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Apparently memories are long over at Dennis the Menace
james_nicoll
I bet Ron Ferdinand and Marcus Hamilton remember the reaction to the 1970 strip, which is why Dennis' pal is drawn the way he is.

Again, nicked from racs

Interesting. I looked at that 1970 Dennis drawing with Jackson, and thought, “This doesn’t look right. I suspect a fake.” So I went to Ketcham’s book, The Merchant of Dennis the Menace, and found a different cartoon with a fairly innocuous drawing (page 210), and an explanatory note: “This was a mild version of Dennis’s black neighbor. Earlier, in a fit of lapsus noodle, I concocted a lampoon that caused chaos and anguish.”

Chaos and anguish? I looked in vain for the drawing that has been linked to above. The one in the book — the mild version, with a reasonable enough depiction of an African-American kid — has Dennis saying, “Me ‘n’ Jackson are exactly the same age. Only he’s different. He’s left-handed!” (And Hank’s different. He’s heavy-handed!) We find more in about a page worth of memoir with the heading Black Was Beautiful:
Back in the late 1960s when minorities were getting their dander up, painting signs, joining in protest marches, and calling attention to their plight, I was determined to join the parade led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and introduce a black playmate to the Mitchell neighborhood. I named him Jackson and designed him in the tradition of Little Black Sambo with huge lips, big white eyes, and just a suggestion of an Afro hairstyle. He was cute as a button, and in addition to being a marvelous graphic, he would reflect the refreshing, naive honesty of preschool children as yet unexposed to prejudice and rancor. It was a splendid opportunity to inject some humor into the extremely tense political climate. I urged my writers to give this priority and rolled up my sleeves with enthusiastic anticipation.
He talks for another paragraph about how uncomplimentary most caricatures are, describing Dennis as looking “like a midget running around with a load in his pants!” He mentions the cartoon with the caption “I’ve got a race problem with Jackson. He can run faster than me!”A harmless little play on words and, I felt, a soft, amusing beginning. Not so. The rumble started in Detroit, then moved south to St. Louis where rocks and bottles were thrown through the windows of the Post-Dispatch. Newspaper delivery boys were being chased and hassled in Little Rock, and in Miami some Herald editors were being threatened. The cancer quickly spread to other large cities.Ketcham, in Geneva, gets the news and is shocked, then angry. On request from his colleagues, he dictates a statement to the newspapers involved, making a point
not to apologize but to express my utter dismay at the absurd reaction to my innocent cartoon… Any regular Dennis-watcher would surely know that I am never vindictive or show any intent to malign or denigrate… It was my depiction of Dennis’s new pal that got their tails in a knot. I gave them a miniature Steppin [sic] Fetchit when they wanted a half-pint Harry Belafonte.

It seems that Sammy Davis, Jr., was the only one who could safely poke fun at the minorities. To this day, Jackson remains in the ink bottle. A pity.
So it looks like that’s just what Ketcham drew — a regular Golliwog. Didn’t anybody, you know, tell him, over there in Switzerland, that Little Black Sambo was one of the reasons for all that marching and stuff?

Ketcham came back to the US around 1976. He said at the time that he was on the point of having Dennis come in the door wearing Lederhosen and ask for some wine, and knew he had to get out of Switzerland. Yes, I’d say he was out of touch, all right. According to his book, he left Switzerland because the franc was rising so much against the dollar that a jar of peanut butter cost him five bucks. All through the book, we find more detail given to the business end of the strip and the monetary angles of his home life.

On page 148, he mentions briefly that the real Dennis had learning disabilities, and he vanishes from the narrative (without mentioning that he more or less packed the kid off and out of his life). A paragraph on the same page mentions Alice leaving him to die soon after at age 40 (next page) of alcoholism and barbiturate addiction. He has a reproachful word or two for himself, but balances that with his "good intentions." He spends much more time talking about a fish pond he put in at his rancher.

Paraphrased from two posts I made at the Comics Curmudgeon.

Errr....that's nothing like the Dennis the Menace I recognise. I take it there's some sort of intra-anglospheric copyright issue?

Dennis the Menace (UK) and Dennis the Menace (US) started the same year, by a total coincidence. They're utterly unrelated, except for being named Dennis and being more or less menacing.

Dennis in the US was a daily panel gag, and also exists as a Sunday page, numerous comic books and reprint volumes (Fantagraphics is currently reprinting all the dailies in handsome editions that highlight Ketcham's draftsmanship), a TV series with Jay North as the towheaded psychopath ("I'm gonna destroy GOOD OL' MISTER WILSON'S flowerbed! Then I'm gonna nail GOOD OL' MISTER WILSON'S hide to the shed and delight in the lamentation of GOOD OL' MISTER WILSON'S loved ones!" -- slight exaggeration), and more recently a feature film with Walter Matthau as Good Ol' Mister Wilson. And maybe an even more forgettable sequel.

Oh yeah, I think they both like striped shirts, too. The UK Dennis is pretty much unknown over here, though I once saw his unmistakable likeness on a vending machine at a Taco Bell in Virginia.

"Your" Dennis existed in the UK as a TV cartoon in the 1980s, but he wasn't referred to as the Menace, just Dennis, which sounded odd because by then hardly anyone was called Dennis except for the Menace. There can be only one, to say nothing of the potential IPR issues. Frankly I struggle to find this version in any way menacing, and a Dennis without Gnasher is a waste of time.

Suit yourself. I find the UK version to be more of a one-note character than the US one, but that may well be a matter of lengthy exposure and early brainwashing. At this point, I prefer Biffa Bacon to either one of them.

"Our" Dennis was certainly more menacing in his earlier days. Now he's just kind of cute. The topic of whether Dennis is menacing on any particular day often comes up at the Comics Curmudgeon (where the verdict is usually "not menacing," except the time he urinated into a pool from a diving board -- and no, there were no chips with that whizzer).

The live-action TV Dennis was a pointlessly destructive entity, in keeping with the TV requirements of the day, but he's non-canonical anyway.

Didn’t anybody, you know, tell him, over there in Switzerland, that Little Black Sambo was one of the reasons for all that marching and stuff?

Are we talking about the Little Black Sambo I read as a kid — the cartoon by an Englishwoman who grew up in India, with the Indian kid who gets mugged by tigers walking through the jungle, cries at his loss, and then recovers his clothing because the tigers fight amongst themselves and render themselves down into ghee? What on Earth does that have to do with American racism against Africans?

By the 60s, "Sambo" had been used as a patronizingly derogative term for US blacks for some decades, regardless of the provenance of the original story, which exists in a variety of forms and with different illustrations in varying degrees of, um, sensitivity. For that matter, the British used to use the N-word in reference to more than one race, the only requirement being some comparative darkness of skin.

The original illustrations for Little Black Sambo were terrible. Both as caricatures and as drawings. It was re-illustrated a number of times, and retold by Julius Lester more recently as "Sam and the Tigers". I loved it as a kid (I didn't have the original illos, and was appalled when I saw them.) But for a long time it was one of the few stories with a black main character that was well known in children's literature.

Ironically, of course, the story has to be about India. There are no tigers in Africa.


Well, the drawings did rather lack artistic merit, as I recall, but they weren't anything like the ink-black caricature with huge white (red?) lips in the Ketcham drawing above. (Sad to say, there is a very similar caricature on the Blancaflor empanada shell package in my refrigerator. Argentina has an even worse problem of racism than the US.) It didn't just have a black main character — the only characters in the story that weren't "black" (repeatedly and explicitly) were striped orange and yellow.

I haven't seen any ghee from Africa either, although I assume Indians living in Africa cook with it, and Ethiopian food often has something somewhat similar.