It Came From Behind The Shelf No.2

Reading & Writing


I’ve always been mystified by the fact that the ‘Andy Capp’ comic strip runs in US newspapers. It was never funny in the Daily Mirror, and belongs to a weird postwar image of England’s past in a particular part of the country (the North), with rent collectors and whippet racing and pigeons – but few English kids would have the faintest clue what this was about.

All tabloids ran comic strips – the least funny being the Daily Mail’s ‘Fred Bassett’, observational humour about a dog that was neither well-observed or humorous – but the Daily mirror’s strips were different, partly because it was a left-wing working class newspaper. I have no idea who reads it now, but when I was a kid ‘The Perishers’ reflected its politics. It was the thinking man’s ‘Peanuts’. Its resident dog, ‘Boot’, believed himself to be the reincarnation of an 18th century nobleman, his sidekick bloodhound was ex-Indian Army, Maisie, its ‘Lucy’ was mean-spirited and hateful, and Marlon was stupid.

Once a year these sundry scruffs went to the seaside and peered into a crab-pool, not realising that the crabs had created a cargo-cult religion around ‘The Eyeballs In The Sky’. The artist, Maurice Dodd, was a pioneer of ideas later taken up by ‘Calvin & Hobbs’, drawing in different styles and experimenting with typefaces. One whole week’s worth of cartoons was drawn as a child’s guide to ‘brane surgery’. It was all very strange, not especially funny but popular enough to run for decades. And they all came out in these oddly-shaped annuals. I found this one tucked behind my Virginia Woolfs.

6 comments on “It Came From Behind The Shelf No.2”

  1. keith page says:

    I’ve bot a boxfull of these

  2. keith page says:

    Sorry; should read ‘I’ve got a boxfull’ [more haste less speed].I think the artwork’s excellent

  3. Lostintown says:

    Clearing out my parents’ house recently, I came across a whole bunch of these annuals and was pleasantly surprised at how good they are.
    The humour’s quite obtuse and I’ve always enjoyed cartoon strips where there is a lot going on when there doesn’t need to be. The crab pool is a great example of this.

    Of course television took the series and turned it into something quite boring.

    No change there then.

  4. Helen Martin says:

    We have Fred Bassett in our paper. Are we that far behind? Never cared much for Andy Capp. The time placement seemed obvious to me and I kept hoping that was true, because otherwise there had been no progress sociologically amongst the working class. (Did you catch the sniffy nose?)

  5. Gretta says:

    My goodness. Blasts from the past there. We have several Andy Capps about the house, and probably some Fred Bassetts, too. Perishers, possibly not. I only have vague recollections of their existence, never mind anything about the actual strips themselves.

    How do these things weedle their way behind your bookshelves, admin? Is it a deliberate shelving technique, or do they just mysteriously materialise out of thin air?

  6. Helen Martin says:

    Double stacking? I think I have a few seldom-reads hiding behind the front rows.

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