1951. And despite being six years clear of World War Two, things weren’t exactly rosy. In January, with the Korean War in full flow, the Chinese and North Korean forces captured Seoul for the second time. Days later a one-kiloton nuclear bomb was tested in Nevada. And throughout it all, Joe McCarthy was doing his best to fuel the ‘Red scare’ in the heart and minds of the Western world. Basically, it really wasn’t great.
But things were about to get worse. Much worse. It was 17th March 1951 and under issue 452 something very troubling made its first appearance. It invaded British homes. Its influence spread like wildfire. And unbeknownst at the time, it would still be prevalent 60 years later. It certainly wasn’t communism, but it did represent an ideology of sorts. It was about rebellion and challenging the establishment. It was about hell-raising. But most of all, it was about having fun.
‘It’ was actually a ‘he’. And he was Dennis the Menace, a ten-year old boy who’s gone on to become a mainstay in comic book, The Beano. With his unruly black hair, knobbly knees and intimidating scowl, Dennis the Menace has spent the last six decades thriving on trouble and chaos. And doesn’t Beanotown know it, with its citizens typically pictured being harassed by Dennis or seen running away from him.
So how did the now famous Dennis the Menace come about? Initially the character was something of an ordeal for artist, Davey Law, and the then Beano Editor, Ian Chisholm. The latter had a clear idea of what he wanted, but Law’s early interpretations didn’t hit the mark. Out of frustration Chisholm grabbed a pencil and quickly sketched Dennis on the back of his cigarette packet. Picking up the baton, Law adapted Chisholm’s drawing and the rest, as they say, is history. Two months after his first appearance, Dennis appeared in his now iconic stripy jumper for the first time.
Since then, Dennis the Menace has been busy breaking rules in the name of fun. He’s also been protecting his toughest-boy-on-the-block reputation in the face of stiff competition from the likes of the Bash Street Kids, Ivy the Terrible and Minnie the Minx. But he’s at least had the support of his trusty companion, Gnasher, since 1968. Together they continue to be two of the most recognisable comic book characters in Britain – not bad for a boy approaching the retirement age.
A good few of the lads at GoneDigging grew up with Dennis, so when we heard we’d be producing a range of officially licensed Dennis the Menace gifts, we naturally got pretty excited. What we’ve turned out includes posters, calendars, mugs, notebooks and a birthday book, the latter of which tells the story of the Menace’s birthday party. What every product has in common is that they can all be personalised so your chosen name becomes ‘Dennis’, while in some instances you can also compose a message. To have a look simply log onto www.gonedigging.co.uk, where we’ll be waiting with a big pile of custard pies.