As is so often the case with the small format Smurfs paperbacks, this contains one gem of a story conceived by Peyo with Yvan Delporte, impeccably drawn by the former, and back-up strips produced by the anonymous craftsmen of Studio Peyo.

It’s fortunate that some Smurfs are present to observe the simple giant Bigmouth turn up on sorcerer Gargamel’s doorstep demanding to be fed. His appetite is insatiable, but what’s first a source of great amusement to the Smurfs turns serious when Gargamel’s conniving mind hits on persuading Bigmouth that the world’s most delicious meal is Smurf soup. All they have to do is capture some Smurfs. By 1976 Delporte and Peyo had introduced enough standbys to the series to smooth matters along, so we have such delights as Smurfs using storks for transportation, Gargamel’s frustrating inability to locate the Smurfs village, the Smurfs chorus and more. The bulk of the story is the inventive ways the Smurfs must conceive to delay making Smurf soup. It’s wonderfully paced, using Gargamel’s malign incompetence in better than usual fashion and finishing off with some delightful visual jokes as Bigmouth finally gets his wish.

‘The Clockwork Smurf’ is also very good, as Handy Smurf invents a Smurf robot to carry out his tedious domestic tasks. More by accident than design, he happens to have some other very useful talents also, some being a little too contrived, but minor in the course of the story. A second clockwork Smurf is introduced to confuse matters and add tension, as he’s Gargamel’s creation, and therefore only intends harming the Smurfs. A selection of good visual jokes again feature.

It’s the unpredictability of the two better stories that’s the root of their appeal. Beyond a knowledge that Gargamel will get his come-uppance, there’s no way of knowing where they’ll lead, and the journey is a lot of fun. ‘Gargamel and the Crocodile’ doesn’t come close to matching them. It’s nicely drawn, but lacking as many laughs and also not really adopting the spirit of Smurfs stories by considerable involvement for the wider world.

The title strip can also be found in the fifth hardcover Smurfs Anthology, and the next Papercutz volume is The Baby Smurf.