1951: Dennis the Menace first appears in The Beano, drawn by Scots cartoonist, Davey Law. There is no Gnasher yet and Dennis’s distinctive stripy black and red jumper do not appear for some weeks. He is not yet on the cover but has a half-page black and white story inside the comic. The character and strip have a more real-world feel than many Beano strips which makes it instantly popular. Biffo the Bear remains on the cover where he has been since he knocked The Beano’s original cover star, Big Eggo off in 1948. Eggo (an ostrich) had ruled the roost since The Beano started in 1938.
By a staggering coincidence, a new American comic strip also called ‘Dennis the Menace’ created by Hank Ketcham appears in US newspapers almost exactly simultaneously. The first Beano featuring Dennis was dated 17th March although in practice wold have been available five days earlier: the exact same day the US Dennis debuted! The American Dennis is blonde, has a dog and a neighbour called Mr Wilson. He too, is still going strong as of 2021. He is usually referred to as just ‘Dennis’ when he appears in the UK while the UK version is called, ‘Dennis and Gnasher’ in the US to avoid confusion. Just to be clear, this feature is only about the British Dennis the Menace, although both are now seventy.
1953: Dennis has now been promoted to a full page colour story on The Beano’s back cover. Dennis’s enemy Walter also makes his first appearance (Dennis’s friends, Curly and Pie-Face have already arrived).
In the same year, Minnie the Minx and Little Plum first appear in The Beano while Beryl the Peril appears in the new title, The Topper. Beryl and Minnie are clearly intended to be female versions of Dennis. Beryl and Dennis are both drawn by Davey Law for much of the 1950s. Leo Baxendale, the creator of Minnie and ‘Redskin’ Dennis, Little Plum (amongst many other strips, including The Bash Street Kids) credited Dennis with inspiring him to join The Beano.
1955: The first Dennis the Menace Book or annual appears. Of all the many characters to appear in The Beano over the years, only The Bash Street Kids have been granted the same honour.
1968: Abyssinian Wire-Haired Tripe Hound, Gnasher makes his first appearance as Dennis’s canine companion. The story becomes known as ‘Dennis the Menace and Gnasher’ and later just ‘Dennis and Gnasher’.
1970: Davey Law retires (he dies in 1971). David Sutherland takes over as Dennis’s artist.
1974: Dennis the Menace replaces Biffo the Bear as The Beano’s cover story. He remains there to this day after nearly 47 years, well over half the duration of The Beano’s 83-year run. Increasingly old-fashioned, Biffo ceases to appear regularly in The Beano at all after 1987.
1976: The Dennis the Menace Fan Club begins.
1977: Gnasher’s Tale, a spin-off story begins.
1979: Dennis’s pet pig, Rasher makes his debut appearance. He appears in his own story from 1984 until 1988 and intermittently afterwards.
1986: In a well-publicised storyline, Gnasher briefly goes missing and (though male) returns with a litter of puppies including Gnipper, a puppy with a single large razor-sharp tooth. Gnasher’s Tale is replaced by a new story, Gnasher and Gnipper.
1996: A Dennis the Menace cartoon appears on TV. Voices include Billy Connolly and Hugh Laurie.
1998: Birth of Dennis the Menace’s sister Bea.
2004: Dennis the Menaces surpasses the record previously set by Lord Snooty to become the longest running Beano character ever. Only Minnie the Minx and Roger the Dodger come close to rivalling his longevity.
2009: Another new TV series, Dennis and Gnasher begins. It continues until 2013.
2021: Dennis the Menace celebrates his 70th birthday.