|Dennis, meet Dennis
Author: A.A. Pessimal PM
There is a whole world between Wichita, Kansas, and Dundee, Scotland. ONly in comics are the walls of reality so thin as to allow people to cross in either direction...Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Humor/Fantasy - Words: 1,012 - Reviews: 3 - Favs: 2 - Published: 05-20-09 - Status: Complete - id: 5075167
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Out beyond the further suburbs of Beanotown…
It has to be said that to a British comics aficionado, the words "Dennis the Menace" evoke a different sort of mental picture to that conjured up to Americans. So when I found a "Dennis the Menace" section on FanFic, it was slightly disappointing to discover both stories were about the rather insipid American Dennis.
"Our" British, or perhaps to be more accurate, Scottish Dennis, is to be found as the leading character in children's comic The Beano. He has been somewhere between seven and eleven years old for nearly sixty years now. This pre-teen anarchist has a dog, called Gnasher, of preternatural intelligence and equally chaotic dispensation.
Which came first?
Well, according to Wikepedia, Hank Ketcham's Dennis the Menace first graced American newspaper comic pages on 12th March 1951.
David Law's Dennis the Menace first appeared in issue 453 of the Beano, published in Dundee, Scotland, on… the 15th March 1951.
So on the face of it the American version wins by a mere three days. But the two characters appeared so closely in time, several thousand miles apart, that it hardly seems credible that Law stole the American concept. Is this just one of those weird coincidences, where the same idea, inspired by a memorably rhyming name, occurred independently to two cartoonists half a world apart?
The Beano is a strange and surreal comic whose characters all live in a mythical location called Beanotown. This is recognisably rooted in Scotland – sporrans, haggises and kilts feature in the margins – its houses are British-looking, its street furniture includes GPO boxes and red pillar-boxes, and its policemen are British bobbies. But way out in its burbs, where cowboys such as Desperate Dan live and interact with the Smellyfoot Indian tribe, Scotland fades seamlessly into North America as though there were no Atlantic Ocean, just a land border. Thus cowboy Dan and his Scottish granny live in a recognisable Dundee terrace-house, with a neighbouring sheriff who posts his mail in a red pillar box marked "E2R"
Just maybe somewhere out here, two little boys of mischievous disposition might meet…
"Who the heck are you?" the little blonde boy demanded, sticking his chin out pugnaciously. Nobly resisting the temptation to stick a punch on it, Dennis grinned through his wide pudgy face. The kid had some cheek!
"You're not frae round here, are you?" he said. "Aye weel, I thought not. The name's Dennis. People call me The Menace".
Dennis stood back and stuck his barrel chest out proudly, inflating his red-and-black striped jersey. His spiky black hair stood out proudly, and he folded his arms with pride.
"No way, man!" the little blonde kid with the cowlick protested.
No creamin' way! I'm Dennis the Menace!" he said, with some indignation and heat.
"We're both called Dennis, then? Cool!" said the boy in the black and red jersey. "What's your birthday?"
"March twelfth. And you?"
"Fifteenth of March."
There was an uneasy pause.
"Aye. And who do ye menace? To be a Menace you have to menace somebody. It's in the rules!"
"Mr Wilson, mainly. He's like a neighbour. Say, is this your dog?"
Gnasher smashed his way out of the bushes, a spiky black manifestation of canine attitude, in appearance like a bundle of matted black hair with a leg at each corner. Were it not for the tail at one end and the un-nervingly intelligent eyes at the other, it would have been hard to see what way the beast was facing.
He came to a halt in a cloud of dust, fleas and old-carpet-smell.
"Way cool!" Dennis Mitchell exclaimed. "Let's hang out and see who the bigger menace is!"
Wichita had never had a morning like it.
Cars had broken down for no readily apparent reason, people dropped into the sewers through manhole covers that suddenly weren't covered any more, George Everett Wilson's prize garden had been dug up by some creature that looked like a cross between a wolverine and a Tasmanian Devil, and the Sugar Bowl suffered a malfunction whereby its ice-cream dispensers, once activated, would not shut off.
And near to Ground Zero of every disturbance, two boys, one tentatively identifiable as Dennis Mitchell, the other a thickset punk in a black and red stripey sweatshirt, accompanied by a dog – 'least, it looked like a dog - that sniggered like Muttley at every outrage to propriety.
But by the time the police force was looking for them, the three had slipped across the increasingly intangible wall of reality into Beanotown, where they collectively caused even more havoc.
Dennis Mitchell regarded Walter and the Softies with acute disbelief, as they minced and pranced in Walter's garden to ballet music. .
"Mr Wilson says guys who act like that are faggots" he said, dismissively. He didn't know what a "faggot" was – it just seemed to be the right word for Walter.
"You could be right, kid" Scottish Dennis said. "All I know is, it's a Menace's duty to make life miserable for Softies. It's a calling. Know what I mean?"
The next ten minutes were a hugely enjoyable session of Softie-baiting. Dennis Mitchell wasn't entirely sure what Gnasher was doing to Walter's Chihuahua, but he diligently stored up enough of a mental impression so that he could ask his parents later, preferably while his grandparents were visiting.
Dennis eventually returned to Wichita with a British bobby's helmet under one arm, and a bottle of this crazy soda called Irn-Bru under the other.
"New toys, hon?" his mother called.
"I met this guy called Dennis, like me. He's from Scotland"
"That's nice, dear" his mother called, not properly listening.
Dennis smiled, and petted Hot Dog under the chin. It'd been a great day. The other Dennis was cool. And being part of the International Brotherhood of Menaces even cooler.