Since his debut on March 12, 1951, Dennis has undergone several changes; not only in his appearance, but in his attitude as well.
Initially, Dennis was portrayed as an aggressive little trouble-maker. In fact, by today’s standards, some of Dennis’ actions in the ’50s would be considered “over-the-top”…as evidenced by the panel below. But he has mellowed, somewhat, to become a more amiable, innocently mischievous
As the Beatles were invading America, and astronauts were walking on the moon, Dennis was still wreaking havoc on everyone in his little neighborhood. Although creator Hank Ketcham relocated to Geneva, Switzerland, during the ’60s, Dennis remained the “All-American Boy.” Meanwhile, Hank’s pen work continued to evolve into a more personal and distinctive, graphic style.
The ’70s expanded Dennis’ horizons a bit with a visit to Uncle Charlie’s Farm. The bicentennial celebration gave the Mitchells an opportunity to “time-travel” back to the days of the Founding Fathers for a two-week series of beautifully-rendered panels. And, of course, the daily tribulations of being five-ana-half continued. All in all, it was a very adventurous decade!
In the ’60s, “Dennis The Menace” had spawned a popular half-hour, live-action TV show, starring Jay North, on CBS from 1959-1963. The show later aired in syndication and on cable networks. The ’80s saw “Dennis” inspiring a successful series of animated half-hour episodes geared toward younger viewers.
On the comics page, the Mitchell family took their first plane flight, Dennis continued to provide George Wilson with daily irritation, and challenged Margaret’s patience at every opportunity.
By this time, Hank Ketcham had established himself as one of the premiere pen-and-ink cartoonists in the business. He was highly respected among his peers for his draftsmanship and design sense, which gave the daily panels their unique appearance, while the readers appreciated the humor and the true-to-life portrayal of American family life.
Despite changes in the social and political landscape, things remained pretty much the same in Dennis’ little universe. The relationships between all of the characters had become well established by now, and Dennis had become an international, cultural icon. Technological changes did make their way into the daily routines of the Mitchell family, with cell phones and computers becoming an integral part of their lives. But regardless of the times, Dennis still managed to end up in the corner. There were some very important changes that occurred at the Ketcham studios during the ’90s.
After more than 40 years at the helm of the “comic world” he created, Hank Ketcham decided to pursue his dream of focusing his creative talents on Fine Arts painting. Under his continued supervision, Hank handed over the reigns of the Sunday page to Ron Ferdinand, and the daily panel to Marcus Hamilton…two artists totally committed to carrying forward the Ketcham legacy, and keeping Dennis’ fans entertained for decades to come. Scott Ketcham (son of Hank) joined the Dennis team in 2010, helping to keep their creative finger on the
pulse of current contemporary trends.