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.