Dennis the Menace (U.S. comics)
|Syndicate(s) DailyINK||Genre(s) Gag cartoon|
Publisher Fantagraphics Books
|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.
- Characters and setting
- The Mitchell family
- The Wilsons
- Dennis friends
- UK Dennis the Menace
- Ketcham retires
- Comic books
- Giant series
- Other series
- Bible Kids series
- Marvel series
- Book compilations
- Hank Ketchams Complete Dennis the Menace
- Film and television
- List of film and TV adaptations
- Video games
- Dennis the Menace in other languages
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.
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.
Characters and setting
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
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 comicbookbin.com 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Dennis the Menace Fun Fest and the Dennis the Menace Big Bonus series were revived for a short-issue run in 1980:
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.
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.
- Hank Ketcham's Complete Dennis the Menace, 1951–1952 (2005) ISBN 1-56097-680-2
- Hank Ketcham's Complete Dennis the Menace, 1953–1954 (2006) ISBN 1-56097-725-6
- Hank Ketcham's Complete Dennis the Menace, 1955–1956 (2006) ISBN 1-56097-770-1
- Hank Ketcham's Complete Dennis the Menace, 1957–1958 (2007) ISBN 978-1-56097-880-0
- Hank Ketcham's Complete Dennis the Menace, 1959–1960 (2008) ISBN 978-1-56097-966-1
- 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
TV shows and specials
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.