Vince Noir was right about Rupert Bear being an influence on The Mighty Boosh. I’ve been looking at some old Rupert Bear comics and they are a nice fit with that TV show.
I read Rupert at my grandmother’s house along with Just William. There is something about Rupert’s mum in the comics that I associate with my grandmother. I think it might be her unruffled calm, the sense of quiet domesticity and all the old fashioned things around the house. Probably it’s not the thing about her being a giant white bear.
Rupert’s parents always seemed amazingly permissive, and forgiving. In about every second episode Rupert vanishes across time and space, associates with the most outlandish, bizarre and sometimes threatening characters, and the most Mum and Dad ever do is go to look for Rupert with the local police constable. Usually they don’t even do this. They sit at home carrying on about their business until Rupert pops back up again carrying some choice artifact from another land.
Rupert has chums. Vince Noir and Harold Moon have chums too. One of Rupert’s chums, Bill, is waving to him in the picture in this post. Most of Rupert’s mates are like him – little boys with the head of an animal – although there are also plenty of regular people hanging about in the environs of his village, Nutwood. Just like in the Boosh nobody ever comments on this. When Rupert goes to see the coronation of Elizabeth II he takes the Tube. Nobody even notices the four foot bear as he stands amongst the sightseeing throng on the escalator. In Boosh it is acceptable for the gorilla, Bollo, to pose for a portait and talk to Vince about death, just as it’s fine for them to have a chum called Naboo who is some kind of mystic, pot smoker in a funny outfit.
There’s also a real Boys-Own-Adventure feel to both Boosh and Rupert. Not so much the adventures described in serials like the Hardy Boys, but closer in spirit to the fantastical adventures of heroes like Allan Quatermain in Haggard, or the science fiction of H.G. Wells.
In one story I read yesterday, Rupert and his chum Bill (a badger) go into a wood, climb into a car which automatically drives them into a garage where they are confronted by a mad scientist who ties an amulet on them and throws them in a time machine. They spin through space and Rupert finds himself on a tropical island without Bill. A monkey tells Rupert he should look on the next island for Bill, and a turtle carries Rupert across. On the other island Rupert finds Bill, they get chased by a very black savage and are captured and tied up only to be released by the monkey. Rupert and Bill sneak up on the sleeping savage, tie the time travel amulet on his arm, and they are all transported back to the wood where the savage chases the mad inventor into the trees. Rupert and Bill go back home (where Mum and Dad are undoubtedly sitting about completely non-plussed). If you included the middle section from Where the Wild Things Are in which Max and the Wild Things do a yawping, swing from the trees dance, I think you’d have quite a good Mighty Boosh episode.
The Mighty Boosh is a show that looks back. The lead characters use video and cassette tapes instead of DVD and downloads. They believe in a world where nothing really bad happens, where the heroes are saved at the end by their chums. It is a world most of us would like to belong to.