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debut of "Dennis the Menace"
"In most children's books, a bad child gets made good – but the great thing about Dennis is he never gets better".
~ Journalist, Michael Rosen, on the appeal of Dennis the Menace throughout the decades
Dennis the Menace, a comic strip featuring a mischievous boy named Dennis and his Abyssinian wire-haired tripe hound Gnasher, appeared this week in the 1951 Issue of The Beano magazine, published by DC Thomson, of Dundee, Scotland. Coincidentally on the very same day the UK Comic went up for sale, a US version with the same name also debuted with a similar character! However, the two are not related and change their names subtly in each other's respective home bases to avoid confusion. The US version, illustrated by Hank Ketcham, was based on his real-life son, Dennis, who at 4 years old refused to take a nap and somehow messed up his whole room! While the US version of Dennis is more curious with a penchant for well-meaning mischief, the UK Dennis revels in doing naughty or mischievous things and is at odds with his parents, the local police, his neighbours and the "softies" of his neighbourhood. Supposedly, the idea and name of the character came from a British music hall song with the chorus "I'm Dennis the Menace from Venice". Believe it or not, in a fascinating series of studies, a person’s name has been shown to be associated with a number of later characteristics, not only personality, but physical characteristics not present at birth! In eight studies conducted in two different countries, researchers found that people were able to pick the right name for strangers more accurately than what would result from chance! Given that the name Dennis or Denis as a first or last name comes from the Greco-Roman name Dionysius, the Greek god of ecstatic states, particularly those produced by wine, there may be subtle historic and subconscious reasons for the number naughty Dennis's in the world other than convenient rhyming schemes. Naughty, naughty! 😜
Dennis and Gnasher (previously titled Dennis the Menace and Gnasher, and originally titled Dennis the Menace) is a long-running comic strip in the British children's comic The Beano, published by DC Thomson, of Dundee, Scotland. The comic stars a boy named Dennis the Menace and his Abyssinian wire-haired tripe hound Gnasher.
The strip first appeared in issue 452, dated 17 March 1951 (on sale 12 March 1951), and is the longest-running strip in the comic.
The idea and name of the character emerged when the comic's editor heard a British music hall song with the chorus "I'm Dennis the Menace from Venice".
Coincidentally, on 12 March 1951, another comic strip named Dennis the Menace debuted in the US. As a result of this, the US series has initially been retitled Dennis for UK audiences, while the British character's appearances are often titled Dennis and Gnasher outside the UK.
Dennis is the archetypal badly behaved schoolboy. The main recurring storyline throughout the years features his campaign of terror against a gang of "softies" (well-behaved boys).
Author Michael Rosen states, "In most children's books, a bad child gets made good – but the great thing about Dennis is he never gets better".
Gnasher is a black dog (an "Abyssinian wire-haired tripehound") who first appeared in issue 1363, dated 31 August 1968. He has extremely strong teeth that can leave teethmarks in seemingly anything, and enjoys chasing postmen!
Dennis the Menace and Gnasher was first drawn by David Law (1951–1970), who gave the mischievous boy his distinctive red-and-black-striped jersey, outsized shoes, and devilish grin. During the following decades, other artists took over the development of the character.
In popular culture, Dennis has many fans. Darts player Dennis Priestley is known as "The Menace" and wears a shirt with the familiar red and black horizontal bands.
On stage, grunge star Kurt Cobain occasionally wore a Dennis pullover (jumper/sweater) that Courtney Love bought from a Nirvana fan in Northern Ireland in 1992.
In The Feynman Lectures on Physics, Dennis the Menace appears as a character in the fourth chapter, Conservation of Energy.
Guitarist Mike Campbell wears a shirt depicting Dennis and Gnasher in the music video for Tom Petty's song "I Won't Back Down".
And in 2018, the Isle of Man produced a set of Christmas stamps featuring Dennis and Gnasher.
According to the Scottish register of tartans:
This tartan was created to mark the 70th birthday of one of Scotland's iconic comic characters, Dennis The Menace. Dennis first appeared on the edition cover of Beano on the 17th March 1951 and this tartan has been inspired by the dates and colours connected to this occasion. The colours represent the colours of Dennis's jumper, black and red.
Dennis and Gnasher have remained mascots of The Beano.
For more on the Dennis' colourful history, click Dennis and Gnasher!