Wednesday, 10 May 2017

A Bit of Comic Strip Nostalgia - Part 2

The Perishers was a British comic strip about a group of urban children and a dog. It began in the Daily Mirror on 19 October 1959 and was written for most of its life by Maurice Dodd (25 October 1922 – 31 December 2005).

I used to enjoy reading this in the Daily Mirror, which my parents got, along with the Daily Telegraph – there’s balance for you!

As the Shadow Gallery blog explains: “The central characters are a little boy and his dog (a dog who believes himself to have had a previous life as a human being). One of their friends is an obnoxious and overbearing little girl; another is the unwilling object of her affections, another is her little brother.”

Thematically, the strip draws upon nostalgia for childhood experiences and often has a static, almost limbo-like atmosphere, in a similar manner to its companion strip, Andy Capp. The main characters largely exist independently of 'the real world', and adults are rarely seen

It can be seen therefore to inhabit the same kind of world as Peanuts, although “The Perishers” is resolutely English in its feel and tone. The children are all scruffy, and one feels are latch key kids, largely left to their own devices.

The Gambols is a British comic strip created by Barry Appleby which debuted 16 March 1950 in the Daily Express where it ran for almost 50 years. We used to read it when the Mirror was not available and we got the Express instead.

The two central characters are George and Gaye Gambol, a happily married, suburban, middle class couple. George is the main breadwinner working as a salesman while Gaye is primarily a housewife, but she does occasionally take on part-time office jobs. The stories revolve around the Gambols' everyday life, in particular Gaye's passion for shopping and George's attempts at home improvements.

In a way it is like the TV sitcoms Terry and June or Fresh Fields, in cartoon form, but covering the same kind of domestic incident around which the comedy is based, and which involves childless couples. The key theme of such comedies is domestic life and work.

The genre on TV has been subverted several times, once with "The Good Life", where Jerry and Margo are the same kind of couple, but their neighbours Tom and Barbara most definitely are counter-culture, and in One Foot in the Grave where it looks more at the future with pessimism, where Margaret is the long suffering wife, and Victor is the curmudgeonly retired husband.

Curiously, our French textbook at school, "Le Francais d'Aujourd'hu" also featured a comic strip with humor and childless couples. It must have been a part of the general culture. I remember the strip in which the wife prangs the car putting it into the garage, and the husband, seeing the dent, says "sacre blue", which the vocabulary at the back of the book says means "tut, tut"!

The Fosdyke Saga was a British comic strip by cartoonist Bill Tidy, published in the Daily Mirror newspaper from March 1971 - February 1985. Described as "a classic tale of struggle, power, personalities and tripe", the strip was a parody of John Galsworthy's classic novel series The Forsyte Saga.

However, the slightly bizarre and strange antics of the characters and those around them had a Lancashire "Trouble at t'mill" ambience with mangles, chimneys and soot ever present.

Even at a young age, I could see the strange almost distorted fairground mirror of the Forsyte Saga on TV which I remember very well watching with my parents. That was, of course, the 1967 series on the BBC which starred Eric Porter as Soames, Joseph O'Conor as Old Jolyon, Susan Hampshire as Fleur, Kenneth More as Young Jolyon and Nyree Dawn Porter as Irene.

At my age, I never quite could grasp all the plot of the drama, perhaps not surprising for with 26 weekly episodes, it ran for half a year, something almost unheard of today.

But the short comic strip, full of Northern humour, was great fun, with its over the top melodrama.

Bill Tidy was also responsible for "The Cloggies". This was "an Everyday Saga in the Life of Clog Dancing Folk", and a long-running cartoon that ran in the satirical magazine Private Eye from 1967 to 1981, and later in The Listener from 1985 to 1986.

It gently satirised northern English male culture, and introduced a shocked nation to the scurrilous delights of Lancashire clog-dancing!

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