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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Ketcham, Hank

Dennis the Menace Waits for Santa Claus
The Merchant of Dennis Prayers and Graces

What would childhood be without the playful Dennis the Menace? He has become part of the American cartoon legacy and for that we can thank creator Hank Ketcham, who was born on March 14, 1920. A skillful draftsman from childhood, Ketcham dropped out of college in 1938 to work for animator Walter Lantz, creator of the Woody Woodpecker cartoons. Later he went to work for Disney (on Pinocchio and Fantasia) before joining the navy during WWII.

His son Dennis was born in 1947 and by the age of four he was “too young for school, too big for his playpen, too small to hit, not old enough for jail.” Raising him became overwhelming for Ketcham who instead turned to his own version of what a boy should be, Dennis the Menace. By the end of 1951 his strip was in over 100 papers and ranked with Beetle Bailey and Peanuts as one of the top comics of its time. As popularity grew, Ketcham let others do the work, only overseeing the final product.

He turned to art, painting the subjects that were his passions; jazz and heroic athletes. His autobiography The Merchant of Dennis (1992) is an interesting reflection on his career.

Mr. Ketcham died on June 1, 2001.

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