Thursday, December 4, 2008

Dennis the Racist

Blogger Steve Bunche says this “Dennis the Menace” gag actually ran in newspapers in 1970. I believe it. (Click the image for a larger look.)

UPDATE: (12/05/08): A participant at an online comics forum wrote last night: “True. The strip did run in many papers, although some editors pulled it. Others ran apologies the next day.

“Reactionary Whites were offended by the mere presence of the black boy, and Blacks were offended because he was drawn in the old stereotypical manner. The incident is documented in Mort Walker's book ‘Backstage at the Strips.’

23 comments:

Invisible Woman said...

OMG!

daughterofthedream said...

Snap!

L.A. said...

Ummm...for once I don't know what to say.

Dennis said...

Oh, Dennis, you're about to have an entirely different kind of race problem.

Nipsey Muhammad said...

Did somebody say CAPTION CONTEST??

Here's mine:

"Yo, Dad. Anything else you wanna tell me about your year in Kenya with the Peace Corps?"

bklyn6 said...

{{crickets}}

Days like These! said...

wtf

Kellybelle said...

Noooooooooooo!

blackwomenblowthetrumpet.blogspot.com said...

{shaking my head in disgust}

Woe said...

Wow man

Black on Campus said...

...um...

Anonymous said...

I've been pondering this one. The tagline itself is kind of funny, and out of the mouths of one of our "edgy young comics," I don't think anyone would take offense.

What makes it so weird is that no one would associate "edginess" with Dennis the Menace. Also, the way the black kid is drawn, apart from the offensive "minstrel" quality, of course, is totally out of sync with the rest of the strip. It's like he dropped in from another strip entirely.

Hmmm, do you think Hank Ketcham was experimenting with LSD when he drew this?

Undercover Black Man said...

^ I think Ketcham was trying to be relevant to changing times ("race trouble") but he totally lacked the visual vocabulary and the modern sense of humor to speak on it.

He didn't mean no harm. He did harm, but I don't think he meant to.

Natty Boh said...

"...doth protest too much, methinks."

Right on, Nipsey...!!

Nipsey Muhammad said...

"Margaret's got a new pimp."

Natty Boh said...

I guarantee you Mr. Wilson wouldn't have been too happy if he looked out his window...

"Martha, come see this. That damn Dennis is playing with that very nice young Afrikan-American. I think his name is Anjawon..."

Richard said...

Here's a passage from the San Diego Union-Tribune of May 1, 1993:

"Dennis' world is white. The cartoonist says that exclusion stems from an incident several years ago when he introduced an African-American child as a new character.

"The black community objected to the likeness and protested to
newspapers that carried the cartoon. 'I was just shocked,' Ketcham recalls.

"'And I was mad.

"'All of a sudden I was surrounded by a bunch of art directors.

"'The content was certainly innocuous but the way I drew him ired part of the community.

"'I just said "The heck with it, I'm not going to fight it. So I
suggest now and again certain ethnic diversities but I have not made a star out of them.'"

Richard Prince
http://mije.org/richardprince

Undercover Black Man said...

^ Oh my Lord... "shocked," was he?

Thanks for that, Richard.

Marbles said...

UnderCover: You pretty much nailed it. As Richard's quote partly demonstrates, Ketcham'd intent had been to keep up with changing times by gettin' a little inegration on. His intentions were good, but how he failed to realize that the WAY he drew that kid would make people furious is beyond me. I mean, talk about tone-deaf.
I do think it was an odd reaction on his part to swear off depicting blacks at all, rather than retool his design approach.

(Interestingly, the 1986 animated Dennis series did feature a black kid.)

Contrast this with Charles Schulz's similar effort from around the same time, the low-key entrance of Franklin (Visually, just Charlie Brown with darker skin and African hair.)

NunaOni said...

OMG! What about the diagonal stripes of the peanuts! He didn't this this was offensive? Well he gets an OMG for that too!

Renard said...

Speechless? I almost bit the tip of my tongue off at this. I have no doubt Ketchum was stunned at the response. His refusal to grow as an artist is more appauling though. He knew which side of his readers was buttered. It wasn't the toasted side. Dennis is likely not to be popular in the OBAMA White House, I might hopefully imagine.

Days like These! said...

Ketchum knew he was dead WRONG for submitting that cartoon for publication.

He was SHOCKED that black foke had a voice? What was he SHOCKED about.

Whatevs!!!!!!

Days like These! said...

The reference to RACE he runs faster!

Oh yeah, I forgot all black people can run FAST!

*humph*

I'm going to stop commenting.