Happy Birthday, Dennis

On March 12, 1951, Hank Ketcham’s Dennis the Menace premiered. Ketcham’s artistry only looked effortless. In fact, every aspect of the strip was thought through and expressive of the strip’s deeper joys. I wrote about this early last year, but resurfacing it for Dennis’s birthday. And here is a bit of 1950s gender studies, via Dennis.

Mandrake The Weird

For all of their international popularity, I confess I could never warm up to Lee Falk’s proto-superheroes, Mandrake the Magician and The Phantom. Of course, historically they were significant mainly for introducing the idea of the ridiculously costumed adventure hero to mass audiences, paving the way for the juvenilia that defined comic books through much of WWII and then again after the early 1950s comics scare. And Falk’s creations remain among the most recognizable comic strip characters of all time. Therre is not getting around their sheer iconic import. And yet, I myself never found Falk’s storylines especially compelling or tense, nor his villains daunting. His early defining artists, Phil Davis on Mandrake and Ray Moore on Phantom become merely competent if anodyne figure artists, and their use of panel progression and framing is, again, meh.

Continue reading