Hank Ketcham (Henry King Ketcham)
BiographySeattle, Washington, USA
Hank Ketcham was born on March 14, 1920, in Seattle; he wanted to be a cartoonist since age 6. In 1938, Hank left college after his freshman year. He went to California to work as an animator, first for Walter Lantz, creator of Woody Woodpecker. Later Hank worked for Walt Disney, where he helped draw "Bambi" and Donald Duck shorts. During World War II, Hank joined the Navy, and kept drawing-- but now for training material and posters. After the war, Hank was a freelance cartoonist and drew magazines, including The Saturday Evening Post. Read more... strip still eluded him. Hank was living in Carmel, in October 1950, when his wife Alice, worn out by their misbehaving kid, snapped at Hank one day: "Your son is a menace!" History was about to be made. The mischievous adventures of his 4-year-old son Dennis gave Hank fodder to create the famous comic strip, which made its debut on March 12, 1951, in 16 newspapers, and was an instant hit. Hank named Mr. Wilson after a teacher he'd known, and Dennis' friend Gina was named after Gina Lollobrigida. Hank was doing the strip daily, but eventually the work load was too heavy for one person, and Hank built up a staff with comedy writers. His work led to the live action "Dennis the Menace" (1959) TV series, which ran on CBS from 1959 to 1963, and is fondly remembered by baby boomers everywhere. The entire country loved it, and Hank recalled: "I set the whole thing in Wichita, Kansas, and as a result I got made an honorary mayor of Wichita." The newspaper funnies gave rise to collected works of his strips, 50 million "Dennis the Menace" books have been sold. In real life, Hank remarried, then his 2nd marriage ended in divorce. He married a 3rd time, to Rolande, and they had 2 wonderful children, Scott and Dania. The comic strip continued to have tremendous success. Hank stopped drawing the Sunday funnies in the mid-1980s. There was a "Dennis" musical, and a 1993 movie. Hank retired from drawing the weekday sketches in 1994, leaving the work to assistants, but he was still overseeing it. March 2001 marked the 50th anniversary of "Dennis the Menace," now running in 1,000 newspapers. Hank died on June 1, 2001, at his home in Pebble Beach; he was 81. In an interview, Hank had shared his thoughts on his creation: "There's some little bright spot in your day that reminds you that it's fun to smile."