On the surface, it can look like Czech identity revolves purely around the country’s vast history and the fairytale aesthetics that come with it. But in the details, you find lots of funny modern quirks, one of them being Pérák.
Pérák is a superhero originally created by Jiří Trnka and Jiří Brdečka in 1946 and acted as a sort of mascot for anti-Nazism at the time. He existed as an urban legend for quite some time, but he first appeared in Trnka and Brdečka’s animated film called “Pérák a SS” (Pérák and the SS.)
His character is a chimney sweep who accidentally puts his sweep too far down a chimney, manages to get it stuck in a couch, and then pulls out a spring from the couch all the back up to the roof. He then gets the idea to put springs on his feet so he can start pulling pranks on Nazis and then escaping by jumping around the city on his springs. (Hence the English translation of “Spring-Man”
Pérák was later adapted by many people wishing to use him as a symbol of anti-Nazism and heroism, including the communist newspaper Haló noviny and a handful of other comic bookmakers.
Interestingly, Pérák is a very similar character to “Spring-Heeled Jack,” an urban legend in London during the 1800s. But Spring-Heeled Jack was said to be devilish both in appearance and behaviour. He had claws, glowing eyes, breath that smelled like sulfur, and the ability to leap across the city. Many people claimed to have been harassed by him and that the newspapers were suspiciously covering it up because of some special interest.
The relationship between the devilish Spring-Heeled Jack and the anti-Nazi mascot of the Czech Republic is certainly mysterious and we may never know the extent of it. The most recent adaptation of Pérák are the comic books from ABC magazine, written by Petr Macek and Petr Kopl.
Featured image is from Pérák a SS (film ČSR, 1946)