Synopses & Reviews
Although best known as one of the greatest syndicated cartoonists of the twentieth century, Dennis the Menace creator Henry "Hank" Ketcham also spent nearly a decade as a gag cartoonist for major New York magazines like Colliers and the Saturday Evening Post. In these gag cartoons, which were primarily published between 1942 and 1950, one can already see the endearing troublemaker that would become the protagonist in his long-running strip. (In fact, in his Dennis the Menace cartoons, Ketcham reused some of the gags and images almost verbatim.) Influenced by Virgil Partch and other artists he met during his early days at Disney animation and as an artist banging on doors in New York, Ketcham's trademark visual humor and unerring line work are also very evident in these pre-Dennis cartoons.
Like many young cartoonists of his era, Ketcham spent much of WWII drawing. As a Navy man, he created food conservation and "Jap-bashing" posters during the day, and at night, he moonlighted as a magazine gag cartoonist producing primarily war-themed gag cartoons, including the regular feature "Half Hitch" for the Saturday Evening Post. At the end of his tour, he turned down a chance to return to a guaranteed job at Disney. As it turned out, the siren song of magazine cartooning, which at the time was considered one of the pinnacles of the applied arts, proved just too strong. For the next five years, he was a regular contributor to True, Colliers, and the Saturday Evening Post. On the rare occasion, he even made it into The New Yorker, whose ranks at the time included Peter Arno, James Thurber, and Charles Addams.
Collected for the first time are hundreds of Ketcham's long forgotten magazine cartoons. Together they provide a rare glimpse into what would later become one the most beloved comics to grace the comics pages.
"Readers with an interest in comics history will value this book. Though not part of Fantagraphics's deluxe set of the collected Dennis the Menace, this little paperback gives a fascinating look at Ketcham's career before he created that franchise, when he was a commercial artist and a popular contributor to magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post, Colliers and sometimes even the New Yorker. He wasn't an especially fluent writer, relying on others for punch lines, but the hundreds of pieces gathered here show what a prolific artist he was. They also show his development as a cartoonist, as his lines start to swirl and ricochet, becoming looser and loopier, dancing in casual-looking brush strokes of fluctuating thickness even without the gags, Ketcham's best work is extremely fun to look at. Ketchum has assembled a cast of bemused housewives, frazzled businessmen, and bratty kids even before discovering his unifying concept. It's especially interesting to see how several early cartoons were reworked into Dennis panels; in every case, the later pieces are superior, with tighter layout, sharper choice of details and livelier art." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
A collection of pre-Menace cartoons from the Merchant of Dennis.
About the Author
Hank Ketcham was born in 1920 and created Dennis the Menace in 1950. He passed away in 2001.Alex Chun is a longtime journalist living in Los Angeles. A former staff writer for the Los Angeles Daily Journal, he is currently a regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times His books include The Pin-Up Art of Dan DeCarlo (two volumes), The Pin-Up Art of Bill Wenzel, The Pin-up Art of Bill Ward, The Glamor Girls of Don Flowers, The Glamour Girls of Bill Ward, Classic Pin-Up Art of Jack Cole, and The Pin-Up Art of Humorama.