One of the strangest coincidences in comics happened when The Beano launched their famous character Dennis The Menace in March 1951. And in America, a comic character called Dennis The Menace launched… also in March 1951. Why two identical ideas launched independently of each other at exactly the same time really is one of those mysteries.
In the mid-80s, there was a cartoon of the American version (and I didn’t realise this at the time, but the title when it was shown in the UK was abbreviated to simply Dennis to avoid confusion). His full name was Dennis Mitchell and he was about six years old. It is rather odd to think that this is almost exactly the same character as the one I was enjoying in The Beano around the same time that I watched this show.
This Dennis had blond hair and wore dungarees, and he was always up to things in his neighbourhood that made many people consider him to be something of a rascal. He is always trying to play pranks and cause chaos, and often on the receiving end of all this is his long-suffering neighbour Mr Wilson (and I always remember the part in the opening sequence where it looks like his eyes are about to pop out of his head as Dennis is up to something again).
His wife Martha doesn’t really seem to notice what is happening as much and begins to think that her husband is rather odd. Dennis’s father is Henry (and in another odd coincidence, he looks uncannily like the British Dennis’s main rival Walter), and his mother is Alice. He is an only child, but he is such a handful that his parents often feel like there is more than one of him!
Dennis also has a circle of friends that include Joey, Tommy, Gina, and Peebee, who was also an inventor. He isn’t as fond of Margaret though. And again just like our Dennis, he also has a faithful dog who joins in, this one is called Ruff. There were 78 episodes of Dennis in three series, and all of them contained three stories, meaning that there were a massive 234 altogether.
I think that Dennis might have been shown on CITV at some point, but I remember watching the show as part of some of Channel 4’s earliest weekend morning schedules, and it also shown regularly on breakfast show The Channel 4 Daily, which was rather exciting. As always, there were plenty of episodes released on VHS, along with a few on DVD. After this, Dennis returned to the screen for another cartoon and a few live-action films that were rather successful. The British Dennis would also go on to have his own cartoon series on CBBC in the mid-90s which was very enjoyable too.