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Dennis the Menace (U.S. comics)

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Syndicate(s)  DailyINK
Author  Hank Ketcham
Genre(s)  Gag cartoon
Publisher  Fantagraphics Books
Dennis the Menace (U.S. comics) dennisthemenacecomwpcontentuploadssites4220

Launch date  March 12, 1951- present
Adaptations  Dennis the Menace (1993), A Dennis the Menace Christmas (2007), Dennis the Menace Strikes Again (1998)
Similar  The Family Circus, Blondie, Hi and Lois, Beetle Bailey, Baby Blues

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 in 19 languages by King Features Syndicate. The comic strip usually runs for a single panel on weekdays and a full strip on Sundays.


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The comic strip became so successful that it was adapted to other popular media, including several television shows, both live-action and animated; and several feature films, including theatrical and direct-to-video releases.

Dennis the Menace (U.S. comics) Dennis the Menace US comics Wikipedia

Coincidentally, a UK comic strip of the same name debuted in the same month. The two are not related and change their names subtly in each other's respective home bases to avoid confusion.

Dennis the Menace (U.S. comics) Dennis the Menace US Comic Strip TV Tropes

Characters and setting

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Dennis the Menace takes place in a middle-class suburban neighborhood in Wichita, Kansas. The Mitchells live in a two story house at 2251 Pine Street The Wilsons live next door at 2253 Pine Street

The Mitchell family

Dennis the Menace (U.S. comics) The Greatest Ape quotDennis Vs The US Navyquot by Al Wiseman and Fred

  • Dennis Mitchell — an importuning 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's wide-eyed curiosity, his well-meaning attempts to help, his innocent, matter-of-fact bluntness, 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 (especially with cookies), ketchup, water pistols, his teddy bear "Teddy", getting into fights with other boys his age, mud puddles, and TV Westerns (especially those starring cowboy Bob), and has occasionally been depicted wearing a cowboy costume. Dennis has a poster and an autographed picture of Cowboy Bob as well. In fact, he is such a fan that once a week he goes to the local theater to watch a Cowboy Bob western. A favorite TV show of Dennis's is "Uncle Earl." Among the running gags: Dennis has a soft spot for kittens and puppies, which he is always taking home to feed; Dennis loves loud instruments—such as horns and drums; Dennis ruins Christmas songs with shouts of cowboy songs or annoys adults by shouting out loud. Whenever Dennis is in the local department store trying out toys, such as tricycles, he ends up breaking them and his parents have to buy them. In fact Dennis nearly causes kindergarten teachers, Librarians department store Christmas Santas, department store saleswomen, Drugstore salesmen, Hardware store salesmen, shoe salesmen, barbers, and the local post office workers to have nervous breakdowns when he comes around. Dennis also believes in the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus; another running gag is Dennis on Christmas Eve dreaming that he meets Santa Claus, and causing chaos for everyone else.
  • Henry Mitchell — Age 32 Dennis' father is a workaday aerospace engineer. Henry seems to understand Dennis more than his wife does, especially 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." Another time, while Dennis was watching Gina, he confided to his dad, "There's somethin' about Gina that I can't figger out." Henry wisely advised his son, "Wait." Again, Henry and Alice overhear Dennis tell Gina that she "smelled better than a plateful of peanut butter samwiches". Henry remarks, "The ultimate compliment". Like his creator Hank Ketcham, Henry served in the US Navy; his position was as a quartermaster (Helmsman) 2nd class on a battleship. Sometimes, he and Alice will get into arguments (which even show his chauvinistic side at times), however they remain devoted to each other. Among his hobbies are golf, taking naps, fishing, and playing the ukulele and singing old songs with George Wilson. A running gag is that Henry often plays the straight man dupe — either resulting from Dennis's pranks, or because of his own foolishness; once he tried to save money on a Christmas tree by cutting one down in the country — and ended up paying $20.00 ($10.00 for a fine and $10.00 for the owner charging him for the tree.)
  • 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. Although she grew up among animals on a chicken ranch, a running gag is that Alice Mitchell has a phobia of snakes. Another running gag involves Dennis's ever-changing parade of new babysitters: no one will take the job twice. Alice is also known for punishing Dennis's misbehavior by having him sit in the corner in a rocking chair for timeout, although a couple of times she has instituted tougher disciplinary measures such as spanking, where afterward Dennis is shown crying or grumbling about the adversity.
  • Ruff Mitchell — Dennis's big, lovable, faithful dog (an Airedale mix) and best pal. Ruff is always eagerly following him around, accompanying him while Dennis is running, or riding his bike or skateboard.
  • Hot Dog — Dennis's rarely seen cat, who usually commiserates with him while he sits in the corner and reflects on his wrongdoings. Dennis gave the kitty this name after the cat ate a package of hot dogs.
  • Grampa Johnson (Oliver "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. His wife's status is unknown; she is never seen in the comics, although she is mentioned twice: once when, thanks to Dennis, a furious Alice finds out that Henry had thrown his mother-in-law's gift (a tie) into the trash.; another time Alice wished her mother a Happy Mother Day via the telephone.
  • Uncle Fred and Aunt Mollie.
  • Uncle Richard and Aunt Ginny.
  • Uncle John who lives in Florida. The Mitchells visited him once for a vacation
  • Aunt Betty.
  • Aunt Hetty.
  • Aunt Sue.
  • The Wilsons

    Dennis the Menace (U.S. comics) Dennis the Menace

  • George Everett Wilson, Sr. — Dennis's cranky, cantankerous, middle-aged next-door neighbor; a retired postal carrier and (at least as far as Dennis is concerned) his best adult 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 Ol' Mr. Wilson". Although a running gag is that Dennis's pranks drive Mr Wilson crazy, there are times when Dennis tries to do something nice for Mr. Wilson, such as the time Dennis left Ruff the dog and Hot Dog the cat with Mr Wilson so he wouldn't be lonely on Father's Day, while Dennis and his father went to a baseball game, or the time Dennis tries to cheer Mr Wilson up on April Fool's day by placing a fake "Mitchell House for sale" sign up.
  • 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.
  • John Wilson - Mr. Wilson's brother.
  • Eloise Wilson - John's wife, Mr. Wilson's sister-in-law.
  • Earl Wilson — Mr. Wilson's estranged son.
  • Elena Wilson - Earl's Wife.
  • Winnie Wilson - Mr. Wilson's granddaughter and Earl's Daughter.
  • Walter "Walt" Wilson - Mr. Wilson's grandson and Earl's Son.
  • Keith Wilson - Mr. Wilson's grandson and Earl's Son.
  • Sammy Wilson - Mr. Wilson's grandson and Earl's Son.
  • George Wilson, Jr. — Mr. Wilson's son.
  • Edna Wilson — George Jr.'s wife.
  • Tammy Wilson — Mr. Wilson's daughter.
  • George Wilson III — Mr. Wilson's grandson.
  • Will Wilson — Mr. Wilson's grandson.
  • Helga Wilson — Mr. Wilson's granddaughter.
  • Dennis' friends

  • Tommy Anderson — Dennis' best friend (after Mr. Wilson). This character eventually disappeared from the strip, although he does make appearances in the Dennis the Menace Pocket Full of Fun books.
  • Joey McDonald — loyal, timid and not too bright (but he's a year younger), he usually plays the sidekick to Dennis' 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 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' respect and admiration by just being herself, and Margaret's pretensions fail to make a mark on him. Margaret, who is two years older than Dennis, is very ambitious: when she was five she decided to join the Camp Fire Girls when she reaches the age of seven; and in one comic sells Girl Scout Cookies to the Mitchells {Especially Dennis!} she likes taking ballet, singing Christmas carols, and taking piano lessons; she is a devout—if conventional—religious believer, and has a pet of her own—a white Persian cat named Snowflake (which does tricks on command). Besides hoping to marry Dennis, she also has decided to be the first female President of the United States. A running gag is that whenever Margaret tries to be genuinely nice to Dennis—such as inviting him over to her house to help decorate a Christmas tree, or to be a guest at her birthday party, or when Dennis tries to have Margaret give him too much candy-Dennis "helpfulness" results in him being sent home! One weakness of Dennis is that no matter how much he dislikes Margaret, he can't resist eating food at the Wades'. Margaret and Dennis are not always adversaries: one time Dennis sprayed both Margaret and Gina with his mother's perfume with a water pistol-which resulted in both girls playing with him and Dennis mother becoming very angry with him! During one April Fool comic Dennis decided to trick Margaret with compliments instead of pranks; to Dennis' horror, Margaret accepted the joke as real and dragged poor Dennis to hear her piano playing.
  • Gina Gillotti — a fiercely independent young Italian-American girl, whom Dennis is mostly unaware that he has a crush on. Gina is tomboyish yet still feminine in appearance. She also likes Dennis in a future-romantic way, but in contrast to his dislike of Margaret, Dennis actually enjoys being with Gina. He likes her because she is as independent-minded as he is, and she enjoys the same things that he does. Gina is aware that she is a girl, and woe betide anyone who thinks otherwise.
  • Jackson — in the late 1960s, Ketcham decided to add an African American character named Jackson to the cast. Ketcham 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. A panel from May 13, 1970 depicted Jackson and Dennis playing in the backyard, with Dennis saying to his father, "I'm havin' some race trouble with Jackson. He runs FASTER than I do!" 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, another African American character named Jay Weldon appeared in the 1986 animated series to far less controversy, as he was not a stereotype.
  • Cowboy Bob — A film cowboy, whom Dennis idolizes; he appears in a series of westerns known as Cowboy Bob films. Dennis fails to realize that westerns are rarely made today and that the films he is seeing are actually re-released from long ago. In one story arc where Dennis' parents invite the retired actor to a party, they have Dennis meet him, to which Dennis comments that he must be "Cowboy Bob's grandpa!"
  • Ben — A Jewish friend of Dennis.
  • Inspiration

    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 line work has been highly praised over the years. A review on states: "...a growing legion of cartoonists, scholars, aficionados, etc. have come to appreciate the artistry of Dennis's 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 (dated March 17 – the "off sale" date) in 1951. The comic went on sale several days in advance of the cover date (actually being published up to ten days previously), and therefore predates the debut of Ketcham's version. The UK Dennis is quite different in appearance and character, characterized 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 in the UK to avoid confusion with the native Dennis the Menace. The television version was screened in the UK simply as Dennis but has since been released on DVD and online as Dennis the Menace. The UK comic strip was briefly renamed Dennis and Gnasher but has returned to being called Dennis the Menace and Gnasher.

    Ketcham retires

    Hank Ketcham retired from the comic strip in 1994, turning over production of the strip to his assistants Ron Ferdinand and Marcus Hamilton. They continued it as a "zombie strip" after Ketcham's death in 2001, and as of 2016, still continue to produce it.


    Dennis the Menace appeared in A&W Restaurants advertising in the 1960s, then Dairy Queen marketing from 1971 until 2001, when he was dropped because Dairy Queen felt children could no longer relate to him. Dennis also appeared in the Sears Roebuck Wish Book Christmas catalog in the 1970s.

    Comic books

    Dennis the Menace has been published in comic books and comic digests from the 1950s through the 1980s by a variety of Publisher(s), 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 No. 11.

    Giant series

    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 No. 76 in 1970. CBS and Hallden later retitled the series as The Dennis the Menace Big Bonus Series, which ran through issue #194 in October 1979.

    Other series

    By October 1979, Fawcett began publishing a separate series of 36 issues entitled Dennis the Menace and Mr. Wilson. By the second issue, the series was re-christened Dennis the Menace and His Friends which now involved Dennis, Mr. Wilson, friends Joey and 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 No. 1 issue with Dennis.

    There were also three other series of Dennis the Menace comic books published, beginning in 1961. First was Dennis the Menace and His Dog, Ruff; Dennis the Menace and His Pal, Joey was published in summer 1961; Dennis the Menace and Margaret was published in the winter of 1969.

    In 1972, as part of a bonus magazine series, Fawcett published a "Short Stuff Special" where Dennis visited Children's Fairyland in Oakland, California.

    Bible Kids series

    In 1977, Word Books, Inc. (now HarperCollins) 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.

    Marvel series

    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 these 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 ran from December 1981 to 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.

    Book compilations

    Dennis the Menace has also been published in mass market paperback collections, made up of newspaper strip reprints:

    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. No new volumes have been issued since 2009 and it is unknown when and if the series will resume. They are published in hardcover editions as well as paperback.

    1. Hank Ketcham's Complete Dennis the Menace, 1951–1952 (2005) ISBN 1-56097-680-2
    2. Hank Ketcham's Complete Dennis the Menace, 1953–1954 (2006) ISBN 1-56097-725-6
    3. Hank Ketcham's Complete Dennis the Menace, 1955–1956 (2006) ISBN 1-56097-770-1
    4. Hank Ketcham's Complete Dennis the Menace, 1957–1958 (2007) ISBN 978-1-56097-880-0
    5. Hank Ketcham's Complete Dennis the Menace, 1959–1960 (2008) ISBN 978-1-56097-966-1
    6. Hank Ketcham's Complete Dennis the Menace, 1961–1962 (2009) ISBN 978-1-60699-311-8

    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 and in the theatrical film Pepe (both 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 Bros. production starred Robert Wagner as Mr. Wilson, Louise Fletcher as Mrs. Wilson, and Maxwell Perry Cotton, a six-year-old actor, as Dennis.


    Dennis the Menace was adapted into an animated special, Dennis the Menace in Mayday for Mother which aired in 1981 and was produced by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises and Mirisch Films. A daily animated syndicated series was produced by DiC Entertainment in 1986 with Brennan Thicke as the voice of Dennis, also featuring Phil Hartman who voiced George Wilson and Henry Mitchell. DiC also produced the All-New Dennis the Menace for CBS Saturday Mornings in 1993 with Adam Wylie voicing Dennis. An animated movie, Dennis the Menace in Cruise Control, premiered as part of Nickelodeon's Sunday Movie Toons block in 2002 and later released to DVD.

    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)
  • TV shows and specials

  • Dennis the Menace (1959, live-action)
  • Dennis the Menace in Mayday for Mother (1981, animated, TV special)
  • Dennis the Menace (1986, animated)
  • All-New Dennis the Menace (1993, animated)
  • Merchandising

  • 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, until he was dropped because the chain felt children could no longer relate to him as much.
  • Playground

    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.

    Video games

  • Dennis, 1993 Amiga game by Ocean Software
  • 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.
  • 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.


    Dennis the Menace (U.S. comics) Wikipedia