- Dennis the Menace (U.S.)
Dennis the Menace Author(s) Hank Ketcham
Launch date March 12, 1951 End date present Syndicate(s) DailyINK Publisher(s) Fantagraphics Books
Dennis the Menace is a daily syndicated newspaper comic strip originally created, written and illustrated by Hank Ketcham. It debuted on March 12, 1951 in 16 newspapers and was originally distributed by Post-Hall Syndicate. It is now written and drawn by Ketcham's former assistants, Marcus Hamilton and Ron Ferdinand, and distributed to at least 1,000 newspapers in 48 countries and 19 languages by King Features Syndicate. The comic strip usually runs for a single panel on weekdays and a full strip on Sundays.
The comic strip became so successful that it was adapted to many other kinds of popular media, including several television shows, both live-action and animated; and several feature films, including theatrical and direct-to-video releases.
- 1 Characters and setting
- 2 History
- 3 Comic books
- 4 Book compilations
- 5 Worldwide success
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Characters and setting
Dennis the Menace takes place in a middle-class suburban neighborhood in Wichita, Kansas.
The Mitchell family
- Dennis Mitchell - a precocious but lovable, freckle-faced five-and-a-half-year-old boy with a famous blond cowlick and a penchant for mischief. His long-suffering parents can only shake their heads and try to explain their son's antics to others. Despite this, they really do love him very much. Dennis' wide-eyed curiosity, his well-meaning attempts to help, his innocent, matter-of-fact bluntness and his youthful energy and enthusiastic nature always seem to lead to trouble wherever he goes (most often at Mr. Wilson's expense). He wears a blue/black striped shirt, tennis shoes, and red overalls with pockets that are sometimes filled with snakes, frogs, or his slingshot. He hates carrots and baths, loves root beer, ketchup, mud puddles and TV Westerns (especially those starring Cowboy Bob), and has occasionally been depicted wearing a cowboy costume.
- Henry Mitchell - Dennis' father is a workaday aerospace engineer. Henry seems to understand Dennis more than his wife does in affairs of the heart. One example was when a furious Dennis stormed in saying, "Wimmin can say some of the stupidest things!"; Henry knowingly said to Alice, "Margaret." Also, while on an outing with Dennis' friend Gina, Alice asked if Dennis would eventually come to know that he likes Gina. Henry, again knowingly, said, "I think he already does." Like his creator Hank Ketcham, Henry served in the US Navy. Sometimes, he and Alice will get into arguments (which even showed his chauvinistic side at times), but they remain devoted to each other.
- Alice Mitchell, née Johnson - Dennis' stay-at-home mother Alice is usually the reassuring figure Dennis can run to when things get too overwhelming, ready to greet him with a warm hug. As a running gag, Alice Mitchell has a phobia of snakes. Another running gag involves Dennis' ever-changing parade of new babysitters. No one will take the job twice. Alice is also known for punishing Dennis' misbehavior by having him sit in the corner in a rocking chair for timeout.
- Ruff - Dennis' big, lovable, faithful dog (an Airedale mix) and best pal. Ruff is always eagerly following him around, accompanying him while Dennis is running, riding his bike or his skateboard.
- Hot Dog - Dennis' rarely seen cat, who usually commiserates with him while he sits in the corner and reflects on his wrongdoings.
- Grampa Johnson (Carleton "Swede" Johnson) - Alice's father who spoils Dennis often. He evokes the unintentional jealousy of Mr. Wilson, for he gets to see Dennis only on occasion, but Mr. Wilson sees him all the time. Because they are so much alike, Dennis and Grampa Johnson get along beautifully. Mr. Wilson also thinks that Johnson should act his age, but this advice is often ignored. To Grampa, life is worth living and he encourages Dennis to live it to the fullest.
- George Everett Wilson - Dennis's cranky, cantankerous middle aged next-door neighbor; a retired postal carrier and (at least as far as Dennis is concerned) his best human friend. Dennis likes Mr. Wilson but unintentionally annoys him, as he regularly disrupts Mr. Wilson's attempts at a serene, quiet life. Dennis often interrupts Mr. Wilson's hobbies such as gardening, as well as coin and stamp collecting, at times accidentally damaging his property. As a result, the gruff old retiree displays a less-than-cordial attitude towards the young boy, though Dennis continues his well-meaning intrusions unabated. Actually, as many readers suspected, he is secretly fond of Dennis and misses him when he's away - although he'd never openly admit it. Mr. Wilson is named after a teacher Hank Ketcham knew. Dennis will often (especially in the TV series) refer to him as "Good old Mr. Wilson".
- Martha Wilson - Mr. Wilson's engaging wife, who adores Dennis. Mrs. Wilson freely dotes on him and plies him with freshly baked cookies and milk. Martha sees Dennis as a surrogate grandson, since the Wilsons never had any children.
- Tommy Anderson - Dennis's best friend (after Mr. Wilson). This character eventually disappeared from the strip.
- Joey McDonald - loyal, timid and not too bright (but he's a year younger), he usually plays the sidekick to Dennis's schemes, and sees him as a big brother figure. Dennis often gives him advice, and gives him little "nuggets" of wisdom and insight.
- Margaret Wade - a freckled, red-haired, bespectacled know-it-all whose cloying and self-important demeanor is always getting on Dennis’ nerves. She is attracted to Dennis and is stubbornly confident in the belief that she will marry him when they are adults, but he will have none of it because Dennis clearly has no interest in her. She always tries to improve Dennis and his manners, but only succeeds in annoying him. She has a certain amount of dislike for Gina, whom she sees as her competition. Gina gains Dennis's respect and admiration by just being herself and Margaret's pretensions fail to make a mark on him.
- Gina Gillotti - a fiercely independent young Italian American girl, who Dennis secretly has a crush on. Gina is tomboyish yet still feminine in appearance. He likes her because she is as independent minded as he is, and she enjoys the same things that he does. Gina is also highly aware that she is a girl, and woe betide anyone who doesn't think so.
- Jackson - in the late 1960s, Ketcham decided to add an African American character to the cast named Jackson. Ketcham inadvertently designed Jackson in the tradition of a stereotypical cartoon pickaninny, with huge lips, big white eyes, and just a suggestion of an Afro hair style. In one cartoon that featured Jackson, he and Dennis were playing in the backyard, when Dennis said to his father, "I'm havin' some race trouble with Jackson. He runs faster than me." The attempt to integrate the feature did not go over well. Protests erupted in Detroit, Little Rock, Miami, and St. Louis, and debris was thrown at the offices of the Post Dispatch. Taken aback, Ketcham issued a statement explaining that his intentions were innocent, and Jackson went back into the ink bottle. However, a similar African American character named Jay Weldon appeared in the 1986 animated series to far less controversy.
The inspiration for the comic strip came from Dennis Ketcham, the real life son of Hank Ketcham, who was only four years old when he refused to take a nap and somehow messed up his whole room. Hank tried many possible names for the character, and translated them into rough pencil sketches. But when his studio door flew open and his then-wife Alice, in utter exasperation, exclaimed, "Your son is a menace!", the "Dennis the Menace" name stuck. The character of Henry Mitchell bore a striking resemblance to Ketcham. The Mitchell family of Dennis, Hank/Henry and Alice were all named after the Ketchams.
Ketcham's linework has been highly praised over the years. A review on comicbookbin.com states: "...a growing legion of cartoonists, scholars, aficionados, etc. have come to appreciate the artistry of Dennis’ creator, Hank Ketcham. Ketcham’s beautiful artwork defines cartooning elegance. The design, the composition, and the line: it’s all too, too beautiful." AV Club reviewer Noel Murray wrote: "Ketcham also experimented with his line a little early on, tightening and thickening without losing the looseness and spontaneity that remains the strip's best aspect even now."
In 2005, Dennis appeared as a guest for Blondie and Dagwood's 75th anniversary party in the comic strip Blondie.
Ketcham received the Reuben Award for the strip in 1953. He also was made honorary mayor of Wichita. He was quoted as saying, "I set the whole thing in Wichita, Kansas, and as a result I got made an honorary mayor of Wichita."
UK Dennis the Menace
Coincidentally, another cartoon strip titled Dennis the Menace was published in the British comic The Beano on March 15 (cover dated March 17 - the "off sale" date) 1951. The UK Dennis is quite different in appearance and character, characterised by his red-and-black striped jersey, his dog Gnasher, and his gang of friends. Like the American character, the UK one remains popular to this day and has made the transition to television cartoons. Ketcham's comic strip was dubbed Just Dennis or The Pickle there to avoid confusion with the native UK version of Dennis the Menace. The television version screened in the UK simply as Dennis.
Hank Ketcham retired from the comic strip in 1994, turning the production of the strip over to his assistants Ron Ferdinand and Marcus Hamilton. They continued it after Ketcham's death in 2001, and they still produce it to this day.
Dennis the Menace has been published in comic books and comic digests from the 1950s through the 1980s by a variety of publishers, including Standard/Pines (1953–58), Fawcett Comics (1958–80, during their only return to comics after losing the Captain Marvel lawsuit), and Marvel Comics (1981–82). These included both newspaper strip reprints and original Dennis the Menace comic book stories, produced by others besides Ketcham. Al Wiseman, one of Ketcham's assistants in the 1950s and 60s, worked on many of them. Ron Ferdinand, Ketcham's Sunday page artist, drew several of the Dennis stories in the Marvel books, including the cover for issue #11.
The main comic book series (simply named Dennis the Menace) ran in tandem with the “Giant” series. The Dennis the Menace Giant Vacation Special and Dennis the Menace Christmas Issue were published by Standard in 1955. Those issues inaugurated the Giants series, which was published by Pines for issues 2-6, and continued by Hallden/Fawcett for issues 6-75. The Giant series was later renamed the Dennis the Menace Bonus Magazine Series, which started with issue #76 in 1970. CBS and Hallden later retitled the series as The Dennis the Menace Big Bonus Series, which it ran through issue #194 in October 1979.
By October 1979, Fawcett began publishing a separate series of 36 issues entitled Dennis the Menace and Mr. Wilson. By the second issue, the Dennis and Mr. Wilson series was re-christened Dennis the Menace and His Friends which now involved Dennis, Mr. Wilson and friends, Joey, Margaret and dog, Ruff. Because of this, the Mr. Wilson stories were alternated with the three characters as Ruff, Joey and Margaret who each shared a #1 issue with Dennis.
There were also other series of Dennis the Menace comic books published in 1961, first there was Dennis the Menace and His Dog, Ruff and Dennis the Menace and His Pal, Joey published the summer and the last but not least was Dennis the Menace and Margaret published in the winter of 1969.
Bible kids series
In 1977, Word Books, Inc. commissioned Hank Ketcham Enterprises, Inc. to produce a series of ten comic books under the title Dennis and the Bible Kids, with the usual cast of characters reading (and sometimes partly acting out) the stories of Joseph, Moses, David, Esther, Jesus, and other Biblical characters. These were sold through Christian bookstores and related outlets. Each issue contained several inspirational renderings by Hank Ketcham himself.
The Dennis the Menace Fun Fest and the Dennis the Menace Big Bonus Series were revived for a short issue run in 1980. January: The Dennis the Menace Fun Fest #16
February: The Dennis the Menace Big Bonus #10
March: The Dennis the Menace Fun Fest #17
April: The Dennis the Menace Big Bonus #11
After this revival series, the Hallden and CBS comics run came to an end in 1980. Ketcham had half of the comic book rights purchased by Stan Lee and Marvel Comics, so they were able to produce a new series of Dennis the Menace comic books. The new Marvel series started in December, 1981 and ended in November, 1982. The smaller Dennis the Menace comic digests were published continually by Fawcett and Hallden between 1969 and 1980, and they were briefly resurrected in reprints by Marvel in 1982 for a run of three issues.
The seventh issue featured a Spider-Man spoof called “Spider-Kid”. The story featured Dennis arriving at Margaret's Valentine's Day party dressed as a pint-sized Spider-Man when asked to come to the party dressed as a "Romantic Hero". The cover showed Dennis as Spider-Kid jumping from a cloud and unmasking himself.
List of comic books
Title Starting year Publisher Dennis the Menace (#1-14) 1953 Standard Dennis the Menace (#15-31) 1956 Pines Dennis the Menace (#32-166) 1959 Hallden/Fawcett/CBS Dennis the Menace (#1-13) 1981 Marvel
Title Starting year Publisher The Best of Dennis the Menace (#1-5) 1959 Hallden Dennis the Menace Pocket Full of Fun digest (#1-50) 1969 Fawcett Dennis The Menace and the Bible Kids (#1-10) 1977 Word Books
Dennis the Menace has also been published in mass market paperback collections, made up of newspaper strip reprints:
- Dennis the Menace (1952) Avon (also published in hardcover by Henry Holt & Co.)
- More Dennis the Menace (1954) Avon (also in hardcover by Holt)
- Baby Sitter's Guide by Dennis the Menace (1955, 1961) Pocket Books, Fawcett (also in hardcover by Holt)
- Wanted: Dennis the Menace (1955) Fawcett (also in hardcover by Holt)
- Dennis the Menace Rides Again (1956, 1971) PB, Fawcett (also in hardcover by Holt)
- Dennis the Menace vs. Everybody (1957) PB (also in hardcover by Holt)
- Dennis the Menace: Household Hurricane (1958, 1963) PB, Fawcett (also in hardcover by Holt)
- The Adventures of the Pickle (1958) Corgi Books
- In this Corner... Dennis the Menace (1959) Fawcett (also in hardcover by Holt)
- Dennis the Menace ...Teacher's Threat (1960) Fawcett (also in hardcover by Holt)
- Dennis the Menace: Voted Most Likely (1960) Fawcett
- Dennis the Menace, A.M. *Ambassador of Mischief (1961) Fawcett (also in hardcover by HRW)
- Dennis the Menace: Happy Half-Pint (1962) Fawcett (also in hardcover by Random House)
- Dennis the Menace ...Who, Me? (1963) Fawcett (also in hardcover by Random House)
- Dennis the Menace: Make-Believe Angel (1964) Fawcett
- Dennis the Menace ...Here Comes Trouble (1966) Fawcett
- Dennis the Menace and Poor Ol' Mr. Wilson (1967) Fawcett
- Dennis the Menace: All-American Kid (1968) Fawcett
- Dennis the Menace and His Pal Joey (1968) Fawcett
- Dennis the Menace: Your Friendly Neighborhood Kid (1969) Fawcett
- Dennis the Menace: Perpetual Motion (1969) Fawcett
- Dennis the Menace ...Everybody's Little Helper (1970) Fawcett
- Dennis the Menace: Non-Stop Nuisance (1970) Fawcett
- Dennis the Menace: Surprise Package (1971) Fawcett
- Dennis the Menace: Short 'n Snappy (1971) Fawcett
- Dennis the Menace: Where the Action Is (1971) Fawcett
- Dennis the Menace: Dennis Power (1972) Fawcett
- Dennis the Menace: Just for Fun (1973) Fawcett
- Dennis the Menace: The Kid Next Door (1973) Fawcett
- Dennis the Menace: Busybody (1974) Fawcett
- Dennis the Menace: Little Pip-Squeak (1974) Fawcett
- Dennis the Menace: Play It Again, Dennis (1975) Fawcett
- Dennis the Menace to the Core (1975) Fawcett
- Dennis the Menace: Little Man in a Big Hurry (1976) Fawcett
- Dennis the Menace: Short Swinger (1976) Fawcett
- Dennis the Menace and His Girls (1977) Fawcett
- Dennis the Menace: "Your Mother's Calling!" (1977) Fawcett
- Dennis the Menace: Ol' Droopy Drawers (1978) Fawcett
- Someone's in the Kitchen with Dennis the Menace (1978) Fawcett
- Dennis the Menace: Driving Mother Up the Wall (1979) Fawcett
- Dennis the Menace: I Done It MY Way (1979) Fawcett
- Dennis the Menace: Short in the Saddle (1979) Fawcett
- Dennis the Menace: Ain't Misbehavin' (1980) Fawcett
- Dennis the Menace: Stayin' Alive (1980) Fawcett
- Dennis the Menace: Good Intenshuns (1981) Fawcett
- Dennis the Menace: One More Time! (1981) Fawcett
- Dennis the Menace: The Way I Look at It... (1982) Fawcett
- Dennis the Menace: Dog's Best Friend (1982) Fawcett
- Dennis the Menace: Supercharged and Ever Ready (1983) Fawcett
- Dennis the Menace: Sunrise Express (1983) Fawcett
In 1990, Abbeville Press published Hank Ketcham's fully illustrated autobiography: The Merchant of Dennis (ISBN 9780896599437, hardcover). The book was reprinted by Fantagraphics in 2005 (ISBN 1560977140, trade paperback). Abbeville also published a softcover retrospective of the strip in 1991, Dennis the Menace: His First 40 Years.
Hank Ketcham's Complete Dennis the Menace
In 2005, comics publisher Fantagraphics began to reprint Ketcham's entire run on Dennis the Menace (excluding Sunday strips) in a projected 25-volume series over 11 years. They are published in hardcover editions as well as paperback.
- Hank Ketcham's Complete Dennis the Menace (1951–52) ISBN 1-56097-680-2
- Hank Ketcham's Complete Dennis the Menace (1953–54) ISBN 1-56097-725-6
- Hank Ketcham's Complete Dennis the Menace (1955–56) ISBN 1-56097-770-1
- Hank Ketcham's Complete Dennis the Menace (1957–58) ISBN 1-56097-806-7
- Hank Ketcham's Complete Dennis the Menace (1959–60) ISBN 1-56097-966-6
- Hank Ketcham's Complete Dennis the Menace (1961-62) ISBN 1-56097-311-8
Film and television
Dennis the Menace has been the subject of a number of adaptations. The first one produced is a CBS sitcom that aired from 1959 to 1963 starring Jay North as Dennis, Herbert Anderson as Henry Mitchell and father to Dennis; Joseph Kearns as George Wilson, and subsequently Gale Gordon as his brother, John Wilson. North also appeared as Dennis on an episode of The Donna Reed Show in 1960. A live-action film starring Walter Matthau as Mr. Wilson and Mason Gamble as Dennis was released to theaters in 1993. It was originally titled "The Real Dennis the Menace" before the final name was approved. This was followed with Dennis the Menace Strikes Again in 1998 starring Don Rickles as Mr. Wilson. The most recent film adaptation, A Dennis the Menace Christmas was released to DVD on November 6, 2007. The Warner Brothers production starred Robert Wagner as Mr. Wilson, Louise Fletcher as Mrs. Wilson, and Maxwell Perry Cotton, a six-year-old actor, as Dennis.
List of film and TV adaptations
Dennis the Menace: Dinosaur Hunter (1987, live-action)
Dennis the Menace (1993, live-action)
Dennis the Menace Strikes Again (1998, live-action)
Dennis the Menace in Cruise Control (2002, animated)
A Dennis the Menace Christmas (2007, live-action)
- From 1971 to 2001, Dennis the Menace was licensed by Dairy Queen as their official mascot, appearing in many commercials and on the chain's cups, bags and other promotional items.
- Dennis the Menace, a video game tie-in to the 1993 feature film was released that same year by Ocean Software for the Super NES. A Game Boy version was released in 1994.
In 1952 Hank Ketcham spearheaded the construction of the Dennis the Menace Playground, designed by Arch Garner. It opened in Monterey, California on November 17, 1956. The playground featured a bronze statue of Dennis sculpted by Wah Chang. On the night of October 25, 2006, the 125-lb statue, which was estimated to be worth $30,000, was stolen from the playground. It was not recovered, but in April 2007 it was replaced by a reproduction of another Dennis statue Chang made for the Ketchams.
Dennis the Menace in other languages
The comic strip has been translated into many foreign languages, which has helped make the strip's characters famous worldwide.
List of foreign language titles Arabic: 'ّماهر الصغير' (Little Dennis) Brazilian Portuguese: Dennis, o Pimentinha Catalan: Daniel el trapella Chinese: 淘氣阿丹 Croatian: Vragolasti Denis Danish: Jern-Henrik (Means Iron-Henrik) Dutch: Dennis de Bengel Estonian: Nuhtlus Nimega Dennis Finnish: Ville Vallaton French: Denis la malice French Canadian: Denis la petite peste German: Dennis der Lausejunge (also known as Dennis die Nervensäge) Greek: Ντένις ο Τρομερός Hebrew: דני שובבני (Danny Shovevani) Hungarian: Dennisz, a komisz Icelandic: Denni Dæmalausi Italian: Dennis la Minaccia Japanese: わんぱくデニス (Wanpaku Dennis) Korean: 개구쟁이 데니스 Norwegian: Dennis the Menace Persian: دنیس دردسر Polish: Dennis Rozrabiaka Portuguese: Dennis o Pimentinha Russian:Дэннис непоседа Serbian: Denis Napast Spanish: Daniel el Travieso Slovenian: Dennis pokora Swedish: Dennis, early called Jern-Hernik, Bosse Bus or Kristian Tyrann. Turkish: Afacan Denis
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- Dennis the Menace official site
- Dennis the Menace at King Features
- List and short bios of the strip's characters
- Toonopedia: Dennis the Menace
- Fantagraphics' Dennis The Menace page
- NCS Awards
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