THE Beano’s most popular character turns 70 today. Dennis the Menace first appeared in the comic in issue 452, dated March 17, 1951.

Always dressed in his distinctive red and black striped jumper (except for his earliest apperaances) and accompanied by his faithful canine sidekick Gnasher, spiky-haired Dennis – “the world’s wildest boy” – was the first of the naughty kids strips that revitalised British comics in the 1950s. After Dennis came The Bash Street Kids, Minnie the Minx, Beryl the Peril and Roger the Dodger.

But Dennis remains the longest-running strip in the Beano and one of the most popular British comic book characters, with his own TV show.  He even had a fan club that numbered more than a million members at one point (including Mark Hammill of Star Wars fame).

Dennis is 70, you say. How is he celebrating?

Well, there is a 48-page birthday special of The Beano out today, guest-edited by and starring YouTuber and TV personality Joe Sugg (the kids know who he is, but you might remember him from Strictly).


There’s also a new Dennis the Menace tartan, created by Highland designers Prickly Thistle, released today, while Kew Gardens in London is hosting Dennis & Gnasher’s Big Bonanza this Easter.

But as we’re still under lockdown we will have to cross our fingers that we are able to travel to London in October when Somerset House is hosting a huge exhibition, Beano: The Art of Breaking the Rules.

Presumably now he’s 70 Dennis hangs around in garden centres and antique shops?

Ah, only if his parents drag him there. The new Beano special also includes a Menace family tree, which reminds us that the 1980s version of Dennis is, in fact, the 21st-century Dennis’s dad and the original Dennis is his grandad.

In the Beano, Dennis the Menace is always 10 years old.

Who’s responsible?

The Edinburgh-born cartoonist David “Davey” Law, who also created Beryl the Peril. He first drew Dennis in a rough sketch on the back of a Player’s Navy Cut cigarette packet.

Bizarrely, Dennis first appeared in The Beano just as a comic strip of the same name was launched in the United States. But Hank Ketcham’s American character was mild rather than wild. In 2016 The Smithsonian Magazine told its American readers that Dennis the Menace Has an Evil British Twin”.



Well, that’s maybe going a bit far, but half the fun of the British strip was just how anarchic it was. A proto-Bart Simpson, Dennis spent his time terrorising neighbours and, of course, Walter Brown (or “Walter the Softy” as he was known in less politically correct times).

In the strip’s early years Dennis’s behaviour would often result in him receiving corporal punishment from his dad, who would keep his slipper handy for just such occasions. Dennis has calmed down a bit in recent years.

What kind of dog is Gnasher anyway?

Why, an Abyssinian wire-haired tripe hound of course.