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Perishers1

The Perishers, which for most of its lengthy run was created by writer Maurice Dodd and artist Dennis Collins (though its original writer was Ben Witham and towards the end, it was drawn first by Dodd after Collins's retirement in 1983, and then by Bill Mevin from 1992), began in the Daily Mirror on October 19th 1959 and ran until June 10th 2006, when the backlog of strips created by Dodd before his death some weeks previously finally ran out. It principally revolved around a group of four children and a dog:

  • Wellington, named after his ever-present footwear, is a philosophical and intellectual orphan who, for most of the strip, lives with his dog, Boot, in a derelict railway station and whose sole income seems to come from making buggies and selling them to his friends as well as writing begging letters.
  • Boot, Wellington's Old English Sheepdog, who believes himself to be an English nobleman from the eighteenth century ensorcelled by a Gypsy wench (he should've bought the damn clothes-pegs).
  • Marlon, a simple-minded (read: thick) kid who usually wears racing overalls and a donkey jacket. His favourite food is inch-thick ketchup sandwiches which always squirt over the others when he bites into them. Marlon is a keen inventor, although he keeps inventing things which are either totally useless or have already been invented. He aspires to be either a Brain Surgeon or a "Bloke Wot Goes Down Sewers In Big Rubber Boots".
  • Maisie, a fearsome little girl who is obsessed with Marlon, chocolates and sweets. Thinks of herself as a Raven-Haired beauty, although everyone else thinks of her as a sack full of old army boots with a voice that can stun woodworm. Aspires to be a "Beautiful Lady Pest Exterminator". Usually seen in a one-piece dress and black tights, although she selects a fashionable summer outfit for their yearly summer holiday which is generally mocked by the others.
  • Baby Grumpling, Maisie's little brother, an aspiring criminal genius and the creator of the wormburger. Appears to be more intelligent than the others, although much more naïve.

The strip had numerous other recurring characters who would often take it over for days at a time, most notably:

  • The hirsute and unsanitary kid Aloysius 'Dirty' McSquirty
  • His unseen cousin Worsoff, the original Person Who Is Worse Off Than You (who lives in a sewer and speaks to Dirty through drain covers)
  • The lewd and coarse but very funny Crabs in the Rock Pool (whom Boot visited every year when the kids went to the seaside town of St Moribund's on holiday, and who had built an entire religion around these annual appearances of "the Eyeballs in the Sky")
  • Boot's canine associates B.H. (Calcutta) Failed (a bloodhound who claimed to be a print journalist and whose catchphrase was "Any news for the newshound?")
  • Tatty Oldbitt (The Sailors Friend) an amorous, and usually drunk on gin, female Basset hound
    Perishers
  • Fascistic would-be world conquering tortoise Adolph Kilroy and his two reluctant associates, a workshy socialist beetle named Fred and his chain-smoking caterpillar friend.
  • The kids' schoolmates Fiscal Yere (a rich kid who handed out chocolate cigars), Plain Jane (Maisie's friend) and Beryl Bogey (Maisie's musclebound henchperson)
  • New Baby (Baby Grumpling's unwilling confidant, never seen except as a pram with a thought balloon above it)
  • Poor Girl, a quite obviously spoiled rich girl who would routinely try to con Wellington out of his (usually non-existent) Christmas and birthday presents by claiming to be collecting for the poor; namely, herself ("I'm poor, my butler's poor, my maid's poor...").

The kids lived in the town of Croynge (sometimes called Crunge), which was apparently a location in South London based on Croydon and Penge, but resembled an industrial Northern town in the 1950s.

1st Perishers Strip (19th October 1959)
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Much of the humour in the strip, which was extremely well-written and often worked on several levels, was based on repetition, with certain scenarios being replayed with variations on an annual basis. Wellington has, in fact, noticed by the strip's later days that each year is very similar to the previous year and that he and his friends never seem to age, though he never points this out to anyone else. This deconstruction of the comic strip medium is also apparent in other cases, such as the kids' yearly walk back from St Moribund's after being thrown off the train, which always results in them being several weeks late home from school without anyone seeming to notice — a comment on the vagaries of comic strip time.

The strip was hugely popular, spawning a TV cartoon series in the 1970s (which starred the late Leonard Rossiter as the voice of Boot) and a record album in 1980, as well as being reprinted in a series of bestselling books. The strip returned to the Daily Mirror as a series of reprints in February 2010.

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