Archive for hank ketcham

Chalkboard drawings: The “comic strip character” edition

Posted in chalkboard drawings with tags , , , , , , , , , on September 28, 2014 by Christopher Pearce

I draw a picture of myself on my classroom’s chalkboard everyday. I collect those pictures as camera phone photos and post them on Sundays. See the rest here.


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thrift store finds: babysitter’s guide by dennis the menace

Posted in thrift store finds with tags , , , on July 2, 2011 by Christopher Pearce

(Thrift Store Finds is a mostly-weekly “column” of sorts where I discuss some of the cool books I’ve happened upon in my neighborhood’s St. Vincent DePaul store. Please don’t mistake me for an expert on any of the things I am writing about… I’m just a fan of a bargain.)

Last year, I wrote a couple hundred words about Dennis the Menace, and to be perfectly frank, I didn’t expect to ever revisit him here in Thrift Store Finds. I had said my piece, as it were. Although I continue to find Dennis paperbacks during my thrift store runs, nothing unique sang out about them; nothing new occurred to me to the point where I felt like devoting an second post to Hank Ketcham’s ornery little mischief maker.

That is, until I came across this week’s Thrift Store Find.

Babysitter’s Guide by Dennis the Menace, published in 1961 by Fawcett Crest Books is a bit of an oddity. Written and drawn by Ketcham and Bob Harmon, from the onset this looks like the standard collection of Dennis gag strips… but the majority of the comics in Babysitter’s Guide are themed around (you guessed it) Dennis terrorizing his various babysitters.

Obviously, I’ve been reading a lot of these old comic paperbacks in the last year and a half and I’ve often wondered why I didn’t come across the idea of theming more often. Most paperbacks I look at are a random mish-mash of strips, collected with very little rhyme or reason to their sorting within collections. It’s understandable why both publishers and cartoonists might prefer cherry-picking the best strips for book publication, but it occasionally makes for strange gaps within a collection.

Ketcham was a gag man, however. There was no strict continuity within his Dennis strips, no sweeping stories. As such… Dennis the Menace was a good choice for a book culled together as this one is.

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thrift store finds: dennis the menace-make believe angel

Posted in thrift store finds with tags , , on May 29, 2010 by Christopher Pearce

(Thrift Store Finds is a mostly-weekly “column” of sorts where I discuss some of the cool books I’ve happened upon in my neighborhood’s St. Vincent DePaul store. Please don’t mistake me for an expert on any of the things I am writing about… I’m just a fan of a bargain.)

As I’ve mentioned before, a lot of my initial experiences with characters from the Sunday funnies did not, in fact, come from the funnies themselves. Rather, the great licensing and marketing juggernauts that were begat from those Sunday comic strips is where I first learned of certain characters. I think I talked about Heathcliff in this respect. I have similar experiences with Dennis the Menace.

Hank Ketchum’s daily one panel gag strip featuring the trials and tribulations of the Mitchell family, focuses primarily on the titular Dennis. When I was a kid, I did not read the Dennis the Menace comic strip, although I was familiar with the charcter. There were two Dennis the Menace TV shows running concurrently when I was growing up: a surprisingly long-running animated series from the 1980’s was on weekday morings, and reruns of the live action program from the 1960’s aired daily on Nickelodeon.

I enjoyed both these TV shows as a kid, especially the black and white sit-com starring Jay North. It doesn’t seem like the type of thing a young kid in the Eighties would dig, but I’m guessing that Nickelodeon ended up kindling a love of classic TV in a lot of kids who grew up in that time, as they padded their lineup with old black & white reruns quite frequently. I honestly can’t imagine kids today sitting for half an hour to watch an old episode of Lassie, but I watched it every morning before I went to school.

Geez, where was I? Oh yeah, Dennis the Menace!

The one thing that really bothered me about Dennis the Menace was quite simply… he wasn’t menacing. Occasionally he was Dennis the Mildly Annoying, but more often he was Dennis the Cutesy. Dennis the Adorable. Very little menace about this kid, from what I could see.

Of course, the standards for menacing change with the seasons- at the same time I was gorging on old re-runs of Dennis the Menace, the media was all abuzz about how Bart Simpson was ruining a generation children by inspiring them to be underachievers, “and proud of it!”  Nowadays, in the wake of South Park and Family Guy, that notion seems quaint. Hell, South Park did an entire episode pointing out how supremely evil and badass their Eric Cartman character is when you compare him with Bart.

Where was I, again? Oh yeah! Dennis the Menace.

My original point: Dennis the NOT Menace while being a total puss in his other-media incarnations is also a total puss in his daily newspaper comic. The Comics Curmudgeon, one of my favorite blogs on all things comics culture, points this out weekly. In its’ current version (probably drawn by the great-grand-nephew of Hank Ketchum, I’m not going to bother to check), Dennis spends most of his time lobbing gentle puns at adults who roll their eyes and look perplexed. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a comic strip like that, understand. It’s just… we were promised MENACE. I was told there would be MENACE.

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