'Look! Here's a new pal you'll enjoy - He's the world's wildest
Early in 1951, Beano Editor George Moonie, sub-editor Ian 'Chiz'
Chisholm, and David Law, an Edinburgh born artist who had drawn
cartoons for newspapers like Dundee's 'Evening Telegraph', began
work on a new character whose name was inspired by the Music Hall
song "Dennis the Menace from Venice". Davey Law, adapting a design
scribbled on the back of a cigarette packet by scriptwriter Chiz,
brought a unique vitality to the artwork and this naughty boy
character was immediately popular, though possibly not immediately
recognisable. In that initial half page strip, Dennis's costume
included a shirt and tie - the famous red and black jersey didn't
appear till two months later.
Of all the characters, Dennis has emerged as the firm favourite,
and his half page strip was swiftly increased to a full page.
Dennis was such a hit with readers that, in 1953, he also began
appearing in his own spin-off strip in newspaper 'The Weekly News',
also drawn by Law, and his exploits continued there for a further
four years. A second spin-off, in the pages of The Beano again, ran
for a few months in 1957 and 58 - 'Bringing Up Dennis', drawn by
Ken Wilkins, showed the menace's early life as a troublesome
In August of 1968, Dennis's faithful sidekick, the extremely
rare Abyssinian Wire-haired Tripe Hound, Gnasher, joined in the
mayhem, completing a classic comedy double act. Dennis and Gnasher
replaced Biffo the Bear to become The Beano cover star in 1974,
taking over both front and back pages. Two years later the Dennis
the Menace Fan Club (including Gnasher's Fang Club, complete with
the famous furry Gnasher badge) was formed. The club reached
1,000,000 members in 1988 and led onto the launch of The Beano
By the time of Dennis's promotion to the front cover, Dave
Sutherland had replaced Davey Law as Dennis's artist. Dave's
initial Dennis strips matched closely to Law's style, but over the
course of the 28 years in which he drew Dennis and Gnasher's weekly
exploits, he developed his own highly recognisable style.
Throughout this time, Dennis's popularity continued to grow.
Gnasher gained his own spin-off strip, 'Gnasher's
Tale', while a further menacing pet, Rasher, was also
given his own series in 1984. And the arrival of little sister,
Bea, to the household in 1998 led to the 'Bea-ginnings' strip. And
Dennis himself proved the perfect host for the Fun Section of boy's
comic 'Champ' in the mid-eighties.
In 1996 Dennis and Gnasher became TV stars in their own animated
series, with stars like Billy Connolly, Hugh Laurie, and the Blue
Peter team providing guest voices. A further series of animated
adventures in 2009 proved a ratings winner.