Long-running Daily Mirror newspaper strip “The Perishers”, created by writer Maurice Dodd and artist Dennis Collins had a number of merchandise spin-offs – including books, an animated series – and jigsaws, too, often a Christmas gift of yesteryear for loyal fans.
Not to be confused with the Swedish indie band of the same name, the long-running strip, first published between 1959 and 2006, was drawn for many years by Dennis Collins and, later, Bill Mevin, who Dodd first met when working on Britian’s first full length animated film, Animal Farm. It focused on a gang of miscreant kids, some with strangely adult takes on life, and lead character Wellington’s dog/companion, Boot.
The kids antics, and Boot’s too, are told in glorious style, some strips delivered as polyptychs – where a single continuous background image is divided into three or four panels and the characters move across it from panel to panel.
The Perishers returned to the paper in reprint in 2010 – “back by popular demand” – can still to be enjoyed today online on the Daily Mirror web site and in the physical paper. Not least, the occasional, fondly remembered “Eyeballs in the Sky” sequences, revolving around Boot’s innocent observation of crabs in a seaside pool while on holiday… quite unaware of the impact his presence was having on “crab society”.
The Perishers original run came to a close with a final, specially drawn strip published on the Daily Mirror‘s comic page on Saturday 10th June 2006. In it, the silhouetted figures of Maisie, Baby Grumpling, Wellington, Boot and Marlon are depicted walking down a street into the sunset. Wellington says, “Well, dear readers, it’s taken almost fifty years for you to see the back of us. In sayin’ goodbye we hope that you remember us with the affecshun we feel for you.”
The annual collections of the strip and DVD releases of the spin-off animated series are perhaps the best-known merchandise associated with the hugely popular comic strip. But there were figures too, although some I’ve come across on eBay may not be officially licensed, a memory card game released in 1974, and jigsaws.
Creator Maurice Dodd was not, apparently, in a position to exert sufficient control over the quality of many spin-off products, which his son Mike has previously noted ranged from “good to indifferent”. Products which the creators of the strip had never seen still appear in odd places.
Recently, downthetubes contributor Richard Sheaf has begun tracking down Perishers collectibles, documenting jigsaw releases here on his Boys Adventure Comics blog.
Dodd also felt The Perishers animations series – 12 five minute animated films he both scripted and storyboarded, first broadcast in 1979, were not nearly as good as they could have been owing to circumstances over which he had no control.
Produced by Bill Melendez Productions and FilmFair, The Perishers series aired on BBC1 and was repeated until 1988. Judy Bennett voiced Wellington, with Sheila Steafel providing the voices of Maisie and Baby Grumpling. Leonard Rossiter voiced Boot, and Peter Hawkins served as the narrator, and voiced the characters of Marlon and the bloodhound, BH.
A tie-in record, entitled The Perishers Sing – well sort of, was also released, featuring 12 songs with lyrics by Maurice Dodd, narrated by Bernard Cribbens, with music by Trevor Evan Jones.
While no new The Perishers strips have been created for many years, the strip still packs plenty of resonance. In Lip Hook, a graphic novel by David Hine and Mark Stafford, Mark homaged the strip in some scenes with backgrounds inspired by Dodd and Collins marvellous work.
The Perishers, it seems, deservedly have lasting appeal!
The Perishers Collections and other Collectibles
Links to individual titles are to AmazonUK, offered by third party sellers, but you could also try your local secondhand bookshop, Etsy or eBay
• The Perishers (Mirror Books, 1963) – first collection, sometimes listed as Meet The Perishers, one web site suggesting a possible re-issue with that title in 1968
• The Perishers Strike Again! (Mirror Books, 1965)
• The Perishers Back Britain (Mirror Books, 1968)
• Playtime with the Perishers (Mirror Books, 1968)
• Flat Out with The Perishers (Mirror Books, 1969)
• The Perishers Pop Up Again (Mirror Books, 1969)
• The Perishers Do Their Thing (Mirror Books, 1970)
The Collections are more obviously numbered thence forward
• The Perishers Book No. 8 (Mirror Books, 1970)
• The Perishers Spring Collection – Book No. 9 (Mirror Books, 1971)
• The Perishers Book No. 10 (Mirror Books, 1971)
• The Perishers No. 11 (Mirror Books, 1972)
• The Perishers No. 12 (Mirror Books, 1972)
• The Perishers No. 13 (Mirror Books, 1972)
• The Perishers No. 14 (Mirror Books, 1973)
• The Perishers No. 15 (Mirror Books, 1973)
• The Perishers No. 16 (Mirror Books, 1974)
• The Perishers Omnibus No. 1 (Mirror Books, 1974)
• The Perishers No. 17 (Mirror Books, 1975)
• The Perishers Omnibus No. 2 (Mirror Books, 1975)
• The Perishers No. 18 (Mirror Books, 1976)
• The Perishers Omnibus No. 3 (Mirror Books 1976)
• The Perishers No. 19 (Mirror Books, 1977)
• The Perishers No. 20 (Mirror Books, 1978)
• The Perishers No. 21 – featuring strips from the Scottish Sunday Mirror (Mirror Books, 1978)
• The Perishers No. 22 – featuring strips from the Scottish Sunday Mirror (Mirror Books, 1979)
• The Perishers No. 23 (Mirror Books, 1979)
• The Perishers No. 24 (Mirror Books, 1980)
• The Perishers No. 25 (Mirror Books, 1980)
• The Perishers No. 26 (Mirror Books, 1981)
• The Perishers No. 27 (Mirror Books, 1981)
From 1982 onwards, Mirror Books released a number of unnumbered Omnibus editions, which can only be distinguished by cover and indicia…
• The Perishers Omnibus (Mirror Books, 1982)
• The Perishers Omnibus (Mirror Books, 1983)
• The Perishers Omnibus (Mirror Books, 1984)
• The Perishers Omnibus (Mirror Books, 1985)
• The Perishers Omnibus (Mirror Books, 1986)
• The Perishers Omnibus (Mirror Books, 1987)
• The Perishers Omnibus (Mirror Books, 1988
The Perishers Annuals
The Perishers Specials
• The Perishers Dotty Dictionary (Mirror Books, 1977)
• The Perishers Spectacolour (Mirror Books, 1979)
• The Tale Of A Tale – Or The Life and Times of Boot the Dog (Mirror Books,1981)
The Perishers Children’s Books
• The Perishers Rather Big Little Book About Boot (Hamlyn, 1979
• The Perishers Rather Big Little Book About Wellington (Hamlyn, 1979)
• The Perishers Rather Big Little Book About Maisie (Hamlyn, 1979)
• The Perishers Rather Big Little Book About Marlon (Hamlyn, 1979)
• The Perishers Very Big For Its Size Storybook (Hamlyn, 1979)
• The Perishers Rainy Day Book (Hamlyn, 1979)
The Perishers – Miscellaneous Publications
The following books were produced by or authorised by Mirror Books without the collaboration, and sometimes knowledge, of Maurice Dodd or Dennis Collins
• Dog of the Year (Mirror Books?)
• The Perishers Book of Fun and Games (Publisher details welcome)
• Old Boot’s Private Papers, introduced by Rod KcKuen (Stanyan Books, 1970)
• The Perishers Strike Again (Mirror Books, 1979)
• Here Come The Perishers (Mirror Books, 1979) – adapted from the TV series
Things You May Not Know about The Perishers
• Wellington shares his birthday (25th October) with creator, Maurice Dodd
• During World War Two, The Perishers original artist worked for the Special Operations Executive at Briggens House on the Hertfordhire and Essex border, where, Roger Bradbury notes, “they forged hand lettered passports and identity documents for Allied agents and others.”
• Wellington became the mascot of the Third Field Squadron Royal Engineers
• The annual ‘must’ sequence in The Perishers strip, “The Eyeballs-in-the-Sky”, was sparked by observing a real dog observing real crabs during a holiday in Dorset
• The “Eyeballs” adorned the T-shirts of officers and ratings of the Helicopter Flight of the Royal Fleet Auxiliary ‘Tidepool’. They boosted the mess funds by selling the T-shirts to Americans
• Boot claims to be the adopted ship’s mascot for the naval warship HMS Sirius (named after the Dog Star). A Royal Naval Chaplain (an Admiral, no less) declared himself to be the disreputable Tatty Oldbitt’s greatest fan
• Boot was adopted by the dog-training unit of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps
• Baby Grumpling used to feature on the pub sign of “The Angel” in Gilling West.
• Maisie’s arch rival, “Blossom McGinsberg”, never appeared in the strip, and neither did Grumpling’s ‘New Baby’, who only issued ‘Glop’ balloons from the depths of its pram
• A company of kids put The Perishers on the stage, in a musical by Mick Nash
• Maurice Dodd’s son Mike Dodds created a marvellous web site dedicated to The Perishers, published between 2003 and 2014. Although the URL has been hijacked, there are snapshots of the site in the Wayback Machine, the last of them here
• downthetubes contributor Richard Sheaf has begun tracking down Perishers collectibles, documenting jigsaw releases here on his Boys Adventure Comics blog
The Perishers © 2020 Daily Mirror/REACH