Johan et Pirlouit, by Peyo
Johan et Pirlouit - 'Les Sept Fontaines' (1959).

Peyo was a Belgian comic artist, famous worldwide as the creator of 'The Smurfs' (1958-   ). These funny blue dwarfs, known in French as 'Les Schtroumpfs', first appeared as secondary characters in Peyo's medieval adventure comic 'Johan et Pirlouit' ('Johan and Peewit, 1946-2001). During the 1950s and 1960s, this series had made Peyo a staple in Spirou and an influential member of that magazine's "School of Marcinelle" drawing style. The publication output of this series, however, slowed down due to the increasing popularity of the Smurfs' solo career. The comic series spawned colossal amounts of merchandising, spearheaded by animated cartoons, feature films, helium-voiced children's songs and several theme parks. Along with Hergé's 'Tintin' and Morris' 'Lucky Luke', 'The Smurfs' remains the best-selling Belgian comic series in the world. More and more entangled in the business aspects of his creations, Peyo surrounded himself with assistants and pupils to help with the artwork. Many members of this Peyo school have become successful comic artists in their own right. Apart from 'Johan et Pirlouit' and the 'Smurfs', Peyo and his team made several other comic series, the most notable being the unlucky black cat 'Poussy' (1949-1973) and the superstrong boy 'Benoît Brisefer' ('Steven Strong', or ‘Benny Breakiron’, 1960-2011). Peyo was noted as a gifted storyteller, who provided fun and commercially successful children's comics, layered with surreal magic and social satire.

Early years
Peyo was born in 1928 as Pierre Culliford in Brussels' Schaerbeek district. His family had British origins. The young "Pierrot" developed his interest in comics through the work of Hergé and the American comics that appeared in the magazines Mickey, Robinson and Hurrah!. When he was seven years old, Pierre Culliford’s father unexpectedly died of myopathy, which put the family in major financial difficulties, doubled when World War II broke out. At the age of 15, Culliford was forced to abandon his studies and get a job. He worked as assistant projectionist in a Brussels cinema for the remainder of the war.

Pied Tendre by Peyo
'Pied-Tendre', 1946.

In the summer of 1945, Pierre Culliford found employment as a replacement for Jacques Eggermont at the C.B.A. animation studios. There, he retouched finished drawings in gouache, while working alongside fellow artists like André Franquin, Morris and Eddy Paape. Crushed by the competition of American cartoon studios, C.B.A. folded, prompting Franquin, Morris and Paape to seek employment in the magazines published by Éditions Dupuis. But Culliford, the youngest of the team, enrolled in the Brussels Academy of Fine Arts. He left after only three months, and turned to commercial art. Between 1946 and 1951, he was a full-time advertising artist through agencies like Colin, Publicontrol and Vertil. He illustrated campaigns for the printing company Les Presses Tilbury, the powders of Dr Mann, Wavi washing powder, the Antwerp Credit Bank and Jacques chocolate. He continued to do sporadic advertising work during the 1950s and 1960s, including illustrations for six calendars of the Federation of Belgian Catholic Scouts F.S.C. (1959-1965) some of them with backgrounds drawn by Jidéhem. Other later ad work was made for textile manufacturer Fabelta.

Poussy, by Peyo (Le Soir, 9 March 1949)
'Poussy' (Le Soir, 9 March 1949).

Early comics
In his spare time, in addition to his commercial work, Pierre Culliford made his first comic strips. He adopted the pseudonym Peyo, based on his first name "Pierrot", and in April 1946 saw his first comic strip published in Riquet, the supplement of the daily newspaper L'Occident. This comic about a Native American called 'Pied-Tendre' was followed by the scout 'Puce', who reappeared in the scouts magazine Mowgli in 1948. When in the 1950s, Mowgli was replaced in the market by Seeonee, Peyo continued to work for the magazine, creating the character 'Petit François'. Peyo's first serialized story, 'Une Enquête de l'Inspecteur Pik', was published in Le Petit Monde, the children's paper of the Brussels department store Le Bon Marché. His career as a comic artist really took off when his association with the newspaper La Dernière Heure began.

Johan, by Peyo (Le Soir, 1952)
'Johan' (Le Soir, 1952).

Johan (and Peewit)
In La Dernière Heure, Peyo introduced the knight's page 'Johan' (1946). The series was originally a pantomime gag comic, but from 1947 on, it developed into a serialized adventure series about a brave and noble medieval knight fighting for just causes. By 1950, 'Johan' also ran in the newspaper Le Soir and in 1952 it moved over to the Belgian comic weekly Spirou, with the long story 'Le Châtiment de Basenhau' ("Basenhau's Punishment", 1952). Originally, publisher Dupuis deemed Peyo's drawing style below their graphic standards, but with recommendations and graphic aid from André Franquin, he was accepted as part of the crew. The transition to Spirou also marked the first time 'Johan' was published in color. During this transition from newspaper to magazine comic, Johan’s hair color changed from blond to black. Peyo's first colorist was his wife, Nine.

Johan, by Peyo
Johan - 'Le Châtiment de Basenhau' (Spirou, 1952).

In the third 'Johan' story, 'Le Lutin aux Bois aux Roches' (1956), Johan is sent out to capture a strange creature named Pirlouit (Peewit). Many think he is some kind of monster, who steals food and plays tricks on people. Johan finds him and discovers that Pirlouit is merely a wild dwarf who lacks magical powers. The only reason the energetic little man managed to get away every time is because he rides a trusty black goat, Bicet. Johan and Pirlouit become friends and the little man becomes the official court jester, although his bad jokes and appalling songs are annoying. Luckily for his court audience, Pirlouit is a loyal companion to Johan on all his adventures. Together, they save the kingdom from invading armies, black magic and dragons, aided by the good wizard Homnibus. As Johan's new sidekick, Pirlouit proved so popular that the series was retitled 'Johan et Pirlouit' ('Johan and Peewit'). Between 1954 and 1970, 13 books were published by Dupuis. 'Johan et Pirlouit' was the only Peyo series written and drawn by Peyo himself, without much help from assistants. Only the delayed thirteenth album, 'Le Sortilège de Maltrochu' ("Maltrochu's Spell", 1967-1969), had art contributions by his assistants Gos and Walthéry.

Johan et Pirlouit - La Source des dieux (1956)
Johan et Pirlouit - 'La Source des Dieux' (1956).

The Smurfs
'Johan and Pirlouit' was always Peyo's personal favorite, but nevertheless the production of new stories gradually slowed down. The reason for these longer interludes were a group of secondary characters, introduced in 'La Flûte à Six Trous' ("The Flute with Six Holes", 1958). In this story Johan and Pirlouit encounter strange blue gnomes "of three apples high", named 'Les Schtroumpfs' ('The Smurfs'). Making their print debut on 23 October 1958, 'Les Schtroumpfs' quickly surpassed Johan and Pirlouit in terms of popularity. Their name, Schtroumpf, originated from an inside joke between Peyo and André Franquin. While having dinner in a restaurant, Peyo asked his friend for the salt, but was unable to come up with the name. Instead of "Passez-moi le sel" ("Give me the salt") he blurted out: "Passez-moi le schtroumpf" ("Give me the smurf"). For the rest of the evening, the two friends used this made-up word as a replacement for other nouns and verbs. When looking for a name for his new little creatures, Peyo didn't have to think long. The funny wordplay of his night out also formed the basis for the iconic and incomprehensible Smurf language. At his wife Nine's suggestion, Peyo gave the Smurfs blue skin with white pants and caps. She felt green would make them dissolve in the forest colors, red was "too fierce" and pink "too human". Only their leader, Le Grand Schtroumpf (Papa Smurf), had a red outfit and a beard. Right from the start, the Smurfs received their characteristic village with mushroom houses.

The Dutch name "Smurf" was also used in English and other translations. For decades, it was believed that this name was conceived by either editor/translator Armand van Raalte or editor-in-chief Peter Middeldorp, who since 1957 was in charge of Spirou's Dutch-language edition Robbedoes. It wasn't until a 2019 interview with StripNieuws magazine that Middeldorp remembered that Humo editor (and future Robbedoes editor-in-chief) Karel Cavens had suggested the iconic name.

Johan et Pirlouit, by Peyo
'Le Pays Maudit' (1961).

Spirou's editor-in-chief Yvan Delporte saw the possibilities of the 'Smurfs' and persuaded Peyo to create a spin-off. Between 2 July 1959 and 1962, the first solo appearances of 'Les Schtroumpfs' took place in Spirou's fold-in mini-booklets section, known as "mini-récits". By 1963, the Smurfs found their way to Spirou's regular pages and the original mini-stories were redrawn for book publications. Peyo added new characters to the cast, most notably the Smurfs' main nemeses: the evil sorcerer Gargamel and his red cat Azrael. The duo made their debut in 'Le Voleur de Schtroumpfs', the 10 December 1959 mini-book supplement of Spirou #1130. Their names were thought up by Delporte. He took "Gargamel" from the character Gargamelle in François Rabelais' classic novel 'Gargantua and Pantagruel' and "Azrael" from the Angel of Death in the Hebrew Bible. The latter might have been suggested by Delporte's Jewish wife. Gargamel is an alchemist who wants to capture the Smurfs to turn them into gold. Unfortunately for him, he is unable to locate the Smurfs' village. Even in stories where he does find it, he eventually forgets the exact location and gets lost again. Since the 1981-1989 animated adaptation by Hanna-Barbera, Gargamel's alchemist ambitions have been dropped. He now simply wants to eat the Smurfs.

Johan et Pirlouit - Le Serment des Vikings (1955)
Johan et Pirlouit - 'Le Serment des Vikings' (1955).

New Smurf characters gave the village variety. 'Les Schtroumpfs Noirs' ('The Black Smurfs', 1959, in English: 'The Purple Smurfs') introduced the arrogant and toady Schtroumpf à Lunettes (Brainy Smurf), the clumsy Schtroumpf Bêta (Clumsy Smurf) and Schtroumpf Farceur (Jokey Smurf) and his exploding presents. 'Le Schtroumpfissime' ('King Smurf', 1964) marked the introduction of the narcissistic Schtroumpf Coquet (Vanity Smurf), who always watches his own reflection in the mirror, the super strong Schtroumpf Costaud  (Hefty Smurf), cake-eating Schtroumpf Gourmand (Greedy Smurf), the sleepy Schtroumpf Paresseux (Sleepy Smurf), the awful musician Schtroumpf Musicien (Harmony Smurf) and the nihilistic Schtroumpf Grognon (Grouchy Smurf), who never neglects a chance to say how much he hates everything. The final major characters appeared in 'La Schtroumpfette' ('Smurfette', 1966), where both Schtroumpf Poète (Poetry Smurf) and the only female in the village, La Schtroumpfette (Smurfette), first arrived on the scene.

Le Schtroumpfissime by Peyo
'Le Schtroumpfissime' (1964)

Adult double layers
General audiences often regard 'The Smurfs' as purely a children's series, because of its commercial exploitation in later years. However, originally Peyo and Yvan Delporte crafted great social parodies, with the Smurf village as an allegory for human society. In 'Le Schtroumpfissime' ('King Smurf', 1964) the Smurfs vote for a temporary leader during Papa Smurfs' absence. By rigging the votes, one of them becomes king and establishes tyranny. Other Smurfs organize an underground resistance movement, leading to an outright war. 'Schtroumpf Vert et Vert Schtroumpf' ('Smurf vs. Smurf', 1972) has the village divided over the intriguing question whether a bottle opener should be called a "smurf opener" or a "bottle smurfer". The discussion escalates, motivating the villagers to divide their town into a northern and southern part, each claiming their pronunciation is the correct one. The absurd story was a thinly veiled satire on the Belgian linguistic troubles between Flemings and Walloons.

Le Centieme Schtroumpf by Peyo
'Le Centième Schtroumpf' (1962).

Other stories bordered on the surreal. In the short story 'Le Centième Schtroumpf' ('The Hundredth Smurf', 1962), the Vanity Smurf is struck by lightning while looking into a mirror, after which his mirror image comes alive, confusing everybody with his contrary movements and reverse speech. Also surprising to those who perceive Peyo as a mere provider of innocent children's entertainment, is that his comics were sometimes victims of censorship. In his very first 'Johan' story for Spirou, a troubadour is waterboarded in a medieval cellar. This scene was completely cut under pressure of French censors. Still, the scenes after the torture were kept, leaving readers to wonder why on earth the man's belly was suddenly swollen. When 'The Black Smurfs' was adapted for the U.S. TV series, the black color of the "evil" infected Smurfs was changed into purple to avoid accusations of racism.

La Schtroumpfette by Peyo
Gargamel's famous Smurfette recipe ('La Schtroumpfette', 1966). It was rumored that Peyo's wife was not amused.

Long before 'Johan and Peewit' and 'The Smurfs' became hits, Peyo created his first long-running series, 'Poussy' (1947). This gag comic about a black-and-white cat, whose curiosity often gets him into trouble, was an early showcase of Peyo's talent as a children's storyteller. Most episodes are told in pantomime, with little actual dialogue. 'Poussy' originally ran in the newspaper Le Soir. In 1955, it moved to the paper's weekly juvenile supplement, Le Soir Jeunesse. In 1961, the series was briefly discontinued, but by 1965 the cat returned in Spirou's pages, originally in a series of reprints, but between 1969 and 1977, Peyo and his co-workers created new episodes.

In the 1990s, Hanna-Barbera made a series of 176 animated shorts based on 'Poussy', faithfully adapting the comic strip gags in 20-second films. However, probably because of their unusually short duration, no channel showed interest, except for one in Israel, who gave the shorts some airplay in 1994. The 'Poussy' shorts remain arguably the most obscure animated adaptation of Peyo's comics.

Poussy by Peyo

Benoît Brisefer
In 1960, Peyo created another classic adventure series: 'Benoît Brisefer' ('Benny Breakiron' or 'Steven Strong' in English). The main character is a small boy with superhuman strength, who loses his powers whenever he gets a cold. Benoît appears to be an orphan, since he lives alone in a house in his hometown Vivejoie-La-Grande. Luckily, he has adult friends, namely cab driver Monsieur Dussiflard and the old lady Madame Adolphine, whose likeness is used to create an evil doppelgänger robot. Written in collaboration with Yvan Delporte and/or Gos, Peyo drew the first two serials in collaboration with his friend Will. The art duties were then handed over to his Peyo's assistant François Walthéry, who drew the core of the initial run. 'Benoît Brisefer' went on hiatus in 1978. In 2014, the very first 'Benoît Brisefer' story was adapted into a live-action film: 'Benoît Brisefer - Les Taxis Rouges' (2014).

Jacky et Célestin
A year after 'Benôt Brisefer', Peyo and Will launched another comic series, this time for the weekly Le Soir Illustré. Between 1961 and 1968, ten serials of 'Jacky et Célestin' were created. Peyo's involvement was mainly limited to the scripts, as he outsourced the artwork subsequently to Will, Jo-El Azara, François Walthéry and Francis, who in turn was assisted by Roger Leloup. Especially notable for being created by some of the top authors of European comics, 'Jacky et Celestin' was a straightforward humor adventure comic. The smart Jacky and the more reckless Célestin find themselves in one dangerous situation after another. Leloup's unused plot for the final story formed the basis for his own signature series starring electrical engineer 'Yoko Tsuno' in 1970.

Pierrot et la Lampe by Peyo
'Pierrot et la lampe' (1965).

Pierrot et la Lampe
A more personal creation for Peyo was 'Pierrot et la Lampe', a character he named after himself. The series stars a young boy who finds a magic lamp with a genie who fulfills wishes. Unfortunately the genie isn't very good at his job and often makes mistakes. In 1960, three short stories appeared in Benoît Gillain's advertising comic Bonux-Boy. In 1965 and 1966, the stories were reworked into a regular page format of Spirou magazine. The characters didn't return until their relaunch in Schtroumpf magazine between 1990 and 1992.

The expansion of activities and the increasing popularity of the 'Smurfs' meant that Peyo had to call in help to keep up with the workload. His first apprentice was Gérard Deuquet, who later became a painter and art teacher. Deuquet inked the mini story 'L'Oeuf et les Schtroumpfs' ('The Egg and the Smurfs', 1960). Will was brought in to draw 'Jacky et Célestin' and the backgrounds of 'Benoît Brisefer'. Throughout the years, several young artists came to work at what eventually became known as Studio Peyo. François Walthéry and Gos were Peyo's longtime assistants during the 1960s, but Derib, Lucien De Gieter, André Benn, Roger Leloup, Francis, Marc Wasterlain, Albert Blesteau and especially Daniel Desorgher have also worked in Peyo's atelier at the Avenue de Boetendael in Uccle. Yvan Delporte remained a loyal writing partner.

Benoît Brisefer, by Peyo
Benoît Brisefer - 'Madame Adolphine' (1962).

Global success
Still, the neverending demand for new Smurfs artwork made new episodes of Peyo's other series more and more scarce. In the 1970s, 'Johan et Pirlouit' only appeared in two short stories, and the interludes between new 'Benoît Brisefer' and even 'Smurfs' stories became longer and longer. Peyo, the master storyteller, became so involved in the commercial exploitation of his blue dwarfs, that he couldn't find the time or concentration to focus on new epic comic serials. The Smurfs stories that did appear were shorter than before, and lacked the social parody of the early episodes.

The Smurfs gradually conquered the world, thanks to translated comic books, collectible merchandise and a feature film. Over the years, 'Smurfs' comics were translated in more than 41 languages, including Dutch ('De Smurfen'), English ('The Smurfs'), German ('Die Schlümpfe'), Spanish ('Los Pitufos'), Portuguese ('Os Estrumpfes', in Brazilian 'Os Smurfs'), Italian ('Puffi'), Icelandic ('Strumparnir'), Danish ('Smølferne'), Norwegian ('Smurfene') Swedish ('Smurfarna'), Finnish ('Smurffit'), Latvian ('Smurfi'), Slovenian ('Smrkci'), Polish ('Smerfy'), Hungarian, Serbian-Croatian ('Štrumpfovi'), Romanian ('Ștrumfii'), Turkish ('Şirinler'), Arabic, Kurdian ('Şînok'), Bengali, Chinese, Japanese ('Samaafu'), Korean ('Seumeopeu'), Vietnamese ('Xì Trum') and Indonesian! As early as 1959, Dupuis released the first 'Smurfs' figurines. Later, the German firm Schleich  acquired a license to produce new collectable figurines. Since 1965, the company has released new sets every year. In 1966, smaller Smurf figures came as promotional mascots for Kellogg's cereal. Many of these releases are collector's items. Over the decades, the Smurfs appeared in video games, toys, figurines and other merchandising products. The characters were featured on packages of Haribo and Ferrero candy, and in advertisements for supermarket chains.

TVA Dupuis and Belvision animated films and TV series
In 1961, TVA Dupuis produced a first series of five black-and-white animated cartoons with the Smurfs. They premiered on the Walloon public TV channel RTB (nowadays RTBF). Among the animators were Francis Bertrand, Raoul Cauvin, Charles Degotte, Jean Delire, Vivian Miessen and Eddy Ryssack. Four years later, these five shorts were joined in an anthology TV film. A decade later, Belvision created a more ambitious animated feature film in color: 'La Flute à Six Schtroumpfs' ('The Smurfs and the Magic Flute', 1976), which Peyo personally supervised. It received good reviews.

Smurf songs
In 1977, Dutch singer Vader Abraham recorded a novelty song about the characters, 'Het Smurfenlied', which became a number one hit in both the Netherlands and Flanders. The singer released translations in English, French, German, Spanish, Swedish, Icelandic and even Chinese, which all ranked high in the charts and expanded the Smurfs' notability even further across the globe. Since the 1990s, children's CD's with Smurf-style covers of popular hits sung in squeaky helium voices have become bestsellers.

Hanna-Barbera animated TV series
The Smurfs' true international breakthrough was the Hanna-Barbera TV cartoon series, which debuted on 12 September 1981. Peyo, accompanied by Yvan Delporte, spent most of his time overseeing the scripts, provided by the overseas studio. The plot lines of the comics were simplified to appeal to young viewers. Gargamel no longer wanted to turn the Smurfs into gold, but merely eat them. The Smurfette, with only one appearance in the comics so far, became a major character. And to avoid on-screen violence, Brainy Smurf was no longer hit over the head with a hammer, but simply kicked out of the village. He was only shown flying through the sky from a distance, then landing on his head in the foreground. 'The Smurfs' (1981-1989) was an unexpected ratings hit in the United States. The show ran for nine seasons and effectively became Hanna-Barbera's biggest success of the decade. Broadcast all over the planet, 'The Smurfs' became a global cultural phenomenon, turning their creator into a millionaire. Peyo moved to Lausanne, Switzerland in 1985 to enjoy his financial gains. However, the 'Smurfs' creator didn't always agree with Hanna-Barbera's suggestions. He successfully managed to avoid his characters being Americanized, but couldn't prevent the introduction of new characters he strongly disliked, such as the puppy dog of the Smurf children. When Hanna-Barbera wanted to use the Smurfs in the anti-drugs TV special 'Cartoon All-Stars To The Rescue' (1990), Peyo opposed the idea. Eventually, the characters were used without his permission, making Peyo so angry that he refused any further collaboration with Hanna-Barbera. The studio then threatened to sue. After some persuasion by Yvan Delporte, Peyo eventually decided to take his loss.

Pièges à Schtroumpfs by Peyo
'Pièges à Schtroumpfs' (1968).

Cartoon Creation
In the 1980s, the international success of the 'Smurfs' and the acquisition of the publishing house Dupuis by a Brussels banking group, led to a reorganization of Peyo's activities. The 'Smurf' stories in Spirou during this decade and the late 1990s were often derived from the animated series and starred new characters like the Baby Smurf and the Little Smurfs. Always a perfectionist, Peyo remained involved, but as a slow worker, he left most of the production of new stories to Daniel Desorgher. Former studio workers like Walthéry and Wasterlain filled in to make the deadlines. By the 1980s, the business aspects were handled by Peyo's children Thierry and Veronique Culliford. The new Cartoon Creation studio and publishing imprint was set up by Thierry Culliford elsewhere in Brussels. Among the artists affiliated with Cartoon Creation were Daniel Desorgher, Bernard Swysen, Philippe Delzenne, Alain Maury, Pascal Garray, Eric Closter, José Grandmont and Luc Parthoens. The new team appeared in a Schtroumpf monthly magazine, published by Cartoon Creation between 1990 and 1992. Besides short stories and gags with the Smurfs, the magazine featured new gags and stories with 'Poussy' and 'Pierrot et la Lampe'. The latter were written by editor-in-chief Jean-Claude de la Royère and drawn by Philippe Delzenne and Éric Closter. In the actual comic production, Peyo stayed in the background, but remained involved in training new artists and writers and approving and editing scripts.

Le Schtroumpf Financier by Peyo
'Le Schtroumpf Financier'.

Graphic contributions
Peyo was one of many Belgian comic artists to make a graphic contribution to the book 'Il était une fois... les Belges'/'Er waren eens Belgen' (1980), a collection of columns and one-page comics, published in celebration of the 150th anniversary of Belgium. That same year he was one of several artists to make a graphic contribution to ‘Pepperland’ (1980), a collective comic book tribute to the store Pepperland, to celebrate its 10th anniversary at the time. In 1987-1988, the publishing company Brain Factory International released a four-volume comic book series where Franco-Belgian comic authors visualized songs by singer Jacques Brel in comic strip form. The second volume, 'Les Prénoms' (1987) had a contribution by Peyo.

In 1973, Peyo received the Prix Saint-Michel for Best Humorous story for his comic book 'Schtroumpf Vert et Vert Schtroumpf' ('Smurf Versus Smurf'). In 1984, Peyo also won the Prix Jeunesse, or "Alfred", at the Festival of Angoulême for 'Les Schtroumpfs Olympiques' ('The Olympic Smurfs'). For his work on the 'Smurfs' TV series, Peyo received the 1982 Emmy Award for "Outstanding Achievement in Children's Entertainment". Since 1989, Peyo is one of the Belgian comic pioneers who is part of the permanent exhibition in the Belgian Comic Strip Center in Brussels. An asteroid discovered in 1935 was named after Peyo half a century later. Posthumously, Peyo ended up in 33rd place in the Walloon version of "The Greatest Belgian" election in 2005.

Final years and death
A lifelong smoker, Peyo suffered from a heart attack in 1969. In the 1980s, he had a hepatitis infection and became diabetic. The stress of all the business deals and media attention didn't do him much good either. By 1992, Peyo's creations were transferred to Le Lombard. The deal struck with the publishing house included new 'Schtroumpfs' albums, as well as new releases of 'Benoît Brisefer' and Peyo's personal favorite 'Johan et Pirlouit'. Since most of the business aspects were now out of his hands, Peyo began working on a new long Smurfs epic with the help of his son Thierry Culliford and the artists Alain Maury and Luc Parthoens. The result, 'Le Schtroumpf Financier' ('Finance Smurf', 1992), marked a return to the social parody of early episodes. Peyo lived to see its publication, but died from a heart attack on Christmas Eve 1992, at the age of 64. Production of the new 'Johan et Pirlouit' album, the final with Peyo's involvement, took off in January 1993.

Peyo photograph

Comics legacy
Peyo lives on in his immortal creations. New comics are still written and drawn by Thierry Culliford, Alain Jost, Luc Parthoens, Pascal Garray, Ludo Borecki, Jeroen De Coninck and Miguel Díaz Vizoso. He inspired a next generation of comic artists, that formed the core of Spirou magazine in the 1970s and 1980s. His former co-workers all branched out and created successful series of their own. Peyo's clean, accessible graphic style can be traced back to the work of several other former co-workers, including Francis Bertrand, Lucien De Gieter and Albert Blesteau. François Walthéry's air hostess 'Natacha' is perhaps the most famous. The épisodes 'La Ceinture de Cherchemidi' (1992) and 'La Mer de Rochers' (2004) were based on Peyo plots. The Galaxien society in the sci-fi series 'La Scrameustache' by Gos and his son Walt bears strong resemblances to the Smurfs village. Together with the contemporaries Franquin, Will, Morris, Tillieux and Jijé, Peyo goes down in history as one of the founding fathers of the "School of Marcinelle", the typically round and comical drawing style associated with Spirou magazine. Peyo’s work was an influence on Charel Cambré, Flix, Daniel Kox, Luc MorjaeuJan Van der VooErik Vandemeulebroucke and Philippe Wurm.

Commercial legacy
Since 1984, the licensing and artistic activities of Peyo's creations have been handled by IMPS, a studio in the Walloon Brabant town of Genval, managed by Véronique Culliford. The company continues to oversee new merchandising projects and adaptations. In 2011 and 2013, global interest in the franchise was revived through live-action Hollywood films, 'The Smurfs' (2011) and 'The Smurfs 2' (2013), directed by Raja Gosnell. The Smurf appeared as CGI-animation among real-life actors. To subsequently promote and license the characters in North-America and Canada, the company LAFIG was founded in 2011. The renewed popularity resulted in a new animated TV series and a fully CGI-animated feature film, 'Smurfs: The Lost Village' (2017), directed by Kelly Asbury. In 2005, a controversial TV advertisement for UNICEF showed the Smurfs' village being bombed by warplanes, ending on a shot of a crying Baby Smurf among several dead Smurfs, with the message: "Don't let war destroy the world of childhood."

In Belgium, the Smurfs are an important part of local tourism. In 1980, they were the official mascots of the Belgian team during the Olympic Games in Moscow. Between 1991 and 2003, there was a Smurfs theme park in Walibi, Wavre. In later years, the characters additionally became the subject of theme parks in Dubai, Malaysia (both 2016), the USA, Russia (both 2017) and Shanghai (2020). In 2003, Monique Mol sculpted statues of the Hefty Smurf and Smurfette, located at the sea dyke in Middelkerke. Since 25 June 2012, a Smurf sculpture created by Maryline Garbe can be seen inside Brussels Central Station, next to a store specializing in Smurf merchandising. At the same station, a ceiling fresco depicting the Smurfs was inaugurated on 19 June 2018. Unfortunately, a water leak caused the fresco to collapse on 2 September 2020. Another comic mural, depicting Benoît Brisefer, was revealed on 19 June 2015 in the Rue Haute/ Hoogstraat 119. All are nowadays part of the Brussels' Comic Book Route. The same year, on 25 June 2015, another Smurf statue was erected in the Rue Rosières in the Belgian town Genval, in Walloon Brabant. In 2011, a remarkable tourist attraction appeared in the Spanish town Júzcar. Inspired by the 2011 Hollywood movie, the villagers painted all their buildings blue to make a real-life Smurf village.

Influence on language
The term "Smurf" has become an international neologism. In Belgium, it is used as a derogatory nickname for "policemen". In the USA, it also leant its name to a computer term ("Smurf attack" is used to describe denial-of-service attacks against hosts) and a criminal activity ("Smurfing", a synonym for illegal financial transactions in an irregular pattern to avoid being noticed by the law). In 1991, Katha Pollitt named her theory about having one female character among a host of male characters in fiction "The Smurfette Principle".

Parody and plagiarism
Italian novelist Umberto Eco wrote a humorous essay, 'Schtroumpf und Drang' (1979), about the semantics of the Smurf language, and in 1998 Marc Schmidt wrote an equally tongue-in-cheek article comparing the Smurf village with a Communist commune. Unavoidably, the Smurfs have appeared in pornographic parodies, such as Paul Schuurmans' 'Sex in Smurfenland' (1978), later reprinted in French by Jan Bucquoy as 'La Vie Sexuelle des Schtroumpfs'. Other Smurf parodies can be found in Alain Voss' 'Parodies de Al Voss'. The gnomes are also used ironically as background characters in adult cartoons by artists like Gummbah, Kim Duchateau and Mark Retera. Parodies of the animated 'Smurfs' series are also a popular staple of Trey Parker and Matt Stone's 'South Park', Seth MacFarlane's 'Family Guy' and Seth Green's 'Robot Chicken'. Closer to plagiarism was the Turkish comic book based on Abdullah Turhan's hero 'Alptekin' (1968-1969), which had crudely redrawn 'Poussy' episodes as back-up feature.

Books about Peyo
For those interested in Peyo's life and career, Hugues Dayez' biography, 'Peyo l'enchanteur' (Niffle, 2003) is highly recommended.

Johan by Peyo
Johan - 'Le Maître de Roucybeuf' (1953).

The Smurfs official website

Series and books by Peyo you can order today:


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