On June 1, 2001, Hank Ketchum, creator of the DENNIS THE MENACE comic strip, died at his Pebble Beach, California home. He was 81 years old, and had suffered from heart disease and cancer, according to his publicist, Linda Dozoretz. Ketcham began his famous comic strip in 1951, drawing inspiration from his 4 year-old son. This past March marked his 50th year of publication, with the strip running in 1,000 newspapers, 48 countries and 19 languages. A television show based on the strip ran on CBS from 1959 to 1963. Ketcham was born March 14, 1920, in Seattle, Washington. In 1938, he dropped out of the University of Washington after his freshman year, taking a job in Southern California as an animator, first for Walter Lantz, creator of WOODY WOODPECKER, and then for Walt Disney. Ketcham worked on PINOCCHIO, BAMBI, FANTASIA and DONALD DUCK shorts. Enlisting in the Navy after the United States entered World War II, he was put to work drawing cartoons for Navy posters, training material and war bond sales. Working as a freelance cartoonist after the war, he got the idea for DENNIS THE MENACE in October 1950, after his wife one day burst into his studio, exasperated that their 4 year-old son Dennis has torn up his room instead of taking a nap, and proclaimed, Your son is a menace. Ketchams first wife died in 1959. He and son Dennis drifted apart, and they spoke infrequently in later life. He later moved to Switzerland, living in Geneva for 17 years, relishing the peace of being thousands of miles away from business associates. He returned to the United States infrequently, opting to use the Sears catalogue to keep abreast of details of the changing American way of life. Ketchams second marriage ended in divorce. He married a third time, and had two more children. He and his family moved back to the United States in 1977, settling in the Monterey, California area. Remarking on his life as a cartoonist, Ketcham told The Associated Press in March 2001, "It's a joyful pursuit realizing that you're trying to ease the pain of front-page news or television. There's some little bright spot in your day that reminds you that it's fun to smile."
Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.