Hank Ketcham, creator of Dennis the Menace, died on June 1. Ketcham based the comic strip Dennis on his own son, Dennis Ketcham. The strip first appeared in print on March 12, 1951–at the time it was syndicated in 16 newspapers.
Strange Dennis fact #1: on March 17, 1951, a British magazine called The Beano introduced a different comic strip character also named Dennis the Menace. As far as anyone can tell, this was just a big coincidence. The U.K. Dennis is still around, and has even appeared in animated cartoons on the BBC.
Strange Dennis fact #2: When I was in college, there was a rumor going around that Jay North had been killed in Vietnam. North was the child actor who portrayed Dennis the Menace (Ketcham’s version) on TV from 1959-1963. Well, the rumor was not true–North is still alive, and still cashing in on his Dennis career. However, Dennis Ketcham, the real-life inspiration for Dennis the Menace, really did go to Vietnam. He came back with post-traumatic stress disorder and, if you can believe this article, he hasn’t had a very happy life.
For someone who created a beloved icon, Hank Ketcham sounds like a surprisingly unsentimental guy. Expatriated and a failed CIA spy, he certainly seemed to have had an interesting life.