From our 21st century perspective, with domestic heating available at the flick of a switch or click on a screen, it’s hard to imagine a time when the mere act of raising the temperature in the living area to a comfortable level involved lugging lumps of crumbly black carbon into the room, piling them in the fireplace and igniting them with the aid of bits of wood and scrunched up newspaper. After enjoying an all-too-brief cosy period, the grate would have to be cleared out and the dusty residue disposed of before the whole process was repeated. Making its way up the chimney as a result of the combustion process, in addition to all sorts of pollutants, was soot; a fine black powder which accumulated on the brickwork. Apparently a serious coating of soot in a chimney could result in the dust catching fire, although possibly this was a rumour put about by chimney sweeps, who were employed by fireplace users to ensure a clean and healthy flue.
I’m not sure how many kids of the late 1970s would have encountered a chimney sweep in real life. I suspect many would have been aware of Dick Van Dyke’s cockneytastic portrayal of Edwardian sweep Bert in Disney’s supercalorific (all those spoonsful of sugar) fantasy blockbuster titled, as Dick/Bert would have it, ‘Moiry Porpins’.
A considerable number of Krazy Town residents were clearly still reliant on coal for their heating, as chimney sweep Zoot Soot joined the Cheeky’s Week cast as of the 12 May 1979 edition of the toothy funster’s comic.
|Cheeky's first brush with Zoot|
Art: Mike Lacey
Zoot (whose name references the natty 1940s apparel), appears to have avoided the early uncertainty over his appearance which afflicted Ah Sew as well as Messrs Chips and Mutton, since the character design used by Mike Lacey above is also in evidence on the sweep’s second outing, drawn by Frank McDiarmid, and the third, by Jimmy Hansen.
|Zoot's second appearance|
Art: Frank McDiarmid
In the comic dated 07 July 1979 readers were introduced to the cheery chimney champion’s offspring. Sadly, the adolescent assortment was never seen again.
|Ursula gets fired |
Cheeky's grate chum was among the Krazy Town folk selected to appear alongside a mega-sized rendition of the toothy funster on the Giant Cheeky Poster.
|Change was sweeping the country|
Zoot’s final Cheeky Weekly appearance was as a non-speaking participant in the 19 January 1980 edition, in which Ursula dreamily reported on Crystal Belle’s prediction for the new year.
|Farewell to the flue-fixing funnyman|
The silly soot-shifter appeared in 14 issues of Cheeky Weekly, but never graced the Cheeky's strips in Krazy.
|Character||Total Issues||First Appearance||Final Appearance|
Count of elements by artist
|Zoot Soot||Frank McDiarmid||7|
|Zoot Soot||Mike Lacey||4|
|Zoot Soot||Frank McDiarmid pencils||2|
|Zoot Soot||Jimmy Hansen||1|