America may well have had the apple-pie delights
of "Peanuts", but for
nigh-on fifty years, us Brits had the h'effervescent
pleasures of a daily strip
cartoon starring a group of kids called The Perishers.
Marlon, Wellington's scruffy sheepdog Boot, B.H.
the bloodhound, Fiscal
and Baby Grumplin pondered, pontificated, plundered,
pratfalled for the best part of six decades, in
the pages of "The Daily
The Perishers are particularly well-known
for the way they talk. Their speech
bubbles read like Liza Doolittle in "Pygmalion",
a combination of posh and
cock-a-ney and creator Maurice Dodd has always
delighted in exploiting
sophisticated vernacular and wordage between the
strip stars, dropping
their 'H's and pronouncing words phonetically to
Dodd was an ex-apprentice car salesman, baker's roundsman,
grinder operator, spray painter, shop assistant,
postman, locomotive foreman,
caretaker, aircraftsman and paratrooper who had
juggled his commitment to the
strip with employment at ad agency Young &
Rubicam. Indeed, he was actually
the mastermind behind those famous Clunk-Clink
seatbelt advertisements. His
advertising experiences frequently found their
way into the strip too. In the
sixties, in particular, the kids made regular reference
to Guinness ads,
Government Milk ads, Washing Powder commercials,
and suchlike. Dodd's one
abiding political Bugbear also continued to surface:
His dislike of taxation!
Actually, the politics of the strip, whilst not
overt, could get rather muddled.
The kids themselves have a conservative bent, but
the incidental characters
are most definitely steered to the political left.
Witness the frequent socialist
fisticuffs of its two tiniest co-stars, Fred Beetle
and Delinquent Caterpillar
who rally and rumble for the Common Worker, like
Dennis Collins was the original artist, from
a family of Dutch descent. His panels
were fabulous, realized in a most precise
fine line with meticulous attention to
architectural and clothing detail. Collins continued
to draw the Perishers
strip for some twenty-six years, until his retirement
in 1983. Since then, artist
Bill Melvin has been holding the pen. Bill's
a veteran animator and cartoonist
who was formerly employed on Halas
& Batchelor's Animal Farm feature, before
he moved into children's comics, illustrating
such gems as "The Herbs" and
"Bill & Ben" for "Pippin"
The Perishers/Peanuts connections are actually
quite extraordinary. "The
Perishers" commenced seven years after
the birth of their US friends and although
a conscious effort was made to distance the
Brit strip from its American cousint
there remain many similarities. For Charlie
Brown and Snoopy read Wellington
and Boot. Lucy and Maisie could be twins, almost,
in looks and thoughts
(frequently violent!). Snoopy has his on/off
pal Woodstock, whereas Wellington
frequently encounters Fred Beetle, the rockpool
Crabs and friends. Snoopy
himself is a former World War I Flying Ace, whereas
Boot thinks he is the
reincarnation of an Olde English Rake. Even the
situations bear similar fruit.
Where "Peanuts" has Linus and the nighttime
pumpkin patch, "The Perishers"
has the moon - Wellington and co are often
to be found musing, in silhouette,
beneath its full splendour.
On the surface, then, so similar. But scratch it
away and a coarser, rougher,
decidedly British undercoat shines. Wellington
and friends aren't from some safe
middle-class suburb. They're rough, tough, working
class kids, with that
ho-so-polite-mockney-cockney dialogue, disheveled
attire and a fondness for
dirty-great tomato ketchup sandwiches. They're
aspiring to be middle class,
which explains their enduring popularity amongst
readers of "The Mirror".
Sadly, Maurice Dodd passed away in January
2006, and six months
later, on 10th June 2006, the strip itself
reached the end of its run.
They may be gone now, but those perishin'
kids aren't likely to
Between 1963 and 1990, thirty-six Perisher
were published by the Mirror Group...
Perishers at Amazon.co.uk
In 1978 The Perishers reached the small screen
in the form of an animated
from producer Bill Melendez and FilmFair.
And here's where the Peanuts connection
can be seized upon again, because this was the
same Mr Melendez responsible
for bringing Charlie Brown and Co. into animated
form. The politics were dropped
from this teatime friendly production, along with
Mr Beetle and Mr Caterpillar,
but the show is still fondly recalled - mostly
because of its memorable theme tune,
and the casting, with the actors capturing
the mockney-cockney rather well,
as it 'appens...
Perishers (tv series)
Hound: June 2006
strip comes to an end...
Hound: January 2006
death of Maurice Dodd...
This perishin's statue was launched
in Spring 2007 by Robert
Harrop Designs, and was restricted to
just 750 editions....
can buy yours from the folks at Boojog Collectables
This splendid official site gives you all
the strip info and history
you might need - plus you can buy the
Jean Rogers' thought-provoking page takes
a most detailed
look at strip...
The Gems focus on the TV series...
is great! - Tony presents a page of cover scans archiving every
Perishers book and omnibus published over
Operated by cartoonist Peter Longden, his
online store includes
several fine pieces from the pen and brush
of Bill Melvin, including some
beautiful Pippin pages and a page of
original Perishers strips for you to
buy - if your wallet's big enough...
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