If you or your children grew up on regular weekly doses of The Beano, then you'll be all too familiar with the mischievous antics of Dennis the Menace and his faithful hound Gnasher.
Much like Peter Pan, the irrepressible and uncontrollable Dennis has never aged a day since making his first appearance in issue 452 of The Beano on March 17th 1951. But he has had a few makeovers as the years rolled by and different artists took over drawing The Beano's most popular comic strip.
Now Dennis is all set for a new 21st century revamp when he appears for the first time in three-dimensional CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) format in a new TV series to be launched next year. Called “Dennis & Gnasher Unleashed”, the 52-part series of 11-minute episodes will air on the BBC's children's channel CBBC.
First pictures of the new CGI Dennis reveal he has kept his unruly, spiky black hair and red and black striped jersey, though the catapult often seen sticking from the comic strip character's pocket seems to have gone missing. It's not the first time that Dennis and Gnasher have been adapted for the TV screen, but all their previous outings, including the most recent in 2013, have shown the pair in traditional cartoon format.
The controller of CCBC, Cheryl Taylor, has promised that the new CGI versions will capture the comic strip essence of the Beano's best-known characters: “Dennis and Gnasher have been unleashing their own particular brand of mischief on CBBC for many years,” she said. “Their ardent fans will be delighted by this wonderful new series from two of the UK's most notorious rascals.”
Back when it all began, the original character of Dennis was inspired by a popular music hall song, “Dennis the Menace in Venice”. The then-editor of The Beano, Ian Chisholm, thought the name would make a good character for his comic and did a hasty sketch of his idea on the back of a cigarette packet, passing it to his artist Davey Law, who refined it.
With his spiky hair, knobbly knees and menacing grin, Dennis made his 1951 debut in a half-page strip where he was depicted with his father, who was walking a dog in the park. Seeing a “Keep off the grass” sign, Dennis makes repeated attempts to disobey it until eventually his frustrated dad takes the collar and lead off the dog and puts it on Dennis instead.
By 1954 Dennis was popular enough to be given a weekly full-page strip in The Beano, which had been entertaining children and grown-ups alike since 1938, published by Dundee-based DC Thomson. However, Gnasher didn't appear until August 1968, in a strip where Dennis's father tells him many pets resemble their owners. Walking round Beanotown Dennis begins to see that it's true and when he learns that a dog show is taking place he decides he needs his own pet.
It is then that he comes across Gnasher – a canine version of Dennis – roaming loose on the streets and takes the “Abyssinian wire-haired tripehound” to the dog show. Of course they end up 'menacing' the other contestants and are eventually caught and punished, but Gnasher returned the following week and has been Dennis's partner in menacing ever since.
In the early days, long before the advent of 'political correctness'. The errant Dennis was almost always punished for his persistent troublemaking, usually receiving a slippering from his dad or caning from an exasperated teacher. Changing times and attitudes have also seen the toning down of his treatment of the effeminate Walter and his gang of 'softies', the main target for menacing by Dennis and his pals Curly and Pieface.
As the years passed Dennis and Gnasher became, and remain, The Beano's mascots, appearing on the front page of the weekly comic and given their own annual. Generations of children have enjoyed their naughty adventures and whatever you might think of the new CGI Dennis, he will no doubt introduce a whole new audience to the world's wildest boy.