The first ever "Dennis the Menace" strip, drawn by Davey Law

Dennis the Menace, Celebrated at 65 with New Official Screenprints of First Ever Strip

The first ever "Dennis the Menace" strip, drawn by David "Davey" Law
The first ever “Dennis the Menace” strip, drawn by David “Davey” Law

To celebrate The Beano‘s Dennis the Menace‘s 65th birthday, print maker John Patrick Reynolds has produced an edition of officially-licensed screenprints featuring the very first strip, published in the issue dated 17th March, 1951.

Dennis doesn’t yet have his trademark red and black striped football jersey, but the shock of black hair and nobbly knees are there. And the joke is quite a neat one – that Dennis is actually more in need of restraint than the family dog.

This strip was drawn by David “Davey” Law, who carried on drawing the character for twenty years until his death in the late 1960s. The character was the brain child of then Beano editor, George Moonie when he heard a Music Hall song with the chorus “I’m Dennis the menace from Venice”. Scriptwriter Ian Chisholm then drew the first Dennis character on the back of a cigarette packet and artist Davey Law adapted it for the comic.

Since Dennis’s debut 65 years ago, he has become a kind of national mascot – what Asterix is to France, or Oor Wullie is to Scotland – and has gone through various phases since then, from the pocket-sized Satan of the 1950s, to the pugnatious youth of the 1960s and 1970s to the incorrigible imp of the 1990s.

In the 1960s, he was joined by his Abyssinian wire-haired tripe house, Gnasher. Gnasher seems to be made of the same kind of thing as Dennis the Menace’s hair – the untamed explosion of black hair symbolic of the chaos they embody.

“He is a gift to the screenprinter, from a graphic point of view, with his red-and-white sriped jersey and explosion of black hair,” says John.

The screenprint is available in John’s standard format, 26cms x 19cms (£40 unframed and £70 framed) and larger format 48cms x 38cms (£145 unframed and £195 framed in a plain black wooden frame). As ever, the edition is limited to 200, and is hand printed on mould-made English cotton paper by John and his team at his studio in Maida Vale, West London.

• Buy these wonderful Dennis the Menace prints here: http://thecomicartwebsite.com

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John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John describes himself as is a "freelance comics operative", working as an editor, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. John has worked in British comics publishing for over 30 years. His credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine at Marvel UK and Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine at Titan Magazines. He also edited STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics, including Team M.O.B.I.L.E. and The Beatles Story. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare” for Tian Books. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

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