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Dennis the Menace Has an Evil Twin Never Seen in the US

Plagiarism can be a complicated legal issue. What if you have two comic characters that are similar and come out at the same time on different sides of the world?

This was the case for Dennis the Menance. The United States got a lovable blond boy who accidentally causes trouble. The UK got a black-haired rebel who loves to torment softies. They looked and acted differently, but anyone who didn’t know might think they were the same character.

Like and subscribe for more on this strange coincidence. Keep watching to learn why Dennis the Menace has an evil twin never seen in the US.

The American Dennis

Hank Ketcham, a former Disney animator, came up with North America’s Dennis the Menace, also known as Dennis Wilson. The character had cowlicked blonde hair and wore overalls and a striped shirt.

The boy and his dog Ruff tortured his neighbor Mr. Wilson. They were always mischievous but never cruel, and their antics were usually an accident. He was a lovable representation of the normal mischief of children.

The comic eventually became popular enough to show up in hundreds of newspapers. It also spawned several different series. These included the Dennis the Menace Bonus Magazine series, Denis the Menace and His Friends, and Dennis and the Bible Kids.

The UK Dennis

Europe’s Dennis wore a jersey with red and black stripes and had dark hair. He was drawn by George Law and appeared in The Beano.

George Moonie, the editor of the comic book, allegedly got the idea for the character’s name from a British music hall song. The singers belted out a chorus that went “I’m Dennis the Menace from Venice.”

He rode a skateboard from place to place, and his dog’s name was Gnasher. He even had a pig named Rasher in later strips and a spider called Dasher. Instead of a friendly neighbor, he had a mortal enemy named Walter who was a “softie” who liked flowers and dolls.

This Dennis always carried a peashooter, water pistol, and catapult to cause as much mayhem as possible. His deeds were worse than those of his American counterpart, but he almost always got his comeuppance by the final panel.

He came at a time of class struggle and unrest in the UK. He was young but a figure for real children to fear thanks to his muscles and tiger stripes

The strip was a hit but had to go through several writer changes. David Law kept it going from 1951-1970. It didn’t become a full-page strip until 1954, and Gnasher didn’t show up until 1968.

David Sutherland took over from 1970-1998 after Davey got sick. Dennis became the cover star of Beano during this time and was used to celebrate most of its major milestones. He got a fan club in 1976 that even celebrities wanted to join.

David Parkins signed on to the strip from 1998-2003. He introduced Dennis’ little brother Bea who even got her own spinoff strip drawn by Nigel Parkinson.

Nigel took over, along with Jimmy Hansen and Tom Paterson, from 2004-2009. A controversial relaunch after that made Dennis less menacing until Barrie Allpeby brought him back from 2011-2012. Nigel Parkinson and Nigel Auchterlounie are still working with the character today.

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Proof It’s a Coincidence

The strangest part of the whole affair was that both Dennis comics debuted on the same day. Hank Ketcham brought the Dennis the Menace strip to America and Dave Law brought it to the British comic book The Beano on March 12, 1951. The UK version did come out a few hours earlier due to time zone differences, so it is technically the original.

Many fans thought that one had plagiarized the other, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Neither artist knew about the other’s work, and no lawsuits were filed. Neither one wanted sole ownership of the name, so they let each other continue their work.

A small change came in 1993 when the Dennis the Menace movie was released. It was titled Dennis in the UK to avoid confusion. The same rule applied to most of the other Dennis media that came afterward.

Where to Find the American Dennis

The first Dennis the Menace movie faired well. John Hughes, writer, and director of hits like The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink had always been a fan. Hank let him write the script, and it turned out to be the right decision.

Other films followed. Dennis got a live-action TV film on September 11, 1987, another in 1993, and a direct-to-tv follow-up in 1998. The most recent was a Christmas special, A Dennis the Menace Christmas, on November 6, 2007.

The character also spawned a TV show. CBS thought it would be a great way to replace Leave It to Beaver after it switched to ABC in 1958. It was greenlit in 1959 and aired every Sunday night.

Jay North played the lead role and made sure to have his say. He recommended Jeannie Russel to play neighbor girl Margaret Wade. He also appeared on The Donna Reed Show in 1960 in the third season episode Donna Decorates and guest starred on The Red Skeleton Hour and the film Pepe.

An animated special called Dennis the Menace in Mayday for Mother came out in 1981. It was followed by an animated Dennis the Menace in 1986 and All-New Dennis the Menace in 1993.

You couldn’t go anywhere without seeing Dennis on TV when he was in his prime. He was in a slew of commercials for products including Bosco chocolate milk and Skipp Peanut Butter. He was the official mascot of Dairy Queen for over 30 years until 2001. 

Gamers also had a chance to see the beloved American version of the character. The game was a tie-in for the film released in 1993. Like most of his appearances, it was called Dennis the Menace in America and Dennis in Europe. It was available for the Super NES, Amiga, and Game Boy.

Where to Find the British Dennis

The UK version of Dennis first appeared on TV in The Beanos Dennis the Menace and Gnasher Show in 1990. He was also included in Beano direct-to-video complications such as The Beano Video and The Beano Videostars DVD.

He later appeared in Dennis and Nasher in 1996. His attitude was toned down and he never used weapons. The series lasted for 2 seasons.

The 2009 series changed his personality even more to make him even less violent. It didn’t sit well with fans and had 52 episodes.

Dennis came back in 2013 with a new show more fitting his original personality. He got his first CGI animated show called Dennis and Gnasher Unleashed in 2017.

The UK Dennis has appeared in other mediums as well. He rode the Menace-Mobile in the PB game Beantown Racing, was a non-playable character in the iPhone game Dennis and Gnasher: Blast in Beantown, and appeared at the Chessington World of Adventures theme park from 1991-201. There was even a musical about him pitched in 2015, but it hasn’t been finished yet.

Other Strange Facts About Dennis the Menace

It’s rumored that Hank got inspired to create the Dennis strip after a bit of mischief from his own children. His first wife Alice told him that their son Dennis had thrown fecal matter all over his room. She yelled out “your son is a menace,” and the rest was history.

The effect on his actual son wasn’t as positive. He says he regrets naming the character after him because it was “confusing” for the boy. They became estranged until his Hank’s death on June 1, 2001.

Hank wasn’t the type to let anyone, even his own family, dictate what went into his comics. He followed along with Charles Schulz in the tradition of cartoonists who attempted to put a black character in his cartoon.

The problem was that, while he attempted to deliver a positive message, the character, known as Jackson, was considered stereotypical. He even had Dennis claim to have a “race problem” with him because he could run faster.

Protesters from St. Lewis threw rocks at the windows of newspapers that sold the strip, and crowds complained in Detroit and Little Rock. He eventually retired Jackson and formally apologized.

Another thing that Hank had in common with other cartoonists was that his strips were collected into a paperback book. The difference was that he didn’t like the way they looked and took them off the market by 1986.

Jay North did have a successful career after the show. He provided the voice for teenage Bamm-Bamm in The Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm Show and Prince Turhan on The Bannan Splits Adventure Hour. He released 2 albums in 1960 and 2 recorded episodes in 1967.

He even started an organization with Paul Peterson called A Minor Consideration to counsel child actors. Like many others, he was the victim of a death hoax in 1988. His mother was told that his body had been found, but that was proven to be untrue.

Unfortunately, the news about the death of Joseph Kearns, the original Mr. Wilson, was true. He suffered a cerebral hemorrhage in 1962 after filming the show’s 100th episode. He was replaced by Gale Gordon who played Mr. Wilson’s brother until the show ended in 1963.

Dennis’ Legacy

Dennis may have been a menace, but he did have one major positive impact on history. He helped fight the Cold War when Hank and his wife went on a “humor exchange program” to Russia. For a short time, he wrote strips that critiqued Communist regimes for a short time.

The impact of Dennis on popular society can’t be denied. The Dennis the Menace Playground was erected in Montogmery, California in 1986. It features a 3-foot-tall statue of the character that was stolen in 2006. It’s never been found to this day.

Hank Ketcham was even made the honorary mayor of Witchita, Kansas. That’s where most fans believe the comic was set.

Which version of Dennis the Menace are you familiar with? Let us know in the comments below. Like and subscribe to Facts Verse for more of the craziest coincidences in the world of TV and film.

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