Dennis the Menace (U.S. comics)

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Dennis the Menace
Author(s) Hank Ketcham
Marcus Hamilton
Ron Ferdinand
Scott Ketcham
Current status/scheduleStill running
Launch dateMarch 12, 1951–present
Syndicate(s) King Features Syndicate
Publisher(s) Fantagraphics Books
Genre(s) Gag cartoon

Dennis the Menace is a daily syndicated newspaper comic strip originally created, written, and illustrated by Hank Ketcham. The comic strip made its debut on March 12, 1951, [1] in 16 newspapers and was originally distributed by Post-Hall Syndicate. [2] It is now written and drawn by Ketcham's former assistants, Marcus Hamilton (weekdays, since 1995), Ron Ferdinand (Sundays, since 1981), and son Scott Ketcham (since 2010), and distributed to at least 1,000 newspapers in 48 countries and in 19 languages by King Features Syndicate. [3] The comic strip usually runs for a single panel on weekdays and a full strip on Sundays.


It became so successful that it was adapted to other popular media, including a 1986 series, 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 on the same day. [4] 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. [5] In the comics, the Mitchell family lives in a two-story house at the fictional address of 2251 Pine Street. [6] The Wilson family lives next door at 2253 Pine Street. [7] The television series differs, putting the Wilsons at the also-fictional 627 Elm Street. [8]

The Mitchell family

The Wilsons

Dennis' friends



The inspiration for the comic strip came from Dennis Ketcham, the real-life son of Hank Ketcham, [76] who, at four years old, refused to take a nap and made a complete mess of his 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!," [77] the "Dennis the Menace" name stuck. The character of Henry Mitchell bore a striking resemblance to Ketcham, while the Mitchell family of Dennis, Henry/Hank, and Alice were all named after the Ketcham's.


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." [78] 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." [79]

In 2005, Dennis appeared as a guest for Blondie and Dagwood's 75th anniversary party in the comic strip Blondie . [80]


Ketcham received the Reuben Award for the strip in 1953. [81] 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." [82]

Ketcham retires

Ron Ferdinand in 2013 Ron Ferdinand NAS 2013.jpg
Ron Ferdinand in 2013

Hank Ketcham retired from the comic strip in 1994, [77] turning over production of the strip to his assistants Ron Ferdinand and Marcus Hamilton. They continued their run after Ketcham's death in 2001, alongside Scott Ketcham since 2010. [77]


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 publishers, including Standard/Pines (1953–58), Fawcett Comics (1958–80, during their only return to comics after settling the Captain Marvel lawsuit and selling much of their comics division to Charlton Comics), 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 [83] and Dennis the Menace Christmas Issue [84] were published by Standard in 1955. Those issues inaugurated the Giants series, which was published by Pines for issues 2–6, [85] and continued by Hilden/Fawcett for issues 6–75. [86] The Giant series was later renamed the Dennis the Menace Bonus Magazine Series, which started with issue No. 76 in 1970. [87] CBS and Hilden 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 titled Dennis the Menace and Mr. Wilson. By the second issue, the series was rechristened 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.

Three other series of Dennis the Menace comic books also were 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, and 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 10 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:

After these revival series, the Hilden 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 Hilden between 1969 and 1980, and they were briefly resurrected in reprints by Marvel in 1982 for a run of three issues.

List of comic books

Main series

TitleStarting yearPublisher
Dennis the Menace (#1–14) [88] 1953Standard
Dennis the Menace (#15–31) [89] 1956Pines
Dennis the Menace (#32–166) [90] 1959Hallden/Fawcett/CBS
Dennis the Menace (#1–13) [91] 1981Marvel

Other series

TitleStarting yearPublisher
The Best of Dennis the Menace (#1–5) [92] 1959Hallden
Dennis the Menace Pocket Full of Fun digest (#1–50) [93] 1969Fawcett
Dennis The Menace and the Bible Kids (#1–10) [94] 1977Word Books

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. [95]

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. [96] 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

Worldwide success

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, [97] Herbert Anderson as Henry Mitchell; Joseph Kearns [98] 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 [99] and in the theatrical film Pepe (both 1960). On September 11, 1987, a Dennis the Menace live-action television film was broadcast; it was later released on video under the title Dennis the Menace: Dinosaur Hunter. [100] [101] Another live-action Dennis the Menace 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 the direct-to-video 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, then 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–Freeling Enterprises and Mirisch Films. [102] 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. [103] DIC also produced the All-New Dennis the Menace for CBS Saturday Mornings in 1993 with Adam Wylie voicing Dennis. [104] 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. [105]

List of film and TV adaptations


Dennis the Menace:
Dinosaur Hunter

Dennis the Menace
Dennis the Menace
Strikes Again

Dennis the Menace:
Cruise Control

A Dennis the Menace

DirectorDoug Rogers Nick Castle Charles T. KanganisPat Ventura Ron Oliver
ProducerPhilip D. FehrleJohn Hughes and
Richard Vane
Jeffrey Silver and
Bobby Newmyer
Executive producers:
Andy Heyward and
Michael Maliani
Steven J. Wolfe
Writers Bruce Kalish &
David Garber
and K.C. Dee
John Hughes Tim McCanlies (screenplay);
Tim McCanlies and
Jeff Schechter (story)
Steve Granat and
Cydne Clark
Kathleen Laccinole
EditorEdward Salier Alan Heim Jeffrey Reiner N/AZack Arnold
Composer Randy Edelman Jerry Goldsmith Graeme Revell Matt McGuire Peter Allen
Cinematography Arledge Armenaki Thomas E. Ackerman Christopher FaloonaN/AC. Kim Miles
Production company DIC Enterprises
Coca-Cola Telecommunications
Hughes Entertainment
Warner Bros. Family
Outlaw Productions
Warner Bros. Family
DIC Entertainment Corporation DTM3 Productions
Sneak Preview Entertainment
Valkyrie Films
Warner Premiere
Distribution Sony Pictures Television Warner Bros. Nickelodeon
MGM Home Entertainment
Warner Home Video
Released11 September 198725 June 199314 July 199827 October 200213 November 2007
Duration118 minutes94 minutes75 minutes72 minutes83 minutes

Television shows and specials


In 1952, Hank Ketcham spearheaded the construction of the Dennis the Menace Playground, designed by Arch Garner. [106] It opened in Monterey, California on November 17, 1956. [107] 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. [108] In April 2007, it was replaced by a reproduction of another Dennis statue Chang made for the Ketchams. It was donated by Willis W. and Ethel M. Clark Foundation. In 2015 the missing statue was found in a scrap yard in Florida, returned to Monterey, [109] and installed in front of the city recreation office. [110]

Video games

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.

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