Ad Code: 3
from Auction House Records.
Dennis The Menace Sunday Comic Strip Original Art, dated 2-3-52 (Post-Hall Syndicate Inc., 1952)
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|The following is from the artist's obituary, The New York Times, June 2, 2001.|
"Hank Ketcham, Father of Dennis the Menace, Dies at 81"
By LAWRENCE VAN GELDER
Hank Ketcham, who fathered the cartoon character Dennis the Menace, the freckle-face
scamp in droopy overalls whose mischievous childhood has endured for 50
years and amused a worldwide audience, died yesterday at his home in
Carmel, Calif. He was 81.
In March a half-century of the publication of Dennis the Menace cartoons was celebrated, with the panel running in 1,000 newspapers in 48 countries and 19 languages.
"Mischief just seems to follow wherever Dennis appears, but it is the
product of good intentions, misdirected helpfulness, good-hearted
generosity and, possibly, an overactive thyroid," Mr. Ketcham wrote in
his 1990 autobiography, "The Merchant of Dennis the Menace."
"But what a dull world it would be without any Dennises in it! Peaceful, maybe
but dull." Only yesterday, Dennis, holding a jar containing a spider,
told the neighbor girl: "Stop screamin', Margaret! You'll scare him!"
In one of the early cartoons, Dennis stood between his mother and her tea guest with a fur coat draped over his arms, saying, "I showed Mrs. Taylor your new fur coat, Mom, but she didn't turn green like you said she would."
In another cartoon, a defiant Dennis told Mom: "Don't shout at me! I'm not your husband!"
Besides the newspaper cartoons, the fictional Dennis inspired by Mr. Ketcham's little boy of the same name, who grew up to live a troubled life gave rise to books of cartoons, a musical, a television series, a film and the Dennis the Menace Playground in Monterey, Calif.
On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of his cartoon creation, Mr. Ketcham told
The Associated Press: "It's a joyful pursuit realizing that you're
trying to ease the pain of front-page news or television. There's some
bright little spot in your day that reminds you that it's fun to
Mr. Ketcham was pursuing a career as a freelance cartoonist in October 1950, when
his first wife, the former Alice Mahar, burst into his studio to
complain that their 4-year- old, Dennis, who was supposed to be
napping, had instead wrecked his bedroom. "Your son is a menace," she
shouted. Only five months passed before 16 newspapers began carrying
the adventures of the impish but innocent "Dennis the Menace." By May
1953, 193 newspapers in the United States and 52 abroad were carrying
Dennis's antics and remarks to 30 million readers.
As the popularity of the cartoons swelled, Mr. Ketcham remained unaware of their impact for some time. But later his travels prompted him to say, "Holy smoke, how come everybody knows about Dennis?"
A few years after the birth of "Dennis the Menace," Mr. Ketcham said, "This little slave driver has kept my nose to the drawing board continuously, while doing nothing himself but annoy the neighbors, startle his parents, confound his teachers and in general have himself a rousing good time."
The real-life Dennis was 12 in 1959 when his mother died of a drug overdose. Mr. Ketcham took the boy to live with him in Geneva, where he spent some 20 years
before moving back to California in 1977. But Dennis had difficulty
with his schooling and was sent to boarding school in Connecticut while
Mr. Ketcham remained in Switzerland with his second wife, the former Jo
Anne Stevens. The marriage ended in divorce. Dennis Ketcham served in
Vietnam, suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and had little contact
with his father. "He's living in the East somewhere doing his own thing," Mr. Ketcham said in March. "That's just a chapter that was a short one that closed, which unfortunately happens in some families."
Mr. Ketcham is also survived by his third wife, the former Rolande Praepost and
their two children, Scott and Dania, all of Carmel, Calif. Henry King
Ketcham, a son of Weaver Vinson Ketcham and the former Virginia Emma King, was born in Seattle on March 14, 1920. In his autobiography, Mr. Ketcham wrote that the seed of his career was planted when an advertising
artist who was a friend of his father came to their house and sketched the comic
strip characters Moon Mullins, Andy Gump and Barney Google. Mr. Ketcham
said he couldn't wait to borrow the man's "magic pencil." He was then
no more than 6.
He dropped out of the University of Washington in his freshman year in 1938 to
pursue his childhood dream. He found work as an animator for Walter
Lantz, the creator of Woody Woodpecker, and later at $25 a week for
Walt Disney, applying his talent to animated films such as "Fantasia"
(1940), "Pinocchio" (1940) and "Bambi" (1942) before serving in the
Navy in World War II and drew cartoons for military posters, training
purposes and War Bond sales.
Afterward, he moved to Carmel to devote himself to freelance cartooning. In 1994 he retired from producing "Dennis the Menace" cartoons, which continue at the hands of a team of artists and writers, and devoted himself to paintings, oils and watercolors that depicted jazz musicians, women's faces, other cartoonists and golfing scenes.
Mr. Ketcham once recalled his first journey abroad, in 1959, to the Soviet Union for an exchange of cartoons. The trip prompted the Central Intelligence Agency to enlist him to draw anything that might be useful to the United States
in those cold war days. "We were flying from Moscow to Kiev, and it was
during the day and I looked out the window and I saw some shapes," Mr.
Ketcham said. "I had my sketch book, and I would put them down, and the
flight attendant would walk by, and I would put a big nose and some
eyes and make the whole thing into a funny face. So I had a whole book
of funny- face cartoons at the end that I didn't know how to read."
Long afterward, Mr. Ketcham encountered a C.I.A. official and mentioned his adventure,
saying: "I'm sorry. I didn't have anything to report." To which the
official replied, "Yeah, I know, Hank, we haven't sent any more
cartoonists on any more missions."
|This biography from the Archives of AskART:|
|Hank Ketcham, the creator of Dennis the Menace, was born in Seattle, Washington. In 1938, he attended the University of Washington. His education in art began with a job in film animation the following year. He worked in Hollywood for Walter Lantz Productions at Universal Studios before moving to Walt Disney Productions. He made contributions to both Pinocchio and Fantasia.|
Ketcham was the son and grandson of naval officers. Born Henry King Ketcham, he joined the Navy in 1941, and for the next four years was a chief photographic specialist for the United States Naval Reserve in Washington, D.C. At the same time, he wrote and drew a comic strip named Half Hitch. This was about a hapless little sailor a sort of a naval Sad Sack for the camp newspaper.
For three years after World War II, Ketcham free-lanced gag cartoons and advertising art from his home in Westport, Connecticut, making rounds in New York City with his sketches. In 1948, he moved to California, where he developed the idea for the panel series, Dennis the Menace. The concept was developed from his then four-year-old son, Dennis. Donald Hall had just started the Post-Hall Syndicate and was looking for new material. He saw Ketcham's roughs in October 1950, and offered him a contract.
In March of the next year, the feature debuted in 18 papers, and the tow-headed whirlwind of energy was on his way to becoming an American institution and part of the national vocabulary. The innocently mischievous Dennis Mitchell, and his bewildered family, earned Ketcham the first Billy DeBeck Award (later renamed the Reuben) as Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year from the National Cartoonists Society in 1952, and the Silver T-Square Award in 1978.
Ketcham's first wife, Alice, died in 1958. She was the model for Dennis' cartoon mother Alice Mitchell. Ketcham remarried and moved to Switzerland, where he would remain in Geneva for the next 18 years. With the help of "a great memory and a Sears Roebuck catalog" for reference, he would continue to draw his warm, affectionate vignettes of a cozy middle-American family and their energetic child. During this period, he also wrote a humorous travel book about a trip he had taken to Russia (I Wanna Go Home, McGraw-Hill, 1959), and from 1970 to 1975 he brought back Half Hitch as a daily and Sunday feature, drawn by Dick Hodgins and distributed by King Features Syndicate. In 1970, Ketcham married for a third time, and returned to California eight years later so their two young children could attend American schools.
After more that a third of a century, the indefatigable little mischief-maker continues to occupy much of Ketcham's time. He admits to having wearied of the daily demands the feature places on him. Two assistants now draw the Sunday strip and take care of the numerous books that Dennis generates. Ketcham has expressed the hope of one day turning the whole industry he has created over to them. "As a matter of fact," he reported in 1986, "I've been getting more grumpy as the years tick by and often yearn for freedom. Time to travel, write, play golf, to develop other properties, to goof off."
Ron Goulart, editor; The Encyclopedia of American Comics, edited by Ron Goulart.)
|** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at registrar@AskART.com.|
Hank Ketcham is also mentioned in these AskART essays: