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Date: 01/01/06


Dammit! I'm tired of writing obituaries of my heroes! Could Terry Pratchett, Stephen Fry and the members of Kraftwerk please make sure they look after themselves in 2006? I'm running out of solemnity here, chaps.

As 2005 departed, so too did someone who brought smiles to me and so many others over a period of many years.

New Year's Eve saw the death of Maurice Dodd, who wrote the strip cartoon The Perishers for the Daily Mirror for over forty years, first in collaboration with Dennis Collins, then for some years on his own, and latterly with Bill Mevins.

To me, the Dodd/Collins era was a golden one, one which was a key to the development of my own sense of humour and my own love of playing with language. On our 1968 summer holidays to Towyn near Rhyl, at the age of six, I begged my parents to buy me The Perishers Back Britain, in preference to the Andy Capp book they thought I should have (interesting to speculate as to what they thought I could possibly gain in life from reading about the days of a beer-swilling Tyneside chauvinist). I still have that book (or, rather, what's left of it). After the slightly left-of-centre Daily Sketch morphed into the hideous sub-animal Sun, my father switched to the Daily Mirror, so I was able to read the adventures of The Perishers for years thereafter.

Maurice Dodd's 'scripts' always had a logic, but not one which would find house-room with the po-faced. For example, here's the boy Wellington musing to his dog, Boot, under a full moon:

"There she is again - regular as clockwork. Month after month - right on the dot - right when my ole diary says."

"They certainly go to a lot of trouble for a two-and-sixpenny diary."

The interaction between the characters gave almost endless scope. Wellington, the world-weary, erudite wheeler-dealer; Boot, his dog (although Boot had a different view of the relationship), remembering his previous existence as a Regency rake-hell cursed by a wronged Gypsy wench; Maisie, the predatory schoolgirl with her crush (in more than one sense of that word) on the dim naïf Marlon; the eternally-infant Baby Grumplin' with his slash-and-burn outlook on the whole world.

Throw in side characters such as the anosmic bloodhound B.H. (Calcutta) failed, Tatty Oldbitt ('the sailor's friend') the lewd dachshund, and the crabs in the rock-pool, and you had a complete, self-contained universe which was a constant source of misunderstandings, escapades and surreal reasoning.

For over forty years, The Perishers provided laughter and an insight into the minds of children liberated from all imposed adult 'logic'.

R.I.P. Maurice Dodd (1932 - 2005)