idea of a “dead” zombie is much more recent, Max Brook’s time line aside.

Willie Everstop

June 11, 2010 at 9:51 pm

GNAP!

Holy Crap! That sound just uncovered hidden memories of childhood terror.

GNAP! GNAP!

Willie Everstop

June 11, 2010 at 9:58 pm

They must be zombies because Papa Smurf constructs a shotgun from a bellows and aims for the head.

I can see why a studio might want to avoid any possible racial connotations. No big deal. It makes more sense that sick Smurfs would turn purple anyway.

They don’t seem to be zombie Smurfs to me. They don’t show any signs of death. I woud think rabies would be the best analogy.

Both last week and this you said the Code didn’t allow zombies until 1989. So how do you explain Vision & Scarlet Witch #1? It’s dated October 1985. It features the Black Talon raising the dead. The dead are identical to the zuvembies from Avengers #152, but they’re called ‘zombies’ this time. The word appears eight times in the story, and it says ‘Lovers and Zombies’ right on the cover. The Comics Code seal is on the cover.
Were they just being very lax in enforcing the rules at this time?

@Craig

Simon Garth wasn’t in the Night Shift. You’re thinking of the character Digger, who was the host of a Marvel horror book at some point… Tower of Shadows, I think it was called.

Travis Pelkie

June 12, 2010 at 1:44 am

1. Congrats on 5 years of CBLR, Brian!

2. I think what Starlin might have been thinking involving kid sidekicks was that having Robin die would show Batman how insane it was, and thus make him stop using one. Maybe.

3. It’s somewhat disturbing, though, that DC was just asking around for, “oh, who could we give AIDS that would make a dramatic story?” It seems it would have been better to have the storyline flow organically from someone’s run on a title. Probably Moore could have pulled it off, and Swamp Thing might have been the right kind of title to have a story like that appear (maybe, just spitballing here). Given the treatments of the time, of course, it would have been an outright death sentence to whatever character it was, so maybe that’s why it wasn’t done at the time.

4. Given that, whatever did happen to Mia, the replacement Speedy that Kevin Smith introduced in GA who had HIV? I know she joined the Teen Titans for awhile between Identity Crisis and Infinite Crisis, but I’m not sure what happened to her after that.

5. Zombies!!! Ahhh!!!!

6. Papa Smurf kicks some @#@%ing @$$ there. Damn.

7. Gnap rules. I’m going to start using it in conversation. Guh-Nap!!!

Travis Pelkie

June 12, 2010 at 1:46 am

ok, a few clarifications. luckily I numbered my comments

2. killing Robin to show Batman how insane it was to have a kid sidekick

3. Given the treatments of HIV and AIDS patients at the time, it would have been a death sentence to the character.

7. Gnap!

1. Holy shit, I’m going to buy a Smurfs comic. This is the end for Adult Sean, he is well and truly dead. Sean-From-the-Early-80s, who buys Transformers and cares about the Smurfs, is back forevermore.

2. I tend to agree that the title “The Black Smurfs” is probably more of an impediment than actual images of black Smurfs. Which is a shame, cause man, that artwork looks so nice as is.

3. I remember that Daredevil annual. HOLY CRAP, was it awful. Even with one of those Infinity War doppelgangers that I had an unexplainable affinity for.

4. God help me, but I can’t stop thinking about what kind of jokes Eddie Murphy and Sam Kinison would have made back in the day if there was a phone-in vote to give Robin AIDS.

Great installment, Brian!

Tom F…you thinking of Mia Dearden, the new Speedy who is HIV positive…

I pretty race sensitive and I can honestly say that i saw nothing wrong with the Smurf coloring (3rd time I read it)

Like others, I caught the zombie connotations early…

Mia’s still around – she got shuffled off to England at the end of Winick’s run on GA/BC, but returned during Blackest Night to help fight zombie-Ollie, and was sidekicking with him when he went on his rage-spree in Rise and Fall…since I’ve completely given up on the GA corner of the DCU with Rise and Fall, I can’t say what she’s up to now…

I’d really like to know more info behind the black smurf/purple smurf change. I always assumed that Hanna/Barberra changed it to purple smurfs because animation usually tries to avoid solid black characters. The change in the comics is more interesting, because it requires modifying Peyo’s original line art. Does anyone know if NBM/Papercutz is doing new translations of the smurf books, or are they using pre-existing translations from England? If so, maybe the color change came from the other publisher and NBM/Papercutz is just using the art they were provided with.

Regarding the DC AIDS story: while I wasn’t aware of the rumor about the idea of killing off Jason Todd by having him contract the disease, I do remember reading somewhere a long time ago that DC did have talks about doing a story where a major character was to find out they were HIV+. A couple of names mentioned were Jimmy Olsen and the Elongated Man (although the latter was taken off the table because someone at DC was afraid people would make too many jokes about a character named “Elongated Man” having AIDS).

They actually did introduce a hero in the late 80s/early 90s who was HIV+–Jet, a woman from South Africa who was in the New Guardians that came together after the Millennium event. She was supposedly killed off but has since been shown as a member of the new Global Guardians. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jet_%28comics%29

And then we have Mia Dearden, the latest incarnation of Green Arrow’s sidekick, Speedy. She HAS played a prominent role lately, most notably shouldering the blame for the death of Roy Harper’s daughter, Lian. However, there hasn’t been much mentioned about her HIV status.

@Smokescreen:
Read my post carefully. As you said, ONLY VERY RECENT versions of zombie depict them with them being the result of a virus/sickness.
BUT, back when Peyo created the “Les Schtroumpfs Noirs” album (it was first published in french in january 1963), the zombie theme was they were created by curses (not virus), zombies were shown as shambling lethargic undeads not jumping gnaping energetic disease carriers. SO, when Peyo was creating his album, his intent was most certainly NOT to represent zombies since this was not the way they were defined in early 60’s.

I thought Starlin was an odd choice for Batman, as I associated with cosmic characters. I was certainly willing to give him a chance, though, as he followed Max Allen Collins and his warmed over (leftover?) Dick Tracy-esque plots. His stories were pretty over-the-top as I recall, with KGBeast killing hundreds of Gothamites, and making Jason Todd as unlikeable as possible leading up to “Death in the Family” (speaking of over the top). Even for a Batman title, the violence was gratuitous for the time – at times cartoony, at times seemingly done for shock value. Starlin’s last issue was #430, just one after DitF. My hazy recollections are that 1) even if readers had voted that Robin would live, Starlin was going to use his severe injuries as a reason not to use him, and 2) he was taken off the book by DC executive types, who got wind of how violent his stories were. I seem to recall an interview in CBG where he had planned a story with Two-Face going on a killing spree with pruning shears, and some “higher-up” put the kibosh on it.

Just to go off topic for a second, I think the stories that followed Starlin’s run are some underappreciated gems. Two great stories by Christopher Priest (then known as “Jim Owsley”), a nifty three part murder mystery by John Byrne, a nice little run by Marv Wolfman (featuring the debut of Tim Drake), a great three parter by Peter Milligan called “Dark Knight, Dark City”, and a run by Alan Grant and Norm Breyfogle – and about 95% of this is uncollected, which is a real shame (and a little baffling, as this is when Batman’s popularity took off thanks to the 1989 movie). So, yeah, Batman 431-476, is, in my opinion, a pretty good chunk of goodness.

@Smokescreen:
“Part of why zombies terrify is the loss of individualism and identity”
Mind you, Smurfs aren’t doing too well in those respects in the first place….

That episode of the smurfs is pretty much the only one I remember from childhood. It was a hook-laden story.

I read many of the Garth zombie stories in high school…thought the art was great and one of the best horror stories ever told, in comics or otherwise. Anybody know if they were collected in TPB??

Smurfs-The Lost Episode is at YouTube. Be warned, NOT WORK SAFE!

sackett, the complete Simon Garth Zombie stories were collected in a MARVEL ESSENTIAL.

I’m willing to bet that the cartoon chose purple over black for technical reasons. Jet black probably doesn’t work too well on the screen – for one thing, it doesn’t allow for black lines to show facial expression.

@James Moar: I’d argue that the smurfs are all individuals with a single trait that sticks out, not a uniform collective (you have your Hefty, Handy, Jokey, Lazy, etc.). Granted, I wouldn’t claim they’re the most diverse individuals, but they have individual traits when “normal”. As “purple smurfs”, that’s all gone in favor of single mindedness.

@Kirbydotter: Seems we’re delving into the difference between authorial intent and public interpretation. I’ll leave it at the author may have intended something (and probably did, in all likelihood), but there’s no way to discount other interpretations, zombie Smurfs being one of them.

Why didn’t they call them DARK Smurfs in english anyway? It works for Star Wars…

I’m going to agree with danjack and echo his idea that the Smurfs are probably about the most racist, offensive thing I’ve ever seen.

In the Johan et Pirlout album “Le pays maudit” (1964), the villain Monulf was clearly a stereotypical jew. He even swears in Jiddish with Hebrew alphabet. He invaded the Smurf village and enslaved them except one, who went to seek for help from Johan and Pirlouit.

Don’t know about the finnish ed, but I have “Le pays maudit” and Monulf doesn’t speak Yiddish at all. He speaks good french and curses on the same visual shorthand (spirals, skulls, fake chinese characters, etc.) than any other french-belgian characters like, say, Asterix.

And he looks jewish because he has a big nose (like almost EVERY Peyo character – the belgian cartoony style is known as “big nose style” for a reason!) and dark, curly hair? Only if you WANT to see the stereotype there…

Best,
Hunter (Pedro Bouça)

Holy moley. That Smurf article totally nostalgia bombed me. I distinctly remember purple Smurfs running around saying ‘gnap’. The sheer sound of terror it invokes is imprinted in my brain, Ha.

Does anyone actually know what Jim Starlin thinks about the insane decision to bring Jason Todd back and try to convince everybody he’s some kind of uber-badass instead of the same whiny punk who was far more interesting dead?

@Smokescreen

28 Days later is not a zombie film! Even the guy who made it says so!

I remember back in the 80s, there was a very famous -and very good- humor magazine in Argentina, that already noticed the alleged racism in the Black Smurfs story, and this was way before our political correct times. The magazine based their commentary on one panel in wich Papa Smurf says (and I quote)

“Beware, my dear Smurfs. Blacks are contagious!”

Now, you see how that really doesn’t sounds very good.

@ all the zombie arguement concerning the black/purple smurfs of Les Schtroumpfes:
All of you are comparing this to the Modern Zombie apocalypse scenario when you should be doing that in reverse. Les Schtroumpfes Noire PRE-dates Romero’s first zombie film by 5 years and the Black smurfs likely made an appearance before this. Les Schtroumpfes came out BEFORE Night of the Living Dead and the entire scenario (living dead withstanding) can be said to be based on the Smurfs.

While the concept of a zombie existed before Les Schtroumpfs, the concept of a zombie apocalypse scenario did not.

The zombie apocalypse won’t get ya. It’ll be the SMURFS!

“he was taken off the book by DC executive types, who got wind of how violent his stories were.”

Yeah, I’ve never liked that run of Batman. I believe the first issue of the DitF arc has Batman and Jason busting up a “kiddie porn” ring or something, doesn’t it?
Anyway, even as a kid I felt it was getting way TOO dark and “realistic”.

“While the concept of a zombie existed before Les Schtroumpfs, the concept of a zombie apocalypse scenario did not”

That was kirbydotter’s original point; that the Smurfs story pre-dates Romero’s modern conception of a zombie, and that thus Peyo had not the necessary frame of reference to have done a ‘zombie story’.

“I think what Starlin might have been thinking involving kid sidekicks was that having Robin die would show Batman how insane it was, and thus make him stop using one. Maybe.”

Yeah. It’s also kinda nutty how he dresses like a bat and fights criminals. They should probably nix that element of the mythos too.

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