March 12: Dennis The Menace & Dennis The Menace

DennisTheMenaceAt right you will see two cartoon boys who are the subject of one of history’s strangest coincidences. On the left is Dennis the Menace, an English comic strip character who made his debut in an issue of the British comic book The Beano dated March 17, 1951; and on the right is Dennis the Menace, an American comic strip character who first appeared five days earlier on March 12, 1951.

Yes, somehow two different comic strips, both named Dennis The Menace debuted on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean within a week of each other. Of course, outside of the name (and their taste for bold striped shirts), the two Dennises couldn’t be more different.

The American Dennis was created by Hank Ketcham, who drew inspiration from his then four-year old son Dennis. The story goes that one day little Dennis Ketcham refused to take a nap and in the process made a mess of his room. His wife declared to him that “Your son is a menace!” and thus Ketcham came up with his comic strip character.

The English Dennis had a much different origin story. The Beano needed a new comic strip, and editor Ian Chisholm had recently heard the music hall song “Dennis the Menace in Venice” and thought Dennis The Menace would be a great name for the new strip. So, he drafted artist Davey Law to create the title character. Chisholm was initially displeased with every idea Law had, so he wound up sketching a lanky boy with a scowl and spiky hair. Although Chisholm created the look for the character, Law went on to be the strip’s original artist.

The two menaces have very different personalities. The American Dennis is a five and a half year old boy who primarily serves as a thorn in the side of his elderly neighbor Mr. Wilson. Occasionally Dennis’ mostly harmless mischief might cause annoyance for his parents, but at the end of the day he’s a sweet kid who’s probably not fit for the label of “menace”. The British Dennis on the other hand is a school age hellion who has more than earned the “menace” sobriquet. With his Abyssinian wire haired tripe hound Gnasher at his side, Dennis runs afoul of society often messing with the law and his hated enemies, “Softies”, polite children who Dennis fines original ways to prank and bully. However, Dennis rarely gets away with his actions, often receiving corporal punishment for his actions.

Both comics still run to this day and all over the world. Interestingly, both Dennis The Menace comics are sometimes published in their opposite number’s home nation, albeit under different names. The American Dennis is published in England under the title Just Dennis, while the English Menace is published internationally as Dennis and Gnasher.

It’s not everyday that you find a cocktail named after a fictional child, but here’s the Dennis The Menace. I’m assuming that the drink is a nod to the American Dennis, as this cocktail is meant to be red on the bottom and yellow on top, much like Dennis’ red overalls and blonde hair.

Dennis The Menace

  • 1 ounce Malibu Coconut Rum
  • 1 ounce Peach Schnapps
  • 3 dash grenadine
  • 3 ounces pineapple juice

Shake the liquors and pineapple juice with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Then, pour the grenadine down the side of the glass; it’ll descend to the bottom.

Tomorrow: A former planet.

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