Dennis the Menace was the brain child of then Beano editor, George Moonie when he heard a Music Hall song with the chorus "I'm Dennis the menace from Venice". Scriptwriter, Ian Chisholm, drew the first Dennis character on the back of a cigarette packet and artist Davey Law adapted it for the comic. Dennis the Menace made his first appearance in The Beano in March 1951 and continues to appear to this day. His comic strip (now known as Dennis and Gnasher) is the current longest running strip in the Beano. In 1974 Dennis replaced Biffo the Bear on the cover. He celebrated his 60th birthday on the 17th of March 2011.
Dennis in the Beano
Has his name suggest's Dennis' main aim in life is to menace, not only his enemy, Walter the Softy, but the whole of Beanotown. He has a variety of weapons such as a pea-shooter, catapault, water bombs and tomatoes. He's even built various vehicles in his garden shed such as a rocket powered go-cart and a tank (powered by his pet pig, Rasher). Dennis' antics would often see him on the receiving end of the wrath of Beanotown and the slipper of his dad.
Walter the Softy and Enemies
Like most British humour comic strips Dennis the Menace had very little continuity between issues or any ongoing storylines. One regular theme however is his campaign of terror against Walter the Softy and his friends Spotty Perkins and Bertie Blenkinsop. Walter is a very effeminate boy who is regularly shown playing with teddy bears or dolls or having tea parties with his softy gang. Walter isn't all innocent however when he would get his revenge upon Dennis by squirting him perfume or tricking him into receiving flowers. He owns a pampered pet poodle called Foo-foo. Two other regular victims of Dennis is Sgt. Slipper, the local bobby of Beanotown and his neighbour, The Colonel.
Gnasher a rare breed of dog, a Abyssinian Wire Haired Tripe Hound. He was discovered as a stray in the street by Dennis, they quickly became friends and a mencing duo. Gnasher's main weapon is his teeth and biting power which can chomp through nearly anything. Gnashers enemies are Walters pet dog Foo-foo and the postman. Gnasher made enough of an impact that after 2 years the strip was renamed from Dennis the Menace to Dennis the Menace & Gnasher.
Family and Friends
Dennis' lives with his long suffering parents. His dad is the one that often dishes out the punishment with his deadly slipper. Dennis also owns a pet pig, Rasher, who spends most of his time lounging in mud and eating rotten food. A more recent addition to the family is Bea, the baby sister of Dennis. She soon proved to take after her big brother when it came to menacing and being a nuisance. Granny is Dennis and Bea's grandmother who is a bit of menace herself and loves riding motorbikes. Dennis' two best mates are Pie-Face and Curly and he is also friends with the Beano's other main menace, Minnie the Minx.
Many things in the Dennis the Menace comic strip have been toned down in recent years. Due to corporal punishment being outlawed in Great Britain during the 1980's Dennis was no longer punished with his dad's slipper despite it being used regularly for the previous 30 years. More recently Dennis' menacing of Walter had been toned for fear of the writers being accused of homophobia. In 2009, to tie in more with the animated series, Dennis the Menace uses his pea-shooter and catapault less often.
Dennis has appeared in 2 animated series. The first titled Dennis the Menace and Gnasher appeared in 1996 which lasted for 2 years and 26 episodes. The current series known as Dennis and Gnasher began in 2009 and so far 52 episodes have aired. The cartoons follows the comic strip closely but with the bullying and the use of weapons like the pea-shooter and catapault toned down. In the 2009 cartoon Dennis is voiced by Sophie Aldred, the actress who played Ace in Doctor Who.
Beanotown Racing Video Game
Dennis the Menace raced in a dune buggy in the P.C. game Beanotown Racing. The game involved characters from both The Beano and The Dandy racing each other.
The American Dennis...
Coincidentally an American Dennis the Menace made his debut in the U.S. the very same week. There is some debate which character came first with the American Dennis appearing on March 12th 1951 and the British Dennis with the cover date of March 17th. However, like all weekly publications, The Beano was released 5-6 days before the date of the cover. It's very likely that both Dennis the Menace's appeared on both sides of the Atlanic on the very same day.
To avoid confusion the animated American Dennis the Menace was simply called Dennis in the U.K. Likewise the current series of the British Dennis and Gnasher was named so for international release.