Tuesday, 8 July 2014
We Need To Talk About Dennis
Anyway, first (especially for my overseas readers) I need to make one thing ABSOLUTELY clear. When I refer to Dennis the Menace I do not mean this prick:
However THAT Dennis cemented himself into popular culture through things like a TV sitcom in 1959 and a pretty poor movie from 1993 which amazingly got Walter Matthau in one of his final roles. I best remember the 1986 cartoon series boring me as a child. Seriously, I'd rather be watching The Raccoons.
In one of those moments of cosmic spookiness the American Dennis the Menace (by Hank Ketchum) and the British Dennis the Menace (by Davey Law) were both first printed within 5 days of each other in 1951.
OUR Dennis (hereafter just Dennis, cos, y'know, he is the real one) was a trouble maker from day one. The Beano, issue 452.
His style quickly evolved as his popularity grew. It's like the coming of a comics messiah, we always knew he should have been here.
In 1974 Dennis had become so popular he had taken over the front cover from Biffo, unseating him after 26 years. He has remained there until this day.
The Sutherland years gave us Dennis' friends Curly and Pieface as well as his pet pig Rasher and Gnasher's son Gnipper (I'll come back to that story at a later date).
After a short-lived TV cartoon series for the BBC in 1996, in 1998 David Parkins became the third David to take on the Menace and got to design a new (ish) look for the strip.
His tenure saw the introduction of Dennis' sister, Bea (named through a reader poll, like the Blue Peter cat) who was, well, a bit like Maggie. She also brought new levels of scatology into the comic. Honestly, in my day even Oink! weren't allowed to say "fart", now barely a page of Toxic goes by without one. Tch. Kids today don't know they're born.
Anyway, in 2003 Nigel Parkinson and Jimmy Hansen took over (with another back-up strip by personal favourite Tom Paterson) during which time monthly comic Beano Max was launched, with Dennis as cover star as well.
co-produced with Australian television in production and a decision was made to match the aesthetics and characters from that.
An aside here: does anyone else remember "Judge Dredd: Lawman of the Future"? It was a child-friendly comic aimed at all those new-found Dredd fans who discovered the Mega City One tough guy through the massive hit movie starring Stallone. It didn't last long.
It is a fairly long-standing tradition for well-known people to endorse their appearances in The Beano. Some specifically asked for it. Sometimes the weight of history can make these decisions seem wrong.
Could that be the most misjudged guest appearance in The Beano?
This is all leading to an observation I made regarding Dennis' dad. See, in 2011 Dad was redesigned. The creators wanted a dad who seemed more real to the kids of today. Gone was the slipper-wielding authoritarian with the toothbrush moustache of old and in came... well, a bloke who looked like a middle-aged Dennis.
You know how James Bond has been around for over 50 years? In the movies it is believable that he is the same character between Dr No (1962) and A View to a Kill (1985) but no further. Even though there is a reference to Bond's wife Tracey in Licence To Kill. And one of the Brosnans.
Anyway, how do we (let's be honest, we're all nerds at this point) square the Dennis' Dad circle? Why did he change? Why did Klingon foreheads change? How did the Second Doctor know Jamie and Zoe had their memories wiped? Sure, we could just shrug and move on like most people BUT THAT MEANS THEY WIN!
Don't know who "they" are.
Anyway, it hit me recently: The Dennis the Menace of my childhood is the father of the current Dennis. Today's Dennis is Dennis Junior.
Then I read the current Beano Summer Special (aside: really pleased they still make Beano Summer Specials) and found this flashback to Dennis's Dad's childhood:
Then, whilst finding relevant pictures for this blog I read a strip I missed before, from January this year. It's another flashback panel:
Now, the only problem is the cartoon. When it started in 2009, Dennis's dad looked like