One of my favourite tearaways off the back of a fag packet...
Posted Mar 17 2011 3:06pm
Dennis the Menace is 60 today.
I thought he was just great and loved his anarchistic attitude to life. I used to know a boy in primary school called John Gates who was oddly similar, and never without his catapault. John used to come to school barefoot sometimes because his parents were so poor and his siblings so numerous. I really liked him, even though we had almost nothing in common.
But back to the birthday boy. Dennis's campaign of terror against camp, effeminate, well-behaved boys like Walter the Softy (whose pet poodle was called Foo Foo) would be unthinkable storylines today.
Dennis was born on the back of a cigarette packet, drawn by Beano editor Ian Chisholm, with his trademark messy hair, knobbly knees and menacing scowl. Other regular characters in the comic strip include the brilliantly named Gnasher, Rasher, Gnipper, Curly, Pie Face, Spotty Perkins, Bertie Blenkinsop, Sgt. Slipper, the Colonel, Bea and of course, Gran (who I seem to remember rode a motorbike?), Mum and Dad.
Despite his utter disdain for authority and his endless mishchief-making, Dennis often got away with his pranks, although periodic spankings by his father with a slipper would be defended by a thick book shoved down his short trousers (which, oddly, was never noticed). Dennis’s Grandma also had a slipper, except that was made of elephant skin and known as 'The Demon Whacker'.
Even though three decades – roughly half the lifetime of the strip – having passed without the slipper being used, its disappearance is still cited by the media as an example of ‘political correctness gone mad’.