Thursday, October 8, 2009

Will the REAL Dennis The Menace please stand up?

Above: The UK version of 'Dennis The Menace' created by David Law. Copyright D. C. Thomson & Co. Ltd 2009.
Above: The US version of 'Dennis The Menace' created by Hank Ketcham. Copyright King Features Syndicate 2009.

As many of you may have heard in the news this week, local Hawke's Bay resident Robert Fair was reported to be the real-life inspiration for the famous UK comic-strip character, Dennis The Menace.

Rosemary Moffat, daughter of famous british cartoonist David Law (1908-1971), revealed to the British Sunday Times over the weekend that her father had based the character on the antics of her childhood family friend. "Robert was a little brat when he was a boy and my father based Dennis's energy, movement and sense of mischief on him when he was doing his drawings," she said.

David Law had kept this secret to himself so as not to offend Fair's parents.
Robert Fair himself certainly took no offense to the revelation, and admitted to some mischief making back in the day, "I can remember reading the comic all those years ago, but I had no idea. I do remember getting up to a few little tricks. We used to wait for mum and dad to come in and we'd put books on top of the door and jump out the window. We were just getting up to mischief, it was nothing malicious."

The story was picked up by the NZ Herald on Tuesday and made the 6 'clock News on TV3, with an interview piece featuring Robert Fair followed on Campbell Live. I saw the Campbell Live interview and was kind of baffled. The interview was cut together with footage of the blond US version of Dennis The Menace, the cartoon and live-action movie. So what's going on here? Surly it can't be that heard to tell them apart, they certainly look different enough, right?

This question of which version came first has always bugged me growing up, so this seemed like the best time to get to the bottom of it.

I did some quick digging and found out some pretty interesting facts. It's not hard to see why these two versions are so often confused: they both debuted in the same year, and not only that, it was the same month! March, 1951. The US version created by Hank Ketcham (1920-2001), beat the UK version to the punch by only three days, appearing on March 12, 1951. The UK version debuted in 'The Beano' on March 15, 1951. Given the limited communications of the time period it's unlikely that either version was inspired by the other, which makes this a pretty amazing coincidence don't you think?

After the Campbell Live piece finished I posted this information under the video footage at the TV3 website and within minutes the interview disappeared into thin air...which is a pity, because it was the only report to feature Robert Fair in person. So I may have came late to the reporting party, but just in time to kill the story! (them's the breaks I guess..). In any case, if anyone can find a picture of him, email it through and I'll add it to this report.

Now for the really important question: who or what animal inspired Dennis' rat-like dog sidekick? That's one for the ages...


1 comment:

  1. Hi

    Re: Dennis the Menace.They were both 60 last month so they're looking in pretty good shape for their age.I have a website which may interest you...
    Dennis UK is on there.They let me use pictures for free. Dennis USA will be there soon as well.Unfortunately they wanted me to pay to use any panels/pictures at all (£50 !!)
    I really enjoy your blog.Keep it up.