Hank Ketcham says he always found it odd that he spent his life in service to a five year old. But of course Dennis the Menace was never for kids, really. At his best, Ketcham used Dennis as a device for poking gently – ever so gently- at the straitjacket of post-WWII suburban repression and painful social self-consciousness. And Ketcham himself was as straight laced, conventional and revenant as we imagine the Mitchells and their world to be. How else could such a pint-sized hellion find so many lines of propriety to transgress so habitually?
Ketcham’s breathtaking tone deafness to the songs of change singing around him in the 60s especially would surface in a famous episode we will save for another post. But for now let’s enjoy Ketcham at his cleverest, usually in the 1950s, using Dennis as a wry observer of pre-feminist gender typing.