Dennis the Menace is a long-running newspaper comic, created by Hank Ketcham, that first appeared in March 1951. It features the adventures of mischievous "five-an'-a-half"-year-old blond boy Dennis Mitchell, often at the expense of his parents, Henry and Alice, or his neighbor, Mr. Wilson.
Dennis was also the mascot of Dairy Queen from 1971 to 2001. DQ dropped him because they felt children didn't relate to him anymore.
Dennis had his own comic book series for a time. In them, Dennis was depicted as just a normal small boy, realistically thoughtless and reckless for his age. His status as a "menace" was entirely due to the unforeseen consequences of his adventures and Dennis was usually responsible and mature enough to own up when he realised he'd done something wrong.
In the comic books, Dennis was occasionally the victim of his own menacing, such as the time his father accidentally gives him $10 instead of $1 (in the 1960's when money was worth a lot more) to buy food at a food fair and Dennis spends it all. Two words: Stomach Ache!
Not to be confused with the British comic book character also called Dennis the Menace, who stars in a completely different and unrelated eponymous strip which also coincidentally debuted in March of 1951. In Britain, the cartoon and film based on this comic is thus simply called Dennis!.
The comic strip provides examples of:
- Abhorrent Admirer: Margaret is occasionally depicted as having a crush on Dennis. Unfortunately for her, Dennis is still very much at an age where he feels that Girls Have Cooties.
- Acid Reflux Nightmare: In a Sunday strip from June 10, 2012, Dennis has a nightmare where his father, Mr. Wilson and his dog Ruff have all been sentenced by his mother to sitting in the Corner of Shame with him. In the last panel he wakes up and asks, "Yikes, what did I eat last night?!"
- The All-American Boy: Despite the name, Dennis is a pretty good example of this trope.
- Author Avatar: One comic book issue had Dennis and his father meeting Al Wiseman and Fred Toole, the artist and writer of the comic book itself!
- Badly Battered Babysitter: No one who babysits Dennis ever did it twice!
- Big Friendly Dog: Ruff. In some media like the 1986 cartoon or comic books, he could be much bigger than Dennis.
- Bizarre Taste in Food: Dennis had this. In one of the comic books, he added ketchup to his milk while at school. In the newspaper panels, he'd mix up other strange concoctions to eat like peanut butter with horseradish in a sandwich.
- Black Bead Eyes: Dennis and pretty much every character had these.
- Brats with Slingshots:
- Trope Codifier.
- Subverted in one daily panel where Dennis explains to a confused Joey holding his slingshot that he rarely uses it as he wouldn't hurt cats, birds or dogs and his father won't let him shoot at people.
- Broken Glass Penalty: Dennis and his friends frequently do this to the Wilson house.
- Cat Stereotype: Hot Dog, the rarely seen cat of Dennis note , is an orange cat. True to the orange cat stereotype, he is friendly to Dennis.
- Charlie Brown Baldness: Joey eventually developed this via Art Evolution. In the early years, he had a full head of dark, curly hair before going down to one big strand on the edge of his head.
- Comic-Book Adaptation: A few of them came out over the years, being published by Fawcett, Standard/Pines and Marvel Comics.
- Competition Coupon Madness: In the comic book story "Dennis vs. Television", Dennis collects cereal box tops without actually buying the cereal, hoping to win a big prize.
- Cranky Neighbor: Mr. Wilson. Though, to be fair, you'd be cranky too if Dennis was your neighbor.
- Well, once upon a time, at least.
- Curious as a Monkey: Dennis
- Depending on the Artist: The strip's current artists have very different styles. Marcus Hamilton, the Monday-through-Saturday artist, draws the strip in a very close approximation of Hank Ketcham's style in his later years, while Sunday artist Ron Ferdinand (who also draws a few daily panels on occasion) has a far looser and sketchier style than either Ketcham or Hamilton.
- Doting Grandparent: Grampa Johnson, Dennis's maternal grandfather.
- Drop-In Character: Dennis, to the Wilsons. Mrs. Wilson doesn't object to this, but her husband certainly does.
- Girls Have Cooties: Played straight mostly; Dennis doesn't like being kissed by females or being affectionate with them, especially Margaret. Some cartoons imply he may feel differently about Gina.
- Girly Bruiser: Margaret was sometimes this Depending on the Writer. One of the comic books has her getting into a fistfight with Dennis. A few daily panels show Margaret taking up karate, judo, etc and giving Dennis a firsthand demonstration.
- Granny Classic: Mrs. Wilson often acts this way, especially to Dennis. Word of God states that she deeply regrets that she and Mr. Wilson never had kids of their own, causing her to treat Dennis like he was her own grandson.
- Grumpy Old Man: Mr. Wilson again, and for the same reason.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: However, it's implied that he likes Dennis more than he is willing to let on.
- Hates Baths: Dennis is shown to dislike baths, and will often try to make some kind of excuse to get out of taking one, such as "I don't need a whole bath, my clothes kept the rest of me clean." and "Another bath? Does dad know you're hikin' up the water bill?". A comic book story featured his dog Ruff having a similar aversion to baths, but otherwise loving getting wet. According to Dennis, it was the soap that they both loathed (one strip even had Dennis say that the soap will last longer if he leaves the wrapper on it).
- Intergenerational Friendship: Dennis has one with Mrs. Wilson. He thinks he has one with Mr. Wilson.
- Last Resort Takeout: Invoked whem Dennis deliberately ruined the turkey for Thanksgiving dinner so the family can order pizza.
- Limited Wardrobe: Dennis always wears his Iconic Outfit of striped shirt and red overalls, except in church or other "dress-up" scenes where he's seen with a white button-down shirt, a tie, and a blue jacket and slacks.
- Love Triangle: Dennis, Gina and Margaret
- Meaningful Name: Hot Dog, Dennis' cat, got his name when he ate a whole package of hot dogs.
- Menace Decay (the Trope Namer)
- Nephewism: Inverted — Dennis treats the Wilsons like his grandparents.
- No Communities Were Harmed: The comic strip's locale is based on Wichita, Kansas.
- One Head Taller: In some installments of the comic strip Margaret has been drawn as noticeably taller than Dennis or Joey, even in flats.
- Panty Shot: Margaret had a couple of these early on.
- Parent Service: Dennis' mom, who is drawn very attractively, is sometimes used for light (but still family-friendly) fanservice in the context of gags, such as taking a bath or laying on the beach in a bathing suit.
- Print Long-Runners: Six decades and counting.
- Real Men Hate Affection: Dennis didn't like his mother hugging or kissing him when anyone else can see, especially neighborhood children. At least one daily panel actually has Dennis ducking down so nobody can see his mother holding him.
- Regal Ringlets: Margaret has this hairstyle.
- Retraux: The strip retains a 1950s drawing style, despite always being set in the present day.
- Shout Out: The character Gina was named after Gina Lollobrigida (the character's Italian ancestry is also a reference to her).
- Soap Punishment: In one strip, Dennis comes outside, with bubbles coming out of his mouth, and he tells his friend that he was "right about that word."
- Supreme Chef: Mrs. Wilson is one as both Mr. Wilson and Dennis enjoy her cooking. Dennis even lampshades this by asking Mr. Wilson why he never kisses Mrs. Wilson for being such a good cook.
- Time Out: A frequent punishment for Dennis, usually shown sitting facing towards the wall and grumbling about the punishment or what he did.
- Tomboy: Gina Gilloti (who IS actually quite a cutie).
- Tomboy And Girly Girl: Gina and Margaret.
- Trademark Favorite Food: Without a doubt, pizza ... to the point where (he thinks) he practically can live on it. On the exact opposite of the spectrum: vegetables, especially when they were served as part of a meal that had no pizza in sight. Especially carrots at any time.
- In the comic books, it was ice cream.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Henry and Alice. Once Dennis referred to this situation:Dennis (to Henry): How come everybody says you were lucky to marry Mom and nobody says she was lucky to marry you?
- Zettai Ryouiki: Margaret usually dons a traditional little-girl outfit of frilly short skirt and knee-high socks.