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Johan and Peewit

Johan et Pirlouit

Johan and Peewit Comic Book
Created by Peyo[1]
Publication information
Genre Action/adventure, Humor
Publication date 1946
Country of origin Belgium
Original language French
Publisher Dupuis, Le Lombard and Dargaud
Creative team
Writer(s) Peyo and Studio Peyo
Artist(s) Peyo and Studio Peyo
Creator(s) Peyo

Johan Icon

Johan and Peewit (French: Johan et Pirlouit. Originally called "Johan" before the appearance of Peewit) is a Belgian comics series created by Peyo. Since its initial appearance in 1946 it has been published in 13 albums that appeared before the death of Peyo in 1992. Thereafter, a team of comic book creators from Studio Peyo continued to publish the stories until 2001.

The series is set in Medieval Europe and includes elements of sword-and-sorcery. Johan and Peewit provided the framework for the first appearances of the Smurfs.

Johan in La Dernière Heure 1947

Johan's early appearance in 1947, showing his original blond hair appearance

Publication history

Pre-1958

Initially titled simply Johan, the series first appeared in the newspaper La Dernière Heure in 1946 as short jokes, it was abandoned in late 1947. The series revived again in 1951 but was published on another newspaper, Le Soir. During the times in Le Soir, the series changed from short jokes to longer comic stories and various characters were added in which some of them become iconic characters years later, such as the King.

In 1951, with the help of his former colleague, André Franquin, Peyo was accepted by publisher Dupuis as one of the cartoonist for the magazine Spirou. Under the advice of Franquin, Peyo changed the initially blond-haired hero to be dark-haired.

However, Peyo's first comic story on Spirou, titled as "The Punishment of Basenhau" (Le châtiment de Basenhau in French), was inintially unsuccessful. When the story was published on September 11, 1952, France banned the circulation of the series as French authority allegedly claimed the story was violent. The issue was finally resolved by removing a few alleged boards, but it had a little effect to the series since Peyo continued the series by releasing the second story "The Master of Roucybeuf" in which Johan changed from being a page boy to a knight.

In 1954, due to running dry of ideas, Peyo added Peewit to continue the series. Peewit eventually made his first debut on 24 June, 1954 in the story "The Goblin of The Rocky Wood" and the series titles was changed from "Johan" to "Johan and Peewit".

Later, Peyo did not only publihed stories on Spirou, but also on some other magazines, including Risque-Tout. Meanwhile, Peewit started to become more important with the increase of the series' complexity.

The Arrival of the Smurfs

Johan et Pirlouit Tome 3 - Smurfs

Cover page for "The Smurfs and the Magic Flute" in French.

On 23 October, 1958, the Smurfs were added to the series and a historic changed was forever made. They first appeared in "The Flute Of Six Smurfs" which in the beginning, Johan and Peewit was searching for the creator of a magic flute. Peyo created the Smurfs as being the makers of the flute and the readers' response was very positive. However, concerns were raised among the editors of Dupuis due to French censorship as the Smurf language initially resembles French and Peyo originally promised that the Smurfs were only one-shot characters, but he later changed his mind and the Smurfs reappeared again with the release of the story "The War of the Seven Springs" one year later.

Decline and revival

The success of the Smurfs though increased Peyo's popularity, but it also arguably started the decline of the series. In 1959, the first independent Smurf comic story, "The Black Smurfs", was published and Peyo had fever time to continue the series afterwards. The creation of two other series, "Benny Breakiron" and "Pierrot and the Lamp" further increased Peyo's workload, contributing the end of the series years later.

In 1960, Johan and Peewit and the Smurfs was separated shortly when "The Castellac Ring" was released, but the Smurfs rejoined the series in 1961 due to readers' preferences. Though Smurfs were present in the later stories, the series was generally less popular than the Smurfs and Peyo had slowly shifted focus to the Smurfs. The next story would took five years to release and another three year two complete. During the years, Peyo's interest on continuing the series decreased due to the increasing popularity of the Smurfs. The series finally ended in February 1970.

Though the comic series was ended, Johan and Peewit still appeared on other typed of presentation. The most notable example was the 1983 film "The Smurfs And The Magic Flute" which was released worldwide. Johan, Peewit, and other supporting characters also appeared numerous times throughout the Smurfs cartoon show.

After Peyo's death in 1992, Peyo's son, Thierry Culliford collaborated with cartoonist Alain Maury to start a joint venture in attempt to revive the comic series. The first story after the end of the series in 1967, titled as "The Raven's Horde" was published in 1994. Several stories was published in the following the years but most of the books were unsuccessful and the series was paused permanently once again in 2001.

In 2014, RTBF (Radio Télévision Belge de la Communauté Française) raised a question of adapting the series to the big screen. However, it is unsure if the plan will come true at the moment.

Synopsis

Set in the Middle Ages in an unnamed European kingdom, the series follows the adventures of Johan, a brave young page to the King, and Peewit, his faithful, if boastful and cheating, midget sidekick. Johan rides off in search of adventure with his trusty horse Bayard, while Peewit gallops sporadically, and grudgingly, behind on his goat, Biquette. The pair are driven by duty to their King and the courage to defend the underpowered. Struggles for power between deposed lords and usurping villains form the basis of many of the plots which also contain elements of detective fiction as the pair hunt down traitors and outlaws, as well as fantasy, with witches and sorcerers, giants, ghosts and, above all, the Smurfs.

The first few adventures did not feature Peewit. From his first appearance in 1946, Johan had a number of solo adventures and met Peewit in 1954, thus, in line with many other comic series of the time, giving Johan's earnest hero a comic relief sidekick similar to Tintin's Captain Haddock, Spirou's Fantasio or Gil Jourdan's Libellule.

Characters

  • Johan: servant of the King. Courageous and skilled with both a sword and a bow, this black-haired hero aspires to becoming a knight. He is the quintessential bold fighter, always ready to be in the thick of it, and a natural leader. Johan is quick to intervene whenever he sees an injustice being committed and will go all the way to rectify wrongs, ignoring Peewit's grumblings about the problems that they are going to face in the process. His name is pronounced "Yohahn".
  • Peewit: a blond, gluttonous dwarf, he lived in the forest neighbouring the King's castle playing practical jokes on the people and stealing meats and apples before being hired as the court jester (See "The Goblin of Rocky Wood"). He agreed, provided that he was not obliged to wear the jester's outfit, which he felt made him look like a "fool" (which is another term for jester). His name is pronounced "Peewee". Contrary to what he believes himself, Peewit is a terrible musician, though, unlike Cacofonix from the Asterix series, the other inhabitants of the castle can't bring themselves to tell him how bad he is — though the King did once make a show of removing earplugs in Peewit's presence. His "music" has also been known to cause rain. Peewit is easily upset, especially when Johan volunteers him to go on another adventure but, being cunning and agile, he is quite capable of escaping from a tight corner and putting up a fight. When outwitting his enemies, he screams out his cry of triumph: "Peeeewiiiiit".
  • Biquette: Peewit's goat, who is endowed with a strong character. Her horn attack is extremely powerful. Her name is the French word for nanny goat.
  • The King: the unnamed monarch of the Kingdom. He is somewhat carefree and enjoys wine but is also firm and is loved by his subjects and vassals. He has a beautiful niece, but no direct descendants. He can be very keen to go on expeditions and battles — which can be difficult given his old age.
  • Homnibus: an enchanter whom the heroes often consult on matters of magic. He is also an alchemist and herbalist. It is he who first tells Johan and Peewit about the beings called the Smurfs.
  • Oliver: Homnibus' young servant.
  • Rachel: an old sorceress, who has a terrible reputation, but is actually very kind and helpful. She knows how to make many different potions, including a mixture called Wine of Giddiness.
  • Count Tremaine: ("Comte Tréville" in the original French) a skilled knight and brave warrior. He is a friend and role model to Johan.
  • Lady Barbara: an old aristocratic woman who resides in the King's castle, always wearing a green dress. She has a reputation for being a gossip, as well as being somewhat prideful and stuck-up.
  • The Smurfs: appear in several stories as Johan and Peewit's allies. While the Smurfs have their own series, adventures with their two human friends remain part of the "Johan and Peewit" series. Papa Smurf's knowledge of magic is especially helpful.
  • Princess Savina: niece to the King. She is pretty but hates lady-like things and is an excellent marksman. (She only appears in the Smurfs cartoon series.)

Merchandising

While never as popular as the Smurfs, Johan and certainly Peewit enjoyed their share of fame and popularity as well, and consequently some merchandising was made. In 1959, a first Peewit figurine was made by Dupuis, followed a few years later by a Johan. In the 1970s, Bully and Schleich made Johan and Peewit figurines in their series of PVC Smurf figurines. Plush puppets were made as well.

List of Johan and Peewit comic books

1. Le chatiment de Basenhau (Basenhau's Punishment), Dupuis, 1952
2. Le maitre de Roucybeuf (The Master of Roucybeuf), Dupuis, 1953
3. Le lutin du Bois aux Roches (The Goblin of Rocky Wood), Dupuis, 1954
4. La pierre de lune (The Moonstone), Dupuis, 1955
5. Le serment des Vikings (The Vikings' Pledge), Dupuis, 1955
6. La source des dieux (The Source of the Gods), Dupuis, 1956
7. La flèche noire (The Black Arrow), Dupuis, 1957
8. Le Sire de Montrésor (The Earl of Montrésor), Dupuis, 1957
9. La flûte à six trous (The Flute with Six Holes), Dupuis, 1958
10. La guerre des sept fontaines (The War of the Seven Springs), Dupuis, 1959
11. L’anneau des Castellac (The Castellac Ring), Dupuis, 1960
12. Le pays maudit (The Cursed Country), Dupuis, 1961
13. Le sortilège de Maltrochu (The Sorcery of Maltrochu), Dupuis, 1967
14. La horde du corbeau (The Raven's Horde), Le Lombard, 1994
15. Les troubadours de Roc-à-Pic (The Minstrels of Roc-à-Pic), Le Lombard, 1995
16. La nuit des sorciers (The Night of the Sorcerers), Le Lombard, 1998
17. La rose des sables (The Rose of the Sands), Le Lombard, 2001

In other media and comics

Originally a Johan and Peewit adventure, The Smurfs and the Magic Flute was adapted into an animated film in 1976 in Europe, with considerable success. It was re-released in 1983 in the wake of the success of the Smurfs cartoons from Hanna-Barbera, and enjoyed some success in the USA as well.

Johan and Peewit were also featured in season 2 of the animated Smurf cartoon, being the main stars in many episodes. In France their TV cartoon adventures were treated as a separate series from that of the Smurfs, even though the latter feature heavily-edited versions.

In the early 1980s, some records about their adventures were made in France and Italy, contributors including Cristina D'Avena.

Another Peyo series was Benoît Brisefer (best known in English as "Steven Strong") about a little boy with extraordinary strength. Benoît's adventures are set in modern times. In one episode a man strongly resembling Johan can be seen signing into a luxury hotel near a film studio — he even wears a brown jacket and red trousers smiliar to Johan's; in another, Benoît reads a newspaper which appears to indicate the announcement of a film called Johan: The Return II with a photo of Johan next to it.

When the Smurfs got their own series, Johan and Peewit did not feature. However, they did appear in a 2008 Smurf adventure called Les schtroumpfeurs de flûte (French: "The Flute Smurfers"). This story, published to mark the 50th anniversary of the first appearance of the Smurfs, is a prequel to La flûte à six schtroumpfs (published in English as "The Smurfs and the Magic Flute") and tells how the Smurfs first deliver the flute which was to be the basis of the 1958 story. During the story, Johan and Peewit help out a human friend of the Smurfs, but do not actually get to meet the little blue creatures themselves.

See Also

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