MARSUPILAMIOriginal Medium: Comic books
Published in: Belgium
First Appeared: 1952
Creator: André Franquin
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Smurfs originated in the Belgian comic book Spirou during the 1950s. Marsupilami did too. Smurfs has been translated into several languages, including English. Marsupilami has too. Smurfs is a huge hit in
America, licensed as toys, coloring books and in every other possible way. Marsupilami is
not. Even having the Disney name behind it hasn't pulled Marsupilami out of relative obscurity.
Marsupilami first appeared in the Jan. 31, 1952 issue of Spirou, which is also the title where Buck Danny and Lucky Luke got their starts. He was created by cartoonist André Franquin, whose creations also include Gaston, which has seldom appeared in America. "Marsupilami" was both the personal name and that of the species of the creature with the incredibly long prehensile tail, which the series was about. For several years he was the only beast of his kind ever encountered by civilized people just like Popeye's Eugene the Jeep, whom Franquin is known to have enjoyed.
Marsupilami was originally an incidental character in stories about an adventurer with the same name as the comic book. Spirou was adventuring in a South American country called Palombia with his friend Fantasio, who needed a marsupilami (which, despite the way the name sounds, is more like a primate than a marsupial0 to claim an inheritance (which turned out to be worthless). The only one they saw accompanied them home and stayed to became a supporting character. He proved so popular that by 1957, he starred in a story of his own, "Le Marsupilami descend sur la Ville" ("Marsupilami Goes to Town", no relation).
Later, in "Le Nid des Marsupilamis" ("The Nest of the Marsupilamis"), a family of them, living wild in the Palombian jungle, was featured. The dad isn't named, but the mom is Marsupalamie. The kids are Bibi, Bibu and Bobo. They have a neighbor who has trouble living in the wild after having been in a zoo. Apparently, by the time he was introduced, they'd gotten away from the notion that Spirou's companion was the only specimen known to civilization.
The creature appeared in a couple of dozen graphic novels by Franquin, starring Spirou & Fantasio. But Franquin left the series in 1968. As owner of the Marsupilami character, he agreed only to one last appearance under the new cartoonist, Jean-Claude Fournier; and even at that, insisted on being the only one to draw Marsupilami himself.
For a couple of decades, the character remained dormant. Franquin revived him in the 1987 graphic novel La Queue du Marsupilami (The Tail of the Marsupilami). Since then, such books have been published every year or two. in these stories, their adversary is hunter Bring M. Backalive, who seems to have had considerably less success in his effort to capture one than had Spirou and Fantasio back in the '50s (who couldn't get rid of him even when they tried to return him to Palombia). There have been a couple of European animated features about Marsupilami, as well as a video game. There is even an asteroid, 98494Marsupilami, named after the property.
It was this series that prompted Disney to option Marsupilami for American animation. The company's first use of the character was as a segment of Raw Toonage, the 1992 toon variety show that featured Bonkers D. Bobcat before he went into law enforcement. There, Marsupilami was again the name of both the main character and the species he belonged to. He lived in the Palombian jungle, where his neighbors included Stewart the Elephant and Maurice the gorilla. Palombia seems to have been relocated to Africa, where those fauna are found, except that the cast also included Edwardo the Jaguar. Also, the character's favorite food was live piranhas, which would mandate frequent trips abroad, if Palombia were in Africa. Apparently, Palombia was as hard to locate as Wambi's or Tiger Girl's jungle. Starting September 18, 1996, he starred in his own half-hour show on CBS.
Marsupilami's voice was done by Steve Mackal, who was also heard in the Disney half-hours Mighty Ducks, Timon & Pumbaa and Quack Pack. Maurice was Jim Cummings (Darkwing Duck). Eduardo was Brad Garrett (Lobo (no relation) in Justice League animation). Stewart was Dan Castellaneta (Homer Simpson).
In 1995, one of Marsupilami's graphic novels was translated into English, to take advantage of his TV fame. But it didn't sell well, and a second wasn't published. Neither did the show lead to Marsupilami becoming one of Disney's big stars. He went off the air soon, and has since been virtually forgotten.