Sunday, 31 March 2019

The Perishers

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.

Saturday, 30 March 2019

Hodiah Twist In: The Hero-Killer Principle!

As promised over at The Kids site, here's one of only two full-length outings for Don McGregor's 1930's set Holmesian detective Hodiah Twist.
Twist is a broken man, having lost everything in the stock market crash, and haunted by the suicide of his wife, has retreated into a fantasy of becoming like a certain consulting detective.
This gives McGregor an opportunity to discuss one of his long-running themes and fascinations: The nature and reality of heroism itself. Though being Don, he gives you value for money by setting this discussion within the most brilliantly pulpy set-up ie. The hunt for a werewolf on the 'El' Train.
Tony DeZuniga sympathetically inks Gene Colan so he isn't swamped ( as could sometimes be the case with Tony ), and the whole thing is simply the class act you'd expect from these gentlemen.
Makes you wish Don had been able to do more with Hodiah.

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

The Kids Of Rec. Road In: Kids Of The Stones pt. 11 & Modern Comics

This week in Kids Of The Stones, it looks like me & Sean are the only people left in the creepy village of Milbury who haven't been brainwashed into grinning, 'Happy Day' spouting goons. But then, we always were a pair of miserable gits, me & him...
While at...

We're talking modern comics. Yes, Virginia, I DO buy modern comics! Do you as well, or are you as stuck in the Bronze Age as me?? What new stuff should we all be buying? Let us know, as always, at

Saturday, 23 March 2019

Aquaman & Deadman ( Sort Of ) Team-Up

Poor old Aquaman, he never gets any respect. Long seen by many as the most pointless member of the JLA, he never seemed to be anyone's favourite character. Even Family Guy has had a pop at him.
And, personally, compared to his direct opposite over at Marvel, he couldn't ever be as angry, edgy or interesting as Subby.
And before anyone asks, yeah, I saw the film. Meh.
But wait, there was a time in the Bronze Age when Aquaman was briefly cool.
Dick Giordano put together some great teams and comics when he moved from Charlton to DC, and The King Of The Seven Seas got himself Steve Skeates & Jim Aparo, plus previous artist Nick Cardy stayed on to contribute some of the most stunning covers of his career. If I was Aquaman, I'd be praising Neptune every day for a creative team like that.

From the start, Skeates, Aparo & Giordano tried to make Aquaman an experimental superhero book, playing around with form and content, and riffing on westerns, Mickey Spillane, Harlan Ellison, and that familiar trope of the '70's, social relevancy, amongst others. Each issue was a bit different, a bit out there, and for a while there Aquaman could go anywhere, both as a book and a character.
Here's one of the most fun ideas, a kind of jam session between the team and Neal Adams. According to Skeates, Giordano had suggested doing a back-up strip, which immediately meant that every spare writer at DC barraged the team with ideas for it.
Giordano didn't like any of the suggestions until Adams came up with the idea of tying the back-up strip into the main feature, so Skeates deliberately left all the plot threads dangling so that Neal had to finish them off with his now included Deadman back-up. All of which goes to prove you should never volunteer for anything, 'cos you'll always get more to do than you intended.
Everybody involved here contributes dynamite work, particularly Aparo, who's clearly having a blast. Apparently, Aquaman at the time was a book no one was reading, particularly the higher ups at DC, so these guys did more or less what they wanted, and this really feels like a free-form Charlton book like E-Man more than something from the towers of Superman.
Oh, and there's THAT in-joke of all in-jokes splash panel. You'll know it when you see it.