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Return of Smurfs coincides with 40th anniversary
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Return of Smurfs coincides with 40th anniversary

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Can Smurfs be a cure for feeling blue?

Smurfs were introduced to U.S. television viewers when they starred in a Saturday morning cartoon series that premiered 40 years ago — Sept. 12, 1981.

You can celebrate the Smurf-iversary by watching the tiny blue characters when they hit the comeback trail for a fresh batch of TV adventures.

The Smurfs will make their Nickelodeon debut in a new CG-animated series scheduled to launch 6:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 10.

Let’s answer the question at the top of this story. Can Smurfs be a cure for feeling blue? Sure.

Lynn Wallace collected Smurf figurines when she was a kid. She went through a rough patch of life during adulthood and her husband, Dan, asked this question: What brought you blissful happiness from childhood?

“I really love my Smurfs,” she replied.

Hunting Smurf figurines — re-embracing a passion — has made a positive impact on her life. She’s always on the prowl for Smurf figurines she doesn’t already own.

Everybody should seek a pursuit, within reason, that makes them happy. For instance, Wallace said people collect Transformers or lunch boxes or china. Her husband, who owns the comic book store Impulse Creations, loves comics. Wallace was never interested in Cabbage Patch Kids, Beanie Babies or other trendy items, but Smurfs are absolutely her thing.

“Marriage can either bring out the worst in each other or the best in each other,” she said. “Marrying Dan helped me be OK with creating our own little nerd life. Opening the comic shop gave me a way to learn and normalize the fact that I can be a grown-up professional person with a career, a business and adult responsibilities but still go hunting for Smurfs.”

Wallace’s interest in Smurfs pre-dates the Saturday morning cartoon series. She said it started when her parents (who weren’t jazz fans) brought home a 1978 album by jazz artist Chick Corea that featured Smurf musicians jamming on the album cover.

“I thought they were the cutest little things ever,” Wallace said. “I was like ‘what are these little things?’ Of course the internet didn’t exist back then. I had no idea.”

Were the Smurfs new characters? Nope. The album was released 30 years after the Smurfs were created by a Belgian artist, Peyo, for comic stories. It wasn’t until 1976 that the Smurfs were licensed for merchandising in the U.S.

Wallace was in a store in the late 1970s when she noticed tiny rubber figures of characters like the ones shown on the Corea album. She begged her mom to buy a Smurf and that led to “hey mom, can we go to the store so I can get another one?”

“That’s kind of how it started,” she said. “I would take my allowance money and buy Smurfs. The first Smurf I bought was Spy Smurf. He’s got a little red cape and he wears a little mask across his face. He’s still my favorite Smurf.”

Wallace said she enjoyed seeing the characters come to life and displaying their personalities when the cartoon series launched a couple of years later. She watched cartoon episodes with her younger sister and, as a mom years later, she enjoyed taking her son to see “The Smurfs” motion picture in 2011.

As childhood gave way to adulthood, Wallace boxed up her Smurf figurines and — thank goodness — stashed them away instead of getting rid of them. And, as mentioned above, the hunt from Smurfs resumed after she married a man who loved comics.

There are hundreds of items in Wallace’s Smurf collection — mostly figurines, but also the Corea album, a first issue of a Smurfs comic published by Marvel in 1982, stuffed animals and a hodgepodge of items people have given to her. She doesn’t jump on every bit of paraphernalia that comes her way, preferring instead to concentrate on figurines.

“They don’t take up too much space,” Wallace said. “That was a selling point so my house didn’t get ‘hoarded out’ and I think that’s why I stick with just the little figurines is because they are so tiny.”

Part of Smurf appeal is the variety of characters. Wallace said she has more than 150 figurines. It bugs her that one of them (she knows which one) is missing.

“I’m always trying to fill in some of those originals from back in the day — Gold Smurf. Angry Smurf,” she said. “But I am not willing to pay a ton of money, and it needs to be in good condition.”

Wallace only buys originals. She has no interested in knockoffs or duplicates of figurines she already owns, unless it’s a variant. Are there other Smurf collectors in Tulsa? If so, she would love to meet a kindred spirit.

“Don’t get me wrong,” Wallace said when talking about her hobby. “I have all of my adult interests just like everybody else does. I am into plants. I love to cross-stitch. I am really interested in continuing to develop my career and growing the comic shop. But this is my little corner of blue happiness.”

The Men Who Would Be Scene: Episode 25

Tulsa World's James Watts and Jimmie Tramel talk Smurfs U.S. debut, Tulsa ties to TV's "Columbo," efforts to restore the Midland Theater in Coffeyville, Kansas, and a preview of OKC's new First Americans Museum



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Scene Writer

I cover pop culture and work as a feature writer at the Tulsa World. A former Oklahoma sports writer of the year, I have written books about former OU coach Barry Switzer and former OSU coach Pat Jones. Phone: 918-581-8389

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