The forgotten origin of Smurfette

I smurfed across a piece of pop culture trivia while babysitting my niece last night.smurfette

After playing with my old Smurfs figurines for a while, she wanted to see an actual Smurfs cartoon. So I went to YouTube and searched “Smurfs.”

One of the first results was an episode titled “The Smurfette,” labeled as “S01E01” (though says it’s the 21st episode, which came out in 1981).

Turns out, Smurfette was not a naturally born Smurf, nor was she a natural blonde.

Smurfette was a creation of Gargamel. He intended this black-haired girl Smurf to infiltrate the all-male Smurfs and spy on them. Continue reading

I missed having Jon Stewart as my commencement speaker by one year

ap_jon_stewart_100510_mainGraduation season has reminded me of something:

I was one year off from having Jon Stewart has my college commencement speaker.

The host of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show is a fellow William & Mary grad, about 20 or so years ahead of me, and he delivered the 2004 commencement address. I graduated in 2005.

We juniors were a bit frustrated.

Granted, some of us did get to see him the fall of our sophomore year, when he gave a free Q&A at William & Mary Hall as part of that year’s Homecoming festivities. That was fun. I remember him alienating half his audience by going off on an anti-fraternity and sorority tangent.

“I am not your brother,” he told members of the frat he used to belong to, before later back-pedaling just a bit to assure everyone that Greek life does have some positive benefits. That might have eased some of the distraught looks he was receiving from his fans. Continue reading

X-Men: Days of Future Past, the comic book — a look back

X-Men_v1_141Lots of people are enjoying the latest installment of the X-Men film franchise, Days of Future Past. Rotten Tomatoes has it at 92 percent fresh among critics, and 95 percent of RT users have given it their seal of approval.

Most X-Men comics fans are familiar with—and love—the original Days of Future Past storyline that appeared in Uncanny X-Men #141 and #142 in 1980. For the rest of you, I’ll provide the retrospective and a glimpse at some X-history. Spoilers ahead for the comic book; movie spoilers won’t exceed what you see in promotional materials.

The comics storyline came out at the end of the collaboration between writer Chris Claremont and artist John Byrne. These two are largely responsible for the X-Men becoming such a popular property.

The original run by series creators Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the 1960s was never anywhere near as successful as Spider-Man or the Fantastic Four. The series went on for 60-some issues with various writers and artists before regressing to a string of reprints of earlier issues. The series succumbed to cancellation, and Professor X, Cyclops, Beast, Iceman, Angel, and Marvel Girl (Jean Grey) spent the early 1970s in a sort of Marvel limbo. Readers might find them in guest appearances, and there was even an attempt to spin Hank McCoy/The Beast off into a solo series piloted in an anthology called Amazing Adventures. (That’s when he became blue and furry for the first time, which he brought on himself, in the spirit of what we see in the movie First Class.) That lasted maybe eight or so issues, but Beast then found a home as a member of The Avengers—where he still was at the time of Days of Future Past. Continue reading