The Perishers were a ubiquitous presence in my Bronze Age. Not only had they been running in The Daily Mirror since before I was born, but like just about every other strip the Mirror ran, they had their own landscape format collection every year. They were just always there.
Seen ( not entirely unfairly ) as the UK's answer to Peanuts, they did have a shabby charm of their own, and were perhaps more relatable to British readers than Chuck & co.
For starters, the kids who make up The Perishers were poor. Like dirt poor.
Wellington, the sort of leader of the gang, lived in a disused railway station, slept on a put-up bed, and didn't have a Mum. His only visible means of income being the scraps he managed to get from the local butcher and the go-karts he made for his best pal, the sweet-natured but totally brain dead Marlon.
As well as these two, we also had Maisie ( to all intents and purposes, the British Lucy ) who loved Marlon in a one-sided love triangle, and her kid brother Baby Grumplin', whose main skills were digging holes in the back garden and making worm sandwiches.
All of them appear to be latchkey kids, or in the case of Wellington, raising themselves solo.
They played on bomb sites left over from the war, or under disused viaducts, just like we did, and their clothes were ratty, while their toys were second-hand.
No one played the piano in The Perishers. In fact, if anybody had owned one, Wellington probably would've hocked it to the pawnbroker for dinner.
Then there were the animals: B.H. ( Calcutta ) failed, the Indian bloodhound with no sense of smell, Fred The Beetle & The Caterpillar, chain-smoking insect socialists, Adolf Kilroy, the teutonic tortoise who was convinced he was the reincarnation of Hitler, and star of the show, Wellington's Old English sheepdog Boot, whose fantasy / coping mechanism was that he was actually an 18th century English lord turned into a dog by a gypsy wench he'd spurned ( By The Lord Harry! )
All of them, at various points, determined to take over the world, if only they could figure out how to do so while lacking opposable thumbs.
Though never laugh out loud, The Perishers had an abundance of something mostly missing from newspaper strips these days ie. charm. And as I say, in their own surreal way, they kind of felt real. Particularly when Leonard 'Rigsby' Rossiter did the voice of Boot in the teatime animated cartoon.
But where the strip really scores is in the art. Not only was Dennis Collins expert at giving each of the kids full personalities, he was a master at what's called polyptych's ie. Having your characters move, panel by panel through a static background. And boy, could he do backgrounds. Again, in keeping with the down at heel feel of the strip, the gang seem to live in one of the less salubrious areas of London, or somewhere up North. Somewhere the grown-ups have forgotten about.
In fact, the only thing I really didn't like about The Perishers was when they went on their annual holiday, and we were into the regular 'Eyeballs In The Sky' subplot. This was an interminable storyline where Boot stared into a rockpool on the beach at a load of crabs, who worshipped him as a god. Looked at as an adult, it's a clever spin on blind faith and the gullibility of the masses, but as a kid, it just bored the pants of me, so I invariably stopped reading the strip until the gang came home and we were back to larking around on go-karts.
Because for better or worse, The Perishers can't help but remind me of my own kidhood, even more so than Charlie Brown's gang. They were just always there. Perishin' kids!!
NB. I debated back & forth about whether to edit out the racial slur in the Fred The Beetle strip, but in the end decided to keep it in. Possibly Maurice Dodd was making a point about fake socialists, possibly it was just, sadly, the tenor of the times. If anyone is offended, my genuine apologies, but I'd rather present ( and read ) something as originally published whenever possible, however uncomfortable to modern eyes.