Life on Mars
Write Hand Down

Little Perishers

The Perishers on holidayIn the first panel, L to R, are: Marlon, Maisie, Boot, Baby Grumpling, and Wellington.

I grew up with The Perishers, or rather, I grew up and they didn’t. Like many cartoon characters, they’ve remained the same age ever since the strip started in the Daily Mirror in 1958. I was born in 1959.

The Perishers are some kids and a dog who live in the imaginary South London borough of Croynge. The borough has Victorian streets and bomb sites with dumped prewar cars and other rubbish of interest to kids. One main character, Wellington, lives with the dog Boot in a disused branch line railway station.

The strip ran for six days a week for years, and this book, The Perishers Omnibus №3, though published in 1976, holds strips from mid October 1966 to mid September 1968. It’s just one of over three dozen books of the daily strips, all out of print.

Of course, like some other strips, the Perishers is made for adults, about adults. Except that no adults are visible, ever. They may be heard, but not seen. But the Perishers talk, for the most part, like adults.

There are of course repeating gags. Some of them with the main characters are:

Wellington and Boot both think they’re the brains and boss of the pair.
Marlon’s inch thick tomato ketchup sandwiches.
Maisie’s unrequited love for Marlon (but still she tries to look after him).
Baby Grumpling’s persistent asking of annoying and pointed questions.

Polyptych PerishersThis scene appears several times in the book, always from different angles, but always as a polyptych.

The strip was written by Maurice Dodd and drawn by Dennis Collins. Unusually for a strip writer, Maurice Dodd used to rough out drawings including the speech bubbles. The Perishers is often a bit wordy and he wanted to make sure it all fitted in.

Dennis Collins started by planning and drawing the speech bubbles, then drew the figures and background. He used a brush for the main strokes of the strip, then a selection of pens for all the fine details that makes the strip so rewarding to read. Comic strips are drawn larger than they will appear in the newspaper or comic, about twice the dimensions of the printed piece in the case of The Perishers.

Often, the strip would be drawn as a polyptych. One background scene is divided into three or four panels, and the characters walk through the scene talking as they go.

Maurice Dodd served in WW2 with Bill Herbert, who became the Cartoon Editor of The Daily Mirror. After the war Dodd went to art school in Hammersmith, London and became an accomplished artist. In 1954 he worked for Halas and Batchelor on the film Animal Farm.

Bill Herbert asked him to take over the writing for The Perishers, as the strip wasn’t doing too well, and Maurice Dodd worked on the strip until he passed away in 2005, but when Dennis Collins retired in 1983, Dodd took over the complete production of the strip.

From November 1992 until its end in 2006 the strip was drawn by Bill Mevin, who had also worked on Animal Farm. Mevin had drawn for TV Comic, illustrating Supercar, Space Patrol, Doctor Who, and Popeye amongst others.

Fab new gearSome in the 1960s wore second hand uniforms for style and fashion. The Beatles are wearing uniforms on the cover of the Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club album.

Dennis Collins was a commercial artist. During WW2 he worked for the Special Operations Executive at Briggens House on the Herts and Essex border, where they forged hand lettered passports and identity documents for Allied agents and others.

In about 1957, he took some drawings of cartoon characters around Fleet Street, and was taken on board by Bill Herbert. In 1958, he began to draw The Perishers.

After Maurice Dodd passed away at the end of 2005, the strip continued. It’s usual to have some strips in hand and with these and a few reprints, the Perishers appeared in the Mirror until June 2006.

Inch thick tomato ketchup sandwichMarlon's dreaded sandwich.

In 2010, reprints of the strip started appearing in the Daily Mirror, back by popular demand, said the paper. These are the strips created by Maurice Dodd and Dennis Collins, but have been partially spot coloured. They are printed rather smaller than they used to be, which doesn’t show the penmanship to it’s best advantage. Oh well. This is quite common now in Newspapers.

The Perishers were part of my childhood, so it’s always nice to read the strips again. Now I’ve written this, I’m thinking of getting some more books of the strips.

I've since found that Dennis Collins did indeed work for the S.O.E. at Briggens House, and I've slightly edited the post to reflect this.

The Perishers Omnibus №3, written by Maurice Dodd and drawn by Dennis Collins


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Excellent blog and piece of history about a much loved cartoon strip.

Thank you, Howard.

Many years ago, I would start each school day by reading The Perishers before dashing out to catch the bus to that place of misery. Their antics amuse me just as much today as they did then. The summer holidays brought my favorite and most eagerly anticipated "Eyeballs in the sky" strip.

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