Thursday, 22 November 2007

The Thursday Comic Strip - The Perishers

This week we pay hommage to a British comic strip: The Perishers

artists: Maurice Dodd, Dennis Collins, Bill Melvin

America may well have had the apple-pie delights of "Peanuts", but here in
the UK we've had the h'effervescent pleasures of a daily strip cartoon starring
"The Perishers". Wellington, Maisie, Marlon, Wellington's scruffy sheepdog
Boot, B.H. the bloodhound, Fiscal and Baby Grumplin have pondered,
pontificated, plundered, preached, and pratfalled for forty years in the
pages of the "Daily Mirror".

"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 clever effect.

Dodd was an ex-apprentice car salesman, baker's roundsman, universal
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! Toonhound:

The Perishers was a British comic strip about a group of urban children and a dog. It began in the Daily Mirror in 1958 and was written for most of its life by Maurice Dodd (October 25, 1922 - December 31, 2005). It was drawn by Dennis Collins until his retirement in 1983, after which it was drawn by Dodd and later by Bill Mevin. After Dodd's death the strip continued with several weeks' backlog of strips and some reprints until June 10, 2006.

Whilst The Perishers have been dismissed by some Americans as nothing more than a clone of Peanuts, its elements of eccentric British sense of humour, combined with its detailed art style (in its heyday, Collins produced some of the most finely-detailed artwork ever seen in a daily strip), sets it apart.

Many Perishers strips are polyptychs - a single continuous background image is divided into three or four panels and the characters move across it from panel to panel. The story is set in the fairly drab fictional town of Croynge (sometimes spelled Crunge), which is apparently a south London borough - the name is derived from Croydon and Penge. However, visually the location often resembles an industrial Northern town.

Thematically, the strip draws upon nostalgic childhood experiences, and often has a static, almost limbo-like atmosphere, in a similar manner to its companion strip, Andy Capp. The main characters largely exist independently of 'the real world', and adults are rarely seen; for example, every year the Perishers go on holiday but always get thrown off the train home, forcing them to walk and arrive home several weeks late (a pun on how a short scene in comic book time can take several weeks when told in daily installments), yet with seemingly no repercussions.

No comic is complete without catchphrases. This is a partial list of the phrases coined or made popular by the Perishers.
"Go-faster stripes" — Wellington's big selling-point on the buggies he tries to get Marlon to buy. It became a way of describing any useless or frivolous addition to a product.
"GRONFF!!" — The sound of Boot gobbling up something tasty, often something meant for another character, once the contents of a bird table. Also used sometimes when other characters eat.
" Parasite ! Trotskyite ! Marmite !" — Insults hurled at each other by the Beetle and the Caterpillar whenever they brawl, which is frequently. Marmite is, of course, not exactly a valid insult.
"Vilson Kepple und Betty!" — Kilroy the Tortoise's favourite exclamation. It derives from the stage act Wilson, Kepple and Betty.
"Need any help with that paper bag ?" — Maisie can detect the opening of a bag of crisps from far away, appearing almost instantly to help with the consumption, uttering this phrase as soon as she arrives.
"Yeuk!!" — Marlon's reaction to Maisie's perennial romantic advances. He responds to her in this way so often that Maisie has actually asked Marlon, "Is 'yeuk' the only word you know?"
"Ratbag" — The kids' favorite insult. Absent from the very early days of the strip, it quickly became a staple. Maisie is particularly fond of the word, and constantly uses it to refer to Marlon.